Tomatoes add vitamins A and C to salads, sandwiches, soups and sauces, making them a favorite of home gardeners. Tomatoes thrive on natural fertilizers that contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, the major plant nutrients. Home gardeners blend materials like manure, bone meal and kelp to also provide bacteria and trace minerals they need. Although not available instantly, natural nutrients are available to tomato plants longer than chemical mixes.
Enriching the Beds
Tomato bushes are heavy feeders that benefit from well-prepared beds rich in nutrients and organic matter to provide good drainage. Beds that have compost, peat moss or well-rotted animal manure mixed in a foot deep several weeks before planting will get the highest yield from tomato plants.
Transplanted individual tomato plants thrive in large holes about 2 feet wide and 10 inches deep filled with rich organic soil. For highest yields, mix loamy soil and organic matter half and half and refill the hole halfway with it. Mix in 2 tbsp. of organic fertilizer for each hole, then add the tomato plant and fill to the top.
Organic fertilizers won't burn plants and contain micronutrients in addition to nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (N-P-K). Tomato food should contain more phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen. Commercial organic fertilizers list the ratios on the package. Gardeners making their own fertilizer or tea for tomatoes could mix manure or fish emulsion with bone meal and kelp plus chickweed and fennel.
Tomatoes should be fed when the first fruits are an inch in diameter. Fertilizer sprinkled around each plant a hand-width from the stalks and scratched lightly into the top inch or so of soil every three to four weeks is best when watered in deeply.
Tomatoes also benefit from a natural fertilizer spread on top of the soil. Get high fruit yields by maintaining a 3-inch layer of organic material such as compost, leaves or hay spread around the plants during growing season to supply nutrients as well as suppressing weeds, preventing water loss and providing shade.
Fertilizer for Spring
Enrich tomato garden soil ahead of time to be ready for spring planting. After harvest in the fall, add 2 to 3 inches of organic material such as rotted hay or compost to the tomato bed. Till the top 4 to 6 inches of soil, mixing the natural fertilizer into the planting area where it will break down into available food over the winter.