Should Seedlings be Fed?
Feeding tomato seedlings is one of those subjects where tomato growers may have different opinions!
When tomato seedlings are between three and six weeks old, it is very tempting to give them a feed but there are probably enough nutrients in the growing media already – if you are using fresh seed or multipurpose potting compost.
When transplanting from seed compost (at around three or four weeks) to multi-purpose compost, seedlings will be going into a new home which already contains nutrients, as suggested above, so won’t need feeding.
However, because their roots have been disturbed and will take a few days to re-establish themselves, a foliar feed (spraying the leaves) with organic liquid seaweed is very helpful.
Tomato plants, like humans, can suffer from stress when they are transplanted – a bit like humans when moving house! – and a feed with Organic Liquid Seaweed will help them to get over the shock!
Liquid seaweed can be used throughout the life of a tomato plant and helps keeps plants in top condition, boosting their immune system against diseases and helping them cope with bug attacks too.
In the early Spring, when temperatures are low, tomato plant roots have trouble absorbing nitrogen and other minerals that they need to grow, so foliar feeding through the leaves is a good idea – it is also the quickest way to get food into a tomato plant. It’s best to foliar feed on a warm dry day and not in direct sunlight.
Over feeding can damage leaves
Just be aware not to be over-generous because giving them too much (more than the manufacturer’s recommended amount) can damage their tender leaves and roots.
Growing without soil
When started in media that doesn’t contain nutrients, such as perlite, vermiculite or other inert media, nutrients designed for seedlings such as “First Feed” are usually given. Another alternative would be to dilute a general grow nutrient – Miracle Grow for example – to half or quarter strength. Remember that this is only when seeds are started in media that doesn’t contain nutrients.
The root system
Giving tomato seedlings too much food, too early in the growth cycle, will reduce their root growth.
Tomato food is usually not given for soil grown plants until they reach the flowering or fruiting stage – around three months, depending on the variety, from sowing.