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Tomato Fertilizer: Should I Use Liquid Fertilizer for Tomato Plants?

Tomatoes are one of the garden crops that tend to perform better with the help of added fertilizer. Fertilizers come in 2 main varieties, liquid and dry. Each type has its own pros and cons. Liquid tomato fertilizer is a popular choice among many gardeners. We’ll break down the advantages and disadvantages of liquid fertilizer in order to help you find the fertilizer for tomatoes for your needs.

Liquid fertilizer generally comes in the form of a water soluble powder or a liquid concentrate that you mix with water. It can be applied through a hose end sprayer, through a sprinkler or drip system, or even from a spray bottle. Liquid fertilizer can be used as a foliar spray or can be applied to the ground around the plants. 

Advantages of Liquid Fertilizer

One of the biggest advantages of liquid fertilizer is that it works quickly. Plant leaves can easily absorb the necessary nutrients that are provided in liquid form. In contrast, granular fertilizer has to break down in the soil over time and may take much longer to see results. The benefits to this quick action are that you can easily correct a deficiency in your plants mid-season and see improvements, often in a matter of days. 

Another advantage of liquid fertilizer is that it is very uniform, meaning that every drop of liquid fertilizer has identical nutrients. This makes it very easy to ensure that your crops get exactly the same macro and micro-nutrients. It is also easier to get a uniform application of liquid fertilizer than granular.

Lastly, liquid fertilizer can be applied at the same time that you are watering your plants. Essentially, a liquid fertilizer lets you meet two needs at once. Since it can be applied through the same methods that you currently water your plants, it is easy to do and requires very little extra work.

Disadvantages of Liquid Fertilizer

The quick action of liquid fertilizers can also be a disadvantage. Since liquid fertilizer is absorbed so quickly and leaches out of the soil quickly as well, it must be reapplied much more often than a granular. A liquid fertilizer treatment may only last 1-2 weeks, while granulars can last anywhere from 1-9 months. Granular fertilizers are meant to be worked into the soil where they will release the nutrients as the microbes break them down. This slow-release provides for a consistent and long-lasting supply of nutrients that will feed tomatoes throughout the growing season.

Liquid fertilizer also tends to cost more than granular fertilizer and can be harder to store. While liquids can be used for up to 10 years (if stored properly), dry fertilizers never go bad and have an indefinite shelf-life. This may help you get more bang for your buck with a granular.

Whether you are using liquid or granular, we highly recommend a natural fertilizer over a synthetic one. While organic liquid fertilizers are available, they may be hard to find, which can be a real disadvantage. Dry organic fertilizers, however, are widely available. Fertilizers made from natural ingredients build up the soil by feeding the microbes and adding essential trace elements. Synthetic fertilizers supply the necessary macronutrients, but they do little to create healthy soil. In fact, synthetic fertilizers can actually hurt the soil in the long-run by adding excess salt. 

In the end, deciding if you want to use a liquid fertilizer for your tomatoes comes down to your needs and preferences. Here is a brief recap of the important points that were discussed:

Advantages of Liquid Fertilizer

  • Fast acting
  • Can quickly correct mid-season plant deficiencies
  • Supplies nutrients and water at the same time
  • Easy to use
  • Uniform nutrients and application

Disadvantages of Liquid Fertilizer

  • Must be reapplied often (every 1-2 weeks)
  • More expensive than granular
  • Shorter shelf-life
  • May be less commonly available using natural ingredients

Growing the Best Tomatoes

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