various tomatoes-Anne-of-Green-Gardens

“How often should I water tomato plants?” A family member recently asked me. She said, “I don’t have any tomatoes on my two month old plants. The plants are green and really big!”

I asked her, “How often do you water your tomato plants?” Her answer:

“Every day.”

I told her, “Plants watered every day don’t need to worry about reproducing themselves. It’s as if the plant thinks to itself, ‘I’m in good shape. I’m going to can grow as big as i possibly can- I don’t need to reproduce myself.’ But when water is taken away and the plant dries out a bit between waterings, the plant thinks, ‘oh oh! I might not make it. I better set flowers and make seeds!'”

tomato blossoms-Anne-of-Green-Gardens

This plant decided to produce flowers.

Establish Your Tomato Plant

I went on to say, “Watering everyday is good, but only when you first plant a tomato seed or transplant. Water daily until it gets established. For a seed, this could take over a month, for a transplant, less time is needed.

You can tell a plant is established when you observe new, healthy-looking growth. Once a plant is established, you’ll need to water less frequently.”

I went on go give her some helpful instructions on how to take care of tomato plants.


How to Water Tomato Plants

Use your hands to form a circular basin of soil a few inches away from the base of your tomato plant. This will help keep the water near roots of the plant. As your plant grows, expand the basin to 6-8” away from the base of the plant. To water, fill up the basin and allow it to drain. Do this several times to allow water to soak down to the roots.

How Often Should I Water Tomato Plants?

Once your plants are established, water when the soil is dry 4-5” below the surface. Don’t reply on viewing the soil to decide when to water. Use a trowel or shovel to dig down and check for soil moisture. Be careful of plant roots, don’t dig too closely to the plant.

After doing this for a while, you’ll get the idea of how frequently your soil type dries out and how often you should water. Plants planted in clay soils need water less frequently than those in loamy soils, and plants in sandy soils need water most frequently. Learn about your soil type from Gardening 101: Soils.

When to Fertilize Tomato Plants

I rarely use fertilizer, because I incorporate compost into my soil between planting annual vegetables. When I do use fertilizer, I make sure to follow the instructions. Too much fertilizer can “burn” plant leaves. Also, too much fertilizer may cause your plant to have green growth and never produce flowers or fruit.

You can read more about plants and watering at Gardening 101: Watering.