What is the best soil and fertilizer for growing tomatoes? I planted one (Better Boy) in potting soil with 16-16-16 fertilizer. It's now 6 ft. tall! Several small tomatoes have appeared. Would it be good to prune off branches that are not bearing fruit? We potted two other tomato varieties (Celebrity, Willamette) with very little fertilizer. They are quite small, with a few blossoms. What fertilizer do you recommend for each? Any lime?
Benton County Oregon
Hello. Your Better Boy is 6 foot tall because of how you fertilized it. When you provide an indeterminate tomato that much nitrogen it will put on a lot of green growth but probably will not set a whole lot of fruit. The place you should prune off tomato plants is at the tips of the branches where there is a V. One side of the V is a branch which may have blossoms the other is vegetative growth and then there is a third smaller new branch forming in the center of the V. The smaller one inside of the V is what you could prune off. You can do other pruning but be aware that tomatoes can resent too much pruning at one time, resulting in curling of leaves. Some varieties of tomato are more susceptible to leaf curling than others. Tomatoes will grow in a wide variety of soils, they do best in a loamy soil with organic matter such as compost mixed in. You did not say if your tomatoes were planted in containers or in the ground. If planted in a container and you used bagged potting soil as you used with the Better Boy, it probably already contained some fertilizer. If you did not fertilize the other two tomatoes and used the same potting mix it would be a good idea to feed them especially if they are in containers. Containerized plants need to be watered more often than plants in the ground and the nutrients needed by the plant can wash out of the potting mix with frequent watering. A complete fertilizer with 4 or 5 in the first number such as a 4-12-4 or a 5-10-5 is a good for tomatoes. When planting young tomatoes one to two ounces placed in a circle around the plant about 4-5 inches deep and mixed into the soil is recommended. Now you could place a such a fertilizer around the root zones of your plants and lightly scratch it into the soil and water. Vegetable garden soils should be tested every few years. The soil test will reveal if lime is needed and how much should be added. Lime as a rule of thumb should be applied every other year in the fall. Our rains will dissolve it gradually during the winter. Because we have had some cool snaps tomatoes are not as far along as they could be. Tomatoes love heat anything you can do to keep their root zone warm during our cool evenings will help them. Many people put black plastic over their tomato root zones help them along.