Tomatoes can be tricky to grow, especially for beginners. There are over 7000 different cultivars that you can grow in different ways, each with their distinct flavor and method of growth. But no matter the variety you pick, tomatoes require fertilizer to grow well. They need a lot of nutrients to grow, and if your plot can’t provide that, you’ll end up with fully grown tomato plants that don’t bear fruit.
Picking the right fertilizer can be tricky since you need to consider the nitrogen content of the soil, the time and method you used to plant your potatoes, and the ingredients in your fertilizer. But with the right brand, you can expect a great harvest with minimal effort.
In this guide, we’ve reviewed the best fertilizers for tomatoes on the market. We’ve also included sections on the best time and method of applying them and a brief discussion on how to choose the brand that works best for you.
- Best Fertilizer For Tomatoes – Comparison
- The 10 Best Tomato Fertilizer Brands You Can Buy Right Now
- Miracle-Gro Water-Soluble Tomato Plant Food
- Jobe’s Organics Vegetable & Tomato Granular Fertilizer
- Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food
- Jobe’s Tomato Fertilizer Spikes
- Osmocote 277160 Smart-Release Plant Food
- Botanicare BCCM2.5 Cal-Mag Plus
- Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Edibles Plant Nutrition
- Schultz All Purpose 10-15-10 Plant Food Plus
- Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer
- Espoma Tomato-tone Organic Fertilizer
- How To Choose The Best Fertilizer For Tomatoes That Work For You
Best Fertilizer For Tomatoes – Comparison
The 10 Best Tomato Fertilizer Brands You Can Buy Right Now
These products can benefit your tomato’s growth, but they have some minute differences in ingredients, formulation, and method of action. Keeping these differences in mind is the key to getting a bountiful tomato harvest.
One of the best fertilizers for tomatoes that need lots of water, Miracle-Gro’s Water-Soluble Tomato Plant Food is packed with micronutrients essential to growing big and healthy fruits. With regular application, your plot can support the replanting of tomatoes without wearing out the soil.
The NPK ratio of this product is 18-18-21, which means it’s more suited for mature tomato plants that are about to produce fruit. With a lot of potassium, your tomatoes will be more resilient against pests and other insects. This is useful during the fruiting season, when the tomatoes attract visitors like flea beetles.
The high NPK ratio makes Miracle-Gro work faster than your usual tomato fertilizer without compromising overall soil quality. The increased concentration of potassium can encourage better fruiting, especially when applied consistently.
As a crystal granulate, you can easily dissolve it in a watering can, using the Miracle-Gro Garden Feeder, or any other water-based distribution system. 1.5 lbs are enough to cover around 600 sq. feet if you use the Garden Feeder, but you can stretch it out further if you’ve tested soil quality and you don’t need that much.
Application is easy: mix the formula with water as instructions advise and apply every 7-14 days. For best results, use the formula at the same time you water your tomatoes to prevent over-watering and over-feeding them. Soak both the base of the plant and the leaves for maximum absorption, with one or two passes back and forth across your plot for complete coverage.
While this product can dissolve in water, some users would recommend that you apply it in its granulated form for easier handling. If you’re not confident about your watering dispenser or you’re new at applying fertilizer, a dry application can be more forgiving since you have more room to make mistakes. Using it dry allows you to apply it to your tomatoes via spot-application or parallel rows. Since the solid formula won’t leak, you can just scoop up any dropped granules and put them in the right places.
Proper application with the right conditions can boost your yield up to 3 times, according to most users. If you can find the deal, we suggest buying this in bulk as it stores well as long as you keep it away from direct sunlight.
For people who prefer an organic product or have smaller plots that need to be fertilized, Jobe’s Organics Vegetable & Tomato Granular Fertilizer is a fast-acting and affordable feed that you can use on potted tomato plants. OMRI-listed and can be used on most vegetables, it’s a flexible option for people growing small or home gardens.
The NPK ratio of this product is 2-5-3, which is enough to affect potted soil without raising overall nitrogen content to dangerous levels. With a phosphorus ratio of 5, it’s a fertilizer that’s specifically targeted at helping your tomatoes establish a better root system, which allows them to perform better in small spaces.
One of the biggest issues with growing smaller tomato plots is fertilizer messing with the soil quality, since using feed is still one of the best ways of growing large tomatoes. Jobe’s formula allows gardeners to maintain the right balance of fertilizer without affecting the soil, which is necessary for smaller plots that rely a lot on the internal balance of nutrients and bacteria in the soil to support growth.
The organic formula of this product is its best feature. Unlike other brands that have synthetic substitutes, Jobe’s formula comprises feather meal, poultry manure, bone meal, and various micronutrients and bacteria. This allows it to make the maximum amount of impact on your soil with minimal changes to its chemical composition and provides your tomatoes with an organic fertilizer that won’t affect their yield.
You need to be precise with the granulated formula to get the most out of your product. You can use 1 ½ tablespoon per 2-inch plant or 1 ½ cups per 10 square feet, 1 ½ tablespoon per 4-inch pot, or 1 ½ cups per 16-inch pot. Adjust your application if your container doesn’t follow these dimensions, but be careful not to overfeed.
Use it on your tomatoes when you’ve just planted them, spacing reapplication every 4 to 6 weeks. Since you’ll be using them on a small plot, you don’t have to saturate the entire soil with the formula. Fortunately, the organic ingredients in Jobe’s formula work fast to integrate themselves with your soil, so you can see results a month after you’ve applied it.
Keep in mind that this product is designed for seedlings and young plants, not mature ones. The NPK ratio is too weak to boost the performance of a fully grown tomato plant, and over applying the formula will just unbalance the quality of your soil without benefiting your tomatoes.
If you’re looking to increase your tomatoes’ resistance against pests, increase their root development, and make them more resilient overall, Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n Feed Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food is a general-purpose fertilizer that works by strengthening your plant aside from the soil.
The NPK ratio of this product is 8-2-12, which makes it ideal for mature tomato plants that are on their way to producing fruit. With a potassium ratio of 12, it’s best at reinforcing the stems and cell walls of plants, which makes your tomato more resistant to disease.
Depending on where you live, other factors aside from soil quality can impact the growth of your tomatoes. Areas that experience dry weather frequently make tomato growing difficult since normal fertilizers can’t really affect their water absorption systems to work better in the heat. Miracle-Gro’s formula reinforces your tomatoes against the weather by making it more sturdy and drought-resistant, allowing it to use the water it has access to more efficiently.
The addition of calcium is also an important ingredient in this formula since calcium deficiencies are also a big culprit in weaker plants. Calcium helps develop a plant’s cell walls, which result in bigger and richer tomatoes. Calcium also improves water penetration in the soil while reducing its salinity.
With ingredients like bone meal, earthworm casting, and kelp, you have a healthy mix of vital micronutrients essential for healthy plants. They’re organic ingredients, which can help your tomatoes and the soil acclimatize to them faster. Your fruits will last longer, taste better, and overall perform better even in sub-optimal conditions for growth.
Apply this formula dry, since water dilutes its effectiveness. Use an even spread and avoid piling it against plant stems, since the high nitrogen ratio can encourage your plant to grow more leaves and less fruit. There’s no need to apply it to the leaves of your plants either, since the granules don’t stick to them.
After application, mix it into the soil one to three inches from the top, then water as usual. Reapply every three months. Be careful not to overfeed, as the high levels of phosphorus and potassium can cause your tomatoes to yellow and die. Don’t skimp on applying water, since this is a strong product that lasts the entire season.
Keep in mind that this is a time-release fertilizer, which means it burrows into the soil to reach the roots. If you leave it on the plant stem for too long, it can fry your plant from within.
For beginners that need a simple way to keep their tomatoes fed, Jobe’s Tomato Fertilizer Spikes is a cost-efficient yet effective way of making sure your tomatoes are fertilized for a while. Easy to apply and requires almost zero effort to maintain, it’s a product that’s suited for any kind of tomato.
With an NPK ratio of 6-18-6, it has a significant amount of phosphorus to help your tomatoes get more nutrients from the soil. It’s a mineral that’s critical for creating better root systems, but it also helps with nutrient distribution and better growth.
The key ingredients are from synthetic compounds like ammonium phosphate and potassium sulfate, which improve a plant’s resistance against diseases. As synthetic compounds, they’re also fast acting and consistent throughout their application, ensuring that your tomatoes get all the nutrients they need with no breaks or dips.
This is a great product to use for tomatoes that are growing up or contained in a pot. Since tomatoes (especially fully grown ones) are heavy feeders, they’re likely to drain the surrounding soil out of any nutrients with no fertilizer. Because it’s packaged in spikes, it also ensures that all the nutrients are delivered straight to the roots of your tomato plant and don’t get lost on the surface of the soil.
Since this fertilizer is already pre-packaged and pre-measured, all you need to do is to insert it near the base of your plant. Use two spikes per plant at the beginning of the planting season, or any time when you’re dealing with a young tomato plant. Push it 1” below soil level, and water after insertion. They’ll stay for up to 8 weeks, after which you can replace them with another set of spikes.
Most users recommend that you check the health of your plant when applying this fertilizer. For some tomatoes that are a full season behind with fertilizing, you may need over two spikes to ensure they get the nutrients they need. It’s also essential that you have a big enough pot or area for your tomatoes to spread since they’ll rapidly grow in both height and root network.
One drawback to this product is that it doesn’t have a supply of calcium, which can be a problem for tomatoes planted in substandard soil. If your plants are suffering from blossom end rot even after applying this product, you need to introduce another source of calcium to keep up with their growth. A calcium source can also maintain the chemical balance in the soil, which is crucial if you’re working with a small area.
An excellent no-frills fertilizer for plants of all kinds, Osmocote’s Smart-Release Plant Food is suitable for areas that see a lot of hot weather. Specially designed to work best during warmer temperatures, it’s a low-maintenance yet efficient product that can help fertilize your tomatoes for an entire season.
The NPK ratio of this product is 14-14-14, which is a good balance of all the nutrients that a tomato needs to grow. It’s best suited for soil types like clay dirt, which doesn’t have a lot of nutrients in them. It also fits with any soil that needs a little help to sustain heavy feeders like tomatoes, since the slow-release formula can also work with mulch.
It also comes with other nutrients like calcium, which is critical for helping your plants to develop healthy cell walls. A plant that lacks calcium is more likely to fall apart due to a weakened cellular structure and will experience stunted growth because it can’t be transferred to areas of the plant that need it the most. Tomatoes depend on calcium to grow well, so having a healthy supply of it in this product is great.
As a slow-release formula, this product is perfect for tomatoes that need consistent yet controlled feeding. Since the nutrients aren’t released in one intense swoop, your tomatoes and the surrounding soil don’t get overwhelmed by the additional nutrient content, allowing them to make better use out of them as they grow. Since it’s also activated via heat, it’s well-suited for places that could otherwise prove inhospitable for tomato growing.
It’s easy to apply this product: just pop off the top and sprinkle 1 scoopful (or 3 tablespoons) of plant food per 2 gallons or 4 square feet. Cover the ground evenly, then mix in with the first 2 to 3 inches of topsoil with a small rake or hand trowel. Water as usual and reapply every four months.
Young tomatoes can be voracious feeders since they need plenty of nutrients to get to their fruiting stage. It’s in these critical early stages where Botanicare BCCM2.5 Cal-Mag Plus comes in, providing your tomatoes with much-needed nutrients and supplements that other fertilizers don’t have.
It has an NPK ratio of 2-0-0, which means it’s better suited for seedlings or young plants. Plants absorb nitrogen more than any other nutrient in the soil because it’s so critical for their protein. Without adequate amounts of protein, your tomatoes can’t grow well and will give you substandard fruit.
It’s in the other ingredients where this product really shines: with significant amounts of magnesium, calcium, and iron, it’s an excellent supplement to most gardens that rely solely on the nutrients already present in the soil. These nutrients are often lacking with many brands, so this fertilizer can also work well in combination with most feeding products on the market.
What we like about this product is how versatile it can be with its application. While the non-existent potassium and phosphate ratios can be a little concerning because tomatoes need to establish a root system and bear fruit, it has all the other nutrients needed for them to grow. For example, calcium is crucial for helping tomatoes grow nutritious fruits, which can optimize yields even in smaller plots.
To use spray all over your plants once a week. For indoor plants, a light layer over the foliage and the soil is enough since any more may risk burning your plant, especially seedlings. You can also mix this directly into the water if you happen to be growing your tomatoes hydroponically, though you need to remember the chemical composition of the water you’re using for the best results.
With the amount of fertilizer that most tomatoes need, it’s important to consider the chemical formulation of your feed with the environment. For a great mixture of fast-acting fertilizer and organic ingredients, look no further than Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Edibles Plant Nutrition.
With an NPK ratio of 9-4-12, it has all the essential nutrients that your plot needs at the beginning and the end of the season. These periods are crucial since they affect how well your tomatoes can grow and the quality of the fruit that you’ll get. The high rates of potassium help increase the yield of your plants when it’s time to harvest, while helping them remain hardy against weather shifts and other diseases.
It also contains other supplementary nutrients that your plant needs like manganese, zinc, and calcium. These minerals help improve your tomato’s nutrient pathways, which make them grow faster and fruit better. They’re also key ingredients that prevent common plant issues such as blossom end rot.
The all-organic formula is where this product really shines. While synthetics may hold the edge in terms of potency, organic formulas are less likely to overload both the plant and the soil with nutrients. This allows your tomatoes to grow at the pace that’s best for producing fruits while remaining robust enough to survive things like insects, diseases, and nutrient shifts that may come from other plants and weather changes.
You can apply this product using either a watering can or the Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Garden Feeder. The former is best used on smaller plots or tomatoes that are in pots, while the latter works better for raised beds and extensive fruit gardens.
For watering cans, use the enclosed scoop to measure 2 level scoops per 1 gallon of water. A gallon will cover 10 sq. feet with outdoor plants, while you only need 1 level scoop if you’re using them on indoor plants. Apply every seven days to the base of your plant, soaking the soil so the formula travels to the roots.
For outdoor plants, you can place ¾ of the product into the Garden Feeder (the solution will cover around 200 sq. ft) and follow the instructions for the spray hose. Soak the soil around the base of your plants for maximum coverage and apply again after seven days.
Extensive gardens need a fair amount of fertilizer to bloom well, which can make rationing and measuring your product extremely important. If you’re looking for a cost-effective fertilizer that you can stretch while remaining effective, Schultz’s All-Purpose 10-15-10 Plant Food Plus is your brand of choice.
It has an NPK ratio of 10-15-10, which is the concentration that most fertilizers have on the market right now. It’s a great all-purpose formula that fits in with tomatoes and other plants that bear fruit or flowers, so it’s also ideal for large vegetable/fruit patches if you happen to be growing over one kind of crop.
The high concentration of micronutrients is helpful to tomatoes at all stages of growth, regardless of the soil and specific type. The balanced NPK ratio also helps your plants acclimatize to the increased nutrients available and gives them the energy and building blocks necessary to make the most out of the fertilizer.
What we like about this product is that it only requires 7 drops per 1 quart of water, which is a bargain if you’re looking for a fertilizer that you can stretch out for several months. The high concentrate ensures that your plants are still getting the full benefits of all the nutrients in the product and gives you a lot of control of how much fertilizer you want to use.
To apply, just use 7 drops per 1 quart of water to a watering can or a non-clogging hose-end sprayer, using the easy-to-measure dropper for more accuracy. Apply an even layer over the surface of your plants and lightly soak the soil beneath them. Reapply every week or every five days in hotter weather.
One thing to be careful with this product is to avoid soaking your tomatoes and the soil with it. Over application can mess with the balance of the soil, which can make your plants grow at a slower rate.
The nutrients available to tomatoes help them grow better, but they also affect the nutritional content of the fruits that they produce. If you want to get big and healthy tomatoes from your garden, applying Dr. Earth’s Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer is your best bet.
With an NPK ratio of 4-6-3, this fertilizer is suitable for seedlings or transplanted tomatoes that need a lot of nitrogen and phosphate for better nutrient absorption from the soil. Young tomatoes need a robust root network so they can grow stronger stems and bigger foliage, which helps them soak up more water and sunlight.
Other ingredients like the seven probiotic champion strains of soil microbes ensure your garden has a nutrient-rich environment that can support heavy feeders like tomatoes. Additional endo mycorrhizae fungi help your plants gain more access to the minerals in their surroundings and allows them to use those to further their growth and produce better fruit.
The organic ingredients plus the additional supplements in this fertilizer are perfect for tomatoes, since they make them more resilient against water loss, increase the number of nutrients they can use, and improve the quality of their fruit. While it doesn’t work as fast as synthetic fertilizers, it makes up for that by providing a more comprehensive formula that enriches the plant and the surrounding soil.
To apply, sprinkle 1 cup of formula per plant near the base of the stem, or follow the instructions on the bag if you want to make compost tea instead. It’s a versatile product that you can apply in different ways depending on the age of your tomatoes and the state of your soil, so you may have to experiment before you find an application method that’s best for you.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is a slow-acting fertilizer, so it can’t save tomato plants suffering from extreme nutrient deficiency. It’s also well-suited for mature plants ready to produce fruit since the additional ingredients help improve fruit quality, not plant growth.
For a long-lasting yet consistent level of fertilizer for tomatoes, use Espoma’s Tomato-tone Organic Fertilizer. It’s a simple feed that’s specialized to help your tomatoes flower and fruit better while containing all the nutrients to help them survive the common issues that often affect fruits and vegetables.
It has an NPK ratio of 3-4-6, which is just enough to help your tomatoes grow from seedlings to maturity. While it’s lower than most brands on the market, the organic formula ensures that your plants and soil will acclimatize to the fertilizer better. It also prevents it from harming good bacteria and insects like earthworms that you might have in your soil.
This fertilizer contains a generous amount of calcium, which can help prevent blossom end rot. While having a consistent watering schedule can help minimize this disorder, having a consistent level of calcium available to your tomatoes is a better answer. This also removes the need to use another calcium-based fertilizer which might affect the nutrient balance in your soil.
It’s ideal for tomatoes because of its slow-release mechanism, which ensures that your plants have all the nutrients required without overloading them with the chemical changes. Consistent and careful feeding is crucial to get tomatoes to fruit well: any deviation in this process can stunt their growth and produce substandard fruit.
To apply, sprinkle a narrow band around single plants or along each side of a row, keeping it at least 3 inches from the stem. For potted plants, apply evenly over the soil and mix with a hand trowel or a small take. Water after feeding and reapply twice a month.
One thing to note about this product is that it can easily attract the attention of your pets and other wildlife in the area. Most users recommend having a barrier in place to prevent animals from getting to the fertilizers after application, since your plants are at the risk of being trampled or uprooted.
How To Choose The Best Fertilizer For Tomatoes That Work For You
Now you know the best fertilizer brands to choose from, which one should you pick? Here are seven things to keep in mind when choosing a feed for your tomatoes.
The NPK ratio is the first thing that you should look at when buying fertilizer. These numbers will determine how much of the specific nutrient the product contains, which can drastically affect how your tomatoes grow.
N is for Nitrogen, which is crucial for helping your plants build their tissues and cell walls.
P is for Phosphorus, which affects how well your tomatoes establish a root network.
K is for Potassium, which strengthens your tomato’s resilience against weather, pests, and disease.
A rule of thumb to follow is to get a brand with a balanced NPK ratio if your tomatoes just need fertilizer (such as 10-10-10 or 10-15-10), but you can look into other ratios if your garden needs specific nutrients.
Synthetic vs Organic
Synthetic fertilizers act quick, but they often have ingredients that can be harmful to your plant and the surrounding soil if you aren’t careful. Organic fertilizers fit better with any garden, but they take some time to work and may have sub-par results if you’re looking to boost your tomato’s growth.
Keeping these differences in mind can help you choose a fertilizer that’s best for your specific plot. Just read the ingredients thoroughly and monitor your garden for any unwanted changes soon after application.
Some fertilizers get to work immediately, directly injecting the nutrients in the plant or the surrounding soil. These fertilizers need a careful application to avoid overloading the garden with nutrients, which can be difficult for beginners to get right.
Slow-release fertilizers work from weeks to months, ensuring that your plants get a consistent amount of nutrients. These fertilizers are easier to use, but they’re also ineffective if your tomatoes are suffering from extreme nutrient deficiency.
Soil Quality And Testing
Getting your soil tested before applying any fertilizer is crucial. Not only will this allow you to pick a brand that has an NPK ratio that’s closer to what your garden needs, but it also helps you decide on what kind of tomato to grow.
Because tomatoes can vary in fruit, nutrient requirements, and even soil preference, a soil test can save you a lot of time and headache with growing them. You can get your garden looked at by a professional, or buy a testing kit from your local hardware store.
Dry Or Wet Application
Granulated (or dry) formulas come in pellets, granules, or spikes for easier application. They’re often mixed into the top layer of the soil and release their nutrients slowly to give your tomatoes consistent nutrient access.
Wet (or liquid) formulas are mixed with watering cans, drip feeders, or hose sprayers. They allow you to fertilize and water your plants, but they need frequent reapplication to make sure your plants get all the benefits.
Younger plants benefit more from liquid products since they’re in a form they can absorb better, while dry products suit more mature plants that have the root network to process all the fertilizer.
Size Of Your Garden
Small gardens or potted tomatoes won’t need a lot of fertilizer, but they will require a higher NPK ratio since tomatoes can absorb a lot of nutrients faster than the soil can replenish them. Bigger plots need plenty of fertilizer but can get by with smaller NPK ratios since there’s more soil that your plants can draw from.
All-Purpose Or Special Fertilizer
While tomatoes can get by with all-purpose fertilizer, there are two advantages to using special fertilizer for them:
It helps your tomatoes flower and fruit better, which all-purpose fertilizers can often overlook in favor of boosting your soil’s nitrogen quality
Special fertilizers also contain additional supplements that can help improve the growth of your tomatoes and the quality of their fruit
However, there’s nothing wrong with picking all-purpose fertilizer for your tomatoes, especially if you’re growing them in a plot that contains other fruits and vegetables.
When Should You Fertilize Your Tomatoes?
Fertilizing your tomatoes depends on two things: the age of your plant and the fertilizer that you have. An excellent guide to follow is that younger tomatoes will need more fertilizing than mature ones, especially if you use a liquid product on them. More mature plants can benefit from slow-release granulated products, since their developed root systems can break them down easily.
You should fertilize tomatoes whenever you see obvious signs of nutrient deficiency in your plants. Any disorders or diseases in tomatoes are easy to spot, and the earlier you fertilize, the less impact these issues will have on their growth.
How Often Should You Fertilize Tomatoes?
Fertilizers will often have instructions on their packaging that directs you for the optimum times you should fertilize your plants. If you’re a beginner, we suggest following these instructions to avoid overfeeding.
But if you’re more experienced in growing tomatoes and have a better idea of the results you want, experiment with your feeding schedule.
How To Fertilize Your Tomato Plants?
The one thing to keep in mind with fertilizing tomatoes is that you should never do it haphazardly. Inconsistent application or feeding schedules can affect the nutrient balance in the soil and the development of your plants, which can slow their growth and diminish their yields.
When you’re not sure, you can always consult the packaging of your fertilizer for the ideal way to apply the product to your garden. Change the concentration or even the formula if you’re confident about the state of your tomatoes, but keep in mind that any changes you make will stick till next planting season.
Using the best fertilizer for tomatoes is the key to getting healthy plants and big fruits, but you need to be careful with the brand you choose and how you apply it. While tomatoes aren’t the most sensitive of fruits, how you apply their fertilizer can have a drastic impact on how their eventual fruits will turn out.
For the best general-purpose fertilizer, we recommend going with Miracle-Gro’s Water-Soluble Tomato Plant Food. If you’re using a smaller garden or only have seedlings to fertilize, Jobe’s Organics Vegetable & Tomato Granular Fertilizer is an excellent choice. And if you want more resilient tomatoes regardless of cultivar and soil type, Miracle-Gro’s Shake ‘n Feed Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food is a great feed to use.
Always remember that fertilizers work best when combined with a garden that suits its nutritional value. Doing little things like monitoring how your plants react and fiddling with the product application can be the key difference that makes for a bountiful harvest.