Planting tomatoes can be a great crop in your garden as they can deliver fresh and healthy fruits. However, you need to ensure your garden conditions are suitable to get the best growth possible.
Besides soil amendments such as fertilizer, and organic matter for nutrition, tomatoes like certain soil conditions.
You can also find the right soil conditions can go a long way to prevent blossom end rot and other soil diseases. In our guide, you can learn what kind of soil tomatoes like and prepare the best growth using organic nutrients.
By the end, you’ll have a good understanding of tomato growing and how best to deliver the optimum growing conditions so your tomatoes grow the best they can. (Find the Best Soil Test Kit)
What Soil is Best for Growing Tomatoes?
It’s easy to see why tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) are among the most popular home garden produce. Tomatoes are versatile and simple to grow in a range of climates and situations. However, to get the best, they need the right soil.
Tomatoes grow the best when in loam and sandy loam soils. Clay is the one type they don’t like. If your soil has lots of clay, till the soil and add sand, peat moss, sawdust, or other amendments before you plant so the plant roots can spread and absorb nutrients.
It’s best when soil is loose and well-drained, as you find in loamy soil. Tomatoes won’t grow very well when soil is dry, and they don’t like waterlogged soil.
Soil pH will be either slightly acidic or alkaline, where a pH of 7 is neutral. A pH below 7 is acidic, and a pH above is alkaline. Tomatoes thrive best in neutral or near-neutral soils, so adjusting with amendments may be required. (Learn About Perlite Soil)
If required, you can raise your soil pH by adding agricultural lime. Reducing pH can be done by using sulfur or ammonium sulfate fertilizers.
You can add compost, organic fertilizer, forest humus, or many more to make the best soil mix for tomatoes when you prepare your soil.
A soil test is the best place to start, and you can easily find kits available to read the soil and determine your pH value. (Read Bone Meal For Tomatoes)
Tomatoes are usually grown in the garden; however, they can also be grown in containers. Here, you have more control over the growing media. A good start is equal parts potting soil, perlite, sphagnum peat moss, or even the inclusion of coconut coir to produce the ideal tomato potting mix.
Can I Use Potting Soil for Tomatoes?
There’s no need to use potting soil when growing tomatoes in your garden. To increase drainage, you can treat your existing soil with compost, manure, and peat moss.
However, if growing tomatoes in containers, you need the best potting mix for tomatoes. With this, you’ll find it drains easily and comes with no weeds, and is free from illnesses as it is lighter than regular garden soil. (Read Can You Reuse Potting Soil)
Based on your organic potting soil mix, you may need to add more fertilizer to your soil mix. Fertilizing potting soils alone isn’t sufficient for your tomato plant; they require weekly feeding using a water-soluble fertilizer as they are heavy feeders.
Since organic potting soil mainly consists of non-soil materials such as sphagnum peat moss, worm castings, and perlite or coconut coir, they are deficient in nutrients. When planting tomatoes, it is recommended to add a pelleted slow-release formula to your organic potting soil.
Some potting mix you buy from the garden center may already contain slow-release fertilizer, and these can suffice as the best potting soil for tomatoes.
Though, many of these potting mixes won’t feed your tomatoes the essential nutrients they need for plants to grow throughout the growing season. You can get up to three months, yet it could be less based on how much your plants grow. You could find they lose other nutrients before this time, or the amount lessens, and you need to supplement the potting mix to grow tomatoes to their full potential. (Learn How Far Apart To Plant Tomatoes)
Tomato plants need a large container with good soil depth to accommodate a healthy root system. Besides, Tomatoes grown in containers need more frequent watering to avoid drought stress and additional feeding above the basic fertilization.
Containers tend to drain faster, so the soil dries out quicker, particularly in dry, windy weather—water your plants to keep the soil moist to a depth of 1/2 inch below the soil surface.
How Do I Prepare My Soil for Tomatoes?
Here is all you need to get the best soil for tomatoes and planting tomatoes to promote flowering. Raised beds can be preferable as these offer good air circulation, warmer soil, and well-drained soil. (Read About Fertilizer for Tomatoes)
Here’s all you need to know to grow tomatoes to their best.
Till the Raised Bed
A few weeks before planting tomatoes, check your soil’s pH in your raised bed. Besides this, it should be dry enough not to clump up when you squeeze it. The best soil will break apart easily so the plant roots can spread.
Work in 2-3 inches of compost or other organic matter such as kelp, crab, bone, or more. This will be vital as it means the nutrients are at the plants’ roots when planting tomatoes.
Test pH Again
You will need to test your soil pH continually, so do this again and make sure it is in the desired range.
Tomatoes grow best in slightly acidic soil and have a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. You may need to adjust the pH less in a raised beds if you have purchased potting soils specific for this.
Check soil test results and adjust if required. Evaluating the nutrients in your raised beds goes a long way to prepare your soil as you know what you need to add.
Nitrogen helps tomatoes keep healthy, green leaves. Yellowed older leaves and slow growth indicate a nitrogen deficiency. However, add too much nitrogen before fruit sets, your stems get large, the leaves are deep green and soft, and you find your plants aren’t flowering.
Tomatoes require around 1-3⁄4 pounds of nitrogen per 500 square feet, so a small amount is added to the potting soil when you convert this to 8×4 feet raised beds.
The best organic fertilizer sources of nitrogen are as follows:
- Alfalfa meal, blood meal, feather meal, and fish meal.
- Compost, legumes, and leaf mold
Phosphorus added to your raised beds helps tomatoes develop strong root systems, build disease resistance, and cultivate tomato seeds and fruit. Slow, stunted growth with stems that appear red shows you have a phosphorus deficiency. You can till your phosphorus-containing fertilizers into the soil before planting instead of spreading across the surface.
Good organic fertilizer sources of phosphorus are:
- Bone meal
Inorganic ways to add this are rock phosphate or superphosphate.
Potassium helps promote growth and increase disease resistance in tomato plants. You can spot a potassium deficiency through weak plants and slow growth.
Good ways to add potassium are adding wood ash, slow-releasing leaf mold, or granite dust. (Find the Best Small Greenhouse Kit)
Compost comprises broken-down organic matter. It’s overly high in nutrients, yet it’s great for soil improvement. Compost enhances the soil structure, increases cultivability, and helps with nutrient retention. Adding compost can be one of the most important steps in preparing the soil for planting tomatoes or other plants in your vegetable garden.
One other addition you can make in the hole or add once per month is Epsom salt, which helps fertilize or fight off disease. (Read About Determinate Tomatoes)
Are Used Coffee Grounds Good for Tomato Plants?
Used coffee grounds are high in nitrogen and can have other uses as a natural fertilizer and pest deterrent when growing tomatoes. You can scatter used coffee grounds around the base of your tomato plants or use them in your compost.
Coffee grounds help with healthy root growth and help retain moisture in the soil and enrich the soil with organic matter.
It is worth noting that using coffee grounds that are not used can make the soil too acidic for your tomatoes to grow. You can create a healthy and nutrient-rich compost with wood ash, leaves, and dolomite lime if you add them to your compost.
Coffee grounds act as an all-natural fertilizer and can also help to keep slugs and snails away. Caffeine in coffee grounds is harmful to snails and will be absorbed should they crawl across them.
Coffee grounds attract beneficial creatures to gardens, such as earthworms. They help with drainage and turn organic matter into plant food while and increasing oxygen levels.
Coffee grounds can help lift disease resistance against late blight, a natural alternative to chemical offerings.