Best Techniques for Watering Tomato Plants

What's the best way to go about watering tomato plants?

Tomatoes do best when watered slowly and deeply.

As water sinks down lower into the soil, the tomato’s roots must follow suit and reach down further to absorb it. Deep watering helps tomato plants build strong root systems.

Superficial watering allows roots to be lazy. If roots mustn’t dig deep, they can float around the surface and get a drink the easy way. Shallow root systems can lead to root damage and more stress for the plant during dry spells.

You can check the soil moisture before and after watering with a soil moisture meter.

Most gardeners choose from 3 techniques:

Technique Advantages Disadvantages
Hand-Watering Requires just a hose and nozzle Time-consuming
Supplies superficial watering only
Concentrated stream means significant runoff
Sprinkler Requires just a hose and sprinkler Wets leaves, creating greater opportunity for disease
Higher evaporation, less soil absorption
Waters whole garden, leading to more weeds in between rows
Drip Watering Little water lost to evaporation
Allows slow and deep watering
You can water anytime; can set drip on a timer
Water while working in your garden
Can re-use drip components year after year
More costly to initially set up

By far, gardeners get best results with drip watering. (This is one time in your life where it pays to be a real drip.)

Tomato plants and soaker hoses (drip hoses) with Tomato Dirt

Drip hoses (or soaker hoses) are the easiest and least expensive form of drip irrigation. They are made of recycled tires and have tiny pores along their entire length. Gardeners connect the drip hose to a water source and lay them along a row of tomatoes or wind them in between plants. Water leaks slowly from the hose at a rate of about ½ gallon a minute per 100 feet of hose.

Drip hose (soaker hose) tips

  • Drip hoses work best when they lay flat.
  • Place hoses directly on top of the soil, not underneath it.
  • For best results, use 50 foot lengths or less as water seepage diminishes at hose ends.
  • Drip hoses may clog. Flush out hose by connecting it to a regular garden hose and turning on water to dislodge debris. 

Get more watering tips on our Watering Tomatoes Pinterest board.

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