Must-Know Tips for Watering Tomato Plants

Tomatoes are among the common vegetables grown in our gardens. This is attributed to the fact that they are relatively easy to care for and maintain. Watering is among the crucial care that tomato plants require throughout the season.

The amount of water a tomato plant needs is determined by various factors like the stage of growth, type of soil, and weather conditions. Tomato plants require little and frequent water during the seedling stage. Watering should increase gradually as the plant matures.

Slow watering is recommended when the plant begins to fruit. Too much water causes the cracking and splitting of tomato fruits on the vine.

Watering tomato plants

How much water do tomato plants need?

To maintain a healthy tomato plant, there must be even and constant moisture in the soil. This means that the water is not supposed to be inadequate or excessive.  Insufficient water in the soil causes the plant to have stunted growth, wilt, and die.

On the other hand, excess water in the soil can cause diseases like blossom end rot in tomatoes.

Various factors determine the frequency and amount of water a tomato plant needs. Some of them include the following:

Stage of growth or depth of roots

Tomato plant water needs to increase with the growth and reaches the peak when flowers and fruits start to appear. This means that you will be required to water your seedlings with little water and increase the ratio and frequency gradually when they mature.

When you start to germinate your tomato seeds, it is important to check the moisture content in the soil. The soil may dry up quickly when the seedling is in small trays or containers. Generally, the seedlings require little water and the need increases when they grow.

When the seedlings are transplanted in the garden, their roots will start to grow deeper into the soil in search of water and anchorage. During this stage, your watering intervals are supposed to be increased and a larger amount applied per application.

It is also important to be cautious when watering your tomato plants especially when they start flowering and fruiting. Water the base of the plant and not on the foliage. Watering on the leaves and fruits can lead to tomato sunscald.

Weather factors (Temperature, sunlight, humidity, and wind)

Tomato plants require warm temperatures. In such conditions the rate of water evaporation from the plant and soil is high. Also, the plant uses more water when it is hot. Therefore it is important to water your plants twice or more when it is hot.

The plant requires more water when it is sunny as compared to when it is cloudy. When mulch is not applied in your tomato garden, the soil will also lose more water when the weather is sunny.  This also happens in windy weather conditions.

How will relative humidity affect your tomato plant water needs? When the humidity decreases in the air, the plant uses more water, and also the rate of evaporation increases.

The type of your soil

The type of soil in your garden also determines the amount of water you will use on your tomato plants. The water-holding capacity of the soil largely depends on its texture. For instance, sandy soil tends to lose more water as compared to clay soil due to its large pore spaces.

If you are staying in an area with sandy soil, try to add humus content into the soil to improve its water-holding capacity.

Usable soil depth will also determine the amount of water your tomato plants need. Hardpans or very compacted soils may restrict the root depth. With such soil, lighter and more frequent watering is required than when the soil is less compacted.

Important tips for watering tomato plants

How do you ensure that your tomato plants are well watered? The best time to water your tomatoes is normally early in the morning. It allows the plant to absorb enough water before the weather becomes hot and dry.

It is discouraged to water tomatoes in the evening. When the temperature drops at night, the water becomes too cold hence exposing your plants to health risks.

The yields from your tomato plants can be determined by how you are watering them. Consider watering the stem or base rather than the foliage. Watering on the leaves and fruits can cause diseases. Here are tips for watering tomato plants.

1. Regular watering of tomato plants

How often do you water your tomato plants? The answer to this question is determined by the type of soil in your garden, weather conditions, and the stage of growth of your plants. All you need to do is check the moisture content of your soil regularly to see if it is turning dry.

When the soil starts turning dry, it is time for you to water the plants. If the soil is becoming dry quickly, there are also other measures you can take to help in water retention. For instance, you can add more humus to the soil, apply mulch, or install a drip irrigation system in your garden.

Depending on your region and other environmental factors, you may be required to water your tomato plants once a day, twice a day, once a week, or twice a week. Wilting is not only caused by inadequate water, but can also result from pests and diseases.

2. Water at the base of tomato plants

Most tomato gardeners use a horse pipe connected to the tap to water their plants and the chances of watering the foliage are high. It is not a bad idea to use a horse pipe but ensure that the nozzle is pointed at the base of the plant.

Watering on the foliage puts the plant at risk of developing diseases like blossom end rot. The water can also damage the leaves especially when it is hard water or when mixed with fertilizers. Employ other methods of irrigation like drip which delivers water right to the base. It is also easy to apply foliar fertilizers with drip irrigation.

3. Water tomato plants early in the morning

Why water tomatoes at dawn? Tomato plants require warm temperatures, watering at dawn ensures any droplets on the leaves dries up when the sun rises. As stated earlier, water on tomato plant foliage increases the risk of diseases.

4. Water slowly or gently

When it comes to watering tomatoes, you have to go slow to ensure the plant gets sufficient water. Allow the water to penetrate deep into the soil. When watering, you don’t have to gush a lot of water on the plant. Flooding the plant with water can wash away the topsoil that contains nutrients. It can also leave the roots of the plant exposed.

Methods like drip irrigation ensures the water percolates slowly deeper into the soil. It is recommended to ensure 6-8 inches of soil is moistened. It encourages good root development in tomatoes. The plant roots will also be able to reach nutrients that are located deeper in the soil.

5. Apply mulch

If you are watering your tomatoes frequently, then it is high time to think about mulching. Using mulch helps to keep water in the soil at the level required by the plant. It also helps to reduce the rate of soil water evaporation.

How often to water tomatoes in pots

Tomatoes planted in pots or containers may require little and frequent watering as compared to their counterparts that are grown directly in the garden. However, is also important to ensure the pots have drainage holes to get rid of excessive water.

Containers or pots are poor in water retaining. Therefore, you have to come up with ways of reducing watering. Some of them include:

  • Plant in large containers. Big pots or containers hold a large volume of soil and water. This means that are not likely to dry quickly as compared to those in small pots.
  • Add hummus to the potting mixture. Humus or other organic manures increase water retention. This technique works well, especially in areas with clay soil. Mix organic amendments with the soil and fill the pots before planting your tomatoes.
  • Cover the pots or choose a good container material. If your pots are exposed to direct sunlight, you may consider covering them with a material that reflects heat.  It helps to reduce the rate of soil moisture evaporation and hence retain the water. When selecting the containers to plant tomatoes, go for plastic or metallic containers. They retain more water compared to fabric or terra cotta materials.
  • Use self-watering pots. To help save you from a daily routine of watering your tomatoes, you can go for self-watering containers. Such containers are designed with a water reservoir at the base. It helps to water the plant by itself for a certain period before being refilled.
  • Mulch the containers. Mulching is proven to reduce the rate at which moisture evaporates from the soil. However, you have to choose a mulching material that does not introduce weeds, pests, and diseases to your plants.

Can you overwater tomato plants?

The quality of your tomato yields depends on how you water them. Inconsistency in watering can result in blossom end rot. This is a condition that causes the tomato fruits to turn black at the bottom. Just like for too little moisture, overwatered tomato plants can wilt and die.

Check the soil moisture content first before watering. This can be done by inserting the one or two inches of your finger into the soil. Alternatively, you can scoop some soil and feel it between your fingers. If it feels dry, it is the right time to water.

Improving drainage in your garden can also help to ensure the plants remain healthy. If you are planting in pots, ensure it has drainage at the bottom to drain away excess water. Excess watering can also cause split or cracked tomatoes, poor root development, stunted growth, and reduced yields.

When to stop watering tomatoes

Slow watering is recommended when the tomato plant begins to fruit. Reduce watering, especially for the large-fruited tomato plants when the fruits begin to ripen. It helps to concentrate the flavor and also reduces the cracking and splitting of the fruit.

Stop watering your tomatoes at the end of summer when they have stopped yielding. When winter or low temperatures set in, they will die. This signifies the end of the season.

Final Thoughts

Young tomato plants can fully recover from soil moisture stress. However, when there is a water shortage during the flowering and fruiting period, the quality and quantity of your yields are negatively affected. Applying the right watering techniques will determine your success in tomato gardening.

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