Drip irrigation for tomatoes in containers

watson524June 23, 2013

Hi all,

For the last few years, I've grown tomatoes on our deck in containers. They've done pretty well and I usually do a cherry variety and 2 "normal size" varieties. The deck is in full sun with 0 shade all day except for maybe the last 2 - 3 hours of sunlight when the sun gets over the roof of the house.

The pots are raised up with holes in the bottom for drainage and I water every few days with a garden hose on "shower" generally until the water starts coming out the bottom. I've always debated if I'm watering too much or when it's really hot, too little. I don't often get wilt tho since I work from home so I can check at lunch and give them water if they seem limp.

I've thought about going to some kind of drip irrigation setup for more consistency but this year, I'll be gone for 2 weeks in August and my mom is going with us so she can't water for us. So now I'm really thinking about the drip watering.

I've seen 1gph and 2gph spikes and some kits with timers and some without. Can someone tell me what I need? 1gph seems like a lot unless there's a timer to let it only run for say 2 - 3 hours / day. Is the timer required? How does it work if you don't have it, does it just drip constantly?

2 plants are in large (18 - 20 gallon?) containers, and the cherry tomatoes are in a 5 gallon pail.

thanks in advance for any advice.

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fireduck(10a)

W...I hand water my tomato containers...but I have approx. 80-90 fruit trees on drippers. So, I am well acquainted. First of all, you will need a "controller" or manually turn on/off. Secondly, drippers continually plug up...even with filters. The bigger flow drippers (4 gph vs. 1 gph) clog far less often. The big advantages of drip is: for long runs (many trees/plants) it minimizes the work. Also, there is little evaporation involved. It is good for when you are on vacation (if on a controller). Unless you do plumbing work...you will need to attach to a hose or hose bib.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 10:41PM
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watson524

Thanks for the info! I will definitely get a battery operated controller to put on the hose and also a back flow preventer since there's not one on the hose line itself. Do you think a 4gph drip would be too much for container tomatoes? That seems like an awful lot of water hitting at once tho I guess I would run them for like 30 minutes every other day or every 2 days I suppose. I suspect they make timers that can read temperature to but I don't want to go that fancy. I'll probably get it all now so I have time to play with it before the vacation in August.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 10:10AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I use the John Deere spot spitters. It takes like a year for our liquid rock to clog them and all you have to do is pop them off the 1/8th inch tube and put them back on and they are cleared. The nice thing about the spot spitters is that they have a plug on one side and if you take a container out of production you just flip the emmiter around and shut it off. Also, the 1/8th inch tube fits into 1/2" poly tube without any fittings. You just poke a hole with the appropriate tool and stick the tube in. It's what a lot of the wholesale nurseries use around here.

Asfar as water amount, you just run the timer to deposit the appropriate amount of water. if you need a gallon per day you run a 4gph dripper for 15 minutes. Whereas a 2gph dripper wouldbe run for 30min. I like shorter times if possible, that way if something happens like an animal chews through a line, you are running the irrigation at full stream for an hour or something.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 10:52AM
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watson524

Thanks. I guess I better figure out how much water I'm giving every other day or so, just not sure how. I stand there with a low flow coming out of my squeeze trigger spray head on the gentle shower setting but have 0 idea how much actually goes in before the water starts to slowly come out the bottom and that's when I stop. Might have to get a kit that has a few kinds of heads and see what's what with a timer while I'm watching things.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 11:47AM
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fireduck(10a)

If you have a local ag store they can help you. As mentioned above...there are many styles of drippers/emitters. For a tomato container I like the one that has a stake, 1/4 inch inlet, and an adjustable "fan/sprinkler" head. They are around $1 ea. Find out who has the best selection near you.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 5:48PM
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watson524

The only thing really local is Agway so I'll check there first and then hit up Lowe's and Home Depot since those are my next options. Thanks for the advice!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 8:13PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

just water like usual and time it. Then do the same thing into a bucket for the same amount of time. That will give you a rouh idea of how much water you are applying.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 10:20PM
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zensojourner

I've used .5 gph and 1 gph drippers on a timer. I've never had one clog up - maybe if your water is super hard?

I ran the system all the way from the back of the house to the front - starting with my neighbors potted plants, my plants planted in a narrow strip along the back fence, everything I had planted on the south side of the house, across the front of the house (flowers) and the hanging planters I had on the front stoop.

Worked great. Saved my neighbors plants as well as my own. I think I had it on a 30 minute timer - might have been 20 mins. I think I had a flow limiter as well. There was probably a screen at the input end as well.

I got the parts at WalMart in Sidney OH - no other WalMart I've been to carries them. I'm sure other WalMarts do have them, just not where I was living at the time (WV, my dad lived in Sidney, so I bought the parts when I was visiting up there).

I plan to set something similar up after we move in a couple of weeks, though I'm not sure where I'll get the parts yet.

BTW I'm pretty sure it was Orbit - I could get tubing and parts separately so I could get just what I needed instead of having to buy a pre-packaged kit with too much of this and not enough of that, LOL!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 7:51PM
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