Tomatoes are a “must-grow” item for every summer vegetable garden. You can easily start one or more of the many different varieties of tomatoes from seed, or purchase starter plants at your garden center. Drip irrigation is a smart way to keep your tomato plants supplied with the water they need, and if you set up a timer on your system, you won’t have to do anything except harvest the sweet, juicy fruits and enjoy them in your salad or on your hamburger.
Growing Tomatoes with Drip Irrigation
Set up your drip irrigation system before you plant your tomatoes in their summertime home in your garden. Tomatoes need infrequent, deep watering after they begin to form blossoms, so if you dig out a circular area about 3 inches deep and 1 foot across, and then plant your baby tomato in the depression, it will get the deep watering it needs.
Use a drip irrigation kit if you wish—it will simplify the construction of your system. Lay out the main line straight through the middle of your tomato bed and insert two emitters for each plant, one on either side of where your plant will grow.
Install a backflow preventer and pressure regulator at your garden hose’s connection to a faucet. Then connect a garden hose from the faucet to the beginning of your drip system. If you wish, you can also install a timer at the faucet.
Use soaker hoses to simplify your drip system. Simply snake one or more 50-foot black soaker hoses through your tomato bed, making sure that the hose goes around the inside edge of the depression you created for your plants. Soaker hoses are not as efficient at delivering water only to the base of plants because they emit water everywhere they travel, but they are an easy way to automate your tomato watering.
Run your drip irrigation system every other day after you plant your tomatoes and allow it to run for about one hour. Run your system once every week for one hour after the tomatoes start forming flowers and setting fruit. If the weather is extremely hot, you might need to run your system more often. Watch for signs of your tomato plants wilting and water them when this happens.