Aside from ample sunlight, your tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) need consistent watering sessions to produce multiple fruits. According to the University of Missouri Extension, the fruits contain more than 90 percent water when fully grown. If you cannot hand water your crops all the time, there are simple watering systems that provide accurate irrigation amounts even when you are not home.
Tomatoes need approximately 1 to 2 inches of water each week, making drip irrigation a smart addition to your garden. This system starts with a connector kit attached to a spigot. The kit includes a pressure regulator, backflow preventer, valve, filter and tubing adapter. Stretching off of the kit is plastic tubing -- you carefully place the tubing under each tomato plant as water seeps from emitters or tiny, punched holes. By directly watering at the soil level, you prevent bacterial and fungal diseases on the foliage and fruits, as well as reducing moisture loss to evaporation and windy conditions. Add a preprogrammed timer to the system and your tomatoes have a consistent watering schedule throughout their development period.
Automated Drip System with Tank
Similar to drip irrigation, automated drip systems use the same tubing and seeping strategy at the soil level, but the water comes from a tank rather than a spigot. The advantage of this simple watering system is that you do not need to keep your tomato plants close to a plumbing supply. In fact, these systems are often powered by batteries so you can locate them in almost any area. To retain as much moisture as possible, mulch your tomato plants. As the system seeps moisture, the soil holds the water longer for root uptake. The only major drawback to this irrigation strategy is the need for tank refilling once the water level drops.
A short-term watering solution for your tomatoes is water wicking. You need to place a container of water below your tomatoes, such as under a greenhouse table. When you insert a braided, cotton or nylon string into the water and push the other end into your plant's soil, you create a natural wicking action. Water moves up the string into the soil when it is dry; moist soil naturally stops the wicking action until it dries again. This simple watering strategy works well for weekend vacations or busy weekdays -- the container eventually needs to be refilled when the water is spent.
Resembling tiny water towers, watering globes are available in a number of different colors to complement your tomato fruits. You press the globe's long arm into the soil at an angle -- you avoid soil compaction with this strategy. As the soil requires water, moisture flows down from the storage globe into the container. For the best installation results, irrigate your tomato plants before inserting the globe to prevent losing all of your water into the soil at once.
- University of California, California Agriculture: Tomatoes Respond to Simple Drip Irrigation Schedule and Moderate Nitrogen Inputs
- Sunset: Soaker Hoses
- House Logic: How to Water Plants While on Vacation
- University of Missouri Extension: Growing Home Garden Tomatoes
- Drip Depot: Oasis Basic Operating Instructions
- Irrigation Tutorials: The Basic Parts of a Drip System
- Colorado State University Extension: Drip Irrigation for Home Gardens
- Photo Credit Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images