“What Are Some Basics I Need to Know About Watering Tomato Plants?”
When you understand what tomatoes use water for, then it setting up a schedule for watering tomato plants makes sense.
Why tomatoes need water (in plain English)
Tomatoes are fast-growing, heavy-producing plants. They make a lot of food (sugars) in order to grow blossoms, develop fruit, and put out more branches. It takes a considerable amount of water to convert sunlight into energy for a tomato’s many branches and blossoms.
Here’s a quick review from high school biology class about what happens with water in a tomato plant. You can see why water is incredibly important to growing healthy tomatoes.
plants absorb water through their roots
water finds it way up the plant to the leaves
some water is used in the leaves to make food (sugars) for the plant. This process is called photosynthesis, and it’s responsible for converting sunlight into energy for your tomato.
some water is released through the leaves to cool them. This process is called transpiration. It’s based on the same principle as perspiration in people.
As a gardener, watering is one factor that you can control!
Top 3 keys to watering tomato plants
It’s simple when you know when, where and how to water them.
WHEN Water regularly. Consistent watering produces stronger plants and larger fruit. In the height of summer, water 2-3 times a week. (Rainfall counts.) Later when temperatures cool, scale back to once a week.
WHERE Water at the soil line. You’ll help build your tomato’s root system. Avoid overhead watering, which spreads diseases.
HOW Water slowly. Let water sink into the ground to help plants develop strong root systems. When the soil surrounding your tomato plant is moistened 6-8” deep, you’ll know you’ve done your job well.
Drip irrigation is one of the most effective ways to water tomatoes. Gardener's Supply offers good flat soaker hoses
which you can modify easily to fit your garden. Or do one better and install a drip irrigation system. They're not expensive -- and you will have watering set up for a whole season. You can use a water timer
to make watering even more consistent and convenient.
Tomato problems that arise with improper watering
calcium imbalance caused by irregular watering: over watering followed by under-watering means calcium can’t be absorbed consistently into tomato
cracks, splits in fruit
irregular watering, over watering after drought: leads tomato skins to expand, contract, and split
small fruit, stunted growth, reduced production
irregular watering, under-watering: to stay cool, plants limit the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide through leaves, which slows growth
susceptibility to tomato fungus
overhead watering or watering at night, which allows fungi to rest on the leaves
tomato root rot, root loss
overwatering: soggy soil prevents roots from getting oxygen
light watering, sprinkling: roots reach to the surface in search of water