With a couple of tomato seedlings poking their tops through the potting mix, it’s time to start the annual too-early obsession with what to add to their planting holes.
There’s just one item that I don’t even consider leaving out; worm castings. They’re good for everything and harm nothing.
The soil test results from last year indicated that I should add 1 lb. of potassium per 1000 sq. ft. of garden. Got it covered. Pulverized, dried banana peels. That little chore that I made sure to do every winter day, drying our banana peels over the register, has yielded very close to the right amount of potassium needed for the garden. And since different plants have different needs, I’ll make sure to add them where they’ll feel wanted.
Pulverized dried eggshells?
This is disappointing for me. I’ve looked forward to putting some of the powdered eggshells that I saved all winter to my tomato holes to add calcium, which prevents blossom end rot. But in comparing the soil test results to optimal levels of calcium (very good explanation in that link)…my soil was fine. I know. A self-defeating way to look at the world. But I did all that work! I’ll have to find a better use for them. Uh…chickens!
Bone meal? Well, here’s where some science comes in. The soil report said that no phosphorus was needed. In fact, there’s excess phosphorus in my soil. I’d always heard that bone meal helped tomato plants, but never looked up the elemental composition. In looking, I found this:
Bone meal is primarily calcium and phosphorus, two elements which are usually adequate in non- agricultural soils…Both calcium and phosphorus are required for plant growth, but both (and especially phosphorus) can cause problems if they occur in high concentrations.
Interesting. And I won’t be adding bone meal to my garden this year. But I will be adding Epsom Salts, because they tie up excess phosphorus.
What can you do if you have added too much phosphorus over the years? If your soil test indicates that phosphorus levels are high, you may be able to tie up excess phosphorus by adding a mixture of other mineral fertilizers. I’ve not had to do this myself, but various web sites recommend concoctions of ammonium sulfate, magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts), iron sulfate and zinc sulfate.
Coffee grounds, in moderation, worked in early so they’re not robbing the plants of nitrogen as they decompose.
And then as the tomato plants grow, a weekly foliar feed of aerated worm tea, fish emulsion just as the fruits form, and a monthly foliar spray of dissolved aspirin to help ward off disease. It’s a thing. Really.
My friend Julie reminded me thatI forgot composted manure. That’ll definitely be happening.