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What is the Best Organic Fertilizer for Growing Great Tomatoes?

written by: Amy Carson•edited by: Lindsay Evans•updated: 7/12/2010

Want to know the secret to growing delicious, luscious tomatoes? With organic fertilizer. Tomatoes require loads of nutrients in order to set lots of tasty fruit. Learn what is the best organic fertilizer for tomatoes.

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    Truth is, there is no single best organic fertilizer for tomatoes. Tomatoes love to get lots of food, and they don't much care where it comes from. This article will tell you about some of the best organic fertilizers for tomatoes, first talking about the nutrients tomatoes need, in what ratios, and store-bought versus homemade organic fertilizer.

    Image credit: soultga at

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    Tomatoes Aren't Picky About Their Fertilizer

    Tomatoes want lots of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) for leaf and fruit growth and disease protection, but there are many micronutrients that organic fertilizers provide that just won't be found in store-bought NPK fertilizers.

    In a pinch, you could pick up some packaged organic fertilizer at the store, in liquid form or granules, and feed your tomatoes that way. Look for a nearly even balance of NPK, such as 10-10-10 or 8-10-10. Ideally, though, you want to buy a natural, less-refined organic fertilizer, or procure/compost it yourself.

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    Animal-based Organic Fertilizers for Tomatoes

    Animal manures: A classic organic fertilizer, animal manure has some important rules to keep in mind. First, never, ever use pet manures, such as from dogs or cats. Dog and cat feces is highly toxic, full of pathogens, and very dangerous to humans. Second, only use manure from vegetarian animals such as cattle or horses (exception: chickens). And third, manure must be composted or aged before use or it will be too strong for the tomatoes and "burn" them. If you can find a good source of aged cow or chicken manure, be grateful, because you're what's probably the best organic fertilizer for tomatoes out there.

    Blood and bone meal: Sounds kind of gross, but excellent sources of nitrogen (blood meal) or phosphorus (bone meal). Purchase in garden centers or feed stores.

    Fish emulsion: You can buy fish emulsion commercially or make your own by mixing fish parts or canned fish with a carbon like sawdust and letting it decompose.

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    Vegetable-based Organic Fertilizers for Tomatoes

    Grass clippings and weeds: Anything green is high in nitrogen and good fertilizer. To destroy weed seeds, compost first.

    Alfalfa meal: Can be found as hay bales or rabbit food. Alfalfa is an excellent complete NPK fertilizer and contains loads of helpful hormones and micronutrients. Tomatoes planted in cow manure-enriched soil and dressed with alfalfa mulch are very spoiled (in a good way) tomatoes indeed.

    Seaweed: Live near the beach? Try feeding your tomatoes seaweed, which is low in NPK but bursting with up to 60 trace elements.

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    Organic fertilizer may now be the world's worst-kept secret for growing tomatoes. For decades, many gardeners relied on non-organic fertilizers, believing that they were better than the organic fertilizers of old. Today we've come full circle, realizing that the organic fertilizers our grandparents used are better for tomatoes and contain more nutrients tomatoes need than the mass-produced chemical fertilizers.

    Try one — or more! — of these 6 natural fertilizers. Any of these choices is naturally the best organic fertilizer for tomatoes.