The Best Watering System for Tomatoes

13 Jun

The Best Watering System for Tomatoes
When watering by hand it is difficult to avoid wetting the
leaves of tomato plants – but a raised bed will enable
you to improve the soil


One secret of growing healthy tomatoes is to make sure they get the right nutrients and water. More specifically, regular watering will prevent the skin on the fruit from splitting.

While they need sufficient water, overwatering can cause the leaves of some tomato varieties to curl or roll inwards. Overwatering can also cause flowers to drop off the plants before the tomato fruit has formed.

On the other hand if plants dry out because they haven’t got enough water, they are likely to wilt, in which case the fruit won’t develop either. If the fruit does develop, the resultant tomatoes are likely to be small and they may be deformed.

The best type of soil to grow tomatoes in will be a sandy loam that drains well. Clay soil is difficult to water, and very fine sandy soil drains away too quickly.

To check how well the soil drains, dig a few holes where you plan to plant your tomatoes and watch to see how long they take to drain. If the soil is sandy, adding organic material including compost will help, as will mulching the surface of the soil. If the water doesn’t drain, you have a problem and should think about creating raised beds that you can fill with suitable soil. Generally it is worth the effort.

Once your tomatoes are growing, you need to ensure that they get a consistently even supply of water. There are various methods of watering, including trickle and drip irrigation, sprinklers and hand-held hoses. Either way, you need to be sure that your tomatoes get at least 2.5 cm or an inch of water every week. That works out at about 110 litres or 30 gallons of water spread over 6 square metres or 60 square feet. If the weather is hot, you need to increase this to around 4 cm or 1 & 1/2 inches. Bear this in mind if you’re watering by hand, and be prepared to be patient.

While sprinklers are relatively inexpensive to install and operate, and you have the option of a piped system or one that is linked to a hose and moved around, overhead watering has its problems. The reason for this is that when tomato leaves get wet the moisture can encourage both bacterial and fungal disease. Generally the work-around is to water early in the morning. Another disadvantage of overhead watering is that the water also feeds weeds, although good mulching will help prevent weeds from thriving.

Undoubtedly the best watering system for tomatoes and many other vegetables is the trickle or drip irrigation system. This eliminates any overhead water and ensures that the roots get what they need. Even though this type of irrigation system will cost you more to install, the fruits of your labour will undoubtedly be greater.