Anyone dry farming their tomato plants?

dancinglemons(7B VA)June 3, 2012

Hello all,

I've been reading about dry farming tomato plants and wondered what you guys think about the idea. If anyone is doing this I've some questions. Could I dry farm in raised bed? I am considering a small (3X3) raised bed for 2013 just to try 2-3 tomato plants in the dry farm method. The reason I am waiting until 2013 is I want to prepare the raised bed soil and let it sit over several months before using it.



Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know a farmer who dry-farms her tomatoes, but they don't use raised beds. Raised beds tend to dry out faster, so depending on the weather, may end up TOO dry. You'd have to keep an eye on it and have a source of water available if needed. 2-3 plants should be no problem, though 1-2 plants instead of 3 might be better for only a 3x3 bed. How deep is your bed and what kind of soil is it set on?

That said, I have 6 dozen tomato plants that I have to plant in a very tall/deep raised bed since I have ledge, I also don't have electricity nearby so will be dry-farming those (along with peppers, onions, potatoes and herbs) this year, which so far has been running about half of average precipitation. I *can* haul water to them but it will have to be hand-watering so will only be a life-saving measure. I'll let you know how it goes. Last year would have been perfect since we got so much rain. Instead, I planted my tomatoes in trenches, hauled water to them during July, and watched them drown in August.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 7:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dancinglemons(7B VA)

Thanks ajsmama.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 2:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Just an update - I planted my tomatoes June 6-9 and watered them in, got about 1" of rain 6/12-13, gave them each about 1 quart of water (more for bigger ones) on 6/18, it was 95 degrees on 6/20 so today I watered them again about 1 quart each (had to haul by hand, a gallon at a time, 50 gals for app. 75 tomatoes, 50 (?) peppers, and 60 potatoes). It's supposed to rain tomorrow. New growth looks good, older growth on some has yellowed and spotted, wilted a little (the big plants) but they are blossoming and I have 2 tomatoes, 1 BW and 1 CP. Younger transplants have some purple older leaves but new growth is nice and dark green. I'll post pix later this weekend.

Expecting more rain next week - mostly Monday and Thurs. I'm just a little worried about blight.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 12:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't quite dry farm, but do not water them a lot. I'm not sure if my experience applies to your situation. I dislike watery tomato flavor and want to be sure the ones we grow are tasty. Otherwise I can buy them at the store.

I have soakers under mulch ready to use as needed, but I've not yet turned on this year. My usual method is to water just enough to prevent wilting. In early August I no longer water unless the plants start to wilt then I water with the soakers 3 hours. Usually just water once in August if we don't have rain. We have cool summers, so this works for us. Our 1st ripe tomatoes are at the end of July or early August. First frost comes in October & by then the temps are hovering around 50 and dipping below at night, so more tomatoes ripen indoors.

This year using red plastic perforated mulch as sold for tomatoes surrounded by my usual straw and wood chips on the paths.

We planted them near the end of May & watered them in well. I watered them again with warm water 2 days later. We've had soaking rains every 5-8 days with some sprinkling inbetween. Our weather is mild and in June only 2 sunny days, but several sun breaks. Plants with cages are still surrounded by plastic, but open to the sky. Plants next to stakes have no plastic. I think the surrounding plastic + mulch reduces some moisture loss.

My clay soil has been amended yearly with a variety of compost ingredients sheet mulched on the beds, so that I can dig with my hands and it drains freely. It's so loose I couldn't water with a hose or the soil would wash away. Before I had soakers I would bury a bottomless coffee can, 2 liter bottle with bottom cut off, or holes punched in milk jug 6" or so away from stems to fill going down the row then again for 2x each. My kids helped with watering under my watchful eye & the jug watering "holes" helped our watering accuracy.

Hope that helps~ Corrine

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 8:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dancinglemons(7B VA)

Thanks ajsmama for the update.

Thanks corrine1 for the information. This is exactly what I was hoping to find out. The taste of "dry farmed" is supposed to be much better.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 2:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

DL - what info are you looking for? If you want to know if dry farmed tomatoes truly taste better, then you should do a controlled experiment and plant the same variety(ies) in the same soil, but water one plant regularly and one let just get rain water, then compare the ripe fruit to your taste.

I'm not planning on such an experiment, though I suppose I could tag a few plants to water more regularly, and if I can manage to keep the fruit separate until I get to market, and get people to respond to a follow-up poll after they buy (I don't have a permit for sampling), I might be able to do a quasi-scientific study for you. But your own palate is the only judge that matters.

Did you ever plant your tomatoes? Could you do an experiment or did you plant just 1 of each variety?

corrine - I cut off the bottoms of some 2 and 3-l bottle to help watering too, didn't bother with them yesterday since I didn't want water to evaporate before it leaked into soil. But I need about 90 more bottles LOL! Punched 2-3 tiny nail holes in each cap and bottles seemed to drain pretty quickly when turned upside down, once I got transplants in, I positioned bottles between them (starting with cherry toms since they're more prone to splitting so I figured I might need to water them more regularly) and cut off the bottoms. I didn't see how long they took to empty but yesterday when I first tried pouring water in the bottles they seemed to be taking a long time - how long should it take to empty say a quart out of a cut-off 2l bottle?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 7:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oops, sorry DL, I just re-read your original post and was reminded that you want to try this for next year.

Do you want me to try to do this experiment this year, since my transplants haven't been in long, and let you know my subjective opinion? I'm not sure I could really get a good statistical sampling polling my customers, don't know how many people would respond and if people are picking dry-farmed vs conventional to buy or vice versa they might be prejudiced that way - I can't sell them and track them in a blind manner. I could try a very small blind taste test with just my family.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 7:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi DL,

Not sure your exact definition of dry-farming tomatoes. If you mean growing tomatoes without watering, then that's what I have done. I only water once at the time of transplanting. My tomato plants are now 6 ft tall and only show slight wilt at the top during the 96F heat last two days.

I am blessed with the bountiful rain fall in this area and my excellent soil. I double dug my garden right after I bought my house and a few years later built a raised bed on top of it. So the garden has about 3 ft of really good soil. I haven't seen or heard from anyone with such a deep soil garden.

Also, I do not mulch the bed, only hoe the top few inches of soil to break/stop the Capillary flow of moisture upward.

The tomatoes taste good with no cracks. Good harvest too.

Hope this info helps.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 11:21AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
No Beefstakes please
Beefstakes like Cherokee Purple are absolutely delicious,...
Not All Tomatoes Are Round n Red
Not All Tomatoes Are Round n Red. But when we hear...
Seysonn_ 7b-WA/HZ1
topping off tomato plants?
My heirloom tomato plants are usually tall and robust...
Southern Belle Tomato
I am searching for history on the Southerne Belle tomato....
AmyinOwasso/zone 6b
New To Me .. Big Beef
I know there are some of you who are/have been growing...
Seysonn_ 7b-WA/HZ1
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™