I like to grow tomato plants in my garden but have sometimes ended up overwatering them because I was too anxious about their health.
Overwatered tomato plants can be saved if you can reduce the watering and let the plant recover. You should dry the soil and roots using a newspaper that can soak up the moisture. If root rot has occurred, you need to trim the roots and transplant the tomato plant to another location.
I’ve written details below to help you understand when you have overwatered your tomato plants, how to recover them, and how to prevent it from happening again.
How to recover an overwatered tomato plant?
You can recover an overwatered tomato plant depending on the extent of damage that has been done. If some of the roots are healthy, you can still save the tomato plant.
Stop watering the tomato plant and let it recover
Once you have figured out that you’re overwatering the tomato plant, you need to stop watering it immediately.
Wait a couple of days to see if the soil has dried out. Stick your finger into the dirt and feel for dampness. If the soil is still not completely dry, wait another day or two and see if it dries out.
Check if the plant has started showing signs of recovering from the symptoms of overwatering.
Prune the unwanted leaves and branches
Remove the leaves and branches from the tomato plant that are drooping or wilting. This will help the plant conserve energy and use it to recover from the stress of overwatering.
You can use a pair of bypass pruners to trim the foliage. Make sure to sterilize it with rubbing alcohol before you trim the leaves.
Dry the soil and tomato plant roots
The soil may be too wet due to the overwatering, so you can try to dry it as much as possible.
One way to do this is to take the tomato plant out of the soil and place the soil on layers of newspaper to help absorb the moisture.
You can also place the plant’s roots on layers of newspaper to get them as dry as possible.
Prune roots that are suffering root rot
If the plants have been overwatered for a long time, there’s a chance that root rot has affected the plant.
You can dig up the roots to check for root rot. The healthy roots will appear white, but the diseased roots will appear brown or black. The diseased roots will also smell because they have rotted due to the fungi attacking them.
It would be best if you trimmed the diseased roots using bypass pruners. Make sure to sterilize the pruners by wiping them with rubbing alcohol before pruning the roots. This will prevent the infection from spreading to other plants.
Prune some more leaves and branches
Once you have trimmed some of the roots, it’s good to prune some leaves and branches.
The roots won’t have to work too hard to help the plant recover when there is less foliage. Make sure to trim the foliage, so it’s roughly about twice the amount of roots on the plant.
Replant the tomato plant in fresh soil
Once you have trimmed the roots and foliage of the tomato plant, you can replant it to another location in the garden.
You want to do this because the soil in the current location may be infected with fungus or other pathogens. If you replant the tomato in the same location, the same problem will occur.
Pick a location with good drainage so you don’t face the problem of overwatering the transplanted plant.
If you’re growing the tomato plant in a pot, get a fresh batch of potting soil, and don’t reuse the overwatered soil.
Give the tomato plant a good watering
Once you have planted the tomato plant in fresh soil, you can give the plant good watering.
Use a watering can or garden hose to water the plant. After watering, make sure that the top of the soil is wet but not soggy and there’s no standing water.
If the tomato plant is in a pot, keep watering till it drains out from the drainage holes in the bottom.
You can add 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide to a gallon of water before watering the plant. This can help the tomato plant get a boost of oxygen to help recover from the stress of overwatering.
Make sure not to add fertilizer to the soil as this will stress the plant and cause problems with its recovery.
How to prevent overwatering a tomato plant?
The best way to protect your tomato plant from overwatering is to prevent it from happening.
Use good soil for your tomato plant
The most important step to protect your tomato plant from overwatering is to use good soil. The soil should retain sufficient moisture but drain out the excess.
If you have an in-ground garden, I recommend getting your soil tested by your Local Extension Service. They will give you details on how good your garden soil is and whether any amendments are required.
If you are growing in a raised bed, make sure to have the right balance of soil and compost that will give the best texture to grow tomato plants.
If you’re growing the plant in a pot, you need to use good potting soil with the right texture. Avoid garden soil that may have too much clay causing water to stand in the pot.
Check the drainage of the soil
You need to check the drainage in the location you want to grow the tomato plants in your garden.
You can dig a hole and pour water into it. You want the water to drain into the ground in about an hour. If it takes longer than an hour, there is a problem and you need to check another location.
If you’re growing the tomato plant in a container, make sure it has plenty of drainage holes at the bottom. If you have a tray at the bottom, you need to make sure to throw out the water after you have watered the tomato plant.
Check the soil moisture before watering
The most common reason for overwatering is because we tend to get overanxious and keep watering the tomato plant.
You want to avoid this and only water the soil when it has dried up and there is a need to add moisture to it.
You can do this by using a moisture meter that you stick into the soil and check the moisture. Or the easy way is to stick your finger 1-2 inches into the soil.
If the tip of your finger feels dry, it is time to water the soil. Make sure to give good watering so that the water reaches deep into the soil. This encourages the roots to grow deeper and they develop strong.
Another option is to use drip irrigation or a soaker hose to provide a regular water supply to the tomato plant. These methods ensure you’ll never end up overwatering the plant as you regulate the amount of water that the plant gets every day.
What are the signs of overwatering a tomato plant?
Leaves have turned yellow
The most common sign that you have overwatered your tomato plant is yellowing leaves. This happens because of a lack of oxygen in the soil.
The overwatering will cause the roots to drown and they won’t be able to supply oxygen and nutrients to the leaves.
This is different than yellowing leaves caused due to underwatering because the leaves will be wet and droopy rather than dry.
Signs of edema on the leaves
The leaves of the tomato plant will get swollen and may even have blisters due to the overwatering.
This is because the excess water is getting absorbed by the roots and is not getting released into the soil. When it gets worse, the leaves will begin to droop down.
Root rot has affected the roots
If the tomato plants have been overwatered for a long time, the moisture in the soil will lead to humid conditions.
This will invite fungal issues like root rot that will cause the roots to turn soggy and black or brown in color. They will emit a smell because of the rotting.
Tomatoes have started to crack open
If tomatoes have started growing on your plant and you are overwatering, the fruits will crack open.
The reason the tomatoes crack is that the water travels upwards to the fruits and leaves, which causes pressure to build up.
Mold growing on the soil
When you’re overwatering the tomato plant, there is a buildup of moisture in the soil that will cause humid conditions.
This will lead to the growth of mold on the soil. Mold on soil may pass to other parts of the plant which may then cause diseases such as stem rot.
Stunted growth of the tomato plant
When you overwater the tomato plant, the roots are suffocating and unable to get the nutrients and moisture from the soil.
The lack of nutrients will cause stunted growth of the tomato plant and it won’t be able to develop flowers and tomatoes.
Wilting brown leaves and stem
Another common sign of overwatering is when the leaves and stem of your tomato plant turn brown because of too much water.
There may be blisters on the stem of the tomato plant due to too much water. If you cut the stem, you may find it wet inside with brown rings.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.