Row by Row Episode 51: Are You Giving Enough Fertilizer to Your Tomatoes?

Fertilizing Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most popular crops grown by the backyard vegetable gardener. Providing the correct amount of nutrients is an important part of solving the tomato-growing puzzle. Having an effective fertilizing schedule or program will greatly improve your success when growing tomatoes in the vegetable garden.

When To Fertilize Your Tomatoes

Here are some things to consider when thinking about fertilizing tomatoes. The optimal soil pH range for tomatoes is 6.2 – 6.8. In order to achieve the proper soil pH, you can apply lime three months ahead of planting to adjust the soil pH and provide some calcium for your tomatoes. A soil test should always be conducted before applying lime. It is very easy to raise the pH using lime, but very difficult to lower the pH if too much lime is added.

Tomatoes will benefit from a balanced fertilizer which includes equal parts of the three big macronutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. The recommended use of phosphorous is to apply all of it before planting, because it help the plants to establish a solid root system and phosphorous will not leach out of the soil. When applying phosphorous at pre-plant, you should apply 3.5 pounds of phosphorous per thousand square foot.

As opposed to phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium will need to be “spoon-fed” to the tomato plants. The recommended rate is 3.5 pounds of nitrogen and potassium per thousand square foot, but both of these nutrients should be administered differently than phosphorous. Only around 1.5 pounds of nitrogen and potassium per 1,000 sq. ft. needs to be applied at pre-plant. Then 0.3 pounds per thousand square foot will need to be applied on a bi-weekly basis. This is the “spoon-feeding” part. The best way to apply these fertilizers is through an injector that works in conjunction with the drip tape irrigation system.

Show and Tell Segment

On the show and tell segment, Travis brought a bundle of one of the most productive crops in his garden — Lacinato Kale. He also brought some of his Texas Legend onions on which the tops have fallen. Once he harvests all the alliums (onions, leeks, elephant garlic) from this plot, he plans to go ahead and plant his sweet potatoes. Greg is thinking about planting a cover crop like Buckwheat before he plants his potatoes in June. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top with sweet potatoes this year.

Viewer Questions Segment

On the question and answer segment, the guys answer questions about planting rattlesnake pole beans and reusing drip tape. Greg plants his rattlesnake pole beans directly on top of his drip tape. Once they emerge from the soil, he installs the cow panel trellis directly on top of the plants. He places the panel trellis about 3-4″ off the ground so that plants can easily grow on the trellis as they get larger. Travis does not save drip tape from one year to the next. But he does reuse it multiple times in a given year. So it can definitely be used for multiple seasons. He mentions that they have four seasons that they can grow food, so they will reuse the tape four times. You can also reuse the mainline by plugging previous holes goof plugs. There is not really a great way to store and put away drip tape, so it is best if you just use it in the four seasons and replace it.

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