Thursday, 7 May 2015

Water-wise Tomato Watering


After the rain (and gales) we have had this week - we lost our power for 6 hours on Tuesday probably due to a tree falling on an electricity line somewhere - it might seem that a post about watering is not best timed.  Ah well you see, it may be soaking wet outside at the moment but if you have a polytunnel or greenhouse you have in effect your own desert where no rain will ever fall and the survival of your plants is entirely dependent on you watering them. 

Outside, my plants not be galloping forwards at great speed as they wonder whole stole the May sunshine and warmth but in the polytunnel it's a very different story.  My tomato plants have shot up and I am in the process of planting them out, together with a plastic bottle each.  Don't worry, I have not gone mad but it is an ingenious way to help with watering.

A question for you first though.  Do you think it is better to water plants a little and often or a lot but less often?

How best to water?

Have you decided?

The correct answer is a lot but less often*.  And this is the reason why.  If you water your plants with just a bit of water it will only wet the surface of the soil where in fact in hot weather it will quickly evaporate before the plant can use it.  It also encourages plants to have shallow roots near the surface, making them more susceptible to drought.  In contrast, if you give your plants a good soaking, but less often, the water will soak down deep to where it is less likely to be lost to evaporation and to where the plants will grow deep, healthy roots.  The one big difficulty with this method though, is that you can lose a considerable amount of water to surface run-off and so this is where the bottles comes in.

Plastic tomato watering bottles

Water-wise Tomato Watering


Besides each tomato plant I have sunk a plastic bottle which has 4 holes drilled in the base.  I can then water directly into the bottle and the water drains out of the bottom some 15cm below the surface.  The tomato will send down deep roots to use this water and far less will be wasted.  I can also easily add liquid tomato feed this way and it should also have the added advantage of reducing weeds with much less water on the surface that is needed for their seeds to germinate.  Anything that reduces waste is good in my book.  Most of the year I use "free" well water (although I need electricity to run the pump so not totally free) but in a dry summer the well will dry up and I will have to switch to tap water, which here in France is all metered. 


Tomato plants with their water bottles

I shall let you know how I get on with this method.  It's taken a bit of extra time to set up but I think it should greatly benefit my tomato plants.  I also intend doing the same with all similar plants in the polytunnel such as cucumbers, pumpkins etc.

* Exceptions to the Lots and Often watering rule

As ever there are always a few exceptions to the water rule.  Succulents, cacti and very drought tolerant plants will not appreciate a deep soaking every few days and plants in pots will need watering both well and often as they dry out so quickly. Seedlings will also need water little and often.

Do you have any crafty ways to make watering your plants more effective.  Please do let me know.

Linking as ever to Annie's How Does Your Garden Grow linky over at Mammasaurus. 

How Does Your Garden Grow? Mammasaurus

29 comments :

  1. This is all rather clever and well-planned. No, I have no crafty ways, I just stand there every day when they warm dry weather comes, with my hose pipe for a long, long time..!

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    1. Ha ha - you're probably not on a water meter then.

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  2. Thanks for this post. It is very helpful. I would have said little and often, so I've learnt something that will help me in my future veg plot. :-) #hdygg

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  3. GENIUS IDEA WOMAN! GENIUS!
    I really love this idea and I'm sure some of the allotment HDYGG-ers will too. You are a clever sausage - and that's why we love you :)
    Now talking of sausages, how are the piggies getting on?

    Thanks for joining in again lovely! Next weeks HDYGG will be hosted over at Gemma Garners blog (link in this weeks post) as I'll be sunning my white parts in Rhodes.
    It's a hard life- I KNOW.

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    1. Picture tweeted of much bigger piglets .... who got out yesterday. Naughty piglets.

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  4. Looks good - and am looking forward to seeing how your plastic bottles grow :) My dad uses a small empty plant pot for the very same purpose #hdygg

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    1. Oh yes, a plant pot would work although the bottle does get the water lower down.

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  5. you are such a genius and always so proactive about things! i do give our garden a good soaking but not everyday. so i guess i am doing something right. looks like you will have a very successful season

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  6. Great idea! I am going to try this in the polytunnel. Especially for the cucumbers who hate the leaves to get wet

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    1. Good tip about not getting the leaves of cucumbers wet.

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  7. I too use an empty flowerpot sunk down in the soil a little away from the Tomato stalk to water and feed the roots .

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  8. What a fab idea! I will be passing this tip on to my hubby x #HDYGG

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  9. Oh these are great tips for me!! I've been planning to plant some tomato plants (not from seed however) and I'd like to try the plastic bottle method with them!

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  10. I never really thought about poly tunnels being completely reliant on the gardener before. I used this bottle technique for watering my tomatoes and beans last year (we are metred also), it worked so well, much less wasted water as you say.

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    1. I hated seeing the wasted water before and am hoping this will give me even better crops this year.

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  11. I love the taste and smell of homegrown tomatoes. They're the one crop that I grow lots of every year as everyone eats them. I don't have a greenhouse so just have a line of grow bags with tomato plants in.

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  12. This is my first year with a greenhouse and I'm very much on a learning curve about watering - such wonderful advice, thanks! I'll definitely be doing the bottle thing with my tomatoes & cucumbers :)

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    1. Good luck with your greenhouse. Let me know how you get on.

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  13. I AM SO GOING TO PLANT SOME BOTTLES ALONGSIDE MY FLOWERS IN THE SANDPIT, WHAT A FAB IDEA.
    My tip for watering is at night, so the sun doesn't burn the plants and dry the water up quicker

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    1. Ooooh yes, I imagine anyway you can get more water to your plants in Dubai is worth knowing about. Hope it helps.

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  14. My Dad does this with his tomatoes too. I'm going to make some nettle tea to feed my tomatoes with this year.

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    1. Excellent and thanks for the reminder - I make nettle tea too but boy does it stink.

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  15. great tips! i have been considering doing this with my tomatoes this year. i've seen it done with the clear soda bottles.

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    1. Yes, soda bottles are generally used but we don't drink fizzy drinks .... but we do get through gallons of milk! The milk bottles also have a slightly wider bottle neck too, making it easier to get the water in.

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