Can You Use Ericaceous Compost For Tomatoes?

Can You Use Ericaceous Compost for Tomatoes

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If you want to grow tomatoes successfully, you will need to consider the type of soil that you are using. Compost can be a good way of adding more nutrients. But not all types of compost will be suitable. So, will ericaceous compost be a good choice for growing tomatoes? 

Ericaceous tends to be strongly acidic, while tomatoes prefer a more neutral or mildly acidic environment. Because of this, you might need to add a few additional elements to the compost to lower the acidity. Once done, perform a pH test to confirm that you were successful in creating a more neutral balance, and you can use this compost on your tomato bushes.  

Ericaceous compost has a lot of uses, working with a range of plants. Keep reading to learn more about the properties of this compost and how you can make the soil more suited to growing tomatoes. 

What is Ericaceous Compost? 

Let’s start by defining what this type of compost is. It refers to the soil properties it possesses. More specifically, it is soil that is acidic. The best way to test whether you have ericaceous compost is by testing the pH levels. It should be between four to five. 

There are a few ingredients that are commonly found in this compost to provide its strongly acidic nature. These include: 

This can be a difficult type of compost to make yourself, as you will need to make sure that the acidic elements are mixed consistently. It’s best to do a pH test to ensure that it’s ready before adding it to your garden. 

Type of Soil Tomatoes Need to Grow? 

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Now that we know what type of soil ericaceous compost will create, we can look at the soil requirements tomatoes will need to grow. They tend to do well in acidic soil. The ideal pH for them is closer to only slightly acidic. They tend to do best where the pH is between six to seven. However, they can tolerate up to a pH of five.  

The acidic nature of ericaceous compost might not suit the conditions that tomatoes prefer to grow in. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to use it. You’ll just need to make a few adjustments to make it a little more basic. Here are some of the ways that you can do this: 

However, one of the best ways to lower the pH is by using lime. There are a few forms that this can take. You might want to use dolomite lime as it is the most common. But if you want something that works quickly, you will be better off using hydrated lime. While it works quickly, there is the risk that you will burn your plants. 

It’s important to make sure that you take some of these steps to lower the pH level of the ericaceous compost. As long as you do this, you will be able to use it to grow tomatoes

Other Nutrients Needed to Grow Tomatoes

Of course, your compost mix isn’t the only thing you need to think about. It’s also a good idea to look at the NPK ratio. This tells you the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in the soil. It’s best to get a mix that gives equal weighting to each one. Too much nitrogen can start to affect the plant’s growth, with more foliage on the plant to the detriment of the fruit.  

There are a few other nutrients that you should be looking for, these include: 

  • Calcium
  • Potash
  • Magnesium

You can tell whether you have the right amount of nutrients in the soil by looking at how the tomato bushes are growing. For example, too much nitrogen can turn the leaves a darker green. Not enough, and the plant can become spindly and weak. 

Other Ways to Make the Soil More Acidic

Ericaceous compost is a good way of making the soil more acidic, which can be a good way of dealing with alkaline areas. But it isn’t the only way that you can make the soil more acidic. Here are some of the options that you might want to explore: 

  • Sulfur. You won’t need to use a lot of sulfur to start seeing results, only about a handful for each square meter. But there is a downfall to this plan. It can take a while for you to start to see results. Often, you will need to wait around six months.
  • Sphagnum peat moss. This is one of the most effective options, adding acidity while increasing the nutrients in the soil. You will need to use four to six inches to the soil to see an impact. 
  • Ammonium sulfate. This is best applied to individual plants, sprinkled around the base. But it carries a risk, there is the chance that it can lower the soil pH too quickly, damaging the root system. 
  • Aluminum sulfate. Finally, this is the least recommended option. While effective, there is the risk that it can pass on metal toxicity to the plants. If you eat the produce, there is a chance that you will get sick. 

Both sulfur and sphagnum peat moss can be mixed into your cost. This can be a good way of creating the properties of ericaceous compost at home. In fact, peat moss is the most common ingredient in ericaceous compost. 

It’s a good idea to add these supplements gradually. Test afterward and learn the effect each one is having on the soil. Changing pH too rapidly can lead to burning roots and the death of existing plants.  

Other Plants That Perform Well in Ericaceous Compost

Tomatoes aren’t the only plant that can benefit from some ericaceous compost. Many others will be able to thrive in acidic soil. Here are some of the species that you might want to explore: 

  • Blueberries
  • Heather
  • Azaleas
  • Cranberries
  • Japanese maples
  • Ferns
  • Most evergreen trees

If you are unsure whether ericaceous compost is a good choice for a plant species, you can talk to the nursery staff. Ask about the pH levels that the plant will thrive in. If they like acidic soils, this can be the right compost mix for them. 

Without the right pH mix, it will be impossible for the plants to gain access to the nutrients within the soil. You can try to solve this problem by adding more fertilizers and supplements. But this is only a short-term fix. Ultimately, this will cause the plant to die. 

If the plant is a good fit, there are a few benefits that ericaceous compost can provide. First, it will be able to last a long time. It will be able to keep slowly releasing vital nutrients, like nitrogen, into the soil. Plus, the high peat content ensures that it will hold a lot of moisture, so you don’t need to water the garden as often. 

You will need to consider the amount of sunlight these plants will be getting. Usually, plants that use ericaceous compost will be sensitive to sunlight. Too much, and their leaves will start to turn brown. Thankfully, a little forward planning and this problem will be easily corrected. 

Final Thoughts

Trying to grow tomatoes can be a challenge. It helps to have the right type of soil. You will need to get something that is neutral or only mildly acidic. If you can get the right pH level in ericaceous compost, you should be able to use it without any fear of damaging your tomatoes. 


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