Most gardeners try their hand at tomatoes because they have a reputation for being easy to grow and they are. Even soil requirements are easy to deal with. I’ve grown tomatoes for years and as long as you have a reasonable understanding of what soil does for tomatoes and why it’s important, it is hard to go wrong.
Types of Soil
What makes tomatoes so easy to do with is the versatility they give gardeners. Tomatoes can grow in almost any soil type. The only caveat is that the soil needs to be well drained. Like most plants, tomatoes don’t like to have soggy feet. If you’re looking for the ideal soil type for tomatoes, try loamy soil.
While tomatoes can grow in a wide range of pH zones, the target range is between 6.2 and 6.8. This range falls on the acidic side of the scale. To find out your pH value, take a soil sample to your local extension office. They can provide a complete evaluation, include any nutritional deficiencies.
Nutrients are important to all plants and tomato plants are no different. Nutrients are absorbed from the soil. Too much nitrogen creates lush, thick foliage but plants produce few flowers or fruits. Phosphorus and potassium are needed in higher ratio in order to produce fruits. A good ratio is 8-32-16 or 6-24-24 at planting time. As a maintenance fertilizer, try 5-10-5, 5-10-10 or comparable ratio values.
Other Soil Considerations
Loose, easy-to-work soil is always a plus. It makes it easier for roots to grow and expand in search of water and nutrients. If soil is tightly compacted, add organic matter like compost, peat moss or decomposing leaves. Work them into the soil, preferably in the fall prior to planting in the spring.
Weeds can be a real problem. Not only do they crowd out young plants, but they rob the soil of moisture and nutrients that would otherwise be available to the tomato plants. Keep soil weed-free with regular maintenance and use mulch around tomato plants to conserve moisture and reduce weeds.
Sources: Ohio State University
University of Missouri