Gardening

How to Water Tomato Plants: From Seedbed to Harvest

Watering tomato plants is an important part of tomato care. But, the fact that only supply water without knowing the system of watering, you can’t confirm fresh, healthy and juicy tomatoes.

Tomato plants are very sensitive to contact water. Lack of water, irregular watering and over watering all the actions can create a threat to your tomato plants.

If you are a beginner tomato grower, you must need to know the basics of watering tomatoes to become a successful gardener.

How to Water Tomato Plants

Tomato watering tips and techniques:

  • Release water slowly and deeply to develop a strong root system of tomato plants. Let the water soak into the soil as deep as possible. The heavy flow of water can float away from the soil nutrients.
  • WATER YOUR PLANTS WHEN THEY REALLY NEED IT. TO DO THAT, CHECK SOIL MOISTURE WITH YOUR FINGER OR USING A SOIL MOISTURE METER BEFORE AND AFTER WATERING TOMATO PLANTS. SOIL MOISTURE METER HELPS YOU TO DETERMINE WHEN YOUR TOMATO PLANTS ARE READY FOR A DRINK.
  • Watering around the bottom of the tomato plants and avoids direct watering on the foliage, stems, and fruits of the plants. Water over the tomato plants can transmit diseases from one plant to another.
  • Early morning irrigation can reduce evaporation and the tomato plants getting enough time to absorb water from the soil. Soaker hoses, DIY bottle irrigation, and drip irrigation methods of watering allow you to apply water at any part of the daytime.
  • Avoid watering at midday due to high evaporation of water. And never try to water after evening when moisture and soil temperature gradually goes down. Watering at night also susceptible to some diseases.

 

5 major facts to consider before growing and watering tomatoes:

Planting zone:

Tomato plants favor warm weather condition to grow and thrive. But the matter of fact that, planting zones have a different weather condition including cooler zone to heat zone.  It also differ due to different length of seasons.

So you have to apply different watering methods for your tomato plants according to your planting zone. Hot and dry weather zone needs more water supplies comparing cooler zones.

Tomato varieties:

Each planting zone introduces some different tomato varieties which best suits their specific plant hardiness zone.

Some tomato varieties are heat tolerance and some are suitable for cold climates. So, water your tomato plants based on the varieties you choose.

Besides, indeterminate tomato varieties need watering until the end of the season. On the other hand, determinate tomato varieties produce fruits all at once, so they need watering up to ripen.

Sunlight and wind exposure:

How much sunlight your tomato plants receive in a particular day is so important to measure how much water they need. Usually, tomato plants need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight to show better performance.

Tomato plants in windy weather condition need more water supply than average.

 Microclimate:

If your gardening zone situated in a microclimate area you may get some benefits or face some obstacles to apply water.

Microclimate area is a mini-climate zone inside a large climate area which doesn’t behave like the large climate.

A microclimate area depends on several factors like geographic location, soil structure, nearest open water sources, surrounding vegetation area, artificial structures, and hill tracks.

Fertilization:

Tomato plants need proper fertilization with accurate water supply to get a better result. You cannot expect a good harvest only providing water supply to the plants.

Lack of nutrients may occur yellow leaves problem, blossom end rot or cat-facing fruits problem of tomato plants.

Watering tomatoes are not as hard as you think but a matter of knowledge and practice. Continue reading this article to get a clear concept on how to water your tomato plants following the right way.

 

Types of irrigation:

There have two main ways you can supply water to your tomato plants.

Natural irrigation:

Rainfed farming is the natural way of irrigation for your garden plants. But in dry weather condition, rainwater is not available.

Besides, it doesn’t cover indoor tomato plants, potting tomatoes, balcony tomatoes, and greenhouse tomato plants.

Artificial irrigation:

Tomato plants need schedule watering which can’t be served fully through rainwater.  So you just need to provide extra irrigation.

There have a number of artificial irrigation methods but drip irrigation, DIY plastic bottle irrigation and soaker hoses watering are suitable for tomato plants.

 

Methods of watering tomatoes:

The watering tomato plant is very sensitive and there is a number of ways to do this. Here I discuss some effective ways to watering home garden tomato plants.

Underground self bottle watering:

Underground Self Watering Bottle System DIY

When you finally going to transplant tomato plants, put a plastic bottle inside the hole which is digging up for the tomato plants. Drill some hole surrounding the bottle so that the plants can soak the water from the soil as required.

Fill the bottle with water or necessary nutrient solutions. This system reduces water loss and protects your plants from unexpected diseases.

Deep root watering through PVC pipe and plastic bottle:

Tomato plants deep root watering through PVC pipe diy

You can also put a two feet length and 1-inch diameter PVC pipe into each hole of tomato plants at least 6-12 inches deep. Drill some hole around the part of the PVC pipe which will remain under the soil.

Cut the bottom of a plastic bottle and attach it upside down to the surface end of the PVC pipe. This bottle will work like a funnel.

Pour water on the bottle and the water will directly reach the plant roots. This method helps the plants getting water from the deep without wasting.

Plastic bottle drip water irrigation:

Plastic bottle drip water irrigation

This method is very easy to provide water to your tomato plants. You need one or two stick to hang up the plastic bottle close to the plants.

Create a tiny hole at the lower side of the hanging bottle to drip water slowly near the plant roots.

Irrigation with garden cone watering spike:

Irrigation with garden cone watering spike

This is one of the easiest ways of drip irrigation. Replace soda or any plastic bottle caps with a cone watering spike and push it inside the soil near the tomato plants.

You can also control the water flow using the key, attached with the watering spike.

Search your local gardening store or online shops for this watering spike.

Drip Irrigation with hoses:

Tomato drip irrigation with hoses

Installing a drip irrigation system with hoses is comparatively costly than DIY bottle watering methods. But the good side is you can go for a longer vacation setting up a timer on it.

Furrow irrigation:

Furrow irrigation

Low initial invest in equipment but high labor cost. Maintenance of the system is time consuming and sensitive.

Watering through tomato crater:

Watering through tomato crater

This device can make your garden work easier and increase your harvest. It helps to,

  • Hold soil moisture for a longer period of time,
  • Stop growing weeds near tomato plants,
  • Protect plants from cutworm and some soil-borne diseases.

 It will cost a few bucks but support your plants a couple of seasons.

 

When to water tomatoes morning or evening?

When to water tomatoes morning or evening

Morning is the best time for watering tomatoes due to some reasons. Such as:

It reduces the evaporation rate of water and tomato plants get enough time to easily dry out before the temperature getting cold in the evening.

Watering tomatoes at night can create a chance of overwatering. Because nighttime temperatures comparatively cooler than daytime and less water evaporates from the soil.

At night, plant leaves open up their cells to take a drink naturally from the dew drops, so any supplementary water supply can hamper their inherit system of collecting water from nature.

Besides, plant roots receive water more effectively in the morning than other parts of the day, especially after evening.

Watering plants in the evening encourage fungal pathogens as well as susceptible to some diseases.

 

How much water do your tomato plants need?

Tomato plants need a different amount of water in different stages of plant growth.

Watering at tomato seedlings:

They need as little as 1/4 cup of water but very frequent. You need to monitor the soil twice a day to supply the water.

Seedlings are typically nurtured in seed trays or small pots. Using hand sprayer is the best solution for watering seedling.

Don’t let the seedlings remain in a puddle of water.

Make sure your seedlings receive enough air flow and direct sunlight.

Gradually your seedlings shall sprout and consume more water. Increase the supply of water as your plants demand.

If you notice that, soil drying out less than 24 hours and third set of leaves appearing on tomato seedlings, transplant them into larger seed trays.

Keep regular watering to the tomato seedlings until they are transplanted into the outdoor garden.

Watering tomatoes when planting and after transplanting:

 The seedlings are ready to transplant when they are six weeks’ old and the height of seedling reaches around 6 to 10 inches. And, of course, transplant your seedling two weeks later of the last frost date.

  • The best time to transplant your seedlings in the afternoon.
  • Before an hour of planting, water your tomato plants deeply.
  • After digging up the holes for the seedlings, mix necessary compost with the soil and add some water.
  • When finish transplanting, provide a gallon of water slowly around the bottom of the plants to let the soil absorb it deeply.
  • From day 1 to 10, provide a quart of water for each plant every day. Check your newly transplanted tomato plants twice a day and provide more water if needed due to hot weather condition.
  • From day 10 to 14, give each plant 1 inch of water if the weather is cool, and up to 3 inch of water if the temperature is hot.
  • After 14 days, check your garden soil moisture with soil moisture meter regularly and give 2 inches or two gallons of water a week.
  • YOU CAN INCREASE OR DECREASE IN THE AMOUNT OF WATER DUE TO RAINY DAYS OR HOT TEMPERATURE. TO DO THIS WORK PERFECTLY, ALWAYS USE A SOIL MOISTURE METER BEFORE AND AFTER WATERING.

 

How often to water tomatoes?

You have to consider several issues to calculate how many times you need to water your plants.

 Watering consistency:

  • Tomato plants need consistent watering more than once a week based on the temperature. Don’t let the plants dry up in between the gap of watering.
  • Tomatoes need a total 1-3 inch of water every week.
  • Don’t apply the total 1-3-inch water all at once. Rather, you can divide the total amount of water into two parts and apply them every 3 to 5 days.
  • Just keep watering based on the demand of the plants and the weather condition.
  • Keep in mind, don’t apply less than 1 inch of water at a time when watering.
  • Drip irrigation method is the best way of consistent watering to tomato plants.

 Watering tomatoes in hot weather

A mature tomato plant needs up to 3 inches or 3 gallons or 11.5 liters of water in warm days.

Check your tomato plants at midday, and if they showing any signs of water stress don’t hesitate to water them right away.

Although, I recommend watering in the morning, in hot weather condition tomato plants may need more water supply than average.

Usually watering in the middle of the day doesn’t make any harm for the tomatoes. But they conserve less water and evaporate more than morning irrigation.

Never try to water at night. This will not help out your plants anyway.

Watering tomatoes in cool weather

No matter the weather is cool or hot, tomato plants need consistent watering.

When the weather is cool, supply 1 inch of water a week after checking the soil moisture.

Stop watering during heavy rainfall.

A splash of rain falls or irregular rainfalls may not fulfill the demand of water for the tomato plants.

Watering container tomato plants

Container tomato plants need regular watering due to the high evaporation rate. Container soil tends to heat up rapidly and contains limited water on it.

 You should start watering your container tomatoes at the morning until it reaches through the bottom of a container. And, provide necessary water supply if needed at a later part of the day.

 Watering garden tomato plants

Garden tomato plants spread their roots as deep as they need to search for water. So they need slow and deep watering once or twice a week, depends on the weather conditions and temperature.

Surface and light watering system prevent to develop a strong deep root of tomatoes.

Typically, tomato plants drink 1 to 3 inches of water each week based on the temperature (1-inch water= 1 gallon of water = 3.8 liters of water).

Watering tomatoes during fertilization

Water your tomato plants entirely before fertilization. Apply direct fertilization on the soil without watering can damage the plant roots and stems.

Provide light watering after fertilization as the fertilizer can easily mix with the soil and the tomatoes can receive necessary nutrients.

You can also water your tomato plants with a liquid solution of nutrients to well feed them.

If you apply Bottle or Pipe watering method or using a Tomato Craters, liquid nutrients watering will work much better.

Don’t fertilize your plants during heavy rain. It will float away the nutrients from the soil. Always try to fertilize your plants after a rainfall.

Watering compost tea:

As an organic home gardener, you can provide a drink of compost tea once a week to your tomato plants after transplanting them.

Compost tea watering can protect your tomatoes from the attack of bad bugs and diseases.

Keep in mind, never watering the compost tea after evening. The best time for applying compost tea in the morning.

You can pour compost tea water directly around the bottom of tomato plants or simply wash your tomato plants with the tea water.

Besides, you can spray over the plants with a new sprayer. Or else, collect a sprayer which was not used as chemical spray earlier.

 

Watering tomatoes by following soil types and structure

Watering tomatoes also depend on your garden soil types.

Clay soils absorb water very slowly. But once wet, it can hold soil moisture for a longer period of time.

So, water slowly if your garden contains clay soils. Make 3-5 days’ gap in-between your next irrigation schedule, depending on the weather condition.

On the other hand, sandy soils absorb water quickly, but they hold the moisture for a shorter period of time. Therefore, you have to water daily and quickly for short periods.

Common mistakes of watering tomatoes:

Beginner tomato growers usually make the following mistakes:

  • Watering over the tomato plants.
  • Watering after evening.
  • Deep watering before evening.
  • Watering at midday.
  • Surface or light watering to garden plants.

 

Overwatering tomatoes:

Too much water or too little water both are harmful for tomatoes. So it is very important to know the reasons behind over watered tomato plants and  possible solutions.

Reasons for overwatering:

  • Lack of knowledge and technique of watering.
  • Poor drainage system.
  • Heavy rainfall.
  • Soil structure.
  • Watering at night.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Leaf rolling.
  • Leaves turn yellow.
  • Fruit cracking.
  • Encouraging soil-borne diseases like root rot.
  • Wilting tomato plants.
  • Produce watery and tasteless fruits.
  • Produce less or sometimes don’t set any fruit

How to recover over watered tomato plants:

  • For garden tomatoes, stop watering until the soil moisture turn back to an appropriate level of moisture, once the plants being over watered. Adequate wind flow in the garden can dry up the soil quickly.
  • For potting tomatoes, transplant them immediately to another dry pot. Remove the wet potting compost and add some dry compost to balance the soil moisture.

How to protect tomatoes from over watering?

  • Arrange proper drainage system.
  • Always water your plants in the morning.
  • Cover your tomato plants with a clear plastic sheet before rain and remove it after the rainfall.
  • Check the soil moisture before watering.
  • Only water the tomatoes when they actually need it.
  • Lightening the heavy clay soil adding compost before planting.

 

When to stop watering tomato plants

Indeterminate tomato varieties produce fruits till the end of the season. So you have to keep watering to get tomatoes until the first frost appear.

Determinate tomato varieties set fruits all at once. So you don’t need to water all the season long for hybrid varieties.

Follow the exact watering method for determinate tomatoes like other tomato varieties from the beginning, till setting fruits.

Once all the tomatoes set fruits and become ripening, stop watering to let the tomatoes ripen fast.

 

Conclusion:

Tomato watering is a matter of practice. Different amount of water is needed in different growth stages of tomatoes. So, you could not apply the same amount of water throughout the season.

Besides, tomato watering techniques, environmental effects, fertilization, and other concern issues are also determining the tomato watering system.

Remember my tomato watering tips and apply them in the right way to get a better yield.

Happy tomato gardening.

 

 

 

Sources and Citations:

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