5 Things To Put In Your Tomato Planting Hole (& 5 Things You Shouldn’t)

As a gardening enthusiast, we all want to give our beloved tomato plants the best possible start in life. After all, those juicy, ripe tomatoes are the ultimate reward for our hard work and dedication. But when it comes to what to put in that little planting hole, the internet is rife with contradictory advice and downright outlandish myths. From fish heads to banana peels, the suggestions can leave even the most seasoned gardener scratching their head in bewilderment.

Fear not, dear tomato cultivators! We’ve done the legwork for you, separating fact from fiction and providing you with a comprehensive guide on what should (and shouldn’t) grace your tomato planting holes. So, grab your gardening gloves, and let’s dive into the world of planting hole additions that will have your tomato plants thriving.

What Should You Add to Your Tomato Planting Hole?

1. Compost: The Secret Sauce for Successful Tomatoes

If there’s one thing every seasoned gardener will preach, it’s the gospel of compost. This nutrient-rich, organic matter is the holy grail of soil amendments, improving structure, water retention, and providing a slow-release feast for your hungry tomato plants.

Don’t be stingy, either! When preparing your planting holes, layer a few inches of compost at the bottom and mix it well with the existing soil. Your tomatoes will thank you with lush foliage, sturdy stems, and an abundance of juicy, flavorful fruit.

But what exactly makes compost so special? Well, it’s packed with a diverse array of nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – the three primary macronutrients that plants need to thrive. Compost also improves soil structure, helping to create a well-aerated, moisture-retentive environment that’s perfect for root growth.

And let’s not forget about the microorganisms! Compost is teeming with beneficial bacteria and fungi that help break down organic matter, making those precious nutrients more readily available to your plants. It’s like having a tiny army of helpers working tirelessly underground to ensure your tomatoes get the nourishment they need.

2. Bone Meal: A Phosphorus-Rich Powerhouse for Flowering and Fruiting

Bone meal, a powdery substance derived from livestock and poultry bones, is high in phosphorus and also contains calcium and nitrogen. These properties have made it a popular organic fertilizer among gardeners.

Will it help your tomato plants? Potentially, yes. The phosphorus in bone meal aids flowering and fruiting, and as it releases slowly over time, it will be available to your plants when they need it most.

However, it’s important to exercise caution when using bone meal. If your soil is not deficient in phosphorus, adding too much bone meal can potentially harm your plants. It can also be harmful to pets, people, and local water sources if not used correctly. Always follow the instructions on the packaging and apply only what is needed.

3. Eggshells: A Calcium-Rich Boost for Your Tomato Plants

The use of eggshells in the garden is a topic shrouded in controversy, myth, and conspiracy. While some claims hold a grain of truth, others are entirely unfounded. Fortunately, when it comes to adding eggshells to your tomato planting hole, the benefits are real.

Eggshells are composed of calcium carbonate crystals, and as every tomato gardener knows, tomatoes love their calcium. By adding eggshells to your planting hole, you’ll provide your plants with a slow-release calcium boost as the eggshells decompose over time.

To speed up the decomposition process, consider boiling the eggshells for a couple of minutes, then crushing them into a fine powder using a food processor or mortar and pestle. Sprinkle this powder into the planting hole, and voilà! You’ve just given your tomato plants a calcium-rich treat.

4. Epsom Salt: A Magnesium-Rich Elixir for Tomato Plant Health

Another common suggestion, and perhaps the most widely recommended, is to add a sprinkle of Epsom salt to your tomato planting hole. Epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate, can offer a range of benefits for your tomato plants.

Studies have shown that Epsom salt can improve the flavor of your tomatoes, boost nutrient uptake, and enhance overall growth. If you notice yellowing leaves on your tomato plants, a foliar spray of Epsom salt solution may also help correct the issue. These benefits stem from the high magnesium and moderate sulfur content of Epsom salt, both of which are essential nutrients for tomato plant health.

However, there’s a catch: your soil must be deficient in magnesium for these benefits to be realized. If your soil is not lacking in magnesium (or sulfur), applying Epsom salt can create a micronutrient imbalance, potentially leading to root problems or harm to the surrounding environment.

Before sprinkling Epsom salt into your tomato planting hole, it’s wise to conduct a soil test to determine whether it is truly necessary.

5. Worm Castings: Nature’s Gift for Rapid Growth and Healthy Plants

Gardeners familiar with vermicomposting know the wonders of worm castings – the nutrient-rich byproduct left behind by worms as they digest compost. Worm castings are a fantastic organic fertilizer, packed with beneficial nutrients that not only nourish your plants but also improve soil structure and water retention capacity. Unlike commercial fertilizers, they won’t burn your plants’ roots, even if used excessively.

To take full advantage of worm castings, mix about a cup of them with some potting soil before adding the mixture to the bottom of your tomato planting hole. Avoid creating a barrier between the soil and plant roots by simply layering the castings, as this can hinder the roots’ ability to anchor and grow downwards.

What Shouldn’t You Put in Your Tomato Planting Hole?

1. Will Baking Soda Really Make Your Tomatoes Sweeter?

Baking soda is often touted as a remedy for various gardening woes, from fungus to weeds, and even ants. While there is some truth to its effectiveness against powdery mildew when applied directly to leaves, some gardeners have taken this belief a step too far by suggesting that adding baking soda to your tomato planting hole will make the fruits sweeter.

According to this theory, baking soda, being an alkaline substance, will reduce the acidity in the soil, thereby reducing the acidity in the tomatoes and making them sweeter. Unfortunately, this notion is not supported by scientific evidence.

The amount of baking soda needed to significantly alter the soil’s pH is far more than is safe for your plants. Additionally, changing the soil’s acidity won’t necessarily change the acidity of the tomatoes themselves, as fruit acidity is influenced by a multitude of factors, including variety and environmental conditions.

So, unless you want to risk harming your plants, it’s best to leave that baking soda in your kitchen cupboard.

2. Banana Peels: A Potassium-Rich Myth?

Bananas are well-known for their high potassium content, and some gardeners argue that this potassium can be beneficial in our gardens. At first glance, it may seem to make sense.

Potassium is one of the three core nutrients, represented by the “K” in the N-P-K acronym. While it is indeed essential for tomato plants, banana peels are not an ideal source for delivering it.

Firstly, in the early stages of tomato growth (when you’ll be moving them to their final planting hole), a balanced fertilizer with equal proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is recommended to facilitate strong overall growth before fruiting, when less nitrogen is required. Banana peels, however, have a much higher potassium content with little phosphorus and even less nitrogen – not an ideal ratio for planting.

Secondly, whole banana peels are slow to decompose. Supporters of this myth suggest throwing a whole peel or two into the planting hole and placing the plant on top. However, since it can take several weeks or even months for a whole peel to break down, all it will do in the meantime is obstruct the tomato plant’s roots from reaching the soil below.

You might argue that chopping up the peel or making a banana peel tea could speed up the process, but the nutrient imbalance would still be a looming issue. When searching for a fertilizer, it’s best to skip the fruit aisle and choose a more balanced option.

3. Fish Heads: A Surefire Way to Attract Pests?

One of the crazier myths out there is the addition of whole fish heads to your tomato planting hole. Yes, you read that correctly – fish heads. While the idea may sound outlandish, it’s not entirely without merit.

The popularity of sea-based fertilizers containing fish or kelp likely led to this suggestion. Some gardeners (who probably also enjoy fishing) swear by this method, claiming that it yields bountiful tomato harvests. And there is some truth to it – a study conducted in 2013 tested the effects of chemical fertilizers, fish offal, and manure on tomato plants, and found that fish offal produced the best results.

However, the application method is crucial, and simply tossing a fish head into your planting hole is not the way to go. In the study, the researchers cooked and processed the leftover fish, allowing it to dry for several days before applying it as a fertilizer after planting, not before.

While there are no studies specifically testing the straight fish-head-in-the-hole method, it’s not hard to spot some potential issues. The primary concern raised by gardeners who have tried this approach is the inevitable attraction of pests. Raccoons are the main culprits, but there are many other small rodents that would love to get their paws on a decomposing fish head buried in your garden. And a recently planted tomato plant certainly won’t stop them from digging it up, likely uprooting your precious plants in the process.

Unless you’re prepared to wage war against an army of furry invaders, it’s best to steer clear of this particular gardening hack and explore other, more practical methods of nourishing your tomato plants.

4. Whole Eggs: A Rotten Idea for Your Garden

The benefits of eggshells for tomato plants have led some gardeners to suggest an even weirder gardening hack – adding a whole egg to your tomato planting hole. Some sources recommend leaving the egg uncracked, while others suggest cracking it before burying it. Regardless of the method, this practice is best avoided.

The main issue with this myth is the same as the fish head conundrum – as the egg rots, it will attract a range of unwanted rodents and pests, likely leading to your carefully planted tomatoes being uprooted in seconds. Additionally, the smell of a rotting egg is universally unpleasant – definitely not something you want wafting through your beautiful garden.

If the egg remains uncracked, it is highly unlikely to provide any benefits to your tomato plants in the form of calcium or other nutrients. As mentioned earlier, eggshells take an incredibly long time to break down, so an intact shell buried in the ground is likely to remain just that – intact – come harvest time.

To reap the calcium-rich benefits of eggshells, it’s better to follow the tried-and-true method of crushing them into a fine powder and sprinkling them into your planting hole. But a whole egg? That’s just a rotten idea.

5. Aspirin: A Cure or a Curse for Your Tomato Plants?

The final myth we’ll address is the use of aspirin in your tomato planting hole. This one is a bit more complex, as aspirin (or acetylsalicylic acid) does have some proven benefits for plant health and disease resistance.

Studies have shown that aspirin can help kickstart a plant’s “immune system,” making them less susceptible to certain diseases. This has led some gardeners to believe that tossing a tablet or two into the planting hole before planting will have a similar effect.

Unfortunately, the research doesn’t quite back up this application method. Every study testing aspirin on tomato plants has involved applying a diluted solution of acetylsalicylic acid either to the soil or as a foliar spray. There aren’t any studies testing the addition of whole aspirin tablets directly into the soil around the plant’s roots.

On one hand, it’s possible that the tablets could dissolve and serve a similar purpose as a soil drench. On the other hand, they may dissolve unevenly or in targeted areas, potentially damaging the roots or causing other unintended consequences.

To be on the safe side, it’s best to skip this step and apply aspirin using the tested methods – as a soil drench or foliar spray – after your tomato plants have been safely planted and established. While the intent behind using aspirin is noble (promoting healthy, disease-resistant plants), one silly addition in the planting hole could potentially do more harm than good.

Conclusion

As you can see, creating the perfect tomato planting hole is a delicate balancing act. Too much of one thing, or the wrong ingredients altogether, can spell disaster for your plants. But fear not! By following these simple guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to creating a nutrient-rich oasis where your tomato plants can thrive.

Remember, gardening is as much an art as it is a science. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for your unique soil conditions and climate. And above all, have fun! Gardening is a rewarding journey, and with a little care and attention, you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful harvest of juicy, flavorful tomatoes


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Mohsin
By Mohsin

Hi, I’m Mohsin, creator of Tomato about website. I have over a two decade of gardening experience and I love helping others growing healthy tomatoes!


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