Raised beds somewhat solved the problem of overwatering - especially after heavy rains. The "Mel's Mix" of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost advocated by the late, great Mel Bartholomew in his book All New Square Foot Gardening works well to hold moisture. Also, because this soil mix is only used in raised beds, water will not stand and suffocate tomato roots. The problem with raised beds, even with Mel's Mix, is that with the limited depth of soil, the soil dries out very quickly - potentially in just one day in hot, windy, dry climates. This means a great deal of work for the average gardener - with manual watering required every single day. Of course, an irrigation system could be set up - but this is very expensive, time consuming, and isn't really worth it for just a few tomato plants.
So, the problem of how to water tomatoes remained, until, that is, of the invention of a device called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon, or Waterboxx for short. The Waterboxx was originally designed by a Dutch lily and tulip breeder, Pieter Hoff, to grow trees in very dry areas without electricity or running water. It soon became evident, however, that the Waterboxx would work superbly for growing tomatoes.
|A schematic cutaway view showing how the Waterboxx functions - water is collected from dew, condensation, and rainfall on the tan lid, funneled down siphons (shown here in red) to a 4 gallon reservoir, where it is stored and slowly released to the roots of the plants growing in a central opening. Image from Groasis.com|
|A summer's growth of a Waterboxx tomato - all without any watering after Waterboxx set up - even with less than 0.25 inches of rain and maximum temperatures of 106 degrees! This single Waterboxx tomato grew 56 tomatoes.|
In Sacramento County, 56 tomatoes were harvested from this one plant without any watering after planting. This number of tomatoes is more than enough for most people -but if you want more for canning or making sauce, you can insert extra wicks into the Waterboxx and get an even greater yield (with some extra watering). In Southern California (Hemet), 981 Juliet (Roma style) tomatoes were harvested from a single Waterboxx (with extra wicks) with just 6 times of watering all summer.
|A single day's harvest of beautiful Juliet tomatoes in Hemet California from our friend, Bill McNeese|
|Roma and cherry tomatoes planted in a Waterboxx - the Roma plant was destroyed in a storm but the cherry tomato plant went on to produce over 1500 tomatoes - all without any watering after planting!|
We have been gardening since childhood and the Waterboxx is the best device or method we have seen for growing tomatoes. We believe so strongly in the potential of the Waterboxx, that we created a company to promote and sell it here in the U.S. - Dew Harvest LLC at www.dewharvest.com. If you are interested in trying out the Waterboxx, especially if you live in a drier climate (like the Southwest), you can visit our buy page and buy the Waterboxx here.
If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com.