Tomatoes are one of the easiest and most popular garden plants. Part of this reason is because they are relatively easy to grow, and even the novice gardener can usually harvest a nice crop of tomatoes. As with many other garden plants, tomatoes do best when watered with drip irrigation. Drip hoses are easy to use, inexpensive, and available at most home and garden supply stores.
When watering, tomato plants do best when the soil is soaked to about 6 to 8 inches in depth. Watering tomato plants slowly is imperative to successful growth. Never apply a heavy soaking. When using drip irrigation, watering can be safely done at almost any hour of the day, but watering at mid-day is discouraged. This mid-day watering will evaporate more quickly. Afternoon hours are usually considered the best time to water tomato plants.
Drip irrigation also allows for the water to go directly to the roots of the tomato plants. Watering from above is never recommended as this can cause the water to evaporate prematurely. Overhead watering also promotes disease and insect infestation.
Due to long, harsh winters in many areas of the country, tomato plants may be started in containers. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that containerized plants be watered daily. Enough water should be applied so that some water begins to seep out the drainage hole in the bottom of the container. More information on containerized tomatoes can be found at the USDA.
Tomatoes need and like water, but caution should be used to not over-water the plant. Over-watering can be just as harmful as under-watering. Tomato plants can be expected to appear a little wilted at the end of a hot summer day. If this is not a scheduled watering day, do not let a slightly wilted appearance convince you to apply water. However, if the plants appear wilted early in the morning, this is a clear indication that water is needed. Do not wait to apply water.
How often tomatoes should be watered depends on where they are in their growing cycle. During the hottest part of the summer, plants are usually just beginning to produce fruit and the tomato plants should be watered every two to three days. In areas prone to summer showers, this rain counts as a watering, so the manual irrigation schedule may need to be adjusted. When the fruit begins to ripen and the heat of summer begins to dissipate, irrigation can be scaled back to once or twice per week.
A key to proper watering is to water the tomato plants with regularity. If the blossom end of the tomato begins to crack or rot, the culprit is often irregular irrigation. Tomatoes should be checked frequently for signs of over or under-watering.
A good mulching will do much to improve the watering process for tomatoes. Mulch not only aids by containing the water, it is also helpful in preventing rain splash. Rain splash is responsible for much of the disease inflicted upon tomato plants. According to Aecs.edu a good, heavy mulch application does much to ensure uniform soil moisture and reduced the need for frequent plant watering.
Following these simple watering guides should assist the gardener is harvesting a bountiful harvest of healthy and delicious tomatoes.