The secret to growing one of the worlds most popular and loved foods has just been revealed! In this article you will learn the simple method to grow amazing tomatoes at home. The information provided here has been trialled and tested for many years with a lot of success. Below you will find the secret to making the best homemade fertilizer for tomatoes.
Tomato plants are large feeders on nutrients, minerals and trace elements. In order to grow healthy tomato plants that deliver a strong and consistent yield, they will require fertilization with nutrients at specific stages of growth. There is no rocket science involved.
The many types of homemade fertilizers, and methods to make them, are inexpensive and literally simple to make yourself at home. Forget the packaged manmade chemicals and liquid concentrates that cost money. Through my own experience with commercially bought fertilizers, I have always come across inconsistent and mixed results. Some great and some not so good.
Yes, they work when administered correctly to suggestion of use, but they are not sustainable or a practical solution when aiming at growing your own organic produce for as little cost as possible, especially longterm. Before we learn how to make our fertilizer, we firstly need to just quickly look at the basics of what is required for optimum tomato plant growth and fruiting. So sit back, grab your favourite drink and let’s talk tomatoes !
What do tomato plants need to grow well ?
Like all plants, tomato plants need basic nutrients and minerals for survival.
These 9 elements are known as Macro-nutrients.
They are :
Additional essential nutrients known as Micro-nutrients are needed for plant growth. Plants only require small amounts of these elements.
They are :
We now understand the basic elements which are required and an appreciation of how many little things we need to add to our soils for successful growing. These elements and nutrients are actually very easy to put back into the ground. With many of these nutrients already existing within the soil. With a few simple homemade recipes you will be armed with soil you could grow babies in !
Now that we know our elements and nutrients all we need to understand is basic soil pH. This is an important step in tomato growing. Soil pH is just a measure of how acidic or alkaline your soil is. When your soil pH is too high or too low, it will directly affect the ability of your plants to absorb nutrients. Your soil pH levels should always sit between 6.0 – 7.0
You can test your soils yourself very easily, with the aid of a cheap home soil testing kit.
To raise your pH – use lime or wood-ash.
To lower your pH – use sulfur.
To balance out and maintain optimum pH – use household compost.
Holding at a neat 6.5 score, compost is the best method to provide not only healthy longterm pH levels but also introduces a lot of our much needed macro and micro-nutrients.
Note: Always adjust your pH slowly over time (between 6 -12 months) as to not cause stress or illness to plants from large soil and pH adjustments.
The Best ‘DIY’ Fertilizer For Tomatoes
I have used many methods of homemade fertilizer in the past and this particular one is my favourite. This recipe was taught to me by a fellow senior off gridder from Italy.
This is a safe, successful and easy to make fertilizer that will transform your tomato plants into extremely healthy triffids bulging and blushing with enormous juicy fruit.
“Some of the tomatoes I have grown with this method have developed enormously ! especially with the ‘ox heart’ strain of tomato. With slices of tomato considerably larger than the slice of bread it sits on” !
What you will need !
For this recipe we will be using a 200 litre (52 gallon) plastic drum. This will make around 200 litres of fertilizer ! This amount of fertiliser can support a vegetable garden (2 x 8 metres in size) growing tomatoes and other vegetables for a full growing season if used correctly.
If you want to make more or less of the fertilizer, then scale up or down the ingredients accordingly. If you can get your hands on the needed items then thats great, as you’ll really only have to pay for the vinegar. For around, one dollar ($1) you can make 200 litres of super fuel fertiliser for your tomatoes! Not a bad deal.
- Old Pillowcase – x 2 (Hessian bag is fine)
- Manure – 10 x shovel loads (cow, sheep, goat, rabbit, etc)
- Vinegar – 500 mL or 1/2 litre (white vinegar only)
- Grass Clippings – 10 x shovel loads (preferably fresh lawn clippings)
- Wood Ash – 1 x shovel load
- Epson Salts – 2 x handfulls
- 200 Litre Drum – x 1 (52 gallon- Plastic or steel)
How to make it ?
1. Fill the drum to the 3/4 level with water (approximately 150 litres).
2. Place the ash, salt and vinegar into the drum of water and mix.
3. Fill both pillowcases to 3/4 with the manure and lawn clippings.
(Don’t use poultry or bird poo for this method as it will result in scorching from nitrogen overload )
4. Tie the ends of the pillowcases with rope to contain the contents.
The pillowcases now become the infusers or tea bags. You can fill one pillowcase with manure and the other with the lawn clippings. By using rope around the end of the pillowcases it creates a tea bag effect, this way you can dunk and bob the manure and clippings like teabags every day or so without the contents spilling into the drum and refined liquid.
Note: Make sure your ropes are around 5 feet long so they can hang over the top edge of the drum and not sink to the bottom !
5. Place the full pillowcases into the drum of water and let sink.
6. Leave the drum slightly covered and leave bags to brew for 6 days.
Be sure to ‘dunk’ and ‘bob’ the pillowcases at least every day. Really give them a good dunking and stir up all the liquid. By the 6th day it will be dark in colour and beginning to smell quite strong ! This is a good thing !
7. Pull out the pillowcases.
Empty the used contents back onto your garden bed, around the base of your tomato plants or compost pile.
8. Decant liquid into smaller containers or drums for use.
The liquified tea bi-product can be strained or filtered with the use of stockings or pantyhose stretched over or around a wire coat hanger. Use a bucket to scoop the liquid out of the drum and pour it through the pantyhose or stocking, filtering it into 20 litre plastic recycled containers with water tight lids for ease of storage and shelf life.
How and when to use it ?
This incredible fertilizer that you are left with can be watered down 50/50 and used on plants that you would like to test on first. As every recipe will vary slightly in potency, it is not a bad idea to use the 50/50 weaker dilution to make sure levels are not harmful to plant foliage. If results are safe then apply the fertiliser straight without dilution.
The fertiliser is best used as a foliar feeder (sprayed directly onto the tomato plants leaves) and is safe to use at any time of day. Plants are 15 times more efficient in absorbing nutrients through foliage absorption. The use of a backpack spray rig is an excellent way to administer, just ensure you have rinsed out the spray rig well before use.
The fertiliser can be applied weekly on the foliage of the tomato plants and also poured directly beneath the plants at the ground level releasing into the garden soil for direct root absorption.
Tomatoes require good fertilization, beginning firstly at the point of transplant and throughout the growth cycle, especially with fruit onset and development through to harvest. Always ensure you give plenty of interval water as needed in your climate. Make sure tomatoes are washed well prior to consumption and last, but not least…enjoy the rich flavours my friends !
More Organic Homemade Fertilizers
An ancient and historic method to enriching soil which is still very much used today. Seaweed can be used green (wet) or in dry forms. If you live near the ocean then you have no excuse as to why your garden is not powering ! For best results use chopped up green or wet seaweed and turn into your soils prior to planting seedlings. Seaweed contains Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper, Iron, Iodine.
2. Fish Emulsion
If you have fish at home then you have a great advantage over other tomato growers as this fertilizer is loaded with nutrients. When cleaning out your fish tank empty all of the water and fish waste (approx 50 litres) into your 200 litre (52 gallon) drum and fill with clean water. Stir, cover and leave this solution to brew (steep) for at a least 10 days. This solution can be applied directly to your plants at ground level and sprayed occasionally to foliage. Fish emulsion contains Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and around 60 trace elements.
Household compost made from food scraps, human hair, coffee and tea grounds etc, is an excellent method to bring nutrients into your gardens and tomato growing. This is one the best methods to deliver valuable nutrients and trace elements to your soil. Compost can be applied straight into the soil or soaked and left to steep in water. It can then be decanted and filtered into containers after around 6 days of brewing in water. I always leave my brew a little longer than others suggest as I find I end up with a richer fertilizer. The remaining bi-product can then be turned back into the soil.
4. Worm Castings (Poo)
Worm Castings contain high levels of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphates and over 60 trace elements or micro-nutrients also. They also bring to the soil beneficial bacteria and fungi to aid in soil development and helps with disease suppression. Worm Castings are an excellent additive to any garden and are easy to source. If you can’t start up your own worm farm at home then sourcing the worm castings on-line or at your local garden centre is very easy. The castings or ‘poo’ can also be used as a tea and be directly applied to foliage and soils.
5. Egg Shell
Egg shells can be crushed and applied directly into your soil. They can also be thrown into your compost pile or even used as an infuser. By simply boiling up a pot full of eggshells for 10 minutes and straining the liquid, you will have a great fertiliser, high in Calcium, which can be poured directly into your garden soil beneath plants for quick root absorption. Egg shells contain Protein, Calcium, Flouride, Magnesium, Selenium and Strontium. The water you use to hard boil eggs can also be poured on the garden, ensuring it has cooled down first.
6. Grass Clippings
Most of us mow our lawns even if some of us live off grid. A lush green mowed lawn is a great thing to own. Instead of tipping your mower clippings under a tree or filling a hole in the ground, incorporate this fresh matter with water to create a rich fertiliser for your plants, trees and gardens. Use a pillowcase full of fresh clippings to 100 litres of water. Let the clippings soak for around 6 days then apply it directly into your soils. This liquid is high in Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus. The left over waste in your pillowcase can be emptied back into your compost pile or turned into your garden soil.
7. Banana peels
The good ole banana peel is rich in Potassium and contains Calcium and Phosphorus. The peels can be placed around the trunks or stems of plants and trees to decompose, or better still turned back into the soil. The peels will not only release these vital nutrients but the decomposing matter will also feed worms. Banana peels can also be left to soak in water for around 4 days and then used as a foliar spray.
8. Ground Coffee
Coffee grounds make excellent fertilizer, as it is high in Nitrogen, and will also increase soil acidity. The grounds can either be used in making a tea which can be applied to plants directly or they can be turned back into the soil in your garden. Don’t throw your old coffee grounds out ! These small additions to your soil can make huge beneficial changes with the size and quality of your homegrown produce.
9. Epson Salts
Epson salts are a very easy fertilizer to use and make. It can be just diluted with water and applied straight to the garden soil. High in magnesium and sulfur and is thoroughly loved by tomatoes. The mixing ratios: 1 tablespoon of salt to 3.75 litres (1 gallon) of water. I use 2 x handfuls of Epson Salts with 200 litres (52 gallons) of water with my ‘Tomato Fertiliser Recipe’.
10. Animal Manure
Herbivorous animal manure has been used for centuries. A good source of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Sulfur. Manure can be placed directly into the soil or on top of it to create a leaching effect when watering. Avoid using carnivorous animal manure as the waste is known to carry pathogens which may be harmful to humans that come into direct contact with it. Animal manure can also be used on its own as a tea which is made in the same way as in the ‘DIY Tomato Fertilizer Recipe’ and applied to foliage and soil. Note : Always use manure that is at least 3-4 weeks old and not too fresh.
11. Wood Ash
Ash collected straight from a fireplace or fire pit can be used directly into soils. Try to avoid using in large doses as thick layers of it will impede water absorption into the soil. Ash can also be used in teas and brews made in containers or drums. Ash is excellent in raising your soil pH and contains Calcium Carbonate and Potassium. Both of these elements are loved by tomatoes.
White vinegar contains Acetic Acid that can be used on most plants especially vegetable gardens. Use only white vinegar as apple cider vinegar doesn’t contain the amount of nutrient that white vinegar contains. Vinegar can be used in teas with other types of waste. It can be used diluted with water at a ratio of one tablespoon to 3.75 litres (0ne gallon) of water.
That’s right ! Urine ! Human urine contains Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Best used when diluted 30:1 with water. This can be applied directly to soils and without harm to humans or plants. Use occasionally and do not spray directly on to foliage or fruits for obvious reasons ! Citrus trees thrive on the occasional dose of human urine.
14. Molasses Fertilizer
Homemade molasses fertilizer contains Iron, Calcium, Magnesium and Selenium. It is best used when diluted with water at a ratio of 3 tablespoons to 3.75 litres (one gallon). The liquid can be applied directly into the soil beneath plants or foliar sprayed onto leaves for immediate absorption. The only problem I find with this is that the majority of molasses ends up in my mouth rather than on the garden !
So there you have it ! You now know the best homemade fertilizer for tomatoes, plus 14 more DIY fertilizer recipes. All of these methods are easy and cheap to make. They are long term solutions to creating and providing your own fertilizer. Once you have tried these methods for yourself you will forever remember these skills, which in turn puts another arrow in your self sufficient quiver.
“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts, while eating a home grown tomato” – Lewis Grizzard
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to reply and help you out.
All the best,