Why Are My Tomato’s Roots Shallow?

Q: I started a drip irrigation system last year in my first vegetable garden. I watered the tomatoes two gallons a day, seven days a week. When I pulled my plants up at the end of summer, I noticed the roots were quite shallow. 

A: Root growth can certainly be inhibited by soggy soil but it can also be slowed by soil that doesn’t have many pores in it. Make sure your garden soil is relatively loose and crumbly to a depth of ten inches. Once the soil is right, irrigation is a matter of daily observation. For tomatoes, I would start with a half-gallon of water every three days for small plants and increase to a maximum of two gallons per day when plants are huge. Allow the soil to dry out somewhat between waterings. If your plant leaves are not wilting, soil moisture is adequate and there’s no need to water.