Many tomato growing enthusiasts will tell you the best way to water tomato plants is by watering deep. By watering the tomatoes deep you supply water and valuable nutrients right where the plant needs it the most – at the roots. Watering the soil and roots of the tomato plant can play a vital role in growing healthy tomatoes and help reduce the risks of some diseases, such as blights.
There are several ways to water tomatoes at the soil level, such as using a soaker hose, drip irrigation, or by simply watering around the plants with a watering can or water hose. Sometimes these systems can be cumbersome, time consuming, and very expensive. A frugal way to water your tomatoes is by using an old two-liter soda bottle.
Here’s how I use a 2-liter soda bottle to water my tomatoes where they need it most – at the roots.
Preparing The 2-liter Soda Bottle
I like to use an empty 2-liter soda bottle for watering my tomatoes, such as the Pepsi bottle in the picture below. Make sure the soda bottle has the screw-on lid.
Rinse the bottle out thoroughly to remove all the soda and sugar residue from inside the bottle. Once the bottle has been cleaned out, remove the label from the bottle.
Now that the soda bottle has been cleaned and the label is removed, it’s time to drill a couple holes in the lid. I drill two holes in the lid using a cordless drill with a 3/32″ drill bit. You can also use a 1/8″ drill bit.
I drill only two 3/32″ holes in the lid of the soda bottle so the water will only come out at a slow trickle. If you drill too many holes the liquid may come rushing out too quickly, drill too few holes and it will take forever for the liquid to get to the plant roots.
You can take the lid off and fill the bottle halfway with water. Screw the lid back on and turn the bottle upside down to test it out. The water should come out at a slow trickle. With the bottle half full of water, it should take about 20 minutes to empty. If it empties too slow, simply drill another hole in the lid.
Once you have drilled the two holes into the lid of the soda bottle, it is time to cut the bottom off the bottle. Use a sharp pair of scissors to puncture a hole in the side of the bottle. You want to cut off approximately one-third of the bottom of the bottle off.
Once you have a hole punctured in the side of the bottle, use the scissors to cut the bottom one-third of the bottle off.
The old soda bottle is now a watering bottle and ready to begin watering your tomatoes at the roots. The bottom portion of the bottle can be used to start seedlings, so don’t throw it away. Simply drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage, fill with seed starting mix and use it to start some seeds.
The next step is to insert the watering bottle next to the tomato plant.
Inserting The Watering Bottle Next To The Tomato Plant
The watering bottle need to be inserted next to the tomato plant at an angle in order to supply water to the tomato plant at the root level. The best time to insert the watering bottle is when you are planting the tomatoes. Since my tomatoes were already planted a couple weeks ago, I will be inserting the watering bottle next to an established tomato plant.
The first thing you must do is pull the mulch away from the tomato plant where you will be inserting the watering bottle.
Once you have the mulch out of the way, I use my hand, or a garden trowel, to carefully dig a hole about four to six inches away from the stem of the tomato plant. Be very careful to not expose or accidentally hit the roots of the plant. Dig a hole that’s just big enough for the top of the watering bottle to fit in.
You want to try to angle the hole towards the bottom of the tomato plant – where the roots will be after the plant grows and matures. Once you have finished digging the hole, insert the watering bottle in the hole with the lid facing down at a 30° to 45° angle.
Give the bottle a slight nudge to help push it into the soil a little, but again, be careful not to damage the plant roots. Push the soil from the hole around the bottle to help secure it in place and at the right angle.
Finish Installing The Watering Bottle
Once you have the soil around the watering bottle to secure it, it should look something like the picture below. You can insert the watering bottle a little deeper if you like, but try to keep at least an inch of it above the soil level. This will help keep debris out of it and keep from clogging it up.
The next thing to do is replace the mulch around the tomato plant and fill your watering bottle up with water. You can fill the watering bottle with water, compost tea, or diluted fish emulsion.
In the pictures below, I’m filling the watering bottle with a combination of water, compost tea and fish emulsion. I would not recommend putting granule fertilizers in the watering bottle, they could clog it up.
Now the liquid will slowly trickle out of the watering bottle supplying the tomato plant roots with a nice drink. You can also use these watering bottles for peppers, eggplant, squash and many other plants in your vegetable garden.