Tomatoes are the most widely grown home garden vegetable, and with good reason. Given the proper amount of sunlight and water, they grow quickly and produce fruits much tastier than those purchased in grocery stores. Tomatoes come in a variety of colors, including red, yellow, purple and striped. Cherry tomatoes are ideal for salads, while beefsteak tomatoes are good for sandwiches. Roma tomatoes are best for sauces and cooking.
Subsurface drip irrigation is a system of underground pipes that have tiny holes allowing water to slowly seep to plants. The system may be permanently installed and connected to an automatic sprinkler system. Soaker hoses are also temporarily installed under the soil surface or under a mulch and connected to a faucet.
Subsurface drip systems prevent many of the problems affecting tomatoes. Tomato diseases are common, especially in hot, humid climates. Wet leaves, caused by rain and sprinklers, spread the diseases. Underground drip systems keep leaves dry, minimizing the spread of disease. Additionally, tomatoes need a constant, slow, steady supply of water. Too much or too little water causes blossom end rot or fewer fruits. Drip systems provide a consistent water source. Subsurface drip systems also minimize water loss through evaporation.
Occasionally, drip systems may malfunction or become clogged. Visually monitoring plants frequently for signs of water stress, such as wilting, will alert gardeners to problems with a subsurface system.
Tomato plants are semitropical plants that thrive in warm, moist conditions. They are planted in the spring after the last expected frost from nursery purchased transplants or seedlings started indoors. The roots of tomato plants are shallow and spreading, so installing the drip system prior to planting is preferable to avoid root injury. Tomato plants need at least seven hours of sunlight per day to grow well, advises Cornell University.
Tomatoes are best harvested when they are fully ripe, although they may be picked green and stored in newspaper if a frost is imminent. Gardeners in cold climates should plant fast-maturing plants so the tomatoes will mature before frost. Tomatoes come in hundreds of varieties. Indeterminate types are robust, large plants that produce tomatoes until the first heavy frost. Determinate tomatoes are more compact and produce a set number of tomatoes before production dwindles. Disease-resistant varieties minimize the risk of problems.