The first plant I ever remember helping my father tend to was his tomatoes, and thus the gardening seed was planted (for me). I became fascinated by seeing these plants growing day-by-day, seeing the tomatoes appear as small green balls and eventually flourishing into huge, ripe, tasty tomatoes.
I still grow tomatoes every year. I’ve grown more varieties than I can remember, some have been easier than others to grow, and some have been more satisfying than others to eat. One thing I had not tried until this year was to experiment with different soils under the weather conditions.
What types of soils do Tomatoes need to grow?
This is one of the first questions I’m always asked by new gardening enthusiasts. One of the great things about tomatoes is that they will grow in almost any soil. Seriously, apart from soil, with solid properties like clay you shouldn’t have any problem growing tomatoes.
However, the size, quality and even the taste is affected by the quality and type of the soil you use. Which is why I decided to grow some tomatoes in three different types of soil to see how the results varied.
Understanding Soil pH
If you are starting to take gardening a little more seriously and want to understand just how much nutrition your plants are getting from the soil, you need to test the pH level of the soil.
The pH scale ranges from 1 – 14, with 7 being classified at neutral. The higher the pH the higher the level of acidity in the soil. Different plants respond better to different pH levels, and tomatoes.
What Else Do Tomatoes Need?
Tomatoes are subtropical, so they need a good amount of warmth, sunlight, and moisture. They are very adept at growing outdoors through a wide range of temperatures, but if you have a greenhouse or tunnel you’ll get much better results more often than not.
What Soil Type Performed Best for My Tomatoes This Year?
Firstly, the variety of tomato I choose to grow is the ‘Moneymakers’. One of the most popular varieties and they have the classic look and taste we all expect from a stereotypical tomato.
I planted a line of three tomatoes per type of soil, here are the types I used:
Neutral pH Garden Soil – This is how I grow my tomatoes each year. I just use normal garden soil with around a neutral pH. I keep them at temperatures ranging between 70 – 80 degrees which are perfect for tomatoes, and I carry out the necessary pruning maintenance.
I have to say I have had some outstanding yields over the years. Nipping the ‘suckers’ and keeping on top of the maintenance is the key. I find it quite therapeutic visiting my plants each day with my pruners.
High pH Soil with Agricultural Lime – I added some agricultural lime to the soil around three plants. This adds some extra calcium and nutrients to the soil as well as raising the pH level. The pH level ended up being almost 9, which compared to the neutral-7 number of my other plants, it’s quite a difference.
Compared to the neutral soil tomatoes plants I noticed little to no difference. Speaking with friends who are experienced with growing vegetables they were certain I’d see some better results. It’s possible I needed to prepare the soil weeks in advance with lime, and this is something I’m planning to test next year.
High Nitrogen Fertilizer – I’ve been using a lot of organic fertilizer high in nitrogen on my lawn and with heavy-feeding vegetables. I’ve never used it with tomatoes before but I was interested to see what the impact would be.
What I did notice first was the leaves and shoots growing quickly. There were also a lot more ‘suckers’ that needed to be removed and the shoots were thicker. The good news is – the yields were larger, the tomatoes were slightly larger, a deeper red color, and they were also less watery.
I saw some really good results adding high nitrogen fertilizer to my soil. It’s a quick and simple way to give you tomato plants a fuller and large yield. It makes the plants a little more lively and you’ll need to prune more, however, if you’ve never added nitrogen to your tomato plants it’s time to try.
Bio – I’m Mike, what started out as a helping my father in the garden become a hobby, then a passion, and now a career. You can find me at yardday.com where I share my knowledge and answer any questions.