- Watering Tomato Plants – How Much Water Do Tomato Plants Need
- Tips for Watering Tomato Plants
- How Much Water Do Tomato Plants Need?
- Problems Related to Improper Watering of Tomatoes
- Watering Tomatoes
- How Often Do Tomatoes Need Watering to Be Healthy?
- How Often Do Tomato Seedlings Need Watering?
- How Often Should You Be Watering Tomatoes in Your Garden?
- Watering Tomatoes in Containers Versus an Outdoor Garden
- What is the Best Way to Water Tomatoes? Tips for Watering Tomatoes!
Watering Tomato Plants – How Much Water Do Tomato Plants Need
Tomatoes are the most popular vegetables grown in the home garden. One of the reasons is that they are relatively easy to grow. But that does not mean that they grow without care. One of the most crucial parts of their care is knowing how much water do tomato plants need. Let’s take a look at how to properly water tomatoes.
Tips for Watering Tomato Plants
Water slowly, water deeply – The number one rule of watering tomatoes is to make sure that you go slow and easy. Never rush watering tomato plants. Use a drip hose or other forms of drip irrigation to deliver water to your tomato plants slowly.
Water regularly – How often should you water tomato plants? There is no hard and fast rule to this. It depends on how hot it is and if the plant is actively growing. A good rule of thumb is to supply water once every two or three days at the height of summer. Remember that water supplied by Mother Nature counts towards watering tomato plants in the garden. Once the weather cools and fruit has set, scale back watering to once a week.
Water at the roots – When watering tomatoes, it is normally recommended that you water straight to the roots rather than from above, as this can cause disease and pests to attack the plants. Watering tomato plants from above also encourages premature evaporation and unnecessarily wastes water.
Mulch – Using mulch help to keep water where the plants need it. Use mulch to slow down evaporation.
How Much Water Do Tomato Plants Need?
There’s no one set amount for this. There are dozens of factors that can influence how much water a tomato plant needs at any given time. These factors can include age of plant, size of plant, type of soil, current temperatures and humidity, state of fruit and amount of fruit as well as weekly rainfall.
A general baseline is considered to be 2 inches (5 cm.) of water a week for a plant in the ground (more often for container plants). Due to all of the factors above, this amount may be too much or too little for your tomato plant. Instead, it would be wise to depend on a water gauge or an indicator plant to tell when you need to water your tomatoes. Impatiens make a good indicator plant to put near your tomatoes since impatiens wilt immediately when they have too little water, thus indicating that the tomatoes also need water.
Problems Related to Improper Watering of Tomatoes
Improper watering can lead to the following issues:
- Blossom end rot
- Stunted growth
- Reduced fruit production
- Susceptibility to pests
- Root loss
- Sub-quality fruit
Now that you know how often should you water tomato plants and how much water tomato plants need, you can water tomatoes in your garden with confidence and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Tomatoes require an even supply of water throughout the season; an irregular water supply will cause your tomatoes to develop problems.
Give Them An Inch
Like most other vegetables in the garden, tomatoes need at least one inch of rain or irrigation water per week for steady growth. In the hotter, drier parts of the country, their needs go up to two inches of water per week during the summer months.
An inch of water measures out to about 60 gallons for each 100 square feet of garden. So, if you have to water by the bucket brigade, that’s something to bear in mind.
Here’s a clever way of watering tomatoes. Cut the tops from some gallon-size cans, punch holes in the bottoms and set them in the ground with only about an inch of the can showing above the surface. Use two cans near each tomato plant and fill them two or three times per week — or more often, if needed. This method directs water right to the root zone of the plants and little is wasted.
You can develop your own watering techniques as long as you follow these guidelines:
- Water thoroughly to encourage the tomato roots to seek water and nutrients deep in the soil. With an extensive, deep root system, the plants will hold up better during dry spells. When watering, soak the soil to a depth of at least six to eight inches.
- Water only when your plants need it. Tomatoes like moisture, but overwatering is harmful. You not only waste water, but soggy soil will prevent the roots from getting the air they need. If your plants look a little wilted on a hot, summer afternoon, that’s usually normal. They’ll perk up overnight. If plants are wilted in the morning, don’t wait — water them! (Certain diseases can also cause wilting.) A thorough soaking every four to five days on light, sandy soils and every seven to ten days on heavy soils is a good general guide for irrigating if you don’t get enough rain.
- Water early in the day to cut down on evaporation losses and also to give your plants plenty of time to dry out. Wet foliage overnight may help trigger some diseases. With furrow irrigation, drip irrigation or soaker hoses, which all deliver water right at the soil surface and not on the leaves, you can water almost anytime. Try to avoid watering at midday though, because that’s when evaporation losses are highest.
- Use a good mulch to help retain moisture in the soil. Mulches reduce the fluctuation of soil moisture and that helps the crop enormously. But, remember, don’t apply mulch until after the transplants have been going for five to six weeks.
How Often Do Tomatoes Need Watering to Be Healthy?
Tomatoes are a great plant to include in your home garden because they are relatively easy to grow, they produce a lot of fruit, and fresh tomatoes are delicious. If you want successful tomato plants, there are a few things you really need to know, such as how often you should be watering tomatoes for healthy growth.
How often do tomatoes need to be watered? This is what I want to talk to you about, so that you will be prepared to grow your own plants and have a thriving garden!
How Often Do Tomatoes Need Watering to Be Healthy?
How Often Do Tomato Seedlings Need Watering?
As you might have guessed, tomato plants have vastly different needs at their different levels of growth. Seedlings need a different amount of water than growing or mature plants, so you have to take that into account when you start watering them.
Whether you are growing tomatoes from seeds or from seedlings you bought, they need far less water than growth plants. You will want to make sure that the water does not disturb the plants or the seeds, as they are young and weak at this early stage. Seeds should be watered thoroughly, then covered and left for a few days to allow for germination and growth. Seedlings need water more often to help them grow, and should never be covered.
Here is a great video that tells you all about watering tomatoes from seeds:
How Often Should You Be Watering Tomatoes in Your Garden?
Tomato plants typically need 1 inch of water per week to be healthy. If you live in a drier area, this increases to 2 inches of water every week. If you’re not getting any rain, you will need to water the plants for yourself. When it is raining often in your area, you may not need to water at all, because you risk overwatering if you are adding water on top of rain-soaked soil.
Watering Tomatoes in Containers Versus an Outdoor Garden
If you’re growing tomatoes in containers, you need to water differently than when you’re growing in and outdoor garden. Rain usually won’t reach containers (depending on where you place them), and the soil won’t be able to collect moisture from anywhere else around the plant’s roots, because it is isolated. Because of this, container tomatoes need more regular watering than garden plants. You may have to water them daily.
Check the soil in your container every day, and if it feels dry you should water the plant. When checking the soil, make sure to check at least 2 inches down instead of feeling only the top of the soil, as its far more important for tomato roots to get moisture than any other part of the plant.
What is the Best Way to Water Tomatoes? Tips for Watering Tomatoes!
When you go to start watering tomatoes, you should know how to get the best benefit from it. If you follow these tips, your tomatoes are likely to do well and get the most out of each watering session:
1. Water in the morning
If you water in the heat of the day, more evaporation happens that will waste the water. In the evening, you risk the water sitting too long on the surface of the plant and making rot and disease more likely. Morning watering is ideal to let the water soak in fully and allow the plant to get the full benefits of the water. It will also dry up by the end of the day, reducing any risks of moisture-related issues.
2. Go for the roots, not the leaves
Watering the leaves of tomato plants is useless and won’t help the plants grow properly. You may even lose more water this way or cause some harm to the plants if you always water on the leaves. Get the water as close to the roots as possible by watering the soil around the plants rather than the leaves.
3. Put indicator plants around your tomatoes
Some small garden plants will react immediately if there is a lack of moisture in the soil they are planted in. These types of plants can be really useful when you’re growing tomatoes, because they will show you if your watering schedule is working or if you need to water more often.
4. Consider using mulch
Mulch can help your plants retain their moisture for longer, making each watering session more effective. This is a great idea if you have to be away from your garden for a few days at a time or if you don’t have the time to devote a lot of attention to the plants.
Watering tomatoes is not a difficult task, but it’s best to learn how to do it right so you can get the best tomato plants possible each year. Proper watering will help the plants to grow, thrive, and produce fantastic fruits each time!
Sungold tomatoes in my raised garden bed.
This article will explain why to stop watering your tomatoes and when to stop watering your tomatoes.
One tip that I’ve always found helpful, although a little counterintuitive, is to stop watering tomato plants mid to late summer. “Stop watering,” you say. “That’s seems silly.” Here is the reasoning.
Tomatoes work hard to grow new green foliage all through the growing season. The more water you give the plant (and nutrients), the larger it will continue to grow. As soon as you stop watering the plant, the plant begins to realize that it is coming to the end of the season and begins to focus on producing fruit rather than growing new foliage. When you stop watering the tomato plants, the fruit will ripen quicker too.
The reality is that this does not work with all tomato plants. If you grow your tomato plants in smaller containers, then you need to keep watering them well throughout. The plant cannot survive without a deep root system. If a tomato plant is marked by the nursery as a variety that is suitable for container gardening, then chances are you will need to water it evenly throughout the grow season. If you want more info on how to best plant your tomato plant, then check out this article: Planting Tomatoes – Best Kept Secrets.
I stopped watering this Sungold tomato plant about 4 weeks ago. It is doing excellent and producing more fruit than we can eat!
I’ve tested out this theory a couple of seasons and here is what I have learned. This techniques seems to work well with Sungold Tomatoes and Brandywine Heirlooms. Those are the two varieties I grow each year. One of the most helpful things I’ve learned is to make sure the plant is well supported if you decide to stop watering. If the plant isn’t supported, the branches start to droop and can sometimes even break off – not so helpful!
Let us know if you’ve tried this before or if you have other techniques that work well with tomatoes.
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Alright I don’t want to offend anyone by writing this, but there is a lot of tomato information floating around out there, and some of it is just NOT CORRECT. I feel bad for the people trying to grow beautiful, healthy tomatoes that are being fed bad information. All of your hard work and dedication is being stunted by the false information that you are trying to implement in your garden.
All that I can speak to are the methods and techniques that I have tried MYSELF over the years, and I would never claim something is false if I didn’t properly test it out myself. The things that I am going to talk about are what have absolutely NOT worked for me in the past. In fact, they have done the opposite. They have hindered my tomato growth and production, and I feel obligated to share them with you.
False information #1. “Water your tomatoes often. When the leaves start to curl a little during the day, that means you’re not giving them enough water.”
Oh my gosh, I can’t even spit the words out fast enough to tell you that this is COMPLETELY OPPOSITE of what you should be doing!
Just like people, tomatoes need to be pushed and fully exerted to reach their full potential. If you took a person, and sat them down, and fed them healthy food, and treated them nice, and brought them water all the time, but never made them exercise or do anything hard, would they be very strong? No. They would be somewhat healthy from eating good food, and drinking water all the time, but they wouldn’t grow big and strong physically. Tomatoes are the same way. They are a HUGE plant, and they NEED big strong roots to support their weight and production.
If you water them all the time, their roots don’t have to work or stretch even a little bit to get to the water, because it’s always right there at the top of the soil. They don’t bother to grow down deep into the dirt to reach more nutrients because they never have to. And since their roots are shallow, the plant doesn’t grow as big or as sturdy as it should be.
By watering your tomato plants often, you are actually stunting their growth and enabling the plant to be a huge wuss. There I said it! Your making your plants into wimps!
Now, for the second part … your tomatoes leaves curl up during the day as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from the sun. They are not curling because they are thirsty, they are curling because they are hot. It is an important thing to pay attention to though because it can be a sign that they are thirsty, if you are looking at the right time. The key is to inspect your tomatoes FIRST THING IN THE MORNING. If the leaves are curling at all before the sun has been up very long, then it means they are thirsty. It’s not late enough in the day for them to be hot yet, so they are telling you that they could use a drink.
I only water my tomatoes every 5-8 days. I water them with a soaker hose for two hours because it is imperative that the water soaks very deep down into the soil. Let the soil on top dry out a bit, quit stressing out when the top isn’t wet, and please please PLEASE quit watering your tomatoes every day.
*It should be noted that if your tomatoes are planted in a container, the watering requirements are different because the soil will dry out much quicker.
False information #2. “Remove all the suckers from your plant to get more tomatoes.”
Before you start yelling at the computer that I am wrong, hear me out.
Removing the suckers (the shoot that grows in between two other branches) from your plants is fine IF IT’S THE RIGHT KIND OF TOMATO. If it’s the wrong kind of tomato, then you may be hurting your tomato crop. And I would guess that there are a lot of people that don’t know which kinds of tomatoes are the right kinds.
If you are growing a determinate variety of tomatoes, you SHOULD NOT be breaking off the suckers. If you are growing an indeterminate variety then it depends on where you live and how much work you want to put in. And if determinate and indeterminate sound like a different language to you, please read this post that explains the difference. If I explain it here, this post will end up 3 times longer.
If you break off the suckers on a determinate tomato, you are stressing the plant unnecessarily. The plant will be smaller, and it will still produce all of its tomatoes at once …. are you understanding this? Your plant will be smaller, so you get less tomatoes. Then your plant quits producing (because it’s determinate), and dies, and you end up with a smaller, sadder harvest. Just leave it be, let your determinate plant grow how it wants, and it will happily give you as many tomatoes as it can.
Whether or not you should break off the suckers on an indeterminate tomato depends on where you live, and your own personal preference. If you live somewhere that has a longer growing season, I would say gardening zone 6 or higher, then breaking off the suckers is not all that helpful. You have a long enough season that you don’t need to do anything to encourage your tomatoes to stop growing up and start producing. Why not just let them get as big as they can since they will have plenty of time to provide you will boxes and boxes of tomatoes. Personally, the only time I break anything off my indeterminate tomatoes is when we are getting close to the first frost and I want the plant to quit growing.
If you live somewhere that has a shorter growing season, it makes more sense to break off the suckers because it encourages your plant to stop putting energy into growing, and put more energy into ripening the tomatoes. Your plant will end up a little smaller, and your tomatoes will ripen a little earlier. It can improve circulation, which might help prevent disease. It also has the potential to make your plant produce slightly larger tomatoes, but you won’t have as many. Give a little, take a little. So if that is what you want, then keep on plucking those little suckers off your indeterminate plants, and accept my apology for declaring your method as “incorrect”, I only meant to inform. I am certain no one meant to deceive anyone by telling them to break off the suckers, I just want everyone to know which kind of plants they were talking about. Indeterminate NOT determinate.
Phew! Now that I got that off my chest, I feel much better. I just want to make sure you guys are well informed so that you can grow the best tomatoes ever!
Speaking of best tomatoes ever …. If you are serious about your tomatoes, you need to know this. Tomatofest.com has the largest and most impressive selection of organic and heirloom tomatoes I have ever seen. They have over 600 beautiful, unique, and rare varieties of all different colors, sizes, shapes, and flavors. In fact, this year I am trying out a blue tomato for the first time. Yes, blue! You can’t believe some of the stuff they have until you see it with your own eyes. to visit this incredible organic and heirloom tomato seed supplier that is run by a couple who harvest their own seeds. If you aren’t buying your seeds through these guys, you are truly missing out on some great tomatoes.
Make sure to sign up for my FREE 8 day Tomato Academy. I teach all you tomato freaks how to choose, grow, and sell “high end” tomatoes for big money. Some of mine sell for $3 each! to check it out.
Then check out my DIY BEEFY tomato cage tutorial, so your plants aren’t laying in the dirt.
And learn how to have a weed free tomato patch by watching this video.
Has anyone else found tomato advice out there that needs to be corrected? or at least clarified?
At this point in the season, tomatoes are either doing great or tipping toward disaster. So in addition to offering some growing tips to help make tomatoes happy and healthy, I’ll explain some of the common things that can go wrong.
Probably the most important thing you need when growing tomatoes is sunlight—eight hours or more is best, but six will allow plants to produce a fair amount of fruit. If you don’t have a spot that gets even six hours of sun and someone is home a lot during the day, consider buying a few round, rolling plant stands. I got mine (which look like metal Frisbees on wheels) at Ikea, but most garden centers sell them now, too. Put your tomatoes in large pots, set them on the rolling plant stands and move them into the sun as it moves throughout the day.
Soil is key to tomato success too. They thrive in healthy soil, so it’s a good idea to work some compost and composted manure into the area before planting. If you’re planting in pots, just add those things into your potting mix. Halfway through the season, scratch a little more compost into the top of the soil around plants, but don’t add more manure. Too much nitrogen (N) will give you lots of leaves and little fruit. You want a fertilizer with more potassium (K) than nitrogen in it. Phosphorous (P) can also be on the low side, usually, since compost supplies a good amount of that. Product labels always show the N-P-K ratio like this: 10-10-10 or 5-2-1. You want something more like: 1-0-4 or 1-1-3. Seaweed (powdered or liquid kelp) is a great choice and is usually 1-0-4.
Tomatoes like water, but not too much. Water plants deeply but not so often, or so much, that you end up with soggy soil. That can lead to disease problems and, later in the season, to tomatoes that don’t taste like much because all that water got channeled into the plant’s fruit. If you’re growing tomatoes in pots, stop watering when you see water running out of the bottom of the pot. Watering consistently, every few days in hot weather—more often if plants are growing in pots—will also help prevent the dreaded blossom end rot. You know you have this common problem when your tomatoes have black spots on their bottoms. Consistent watering allows the fruits to get the calcium they need from the soil to develop properly.
Did you bury the stem at planting time? If not, do that next year by gently plucking off the plant’s branches below the top flush of leaves. Depending on the size of your transplant, you’re usually burying 2 to 6 inches of stem, and that’s a good thing because new roots will sprout all along that stem and help your tomatoes be strong and healthy.
Pruning tomatoes doesn’t need to be as complicated as it is often described. Tomatoes are classified by growth habit: determinate tomatoes—also called bush tomatoes—are bred to be more compact, usually about 4 feet tall while indeterminate varieties—also known as climbing or vining types—can grow to 6 feet tall or more. Determinate tomatoes don’t need much pruning beyond removing all of the suckers below the first flower cluster. Indeterminate tomatoes benefit from some pruning, but you don’t need to grow crazy. Basically, if you pinch out suckers and pare plants down to around stems, you’ll get bigger fruit and less sprawling growth. If you let plants be more unruly than that, you’ll get more fruit but you’ll have to deal with a more tangled mess of vines. Either way if fine, so don’t sweat it a whole bunch.
Are the leaves on your tomato plants curling up in hot weather? Don’t worry, that’s probably not a disease. It’s just how some tomato varieties react to the heat. This type of leaf roll usually starts on lower leaves and works its way up. It doesn’t look great, but it shouldn’t affect fruit development. Watering regularly and mulching the ground beneath your tomatoes can help keep this problem at bay.
Check out Meleah’s blog: www.everydaygardener.com for more gardening tips or to email her a question or comment.