How to Prepare Garden Soil for Tomatoes

Overview

Tomatoes thrive in rich, loose soil where their roots have plenty of room to spread quickly. A bumper crop can easily be had by taking just a little time to fully prepare your space for the nutrients needed once growing season starts. Whether you're winterizing your space in the fall for next year's crop or spring prepping for planting, adding the right organic materials will make the difference between a few tomatoes and show-stopping growth.

Preparing Your Space

Step 1

First, you need to know what your soil has an abundance of and what it's lacking. Cut straight down into your soil, digging up about an inch or two section and package for testing. Avoid areas near compost bins or even dropped rotten tomato waste as this will reflect a different pH balance than the rest of your space. Most full-service garden centers and your local extension office should be able to test the sample for you for free. The test will help you correct the pH balance---or acidic levels---in your garden to give it the right balance. They can help you determine what type of nutrients need replenished. Tomatoes grow best with a neutral pH, between 6.5 and 7.0.

Step 2

Compost or manure provides a smart boost of nutrients for healthy growth. Fresh manure from plant-eating animals needs to be dug and mixed well into the existing soil as its high nitrogen content will burn, and could kill, fledgling plants. The closer to planting time you add it, the better it is to use an aged or composted manure instead of fresh for best results. Compost is biodegraded plant, fruit and vegetable scraps and leaves that can be made or purchased. Work it into the soil as well to mix those nutrients as well. A hoe or heavy garden fork works best for turning the earth well.

Step 3

Add a slow release commercial fertilizer or lime if your pH balance calls for it after mixing in your biodegradable matter and again turn it well with your fork or hoe to mix it well.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid fertilizing tomato plants once they are planted with commercial fertilizers as you may end up with plants that use their energy on growth versus fruit production. Pet waste from meat-eating animals will strip your pH balance and attract unwanted pests. Keep dogs and cats out.

Things You'll Need

  • Small sample of soil for testing
  • Clean container to hold sample
  • Organic matter such as leaves, compost, manure
  • Hoe or garden fork
  • Shovel

References

  • Growing Tomatoes
  • The Tomato Gardening Guru

Who Can Help

  • Adjusting pH levels
Keywords: tomato, soil preparation for tomato, growing tomatoes

About this Author

Bobbi Keffer attended Kent State University to study education but soon found her true love to be in the garden. She prides herself on her frugal skills reusing, recycling and reinventing her whimsical style in her home and garden.