Everyone grows tomatoes! They are the single most popular garden vegetable, and there are many good reasons for their popularity. Fresh tomatoes make a great addition to any meal, either as an ingredient, or a side. They liven up any garden, and make for a great topic of conversation. Another reason tomatoes are such a popular home garden plant is in part because they are one of the easiest to care for. Since they are such hardy plants, tomatoes provide novice gardeners with a large margin of error. Because of this, making sure you give your tomatoes enough water is relatively simple. Watering is the conversational topic of choice among many backyard gardeners.

At different stages of a tomato plant’s life, it requires various amounts of water. A freshly transplanted plant should be given roughly a gallon of water a week, until it’s settled into its new location. For such a small plant, this might seem like an excessive amount of water. In fact it’s appropriate, a gallon first week after transplanting will help the young plant develop its root system rapidly. It also lets the tomato plant make the best use of the grow season’s beginning.

After the transplant has had time to become acclimated to its new (hopefully very sunny) location, it’s advisable to increase the amount of water you give it. A plant at this stage (roughly 3 weeks from seed) seems to thrive best on about 2 gallons of water per week. I like to ration this water out across four days a week, meaning the plant gets watered every other day.

A full grown plant doesn’t need much more than an adolescent plant. 2 to 2.5 gallons of water a week is still optimal (that’s the equivalent of 2 healthy rain showers in most areas), but even 3 gallons isn’t really excessive. Especially once the tomatoes start to turn from green to red.

Remember, when watering younger plants, be gentle. Don’t dump water on the fragile tomato plant from a height. This can damage the plant, bruising its leaves and stem, and even stunt growth. It will also leave droplets of water on the foliage, which can act as an amplifier of the suns rays. This will kill parts of a leaf. Instead, slowly water the plant at its base, where the stem meets the ground. If you want to space your watering schedule out differently from mine, that’s perfectly acceptable. Some gardeners swear that twice a week is the preferred schedule. Try to water your plants in the morning, before you leave for work. Not only is this a nice way to greet the day, it also helps the plant make the most of its time in the sun.

There is also the common sense approach to gauging how often, and how much, your plants should receive receive water. Simply touch the soil at the plant’s base, and gauge by feel how wet it is. If the surface of the soil is damp 12 hours after watering, you’ve got it just right. If the water has a hard time absorbing into the soil, you’ve probably been watering too often, and too much.

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