How to conserve moisture?

barb_roselover_inMay 28, 2012

We are having lots of trouble with our tomato plants with our extreme weather conditions. Things have been so dry here that we started a lot of watering. Does anybody have any tips as to how to conserve the moisture on these tomatoes so that they will develop. Maybe I should plant some in containers also besides the raised beds in order to at least get some for table food. We were hoping to can some but this heat and dryness is killing us. Thanks for any tips. Barb

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Bets(z6A S ID)

In a word: mulch!

When most gardeners are talking about mulch they are referring to compost, straw, hay, rotted leaves, grass clippings, even shredded paper and cardboard, etc. Wood chips are not usually recommended as a mulch because it binds the soil nitrogen as it decomposes and makes the nitrogen less available to your garden plants, however, if you have no other mulch available, wood chips will do. Mulch should be applied heavily, 6 - 8 inches is usually considered a good depth, though even as little as one or two inches is better than no mulch at all.

I hope that helps.


    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 5:36PM
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You need to lay down a layer of mulch. There's lots of
threads here on the different types.

Myself, I prefer grass clippings which is the best bargain
if you have a lawn. A couple inches of grass works wonders. And when the year is over, dig it into the soil.

Others prefer plastic, straw or hay.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 5:37PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

In another word - MULCH. Thick layers of it.

Then how do you water? With what, when (time of day), and how often?

Container plants require even more water than in ground plants do.


    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 6:07PM
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Thanks everybody for the replies. That was my thought. I used to do newspapers, but I remember my husband getting so aggravated because when he tilled, he would get them caught in the tines. He's gone now, but I will definitely mulch with something. My son took the catchers on the big mower off, so it will probably be hay or something like that. Appreciate the help. Barb

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 11:00PM
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"Does anybody have any tips as to how to conserve the moisture on these tomatoes so that they will develop."

As others have said, mulch. I would recommend doing more than newspaper though if I could. Some heavy layers of straw or hay on top of the newspaper would help considerably. Make sure to put a few inches down at a minimum. I recommend 6" at least.

"Maybe I should plant some in containers also besides the raised beds in order to at least get some for table food."

If you're having trouble keeping in ground plants watered, containers are going to be a lot worse. They are much more water intensive. This is part of the reason I use so few containers in my gardening; And the ones I do use, I try to use self watering containers.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 11:28AM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Compost as a mulch ?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 3:51PM
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Go to Farm Store or Walmart

Get a Roll of Air Conditioner hose
(Swamp Cooler)

Get a Water Faucet with that Tiny Valve on it for the A/C hose

Hook the Air Condioner Hose to the valve

Also get some * T* s for that line and some *Dribblers*

Each Dribbler lets you set it so it Drips Water
(Each Dribbler is a small plastic valve)

I set mine for as slow a rate as I can get
(Check it several times as it may stop dripping)

Put the Dribbler in the ground next to each plant that you want to grow

That's all there is to it


I also put some Miracle Grow on the plant each day
(A very small amount in a cup of water)

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 4:21PM
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    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 6:32PM
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harveyhorses(7 Midlothian Va)

Mulch is by far the least expensive option. Leaves, grass clippings, newspapers. Also gives back to the soil. I think (and this is only MO)the extra protection it adds between the sun and the roots is good. When it gets up into the high heat of summer every little bit helps.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 6:57PM
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With tomatoes, There are a couple of marks that professional growers like to hit. The advantages of plastic mulch is that it keeps down the weeds, and it helps conserve moisture in the soil. Some studies from several universities have made a correlation between the color of the plastic causing a larger harvest, but not significantly larger.

Tomatoes have the highest yields and set the most fruit when the soil temperature is at 85 degrees. With plastic mulch, during the summer the soil temps can soar much much higher than 85, leading to decreased production. What I am trying this year is I am leaving the soil bare until it warms up, and then mulching my tomatoes with a thick layer of hay.

The idea I have is that the hay will moderate soil temps and keep them more consistent, and will help keep moisture in the soil, leading to more uniform fruit. I've always had issues with blossom end rot and cracked fruit, which comes from wild swings in available moisture in the soil.

But this is just an idea I have, and we'll see how well it does.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mulch study, Iowa State University, Ames

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 10:13PM
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No one talked about how you are watering? I would recommend having drip irrigation that feeds water to the root zone, at least 4 to 8 inches below the surface, let the top 1" of soil be dry, eventually at every watering the top soil gets moist due to capillary action.

To prevent further moisture loss, use mulch cover as everyone said. Mulch is no good if you are watering from over the much. a lot of water will get soaked by mulch and will not get to the roots of plants.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 11:57AM
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Mulch is the answer for sure. Once tomatoes get established, they have very deep roots, and with the addition of a deep mulch layer, you'll rarely have to water.

I use two layers of mulch. First layer is mostly composted grass/leaves. Top layer is usually pine bark, wood chips and/or chopped spruce or pine cones and needles. The first layer provides N and other nutrients, the top layer breaks down slower, allows water to pass through and doesn't steal N from the soil. The combination replenishes the soil and retains moisture. It all usually breaks down by the next spring. I usually don't have to add any additional amendments or fertilizers when I do this.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 3:30PM
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