Only a few more days to enter our 19th Annual Photo Contest. Voting starts this Friday! You can submit your best images HERE

Feeding tomatoes & other veggies

Concord, NC

Hi all! I am new to this forum, just found you today. This year I am gardening in containers. I failed horribly when trying to garden in my soil, it need too much ammending - so I thought I'd give containers a try. I have tomatoes, squash, cukes, gr. peppers and gr.beans.

They all seem to be doing well, but I have always been confused about the feeding of my plants. I am not sure what to feed them, I would like to feed as naturally as possible. I have been feeding fish emulsion - according to instructions on the bottle. I feel like I probably need to be feeding something else - I have heard mention of bone meal and blood meal, but I am unsure - Someone also told me to dress around the plants with manure...

Along with what to feed, how often? Do I go by the package instructions? It doesn't seem like enough feeding - given the amount I have to water because of the plants being in containers.

Any help will be greatly appreciated!!!!!!!

Mooresville, NC(Zone 7b)

Great question tarheelgal! I'm anxious to hear the comments as well.
I don't live far from you...I'm in Mooresville.
Welcome to DG and may all your fruits of labor be plentiful!

Raeford, NC

tarheel gal I use epsom salts 2 tablespoons to a gal of water.I also use the fish emulsion and the bone meal and blood meal and my plants love it. I did put the epeon salts on a different day than the rest.I do not know much about containers other than make sure there are holes in bottom for draining and not to crowd to much. I did the strawbales this year. No tilling, no weeding and no hoeing. I love it.Yes I love this site. My husband is always saying she is talking to Dave again, should I be worried.LOL There are many knowledgeable people here and I am sure someone else will respond too. Good Luck. Deanna

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

tarheelgal, a big hearty WELCOME TO DG!

As for feeding your container plants, can you let us know what type of soil/mix/medium you have in your containers? That would be a good place to start. (And don't worry, it's not rocket science so no need to go into great "confusing detail"!)

How do your plants look now? Happy? Healthy? Good color? Or do they appear to be slow-growing, sparse foliage, coughing and choking?

You stated they all seem to be doing well so I wonder why you are concerned. The fish emulsion is something plants love and may be doing just what it is supposed to do for them. Did you put any plant food/fertilizer in the potting soil when you put your plants in there or did they go into the soil with nothing to feed off of? Also, I'm just curious why you feel like you need to be feeding them something else.

Regarding bone meal and blood meal...bone meal is a great source of phosphorus but it is a bit slow in offering benefits. As for the blood meal that is high in Nitrogen and I wouldn't recommend it for your tomatoes unless in extremely small quantities.

Lastly (for now!), how big are the containers your plants are in? That will have a big affect on how much watering/feeding you need to do as well as the potential size and health of the individual plants.

If you have the time to elaborate I'm sure we'll be able to give you a big hand in making sure you have good plants, good harvest, and a great time growing them.


Concord, NC

Thanks so much for your responses to my questions.

Well, Horseshoe, I guess I did leave alot of info out...When I planted them, I used Miracle grow soil....I have maybe 15 tomatoe plants, in big pots, ranging from 12" to larger ones, so I'd say they are 3 to 5 gallon containers. All the plants seem to be doing well, some are lighter green foilage than others..Could this just be the difference in types of plants?

They seem to be growing, flowering etc. I guess I am just SO paranoid about them failing. For the last several years, I have literally struggled trying to get a garden going. I finally figured out there were several things I had done wrong trying to get my plants growing. My soil certainly needed amending, I was getting plants from a plant "superstore" and they didn't do well, and I think I didn't water correctly. I tried really really hard, and it was such heartbreak to watch my plants die. Live and Learn, I guess. This year, using the containers has given me control over the soil problems, watering problems, and I purchased local plants to put out.

I am so afraid of not doing something right. I am so happy watching my plants grow and produce (I have a few tomatoes turning right now) I would like to do the very best for my plants!!!

I am also concerned that with me having to water them so much, I am washing out some of the "food"...

Am I just worrying for nothing?

I am going to try the epsom salts, I have read good things about their use.

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

tarheelgal, what kind of tomatoes are they? The foliage of some is different than others, so maybe the lighter ones are just that variation. I think 5 gallon is about as small as you can go with tomatoes, so that may be of concern in time. I have several cherry tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets, and they really seem to be struggling, and I have to water a _lot_. I am going to start using fish emulsion on them, so I'm also interested in the answers to your questions.
I also want to suggest that you consider trying "Strawbale Gardening" *G*. This is my first garden in SC, and it's doing very well. This is a great way to get out of lots of the work involved in gardening with my clay "soil". "no hoeing, no tilling, no weeding" (or something like that). There's a whole 15 threads about it in the Vegetable Forum.
Good Luck,

Thumbnail by catmad
Mooresville, NC(Zone 7b)

I think we were separated at birth! Less than 24 hours agao, I was just telling Shoe the same thing about not doing everything right, what and when to feed, can I water too much... and every little bug or worm or flying insect I see, I'm torn btwn squishing and letting it live! Being a newbie myself, I don't know which guys are the goods and which are the bad ones.
This is my first garden and I petrified that something will go wrong or, if and when the veggies actually come to fruition, they won't taste good! So, to help ease my mind (a little) I try and remember when my granny and papa grew their veggies. I never remember seeing them sweat over it like I am. I think what I'm trying to say (and a little birdie told me this)...Hang in there. Nature is helping to take care of those plants too, no matter what you do. (Pssst...thanks Shoe!)
Take care, tarheel.

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

tarheelgal, it sounds like you're doing pretty good with those plants. I'd suggest quit frettin' and continue your enjoyment growing them. *grin

In addition, Miracle Gro soil usually has a bit of time-released fertilizer in it but it isn't very much. The light green color of some of your plants could be, as Catmad mentioned, the different varieties you're growing or it could also be a sign they could use a bit more food/fertilizer. Since they have fruits/flowers on them now is a good time to give them a bit of a hand by feeding them.

And yep, they're gonna use a bit of water in containers, especially the smaller containers so just make up your mind to water well. I'm a proponent of fish emulsion so that is something you could water and feed with at the same time; water everyday and one day a week you can water with the fish emulsion brew.

Enjoy your gardens, Folks!

Concord, NC

catmad: I had a cousin do the "strawbale" thing last year. She said she has never had such success!! I will definately read up on it.. Do you think it is too late to try it this year?

Pinger: LOL!!! Yep - I'm a worrier. And it IS true, our grandparents (and further back) did have a knack - Only worried about the rain....I only wish I had gotten some of their "how to's" before they passed.

Horseshoe: I'm gonna take your advise and just let what is gonna be - be.

The other day, I went out after getting home to look at my prized plants and some of the leaves and part of a green tomatoe was missing!! Chewed off!!! Looking closer I saw one of those tomato worms(Hornworm??) He was as fat as my finger!!! And well he should be with all of what he had been eating!! I promptly snatched him off and SQUISHED him!!!!! Where in the world do they come from? How did he find my tomatoes? It's kinda funny now, but I go out every day looking for more of his kind!!!LOL

Hampton, VA(Zone 7b)

Okay...this is totally off subject, but I can't help it.

Deanna8, I almost fell out the chair when I saw Raeford, NC listed as where you live. I lived in Raeford as a child.... went to Scurlock Elementary and Upchurch Middle before my family moved to Virginia. I didn't know anyone in Raeford had internet :) (just kidding)

Good to see a hometown person!

Happy Gardening.

Raeford, NC

Slider94The town has grown but I live on the outskirts more in rockfish. Actually everyone is moving there.I know those schools my children went there.I think they closed down Upchurch they built a really nice jr high.Yea I love this site am learning so much getting excited and plan to expand my growing next year. I am doing the strawbales and it is so easy.I have 9 this year and plan to have over 50 or more next year .my house is on 1.45 ac and I own the lot beside me 1.35 so I have plenty of space. Glad you introduced yourself. Deanna

Hampton, VA(Zone 7b)

Deanna8, that sounds awesome! Good luck with your expansion next year!

I guess you could say I have lived all over that area. As a child, my family and I have lived in Raeford,Red Springs,Fayetteville, Hope Mills, and near Rockfish(between Cumberland and Rockfish actually). After my parents split, my dad lived at Gates Four(not sure if you know that one) and I lived there in the summer with him. At the time my mom lived in Raeford. My sister still lives outside of Fayetteville. She's the one that got me into gardening :)

Anyway, I have been gardening for 5 summers and try to plant different things each year. I always plant the typical tomatos, but this year I decided to try straightneck squash,okra, and poblano peppers for the first time. So far so good :)

Adrian, MO(Zone 6a)

if you used miracle grow soil (fertilizer already enriched), i would doubt that you should ever have to add anything, as vegetables are annuals. as long as they are doing well. but i would caution against too much high nitrogen fertilizers because you may just get all nice green growth and no 'fruit'. that's why tomato fertilizer is a 3-3-3. and not like a lawn fertilizer 15-3-3. i think they have different miracle grow soils. hopefully yours was for veggies. you might have to add fertilizer if you use same soil for next year's 'annuals'.
but i think containers you have to be a little more careful adding amendments than you would with plants in the ground.

Banks, AL(Zone 8a)


Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

gn63...Since you mentioned that it was loaded with tomatoes it could be that it is finished with its production. (You didn't mention if you'd been picking the tomatoes or whether they were/are ripe or not.)

Nonetheless, Early Girl bush is a pretty compact plant and is a determinate so it will tend to give up growing after it has produced its tomatoes (as opposed to indeterminates that will keep on producing till cool weather stops it).


C Springs, TN(Zone 6b)


I'm not sure you still looking for the info about hornworm or not, anyway here is what I found.

I had a big problem with them last year on my tomato plants but this year I think they are chewing off my potato plants.

I hope that help.

Banks, AL(Zone 8a)

Thanks Horseshoe. I had picked lots of tomatoes off but thought it would keep producing for a while. Thanks for the info. gn

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

gn...if the plant is still fairly healthy you could pinch some of the suckers off and easily root them. In ten days or so you'll have a nicely rooted tomato plant to grow out for a later crop. You'll love it!

Best of all to you and yours in the garden!


Banks, AL(Zone 8a)

I will try that. I have taken all the bad leaves off and keeping the tomatoes picked as soon as they turn. I haveplanted some Toms that will beyellow. Do you think they will make before frost here in South Alabama? God

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

I bet they have plenty of time, gn. Here in NC our first frost is approx Halloween /end of October....I bet ya'll don't have a frost till nearly December, right?

I'd go for it if I were you.


Concord, NC

Thank you HaoQin - that is exactly what was eating my tomato plants... Yuk - I hate them. You can bet I am keeping my eye out for more!

Horseshoe: You mention removing the suckers and rooting them... Do I need a special rooting powder or soil medium to do that in? I think I'd like to try it... TIA

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

tarheelgal, nope, no rooting powder needed for tomato suckers. You can root them in moist-but-well-draining potting soil in a big pot if you like (quite a few will fit into a mum pot or gallon nursery pot) or you can root them in the ground in a shaded area.

When I was rooting hundreds I'd make a trench with a hoe, water it well and make a slurry of the dirt/mud. Then go pick the suckers and stick them in the slurry (pull off any lower leaves). Keep the soil/trench moist and in about 10 days or so you'll have good roots forming.

Have fun!

This message was edited Jul 12, 2007 12:06 PM

Banks, AL(Zone 8a)

I have little plants coming up. I sure am trying for late tomatoes. That sounds great for me to try rooting some of the shoots on some. I will let you know how they do.

Concord, NC

Wow Horseshoe - you make it sound easy... I'm gonna try it - I'd love to have late season tomatoes...Our weather here will probably allow that to happen. Now I can't wait to pull them suckers..LOL.

Dallas, TX

If using manure, use composted manure from herbivores. This is the best fertilizer. However, it may be soil Ph that is the problem, not fertilizer. Test that, then fertilize.

P.S. Please answer my post (thanks): "Best Tomato (s) for North Texas"

This message was edited Jul 12, 2007 3:16 PM

Banks, AL(Zone 8a)

Got my shoots in the trench today. Will let you kknow how they turn out.

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

congrats, gn! Will be waiting for your progress report!

wildredmater....welcome to the site!


Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.