Grow Great Tomatoes Without Using Chemicals

Posted on Jul 8 2011 - 2:50am by Mike Lieberman

 

It’s frustrating to say the least when you spend hours tending to your tomato garden and the tomatoes still aren’t as big and vibrant as they could be. The soil quality will determine your success with each plant, and the more organic material you mix into your soil (versus synthetics) the better the plant will grow!

Chemicals Aren’t the Solution

Most people do not want chemicals anywhere near their garden, family, dinner table, pets or the soil. They do not want exposure to dangerous toxins and once they contaminate the soil they can take years to get rid of. Avoid synthetic fertilizers (use organic or worm castings instead), toxic pesticides, products with high nitrogen content or nitrogen only.

Tips for Planting Tomatoes

  • When you plant tomatoes, select a location that has full sun all day long. If sun can hit the entire plant, it will grow better and fruit will appear sooner.
  • Spacing is also important. We suggest 3 feet by 3 feet, and no closer.
  • Proper air circulation will reduce pest and disease problems.
  • Stimulating and maintaining healthy, biological soil is also a key component. Soil that drains well is preferred, and adding organic microbes such as beneficial bacteria and Mycorrhizal fungi will extend the root systems and increase water and nutrient retention.

Your Options

Some gardeners use organic compost or mulches to accelerate plant growth and help deter insect infestation and disease. Organic Compost and mulches contain the same microbes, but in a dry formula it takes a lot longer for them to get to the roots and they cannot attach to plant surfaces.

Read some of the comments below to see what tips and tricks others are using to grow tomatoes organically.

Join the discussion … What have you used and are other options for growing great tomatoes without the chemicals?

  • Belinda

    Thank you for sharing this info…I am reading Tomatoland and goodness, it pisses me off.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    How is Tomatoland so far? The politics of a tomato are pretty crazy.

  • http://twitter.com/GreenSoil Manure Tea Gardening

    Thank you for the Link in and shout outs Mike I’m working hard to make growing Green easy for all size gardeners and your Shout Outs mean the world to Authentic Haven Brand “Moo Poo Teas”  Naturally

  • Kristin Overton

    My tomatoes failed miserably last summer on our 12th floor balcony (grandma says its because the bees didn’t come pollenate that high up). This year I’ve got lots of flowers but no fruit so far, but it’s been nothing but rainy with not so much sun. I’ve read liquid seaweed is the way to go & I’ve been using that biweekly, but I don’t have anything baseline to compare the success to…

  • Megan

    My tomato plants have flowers but havent bloom and its been two weeks since they showed up. Im worried about the nutrients in the soil! While I am going to drill some holes for more air flow into the plants roots, I worry that its possibly pests. But I am definitly gonna order some cow manure tea bags from online to see if that is what I need to do, and buy some lady bugs today! Anyone know any tips to attract bees? (other than flowers, I have tons)

  • Megan

    My tomato plants have flowers but havent bloom and its been two weeks since they showed up. Im worried about the nutrients in the soil! While I am going to drill some holes for more air flow into the plants roots, I worry that its possibly pests. But I am definitly gonna order some cow manure tea bags from online to see if that is what I need to do, and buy some lady bugs today! Anyone know any tips to attract bees? (other than flowers, I have tons)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=624692882 Katherine Kelley

    I use Thrive and Neptune’s Harvest.  Pollinators are key, but honeybees don’t pollinate tomatoes.  Bumbles and and other insects including mosquitos do though.  You can also try hand pollinating if you think you are up too high.  

  • Megan

    nevermind, just discovered that my apartment complex has sprayed pesticides, no wonder…. jerks!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408646956 Juanita Wright

    I put well rotted horse manure and compost in when we made the raised bed.  I now how lovely plants with blooms and tomatoes on them.  I think I will make some manure tea to give them a boost.  Gosh, I can’t wait for that first ripe tomato!! :^)

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thank you Annie.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    See how it goes…

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Ugh. That sucks and isn’t much of a surprise.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Good call on that. Thanks for the advice.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Nice. Keep me updated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bruce-Miller/100000952005408 Bruce Miller

    Well diluted human urine will grow fantastic tomatoes! Apply when watering, even daily is best! Don’t forget, dilute at least 7 to 1, even 10 to 1 is good. Works just fine on all other garden veggies too. Water the roots, the soil, not the plants. Beets will perform spectacularly. Check with your doctor first. If your pee is disease free, as most pee is, go ahead, save money on fertilizer, do as the ancients did. Even today in modern France composted humanure  or “night soil” is commonly used. Asians commonly use humanure for their very survival! Only wrongly and unfairly propagandized Americans have forgotten the art of humanure, gone to chemical fertilizers that make large corporations richer, soil poorer.
    China puts human sewage in large ponds, grows algae there, feeds this to Carp, grinds Carp to fish-meal, feeds fish meal to game-fish, sells frozen fillets around the world in huge frozen blocks for commercial repackaging, marked “Packaged in U.S.A.”  for American markets! Yes folks, your coca cola corpocracy feeds you on Chinese Shiite! all for ROI ! All the while, we in America pollute even olur drinking water with our humanure resource flow!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Makes perfect sense to me. Just like it was years ago. Good points.

  • Reddroostermann

    urine contains heavy metal compounds that will build up in the soil

  • Reddroostermann

    tomatos cannot derive enough nutrients from the soil 2 grow the best plants using a fish emulsion/seaweed foliar feed & using cooling showers in late afternoon 2 destress plants has proven very successful,plants withthis treatment also resist late blight here including heirloom varieties that supposedly have no disease resistance .The tomato vines will produce long  air roots that U can directly feed

  • Reddroostermann

    Neptune’s Harvest liquid seaweed works great I prefer Alaska brand fish emulsion to theirs tho ( I know there’s some probs with Alaska Brand with certain folks )

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    What are the problems that people have?

  • http://twitter.com/VeronicaInLA Veronica Flores

    Lasagna gardening seems to feed them pretty well through the entire season. Halfway through I’ll grab a bag of something like Bumper Crop or Black Forest and rake a layer into the topsoil to add more nutrients (if my compost pile isn’t ready yet.) Calcium is the most difficult thing that I find to keep regulated for tomatoes (so that they don’t get blossom end rot, especially on the heirlooms and heirloom paste varieties.) I’m doing a combination of crushed Tums and eggshells right now to combat it on the San Marzanos- we’ll see how it goes!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for the info.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Nice. Keep me updated. Tum-ta-tum-tums….

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1256783304 Cassandra Beer

    Epsom Salt. It’s the only thing I use on my tomatoes and they’re beautiful. We had ripe fruit on the table before the neighbors even had blooms! I also practice companion planting to attract and deter insects, as well as using garden waste as mulch around the base of my plants.

    I currently have four tomatoes (2 Supersweet 100 and 2 Better Boys)  in an 8×8 raised bed with Romaine lettuce, marigolds, bee balm (monarda didyma), zinnias, and radishes. I scatter the radishes out to help aerate the soil and use the browning leaves of lettuce to conserve moisture for the tomatoes. I also throw my radish leaves when I thin plants at the base of my tomatoes. (Kind of lasagna gardening on a smaller, lazier scale.)

    Marigolds draw away aphids and deter whiteflies, monardas attract pollinating insects, zinnias are used as a trapcrop for whiteflies, as well as attracting bees and hummingbirds, who love whiteflies.

    The only issue I’ve had with any pests in my tomato bed was slugs. However, I found a nifty solar-powered thingy that beeps every so often and it seems to drive them away. It was marketed to annoy groundhogs, but apparently works for slugs too!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for sharing.

  • JD

    My computer warned of malware. Yikes.