Tomato Gardening: Preparing Soil For Tomatoes

Tomato gardening can be a bit tricky. Perhaps the leaves on your tomato plants grow large but the fruits don’t grow. Maybe your plants grow short and stumpy, or unevenly. Many of these problems can be solved before you even plant your tomatoes by creating a good soil mix. The following are tips on how to prepare the soil before you plant your tomatoes, in order to ensure that you have healthy, delicious tomatoes all season long.

Tomato Gardening Soil Requires Organic Mixture

First, prepare the soil mix for your tomato garden. Tomatoes like loose, well-drained soil, which is generous in organic matter. Along with a garden or potting soil mix, add an equal amount of organic material or compost. These are essential by providing nutrients as well as keeping the soil evenly moist. A good amount of organic material also makes sure that the soil is not too tightly compacted, which allows air and water to penetrate down to the tomato roots. There are a variety of compost materials to choose from, such as compost, sphagnum, or peat moss.

Control the number of problems with your tomato plants by using a soil with only well-developed compost, which has less likelihood of containing soil-borne diseases such as verticillium and fusarium wilt. These diseases can cause yellowing and wilting of the leaves and even premature plant death.

tomato seedling

Tomato Gardening Soil Requires a Good Fertilizer Mix

The next step is to choose your fertilizer. Steve Reiners, of Cornell University, recommends using a fertilizer with a balanced amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. Avoid using fertilizers that have been developed for use on lawns. Also avoid fertilizers with a high amount of nitrogen, which will push your tomato plant to create larger leaves than fruit. A good fertilizer mix is 5-10-10 NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium).

Tomato Gardening Requires Tilled Loose Soil

Before you plant your tomatoes, till the soil mix to around 8 to 12 inches in depth. Tomatoes have a long taproot, which can penetrate up to two feet deep, so it is essential to give the roots enough room to grow. Add your fertilizer and compost into the soil and till it into the soil to around 6 inches in depth. Also be sure to space your plants far enough apart so that their lateral roots will not compete for water and nutrients.

Tomato Gardening Soil Requires the Right pH Levels

After you have created a good soil mix, it is important when growing tomatoes to check the pH of your soil every three to five years. The best soil pH is from 6 to 6.8, which is slightly acidic. If your soil pH is too low, making it too acidic, add lime to raise the pH level. If the pH is too high, creating an alkaline soil, you may need to add sulfur to lower the pH level. The best time to add either is in the fall, before the ground freezes, which will give the pH time to level out. Although the pH is important, if you have a good mix of fertilizer, compost, and soil, tomatoes can tolerate a wide range of pH levels.

Creating a healthy soil mix for your tomato plants will keep them strong and healthy, less susceptible to pests and disease, and most importantly, will keep them producing large, delicious fruit all season long. Tomato gardening may be tricky at times, but ensuring that the plants a healthy foundation of soil will keep both you, the gardener, and the plants happy!

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About the Author

With the endless passion for organic living, I - Ann Sanders has come up with the idea of creating A Green Hand. Being the founder and editor of A Green Hand, my goal is to provide everyone with a wide range of tips about healthy lifestyle with multiform categories including gardening, health & beauty, food recipe,...