JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

There has to be a scientific way to precisely water tomatoes in the desert without wasting water, because this is just too frustrating.

I have my tomatoes planted in containers so the surrounding earth doesn’t pull away much needed water. The problem that I'm having is watering consistently without over watering. Before the drought I just watered with soaked hoses with lots of Soil Amendments to increase drainage, but now I can’t waste water.

So now I want to water enough to uniformly wet every inch of soil and provide enough drainage as to not soak it. I'm told to use trays under the container with stands so the water will drain, but also allow the water to remain in the tray to wick back up as the soil dries.

A couple of other problems are to prevent mosquitoes from growing in the tray and also capturing any excess water overflowing the tray to be reused. I'm thinking about using screen or maybe mosquito netting around the container for the mosquitoes and a deep tray maybe a larger container with a single drain pipe to capture the excess water into a closed container so I don't have to worry about over watering. I would rather just dump in a large amount of water and not have to worry about under watering as long as I can recover the excess.

Anyway I just wanted to throw some ideas out there to see what others have to say about it.

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

It’s pretty hot and dry today then I realized that I also have evaporation problems to deal with. So I guess I’ll need to use plastic instead of screen to slow down the evaporation.
I think I need to come up with a way to do bottom watering without picking up the container. I'm not sure how I'm going to do this, but I'm now looking for something larger than the planter to set it in.
Maybe I should be looking into HYDROPONICS to see if that might.

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Oh well I just lost my tomato plant to overwatering

This happened once before last year and there was no recovery. I was watering a couple of gallons a day and then I was convinced by something I read about putting a tray underneath to use in monitoring the excess water, but it only blocked the flow. The plant looked ok this morning when I added 1 gal of water, but now its looks completely welted and almost dead. :cry:

Farseeker
Full Member
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 8:17 am
Location: Qld, Australia Sub-tropical/Zone 10

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

Hi Johnny,

I don't know if this will help at all, but in my raised bed at home I've adapted the concept of ollas to something I can use, and have found it has dropped my water usage significantly for the garden.

Basically I have bought unglazed terracotta pots and saucers and used gorilla glue to attach the saucer to to mouth of the pot. Once it has dried I fill the pot to check it for leaks through the drainage hole. Once I know there are no leaks I bury it next to a plant if it is in a pot, or at the 'intersection' between plants if it is in a bed.

You fill it using the drainage hole on top. Because the clay is porous, as the soil around it dries water is pulled through the clay into the surrounding soil. The roots of the plants naturally gravitate towards the pot and obtain water that way.

Because the pot is largely buried there's much less evaporation, and you can take it a step further and paint or seal the bottom and first inch or so of the pot to further reduce evaporation. Just use a stone or spare tile or something similar to cover the hole.

I've created a dodgy gravity feed system with mine. Four pots are connected with irrigation hose to a 25 litre water drum. I turn the tap on the drum to fill up the pots maybe once a week. From that 25 litres I usually can keep the pots filled for about three weeks.

I have 4 indeterminate tomatoes, three eggplants, nine beetroot, 12 carrots, a large basil plant, 5 lettuce and between 8 and 12 radishes depending on if I've been slack with succession planting being watered from them for perspective.

Just keep in mind the diameter of the pots are important for the amount of area they will provide. I use 17 or 19 centimetre pots in the bed I'm talking about.

Bit of an unusual concept I know, but it works for me. When I get home tonight I'll see if I can find any pictures on my computer to show you what it looks like.

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

Thanks Farseeker, I'd love to see a photo. I really don't think I'll be able to save this plant, but I've moved up on to some blocks so that it will be able to drain and hopping for the best. I only planted two tomato plants or actually three, but one is a cherry tomato. The one with the problem was my largest and most productive.
I only heard the term "indeterminate" today for the first time and I don't know what I have. My other tomato plant is tall and thin compared to this bushy plant.
Image

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11609
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

it may not help you this time. But have you considered dry farming?

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 15&t=64781

I find self watering containers really work well in conserving moisture. I think you are using a resin pot so it will not breathe, you could use plastic mulch on top of the pot and stick try to stick a watering tube in the pot so that you water where the roots are.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

imafan26 wrote:it may not help you this time. But have you considered dry farming?
No I have never heard of that.

Anyway I think where I went wrong was putting a tray under the pot that was not big enough for full drainage. The idea was to see how much was draining out because I just didn’t know how much to water it. I was using a 2 gal water can and watered it just until I saw some water trickling out the bottom, but didn’t realize that not all the water was coming out. I'm still not sure how much to water and I think I’ll cut back to only 1 gal for my other plants and see what happens.

Image

Farseeker
Full Member
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 8:17 am
Location: Qld, Australia Sub-tropical/Zone 10

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

Morning,

Here's a photo of my (massively overcrowded) bed using the clay pot system. This is from about a month ago - those beetroot are a lot bigger now lol. So is everything else, actually!

Image

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

Thanks Farseeker for sharing the photo. It gives me some more ideas.

n8young
Cool Member
Posts: 88
Joined: Wed May 01, 2013 3:39 pm
Location: Eliot, ME - zone 6a

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought


JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

n8young wrote:pretty neat plan for one
https://extension.umd.edu/growit/food-g ... ini-garden
Ok! :D Now that's what I'm talking about Thanks.

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

Well my tomato plant has survived and actually has new tomatoes. I did spend some time this morning cutting out a lot of dead branches and I hope I didn't over do it.

I starting out just removing the dead leaves, but then I noticed that most of the dead leaves were common to a whole branch so I started removing every branch with dead leaves.

Image

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

I think in desert conditions, best would be drip irrigating the roots.

Image
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/23 ... d19d94.jpg

You can buy the orange points and then hook up a two liter bottle to them. The tips have little holes. I have used them and I thought the water still drained a little too fast, so I filled the orange things up with sand and let the water seep through that.

You can DIY the same thing by putting a few pinholes in the bottom of the two liter. Bury it right side up, mostly buried. Fill it with water and let the water drip slowly into the root zone
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

User avatar
ElizabethB
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2109
Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2012 5:53 am
Location: Lafayette, LA

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

N8young and RBG - both great ideas. Thank you.
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

Thanks rainbowgardener, I think I saw those someplace or at least what I saw something that was orange like this, but I didn't know exactly what they were.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

By only watering the root zone, you minimize the loss to evaporation. If you mulch over the soil, the water you put in it should last a long time. By adding water very slowly over a long period, you can maintain a more consistent moisture level. For water rationing conditions, this is a very frugal use of water.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

rainbowgardener wrote:.................
You can buy the orange points and then hook up a two liter bottle to them. The tips have little holes. I have used them and I thought the water still drained a little too fast, so I filled the orange things up with sand and let the water seep through that.
I found these on Amazon and I was trying to figure out how many I need. How many do I need per tomato plant in the container that I have?

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

I've generally just used one per tomato plant.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

rainbowgardener wrote:I've generally just used one per tomato plant.
Thanks for your input. :D
I'm not sure that one will be enough for my tomatoes in this dry heat and I may not have enough room in the planter containers to put mutable water bottles.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

you are right that your climate is very different. Tomatoes are generally not grown in the desert in the summer. You would be better off to start them in late winter for a spring crop and again in late summer/ early fall for a fall/winter crop.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

Just came in from watering and I guess I'm going to have to buy those orange bottle things in addition to my regular watering. The soil was so dry due to the high temps during the day that when I watered them the water just flowed down the inside of the pot and straight out the bottom. I had to mix the soil with the water using my hand to keep it from running out. I figure I'm going to need 3 or maybe 4 orange bottle things around the plant to provide constant moisture through out the day.

So tomorrow I'm going to pick up the planter and have my wife slide under a large plastic bag so I can pull it up around the planter to water and then let it soak for a while before dropping it back down to empty the excess water.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

But if you are somewhere near Barstow, it looks like your day high temperatures are consistently over 100 deg F. Regardless of your efforts at watering etc., tomatoes do not set or ripen fruits at those temps.

If you work at it really hard and use a lot of water, you can keep your plant alive until temps cool off, when it will start setting fruit. Or you could just quit, and start with a new plant at a more appropriate time.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

Well I have grown tomatoes here for over 20 years and even though they aren’t prize winning they are eatable and save me a lot money with the way store prices have risen. This year has been a little more of a challenge because of the extreme drought and the fact that they are now potted. There’s not a lot I can do now this year, but I'm going to come up with a better way for next year. I really like the Self-Watering Containers that n8young posted except that I want something larger than 5 gal. Maybe a Plastic Barrel or something. 8)
If I would have known about this technology earlier, I would not have drilled holes in the bottom of my resin planters because they had plugs to close them off and I could have simply installed a drain tube in the side. When the plants die off at the end of the season, I want to pull them apart to see just how the root system grew to determine exactly what needs to be done next year. If they aren’t so big then I’ll try the 5 gal bucket otherwise I may try to seal off the holes that I drilled in the old resin containers and install tubes in them.

dtizme
Cool Member
Posts: 90
Joined: Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:23 am
Location: Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada. Zone 5a

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

No expert by any means in growing tomatoes in temps that you experience but since you are growing in pots is there any possible way that you could provide shade for them? Fortunate here not to get those crazy high temps as well as we get lots of rain here. It's raining right now

JohnnyB60
Senior Member
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

dtizme wrote:No expert by any means in growing tomatoes in temps that you experience but since you are growing in pots is there any possible way that you could provide shade for them? Fortunate here not to get those crazy high temps as well as we get lots of rain here. It's raining right now
AW! Well I have provided shade in all the previous years of growing tomatoes with large umbrellas, but this year my wife convinced me into not doing it because she thought they needed more sun. I may put the umbrellas back up.

Image

Anyway despite all my watering woes this year I just now counted 25 Roma tomatoes on a single plant that will be ripen within the next couple of weeks so I must be doing something right. :D

n8young
Cool Member
Posts: 88
Joined: Wed May 01, 2013 3:39 pm
Location: Eliot, ME - zone 6a

Re: Watering tomatoes in hot Desert during drought

JohnnyB60 wrote:Well I have grown tomatoes here for over 20 years and even though they aren’t prize winning they are eatable and save me a lot money with the way store prices have risen. This year has been a little more of a challenge because of the extreme drought and the fact that they are now potted. There’s not a lot I can do now this year, but I'm going to come up with a better way for next year. I really like the Self-Watering Containers that n8young posted except that I want something larger than 5 gal. Maybe a Plastic Barrel or something. 8)
If I would have known about this technology earlier, I would not have drilled holes in the bottom of my resin planters because they had plugs to close them off and I could have simply installed a drain tube in the side. When the plants die off at the end of the season, I want to pull them apart to see just how the root system grew to determine exactly what needs to be done next year. If they aren’t so big then I’ll try the 5 gal bucket otherwise I may try to seal off the holes that I drilled in the old resin containers and install tubes in them.
Loving the shout out I got here.....

Return to “TOMATO FORUM”