By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning writer and owner of Tomato Dirt, a leading online source of for growing tomatoes in the home garden.
How do you know if you’re watering tomatoes enough? Your tomato plants need 1-3 inches of water a week. But the water goes into the ground. And once it disappears, there is no way to measure it.
Plus overwatering tomatoes can be just as deadly and under-watering them. So how can you know that you’re giving plants enough water … or too much?
These tips may help you know if you’re watering tomatoes enough.
1. Monitor rainfall. Keep tabs on how much rain you get and how often. That will help you know how much extra water you need to give plants. Get a rain gauge to help you measure rainfall and watering. Empty it on the same day each week so you can keep track of what plants are getting.
2. Use a water usage meter to measure how much water you’re using. Time your watering so that you know how long it takes to soak tomatoes with 1-3 inches of water. Then you can …
3. Set up drip hoses on a timer. (You can use either a digital water timer or a manual water timer.) Tomatoes respond best when they get a deep, slow soaking a couple of times a week, rather than a quick shot of water every day. A water timer can indicate how much water plants receive during a particular length of time, and then shut off automatically. This is the most accurate way to measure the amount of water you’re giving tomatoes.
4. Water with milk jugs or 2-liter soda bottles. This homegrown option saves money but requires a little work. Cut of the top. Punch a hole or two in the bottom. Tie the jug to the tomato stake or plant. Fill the jug with water. The water will drip out slowly into the soil and give the plant a couple of inches of moisture spread out over about a square foot of soil surrounding it.
5. Check soil moisture with a soil moisture meter. This nifty tool can help you know when your plant is over-watered, under-watered, or satisfied.
6. Feel the soil. OK, this is unscientific. But gardeners swear by it. Insert a stick, a trowel, or your finger into the soil. When adequately watered, it should feel damp 3-4 inches deep.
As gardeners get experience, they get a feel for what it means to give tomatoes a deep watering. You will too.
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