Tomatoes grow in most types of soil except on heavy clayey soils which greatly obstruct the root growth. But the flavor greatly varies depending on the soil you have planted it in and what you are feeding the plants. So, to grow the tastiest & flavorful tomatoes, you definitely need to plant them in the right kind of soil.
The best soil for tomatoes in container is a loose soil like sandy loam – aerated, well-drained but moisture-retaining, packed full of organic matter, nutrients, a higher level of phosphorus & potassium, and a slightly acidic pH level between 6 to 6.8.
1. How much Soil do Tomatoes need in Containers?
You will need at least 5 gallons (trade gallon) containers filled with soil, however I recommend using 10 gallons container. A wider container is suitable for growing tomatoes because tomato roots grow out more than deep.
2. What is the ideal Depth of Soil for Tomatoes in Containers?
Tomato roots do not grow very deep, they tend to spread out than go down. The core root system of a tomato plant is within the first foot of soil. A soil depth of 8-12 inches is ideal for growing tomatoes in containers. Use a trowel to loosen the soil to 8-12 inches deep before transplanting the tomato plants.
When transplanting young tomato plants into pots or containers, make sure you plant them at least 3-4 inches deep. Roots will grow out from the stem under the soil and make the plant stronger.
3. What is the Best pH of Soil for Tomatoes?
pH value indicates the acidity or alkalinity of the soil, a value under 7 is acidic and anything higher than 7 is alkaline. The best pH of soil for tomatoes is in the range of 6.0 to 6.8, which is near-neutral or slightly acidic.
3.1 Why is the pH level important for Tomatoes?
The soil pH level affects the amount of nutrients that is made available for the tomato plants. pH also impacts the rate at which the tomato plants are able to absorb nutrients. Therefore it’s very important to have the right pH level to produce a healthy harvest.
3.2 Should you check Soil pH before planting Tomatoes?
Yes, I would recommend you to test the pH level before transplanting your tomatoes. You can easily get a cheap pH meter from Amazon. Or if you want a really good Japanese pH meter that will last a lifetime, check out the Kelway pH Meter. pH meters are very simple to use, just dip it in the soil and wait for the readings.
3.3 How to Lower or Raise Soil pH for Tomatoes?
So, what if the soil pH is too far away from the 6.0 to 6.8 range? Don’t worry, you can adjust the soil pH to bring it within or close or the recommend range.
- If the pH level is lower, the soil is too acidic, add dolomite lime to reduce acidity.
- If the pH is higher, the soil is too alkaline, add sulfur or fertilizers that contain ammonium sulfate to turn it towards neutral or slightly acidic.
When you add anything to the soil to adjust the pH, mix it well with the soil & moisten the soil with distilled water, let it sit for 5 mins to soak in, then use the pH meter to get a more accurate reading.
4. What is the Best Soil for Tomatoes in Container?
The best soil for tomatoes in pots or containers is a loose soil which can hold water preventing the plants from drying out, rich in potassium & phosphorous with a pH level close to neutral.
Tomatoes gain their flavor from the soil they are planted it in, so make sure you plant your tomatoes in a nutrient-rich healthy soil
Soil Type: Tomatoes can grow in most types of soil except hard clayey soil which hampers the root growth. A loose soil is ideal for tomato plants which helps healthy root development.
pH level: The ideal pH level for tomatoes is 6.0 to 6.8. Tomatoes can still grow in the range of 5.5 to 7.5.
Moisture Level: Tomatoes need an adequate supply of water and cannot thrive on totally dry soil. However, tomato roots do not like sitting on waterlogged soil either. The soil should be well-drained so it stays moist but not soggy. A soil mix that has coco peat, peat moss or perlite is beneficial to tomato plants.
Food: Tomatoes like to eat a lot! They need a lot of nutrients, a soil rich in phosphorus & potassium is preferred for tomatoes as they promote flowering & healthy tomatoes. Plus, have an adequate level of Calcium helps prevent blossom end rot. Make sure your tomato plants have a continual supply of food all season long.
You have 2 options when it comes to preparing your soil for tomatoes,
- Make your own Soil
- Buy Ready Potting Mix
Let’s get start,
4.1 Make your own Soil for Tomatoes
So, the first option is to make your own soil mix for tomatoes. Mix the following ingredients well to prepare your mix.
- 25% Garden soil or topsoil from your backyard
- 25% Perlite (prevents soil from compacting over time)
- 25% Coco coir / Sphagnum peat moss (helps retain moisture for a longer period of time)
- 25% Compost / Decomposed cow manure or organic matter such as leaves, vegetable scraps, etc. (provides food to the plants)
If you use topsoil from your backyard, make sure it does not have a high level of clay. Soil with too much clay will cause the soil to compact over time and hamper root development.
If your topsoil has too much clay lower its quantity and increase perlite & coco coir quantity in the mix. Plus, loosen the soil and break any clumps before mixing.
I must warn you, using your backyard soil can be risky as it can contain weed seeds, pests, larval eggs, fungi & diseases which can cause chaos to your tomato plants.
Making your own soil mix can be easy & cheaper if you have the ingredients lying around but if you don’t it’s best to buy a quality ready potting mix for growing tomatoes.
4.2 Buy Ready Potting Mix for Tomatoes
If you are looking to buy the best soil for tomatoes in the container I have listed the top potting mixes available in the market. Buying proven ready mixes is definitely a good idea
|Foxfarm Soil Mix
|Product: Foxfarm Ocean Forest Organic Soil Mix
– Good things from earth & sea!
– Sandy loam, Earthworm castings, Bat guano
– Sea-going fish, Crab meal
– Forest humus, Sphagnum peat moss
– pH adjusted at 6.3 to 6.8
– Quantity: 2 x 12 Quarts- Alongside, you can use Foxfarm Big Bloom fertilizer for your tomatoes.Check on Amazon
|Black Gold Soil Mix
||Product: Black Gold All Organic Potting Soil
– Organic mix
– Sphagnum Peat Moss (Canadian), Composted Bark
– Earthworm Castings, Compost
– Pumice, or Cinders, Horticultural Grade Perlite
– Organic Grade Fertilizer
– RESiLIENCE (their trademark silicon-enriched additive)
– Quantity: 8 QuartsCheck on Amazon
|MiracleGro Soil Alternative
|Product: MiracleGro Expand n Gro
– Good substitute for soil
– Contains Coconut coir and fertilizer
– Grows 3 times bigger when water added
– Holds 50% more water than regular potting soil
– Can feed plants up to 6 months
– NPK: 0.45-0.15-0.3
– Quantiy: 0.33 cu ft (~8.4 dry Quarts)- Add equal part water and miracle-gro in a container, leave it for 10 minutes to expand
– Mix well in a large container so there is enough room for expansionCheck on Amazon
|Espoma Soil Mix
||Product: Espoma Organic Soil Mix
– 35-45% sphagnum peat moss, Perlite
– Earthworm castings, Alfalfa meal, Kelp meal
– Feather meal, Yucca extract
– Materials from one or more of humus, aged forest products, composted rice hulls
– Limestone (to adjust pH)
– MYCO-TONE (promote root growth, increase water uptake, reduce drought stress)Check on Amazon
All soil mixes listed above are great options for growing tomatoes in containers, FoxFarm Ocean Forest Mix being out best choice. Most of the soil mixes are primarily rich in nitrogen compared to other elements. As tomatoes are heavy feeders, you can add fertilizer when the plants start to bloom.
5. Should you use Fertilizer for Tomatoes?
Tomatoes are nutrient suckers and require a lot of food. You can add additional fertilizer to support the plant’s growth.
When growing tomatoes in containers, a lot of nutrients seeps out with water through the draining hole. Taking that into account it’s a good idea to add some fertilizer to the soil.
5.1 When to add fertilizer to tomatoes in containers?
If you are using a fertilized potting mix, do not add any additional fertilizer when transplanting the young tomato plants. Too much fertilizer can damage the young roots. Add fertilizers after 2 weeks or just when the plants start producing tomatoes. At this time the plants will need a continual supply of nutrients to produce healthy juicy tomatoes.
5.2 What Fertilizer is Best for Tomatoes in Containers?
The best fertilizer for tomatoes is rich in phosphorus & potassium compared to nitrogen. Fertilizer with higher PK value like NPK 5-10-10 is ideal for tomatoes. While nitrogen is needed for growing leaves, phosphorus is crucial for growing healthy flowers and fruits.
Here is a couple of high-quality fertilizers to use for Tomato plants,
|Tomato Secret by Dr. JimZ||Burpee Organic Tomato Food|
– Jim grew 17ft tall tomato plant using this!
– 12 Natural ingredients
– Alfalfa meal, Soyabean meal, Rock phosphate, Calcium carbonate, Magnesium sulfate, Sugar cane Molasses
– No animal product* If you are using a rich potting mix, add 1 cup after at least 2 weeks since transplant. Sprinkle a handful every 2-3 weeks around the plant.* If you are using generic potting soil, add 1 cup under 5-6 inches of soil and cover with a layer of soil, just before transplanting the tomatoes.
– Natural & Organic
* If you are using a rich potting mix, apply half a handful around the plant only after 2 weeks since transplant. Sprinkle around the plant once every month.
* If you are using generic potting soil, sprinkle half a handful at the time of transplant, apply once every month.
|Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon|
Both are great fertilizers for tomatoes. Personally, I recommend Tomato Secret by JimZ.
4. Frequently Asked Questions on Soil for Tomatoes
- Q. How do you prepare soil for tomatoes?
- A. Use loose nutrient-rich soil, break up any clumps, remove any twigs or rocks, add compost, add potassium & phosphorous rich fertilizer, add bone meal, add some neem cake which acts as bugs repelent & fertilizer.
- Q. Is potting soil good for tomatoes?
- A. Yes, you can nutrients rich potting soil for growing tomatoes. For example, the Foxfarm Ocean Soil mix.
- Q. Is Coffee Grounds good for tomatoes?
- A. Yes, you can use coffee grounds as a source of Nitrogen (N), but do not use more than 15-20% in your soil mix. Note that tomatoes need more of phosphorous (P) & potassium (K) for fruiting. Coffee power also helps to keep snails away.
- Q. Is Epsom salt good for tomatoes?
- A. Yes, Epsom salt primarily contains magnesium and sulfur which helps keep foliage green and increase yields.
- Q. How much Epsom salt do you put on tomatoes?
- A. For a 2 feet tall tomato plant, dilute 2 tbsp Epsom salt with 1 gallon of water. You can either use spray over the foliage or pour it on the soil. Do this once a month.
- Q. What is the best Fertilizer for tomatoes?
- A. One of the best fertilizers for tomatoes is “Tomato Secret by Dr. JimZ”.
- Q. Can you grow tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets?
- A. Yes.
- Q. Are Banana peels good for tomato plants?
- A. Yes, banana peels are a good source of phosphorus and potassium which are very essential nutrients for growing healthy tomatoes. Dry up the peels completely before mixing to the soil.
- Q. Is Bone meal good for tomato plants?
- A. Yes. Bone meal is a great source of phosphorus and also contains calcium, both of which are helpful to tomato plants. Mixing appropriate to your tomato soil and help strengthen stems and prevet blossom end rot.
- Q. Are Orange peels good for tomatoes?
- A. Yes, orange peels are a good source of Nitrogen (N) which helps foliage growth. Break it down into little bits so they compost well, and do not use too much of it.
- Q. Are eggshells good for tomato plants?
- A. Yes, eggshells are high in calcium which can prevent blossom-end rot and produce healthy tomatoes. Crush your eggshells in a grinder to a fine powder and apply it to your soil mixture. Warning: Do not breath in eggshell power, wear a mask when grinding.
- Q. Are tea bags good for tomatoes?
- A. Most tea “bags” are not compostable (contains plastic) but the tea leaves inside the bags are good fertilizer for tomatoes. Tea leaves are a good source of nitrogen and other nutrients; it has an NPK of 4.15-0.62-0.4. Dry out the leaves completely before mixing it with your tomato soil.
I hope this piece of writing has helped you pick the right soil & fertilizer your tomato adventure! Now that you have got the best soil for tomatoes in container figured out, with some proper care I believe you will be growing juicy, flavourful tomatoes in no time!
Always wait for the tomatoes fully ripen on the plant before your harvest & eat them, that will give you the most flavorful tomatoes ever!