It’s a myth to think that growing juicy tomatoes isn’t easy. One of the obstacles beginner gardeners face, however, is watering tomatoes too little or too much, which can affect the growth of their tomato plants.
You should water your tomato plants with approximately one or two inches (2.54-5.08cm) of water every week. But, if the temperature is very hot in your region, your tomato plants might need watering twice a day.
This article will feature all the tips you need to know to grow beautiful, delicious tomatoes and make sure you tweak their watering schedule depending on whether they’re grown in the ground or in pots.
We’ll explore how often to water tomatoes, how often to water tomatoes in hot weather, and other helpful information.
Watering Tomatoes While They’re Growing
Although tomato plants don’t need a lot of water unless the weather is hot, tomato seeds require more water than established plants because it helps them to germinate.
You should keep the tomato seeds moist, but be mindful not to overwater them as this can cause problems such as rot. Lightly water your tomato seeds every three days.
Aim to water your tomato seeds early in the morning. This guideline should be followed when caring for seeds and established plants because it allows the moisture to evaporate throughout the day without waterlogging the soil.
As your tomato seeds grow into saplings, you need to continue watering them regularly to encourage their growth. For seedlings grown in containers, water them so the water leaks through the bottom of the container. If the soil dries out within a day, the plants will need more water.
Be careful not to overwater your saplings or water them with a stream of water that’s too intense, such as from a watering hose. You should use a spray bottle and give the plants a few gentle squirts of water.
Continue watering your tomato plants in the morning as they grow, as this ensures the water can evaporate throughout the day. You should never water them in the afternoon, as this can cause water to accumulate in the soil.
It’s also good practice to water your plants at the soil level instead of from the top because as they grow, you don’t want any water to splash on their leaves, which can cause fungus.
Watering Potted Tomatoes
Potted tomatoes need a little extra care than in-ground tomato plants. You should give potted tomatoes soil in the form of a soilless potting mix. This is better than soil taken from the garden because it doesn’t dry out as quickly, and it has better drainage.
Soilless potting mixes usually contain peat moss or coir, both of which preserve moisture, and drainage-enhancing ingredients, such as vermiculite.
You can also enhance soil drainage by drilling holes in the bottom of the tomato plant container so that the water will drain out of it. A layer of gravel placed at the bottom of the container can also help.
Potted tomatoes need more frequent watering than those grown in the ground. If the temperature is hot, water your potted plants once a day, if not twice. Then, check the top two inches (5.08cm) of the soil. When it feels dry, give it more water.
Even more important than giving your tomatoes enough water is sticking to a consistent watering schedule. As with other tomatoes, you want to water potted tomatoes in the morning.
But, if the weather is hot or windy, you should water them in the morning and late afternoon so they don’t dry out. If your tomatoes are wilting, that’s a clear indication that they need more water.
If you’re growing pomatoes, which are a hybrid of tomatoes and potatoes, your watering schedule should stay the same – aim to give your plants one to two inches (2.54-5.08cm) of water every week. Similarly, when the surface inch or two of soil feels dry, you should give it more water.
Watering Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are smaller tomatoes that resemble cherries, hence their name. This tomato variety needs water in the morning and multiple watering per week if temperatures are hot.
The best type of watering for cherry tomatoes is drip irrigation which soaks about six inches (15.24cm) of soil. You don’t even need a drip line, as you can use a garden hose. You want to trickle into the soil, but remember to give your potted cherry tomatoes a bit more water than in-ground ones. Generally, they’ll need watering every few days.
Just like with other types of tomato plants, you want to water cherry tomatoes regularly to give them consistent watering. When growing cherry tomato seeds, you want to keep their soil moist.
Watering Tomatoes in Hot Weather or Drought
Tomatoes become thirsty when the weather is hot and dry, so you’ll have to ensure you give them enough water to grow. Make sure you water the tomato plants early in the morning before the heat becomes too harsh. Then, water them again in the late afternoon or evening when the temperature is very hot or there’s drought in the area.
You should water your tomato plants every morning and always check the soil to see if it’s dry and needs more water later in the day. Always strive to water your tomato plants deeply with about one inch of water (5.08cm) so that you give them enough.
For container-grown tomato plants, only stop watering them when you can see water coming out of the bottom of the plant.
If you notice signs such as the following, your tomato plants are experiencing heat stress:
- The plants are droopy or wilting.
- The plants aren’t forming fruit.
- The plants’ flowers are starting to drop.
- The plants produce green tomatoes that don’t ripen.
To protect the tomato plants from drought, it’s good practice to plan ahead for extremely dry and/or hot weather by applying approximately three inches (7.62cm) of mulch around the tomato plants’ bases. This mulch can be composed of items such as chopped leaves or shredded bark from the garden.
Mulch should be used for container-grown and in-ground tomato plants, but give the container plants about one or two inches (2.54cm-5.08cm) of mulch as they require less. It is excellent to keep your soil moist and cool, protecting it from the damaging effects of dryness and heat.
Tomato Watering Systems
Having an automatic watering system for your tomatoes can help you stick to a consistent watering schedule for your plants. Here are some methods.
- Drip irrigation: This electricity-powered watering system is one of the best ways to give your tomatoes enough water. How it works is that water moves through small tubes that are situated at the base of your plants. It nourishes the roots of the plant with enough water.
- Soaker hose: This gardening accessory is great for watering lots of tomato plants simultaneously. How it works is that water will leak out of tiny holes along the hose length. You just have to ensure you position the hose in the right spot so that it will run past each plant’s base.
- Rain barrels and soaker hoses: A great way to automatically water your tomato plants is by attaching a soaker hose to a rain barrel so that the water will slowly drip out of the barrel and wet the soil. This is especially good to try if your region gets a moderate amount of rain and you’re not home for a while, as you’ll ensure your plants will continue being watered.
- Rose-spout watering can: You don’t need fancy equipment to grow healthy tomatoes. If you want to water your tomatoes by hand, make sure you use a watering can that has a rose spout. This spreads the water in small streams over your plants instead of blasting them with one stream of water.
What about sprinkler systems? Although these make watering your tomato plants easier, sprinkler systems can water your tomatoes too much at once, which can cause waterlogged soil.
However, if you want to make use of your sprinkler systems during hot weather, you should use a bubbler sprinkler head. This releases water in a waterfall style, which works well to water the base of the plant. This type of sprinkler system will ensure your tomato plants get about two inches (5.08cm) of water every week.
Growing tomatoes is easy, but you need to ensure you water your plants regularly so that they grow and thrive. Both potted and in-grown tomato plants need about an inch or two (2.54-5.08cm) of water every week, which you should increase when the weather’s very hot and dry.