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How many times a season do you fertilize / fertilizing tomatoes or peppers?

tomatoes growing

tomatoes growing

When you make the decision to grow vegetables at home for the first time there is a very good chance you will choose a crop like tomatoes or possibly peppers. These are very useful vegetables because they are something most families eat frequently, plus they are crops that taste noticeably better when grown at home as opposed to being purchased from a supermarket. However, in order to ensure the tomatoes and peppers are successful you will need to feed them regularly.

Although the compost you planted the tomatoes or peppers into will have a limited amount of fertilizer included in the mixture this will only last about six weeks, after which time you will need to feed your growing plants with plant food. Even if you choose to grow these plants directly in the soil (which I don't recommend), you will still need to feed them if you are to avoid ending up with a poor crop, both in quality and quantity.

There are various ways you can feed your tomatoes and peppers, and this hub is written to not only tell you when to feed your plants, but also to offer a number of suggestions as to what you can feed them with. Personally I use several different ways of feeding all of my plants each year, and the results I have are impressive. I always end up with a large surplus of both the tomatoes and peppers, and this suits my parents and friends very well as they are the ones who benefit from being presented with shopping bags full of my excess crops.

Firstly you should not need to start feeding your tomato or pepper plants until they have started to flower. This is the time when the young fruits will begin to develop and therefore the plant will need enough food to grow the fruits to a good size without draining all of its own energy reserves. If you fail to feed your plants sufficiently you may get a few fruits, but nothing close to the yield you will get if you feed the plants properly throughout the cropping season. The key is to feed them every second watering, which usually means every second day. Some products say you only need to feed the plants once a week, but personally I find that to produce the most impressive fruits every second day is better.

You can choose to buy various commercial feeds such as Miracle Grow or Tomorite, (which I have a great deal of success with), and you can add slow release plant food granules to the compost when preparing the containers you intend to grow your tomatoes and peppers in. If you use the granules I still believe you should manually feed too as the granules are unlikely to be sufficient to feed your plants for the entire growing season. Tomatoes and peppers like high levels of potassium in their feeds, so you should get the best results from buying a plant feed targeted towards tomato plants.

plum tomatoes growing

plum tomatoes growing

You might also opt for less conventional methods of feeding, either instead of or as well as the standard products. I am a great fan of using liquid seaweed fertilizer on all of my vegetable crops, and this is easy to apply at the same time as the more recognized plant foods. Liquid seaweed seems to be particularly good for fruiting crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers etc. I have the additional advantage of living very close to the coast, and here in Guernsey we are actively encouraged to remove dead seaweed from the local beaches. Seaweed makes an excellent mulch to place around your plants, and you can even bury it in the compost or soil prior to planting. It is packed with nutrients and will rot down to improve your soil quality dramatically. Just remember that 90% of seaweed is water, so always use a lot more than you think you will need. You shouldn't really need to wash it first as there is far less salt on it than you might imagine.

Other natural foods you can try include a nettle plant food. This is easy to make too. Wear gloves to cut the stinging nettles and then submerge them in a large tub of water before covering over the tub. Leave for several weeks at least (until it starts to smell pretty awful.) Now it is ready to dilute down on a roughly 10-1 solution. Use the resulting feed to water your tomatoes and peppers as per normal. You can also make plant food from Comfrey leaves using the same method.

On Guernsey we use manure from cows mixed with water to form a slurry. This slurry is generally sprayed on the fields to feed either the grass, or to top up the nutrients in the soil prior to planting the fields with vegetables. There is no reason why you can't do the same on a much smaller scale. All you will need is a fairly small amount of well rotted cow manure (although sheep manure works well too.) Mix this in a bucket with water and stir thoroughly until the manure has disintegrated into the liquid. Dilute this down again on the 10-1 basis (depending on how much manure you used originally.) Use this solution to water your plants with.

Finally remember that both tomatoes and peppers grown under glass will suffer from a small degree of shock if you use cold water to dilute your plant food before using it. The best plan is to always leave a few cans of water in your greenhouse each day, and then when you go to use them the water will be the same temperature as the plants and will not cause any setback to their growth.

How to make plant food from sheep manure

Bell Pepper Plant Care

growing tomatoes

growing tomatoes

#27 of 30 in the March 2012 Challenge


Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on July 20, 2018:

10-1 sounds about right Pauline and the way you are making the fertiliser will be perfect. The same method works well if you use Comfrey leaves or stinging nettles (assuming you can get these in Greece) and they make excellent plant feeds too.

PAULINE ALEXIOU on July 20, 2018:

Thanks for all your information on seaweed fertiliser. (I also read your other article on seaweed fertiliser and its uses on this site) as I am also lucky enough to live on the sea (in Greece) and I collect seaweed and use it as mulch and also make my own seaweed fertiliser. I did this initially because I was given a Frangipani cutting from Australia and I read that Frangipanis like seaweed fertiliser and that is what I use it for. However, after reading your article I will be using it on everything now. I made it by putting the seaweed in a big container and filling it with water, covering it and leaving it for 3 months. Then I drained it, stored the liquid in a big cannister, and used the seaweed in my compost bin. To use the seaweed fertiliser I dilute it about 10:1 with water. What ratio would you suggest?

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on June 30, 2013:

Glad it was useful to you Donna :)

Donna Campbell Smith from Central North Carolina on June 30, 2013:

Useful info. Thanks!

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on June 16, 2013:

Good Luck Dannie, worst case scenario, pull out two of the three plants, ditch them and enjoy the fruits from the remaining plant (if treated correctly).

Danielle Schumaker from Boulder, CO on June 16, 2013:

Oh dear. Thank you so much for getting back to me. Clearly I need to make a run to the gardening store.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on June 16, 2013:

PS. Getting the tomatoes to ripen can be an issue if they are ovecrowded as the light simply can't get to the fruits. Your best bet in this instance is to remove about a third of the lower mature leaves to allow light in, and then hang an overripe banana (or a few of them) at the base of the plants so that the ripening gases can circulate around the fruits and speed up the process.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on June 16, 2013:

Hi Again Dannie, well without knowing the size of the container or the type of cherry tomato plant it is difficult to give you a totally accurate answer. Personally in a large pot (say 12 inches across) I would only plant one tomato plant. I have however planted three tumbling cherry tomato plants in a dustbin/trash can based on the amount of compost it can provide for the roots. The trouble with packing too many tomatoes into one small container is A) The amount of water they will compete for and keeping up with it, B) Seeing where the side shoots are in order to remove them (in cordon varieties as opposed to bush varieties) and C) The risk of disease due to overcrowding, and the fact it will rapidly spread to the other plants. Personally I tend to keep one tomato plant per container, or two to three in a grow bag. Hope this helps :)

Danielle Schumaker from Boulder, CO on June 16, 2013:

I appreciate your response and thanks for directing me to your website. I've already bookmarked it for further reference. Perhaps you can answer another question for me. When I started my container garden, I had a shortage of containers and ended up putting three cherry tomato plants in the same pot. It's a large pot, but now that my tomatoes are growing quickly it looks a bit crowded. Is it a problem for tomato plants to be closely packed?

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on June 15, 2013:

I would recommend feeding all of these if you are growing them in compost, but mostly the peppers, tomatoes and peas as they are all very 'hungry' crops. In the soil you will have less need to worry about crops like lettuce, and certainly herbs are very 'forgiving' and require only a good soil, or if in a pot or grow bag a weekly or even fortnightly feed with a standard plant food like 'Miracle Grow' or similar.

Basically most plants (except carrots and parsnips) will need some feeding if grown in containers or grow bags, but many plants will cope well without feeding if grown in soil in vegetable patches or allotments that are rotated yearly. You might benefit from reading my website that specifically concentrates on growing vegetables at home www.grow-vegetables-at-home.com

Danielle Schumaker from Boulder, CO on June 15, 2013:

Thank you so much for this hub. As I just started my very first garden a few weeks ago, I am searching for advice about what steps to take now. My little container garden has peppers, tomatoes, peas, and salad greens. Do all of these need fertilizer? Do herbs need fertilizer as well?

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on August 29, 2012:

Thank you deepak2u :)

Govind Deepak Kumar from Telangana,INDIA on August 29, 2012:

Good Article !

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on August 17, 2012:

I am so delighted you found this helpful mypassion. Thanks for the feedback :)

mypassion on August 17, 2012:

Though I have a few veggie plants that grew by itself, I wanted to start my vegetable garden by adopting the right method. But had no idea.

This is a helpful guide for beginners.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on July 17, 2012:

Thanks Shawn, so pleased you found this useful :)

Shawn May Scott on July 17, 2012:

Awesome article. I have grown tomatoes for years but peppers just recently. I will try one of these methods to give them a boost. It is just about time for me to do that anyway. Voted up, pinned, shatred etc. all that good stuff. :)

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on June 09, 2012:

Won't be too long Jools, just be patient, especially if they are outside as opposed to in a greenhouse.

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on June 09, 2012:

Growing both toms and peppers for the first time this year so this hub was very useful.

No sign of flowers on either yet but I'm in the north east and the weather has been very poor. I will be back here once I see em flowering.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 28, 2012:

Thanks Suzzycue, a really good question by the way. I am so pleased you liked my answer, and I hope it works well for you when you grow your next crop. :)

Susan Britton from Ontario, Canada on March 28, 2012:

Thanks for having so much fun with my question. You sure answered it with a great hub. I enjoyed all the tips especially the vacuum cleaner trick. I am going to give that one a try. I do use miracle grow but not enough.Voted up and shared. Thanks a lot.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 28, 2012:

Hi Cardisa, I don't like using the powdered fertilizers, but these days even a plant food like Miracle Grow is a fertilizer, it is just that it has been prepared differently to make it easier to use. The old powdered fertilizers would burn plants if they were put on too strongly or were allowed to make contact with the stems or foliage of the plants. Natural fertilizers like manures are great if using to supplement tomato and pepper feeding in addition to a plant food, but not instead of, as they don't really contain a wide enough variety of trace elements or the concentrations of potassium fruiting crops like tomatoes need etc.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 28, 2012:

Hi Earth Angel, thanks for commenting. I water my tomatoes virtually every day, so I only feed every second day, but I guess if you are only watering every two days that equates to the same thing. Hope your tomatoes come out great this year and that you get a chance to try out the vacuum cleaner trick :)

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 28, 2012:

LOL, thanks Cleaner3, very poetic :)

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on March 28, 2012:

I use Tropi-gro, it's an all purpose plant food and it seem work. I used the commercial fertilizer once and it burned my plants. Personally I prefer natural fertilizers like animal dung.

Earth Angel on March 28, 2012:

Good Gardening Blessings to you Misty!! What a GREAT Hub! Delightful! I fertilize every time I water which is every couple of days! I LOVE the vacuum cleaner bag-contents trick! May your tomatoes and peppers be ripe, thin-skinned, sweet and juicy! Thanks for the GREAT tips! Blessings, Earth Angel!!

cleaner3 from Pueblo, Colorado on March 27, 2012:

Mistyhorizon is so fine

what I would not do

to make her mine

growing tomatoes and peppers

is her knack

playing pool is what

she does to relax

don't challenge her

to a game

she will make you

look kinda lame

Misty is quite a beauty

so sexy and a cutie.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 27, 2012:

Thanks alexadry, I am so delighted this hub has been timely for you :)

Adrienne Farricelli on March 27, 2012:

Thanks for sharing, I just planted tomatoes and was wondering about this!

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 27, 2012:

@ Brian, I have modified the title now to make more sense :)

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 27, 2012:

PS Kelly, I just realised the video I was referring in my comment to you is on my other hub:


Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 27, 2012:

Hi Brian, I can see why the title is a little confusing, but that was how the question was phrased by the person who asked it in the 'Answers' section. That said, with heating you can certainly grow a pepper plant for a couple of years or more, although I think the plant would begin to tire after two years.

Tomatoes would definitely have a longer growing season if they were started off in a heated greenhouse and then later transferred to an unheated one when the warmer months arrived. Like you said succession planting would also be an option, especially with access to greenhouses both heated or unheated.

Glad you liked the hub and thanks for voting it up :)

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 27, 2012:

Hi Kelly, I actually prefer pots to the ground. I find the ground often harbors too many diseases and often the tomatoes fail. In a pot you know the compost is good quality and disease free. You can use a large pot (it needs to be large as they are thirsty plants, plus if the pot is too small it tends to topple over in the slightest breeze once the plant becomes bigger and more top heavy.) I also use growbags which are good because you can place them on soil in order to drive a cane through the bag into the ground below that you can tie your growing plant to.

If you do go down the 'pot' route you should still start the seeds off in a small pot before later transplanting into the larger pot. The video in this article illustrates this process well.

Good Luck

BRIAN SLATER on March 27, 2012:

Perfect timing to release this hub. I was a little confused by the title? but I suppose you can have succession planting in some parts of the world. I also have never tried seaweed which as you say would make a perfect mulch. I will look out for it. I normally use Tomorite or some other version of this, which normally does the trick. I also feed mine 3 times a week but it depends on how big the tub is and how much compost it has but I think your right, the goodness normally lasts 6 weeks.Nice pictures, voted up.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on March 27, 2012:

Interesting...you are a genius! I didn't know that seaweed was 90% water...hmmm! I've grown lots of vegetables and for me, they are far easier to grow. I used Miracle Grow too with tomatoes, had good success. I grew Banana, red & green peppers - they are pretty forgiving too for those of us who don't have such a green thumb:)

I'm so excited that you put the photo of the tomatoes in pots - now I thought I needed to have them in the ground after they began to grow - can I simply use a pot and them them grow until they mature? I'd love to do that and it's not too late here...I've just started my planting, etc.

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