Disaster, you’ve just realised that the compost you’ve just planted your tomatoes up in is ericaceous and not regular multi-purpose compost.
Does this mean you need to undo all the work you have just done and start again or is it not a big problem? Let’s find out if you can use ericaceous compost for tomatoes.
What Is Ericaceous Compost?
Time to start at the beginning, what exactly is ericaceous compost and why is it different to the regular stuff?
What makes ericaceous compost different to regular compost is that it is acidic. Regular compost tends to be neutral but ericaceous is specifically designed to be acidic.
That is because there are certain plants, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Blueberries etc that love acidic soil, so when planting these up you use ericaceous compost.
Why Could It Be Bad For Tomatoes?
Ericaceous compost tends to come in with a pH of around 5-6 which is too acidic for tomatoes, that is where the issues could come in.
Apart from the acidic nature, the compost will be just fine for tomatoes, it will have all the nutrients they need if it is a good quality compost, just like a good multi-purpose compost would.
When the soil is too acidic for the plant growing in it then it can reduce the amount of nutrients the plant can take up, so this would be the main concern with growing tomatoes in ericaceous compost.
Will Tomatoes Grow In It?
So, is ericaceous compost ok for tomatoes? Yes, tomatoes will grow in ericaceous compost.
While it is not perfect for tomatoes as it is a little over acidic for them tomatoes actually do enjoy a slightly acidic soil.
The ideal pH level for tomatoes is somewhere between 6 and 6.5 so they like slightly acidic soil but not too acidic. This is good for us as while the ericaceous compost is a little too acidic for tomatoes it is not miles off.
This means it isn’t going to be disastrous but on the flip side, it is not going to be ideal, it’s in the middle of those two extremes.
Can I Improve The Compost?
Yes, you could improve your ericaceous compost to make it more suitable for tomatoes and this is actually really simple to do.
To make acidic soil more alkaline you just need to add some lime to it. Lime is very alkaline and adding it to acidic soil will bump its pH level to get it nearer the ideal range for tomatoes to grow.
You can buy bagged lime in a powder form that you add to your soil to reduce how acidic it is, so this is one option if you want to improve ericaceous compost for tomatoes.
At this point though you might be better just buying some new compost and using the ericaceous compost for an acidic-loving plant.
There are also lots of natural ways to increase the pH level of your soil without having to buy any products, let me list a few below:
- Wood Ash From Fires – Just make sure there has been no treated or laminated wood in the fire as this could have chemicals in that will harm your plants.
- Baking Soda – Dilute a tablespoon of soil into around 3.5 litres of water and then pour it onto your compost.
Tomato Seeds In Ericaceous Compost
If all you have for starting your
In my opinion, you should just plant them in the ericaceous compost, they will germinate and grow just fine. One of the problems with overly acidic soil is that it can reduce the amount of phosphorus a plant takes up, this is a problem when the tomato is fruiting but not when it is just starting off.
So start your plants in ericaceous compost if that’s all you have and then move them on if possible.
What Compost Do You Use For Tomatoes?
Tomato compost and tomato grow bags are really just multi-purpose compost with some added nutrients to help your tomato plants grow.
Specialist grow bags like Livington’s Tomorite bags have their own tomato feed already in the compost as well as added seaweed.
Seaweed is a common ingredient you will see added to tomato compost, this is because it contains loads of micronutrients that could otherwise be missing from the soil.
It is this that makes liquid seaweed feeds a great feed for loads of different plants and vegetables.
Watering With Tap Water
Using water out of the tap on ericaceous soil will actually reduce the acidity and make it more alkaline over time.
Depending on whereabouts you are in the UK will affect the pH level of your tap water. This is because the pH of water can vary depending on what the bedrock is like in your location.
Areas with limestone rock where their drinking water comes from will normally have water with a high pH level but all areas will usually have drinking water that is more alkaline rather than acidic.
Over time this will increase the pH level of your soil, so you can use this to make your ericaceous compost more suitable for tomatoes.
When you are doing this in reverse and watering plants in ericaceous compost that need it to stay acidic then you should try and use rainwater wherever possible to water your plants.
Yes, you can grow tomatoes in ericaceous compost, but it is not ideal. The plants will grow and crop just fine but they won’t do as well as plants in regular compost.
If it is all you have to plant your tomatoes in then go for it, by all means, it isn’t going to kill the plants or anything that disastrous. What will happen is that you will probably end up with a slightly smaller crop than you would have done had you used regular compost.
And remember that watering them with tap water and adding lime or wood ash can also increase the soil’s pH level and make it more suitable for growing tomatoes.