Lots of people have different ideas about watering tomato plants. Here are a few simple tips that should answer your questions.
It is normal for tomato plants to wilt in the middle of the day during the hot months of summer. They will usually recover nicely overnight. If the plants wilt first thing in the morning, it's probably time to start watering.
When it comes to watering your tomato plants, soil consistency makes a big difference. If you have light, sandy type soil, you should water every 5-6 days if no rain falls. If you have heavier, clay-like soil, you should water every 8-10 days if no rain falls. 1 inch of rain per week should eliminate the need for most watering.
When watering your tomato plants, go slow and steady. Avoid watering the tops of the plants, as this can encourage diseases to develop. Concentrate instead on the roots of the plant. A long, slow, deep soak is best. The water should soak nearly a foot into the soil. A drip irrigation system can be very beneficial when watering tomato plants. However, these systems can be expensive to purchase and install. A soaker hose can work just as well. Avoid using a spray nozzle on the end of a regular hose when watering plants. Instead, place the open end of the hose at the base of the tomato plant and run the water at a slow pace.
Make sure not to over-water. Remember, tomato plants don't like constantly wet feet. A plant that has been over-watered may show similar symptoms to that of a plant that needs to be watered (wilted leaves, etc...). If you are in doubt, it's better to water too little than too much. If the bottom of the tomato plant turns yellow, it is a good indication that you are watering too much.
A good way to check is to dig down about 4 inches into the soil next to your plants. You want the dirt at this depth to be moist but not wet. If it is soggy, there's too much water and you need to let the ground and plants dry out a bit. If the soil is bone dry at this depth, you haven't been watering enough.
Watering tomato plants early in the day is a good idea. This allows the sun to evaporate any unused water during the day. Watering tomato plants in the evening is never a good idea, as the plant and ground will remain wet overnight. This may trigger the development of some diseases. You should check the moisture of your soil every few days. Use your fingers and dig down 3-4 inches in the soil next to your tomato plant. If the dirt seems moist but not sticky and wet, you're probably in good shape and don't need to water. If the soil is hard and dry, it's time to water.
These tips also apply to growing tomatoes in containers.
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