Raised bed gardening offers a whole bunch of benefits. If you want to enjoy all those benefits for your tomato crop this year, start thinking about growing tomatoes in raised beds. With better drainage and soil quality of the raised bed instead of the garden itself, you can expect healthier plants and bigger and better yield. Growing tomatoes isn’t hard at all; even a newbie can do it with the right set of guidelines.
Step by Step guide to growing tomatoes in raised beds
Once you have prepared the raised bed or had it installed by someone else, the rest is simple. Raised bed gardening is pretty straightforward. Follow these steps, and you’ll see how easy and satisfying it is to have a basket full of juicy, fresh tomatoes in your kitchen the entire season.
Step 1: Choose a location
Now, there are a few considerations when choosing a location for your raised bed tomatoes, make sure you address all of these:
- Select a leveled surface.
- It needs to be well-drained. We don’t want excess moisture building up under the bed.
- You should have a water source close by because the bed will need regular irrigation.
- The location should receive at least 8 hours of sunlight every day.
Step 2: Prepare the location
Tomatoes are deep-rooted plants and will most likely penetrate the soil below the bed. For this reason, you need to prepare the location.
- Mark the outline of your raised bed and remove turf from this area.
- Use a tiller or spading fork to break and loosen the soil.
Step 3: Edging the bed
You already have the boundaries for the raised bed. Lumber, stone, and galvanized steel are all good choices for your edging material. Choose a tough material that will stay in place and can be used for multiple crops. Make sure that the bed is at least 12 inches deep so that the roots can spread freely, and good drainage is maintained.
Step 4: Prepare the soil
This is an important step since the soil quality can make or break your yield. Measure the dimensions of your raised bed and calculate the soil that’s required in cubic feet. You’ll need to multiply the length, width, and height of the raised bed to get soil volume. I have a great article on the Best Soil Mixture For A Raised Vegetable Garden.
- Line the bed with chicken wire before filling it. It will keep out moles and gophers from reaching your plants.
- Fill the raised bed with topsoil, leaving some space to include compost.
- To the topsoil, add at least two inches of organic matter, including compost and manure.
- Mix the organic matter to the top ⅓ height of topsoil using a spade.
- Smooth out the surface using a rake.
Step 5: Plant the seedlings
- After the last frost of the season, wait at least a week to plant tomatoes. The outdoor temperature should be warm through the initial stages of the growth of the tomato plant.
- Spacing the plants is crucial so that each on has enough room to grow. Keep at least a square foot of space for each of the seedlings that you plant. For example, if you’ve got a 4×4 raised bed, you can grow at most 16 plants in it.
- Dig a hole deep enough for each of the seedlings, place the seedling over it and fill with the topsoil you just dug. Top with some compost and fertilizer.
- Water the plants.
Tomato Plant Spacing In Raised Bed
I’m just going to cover this point again, spacing tomatoes in raised beds is crucial. If you grow them too close together the air wont be able to circulate. It’s tempting to grow as many as you can in a small space but here are the disadvantages:
- Your plants will be susceptible to diseases
- Your tomato plants will fight each other for nutrients in the soil
- Your plants leaves will fight for sunlight
So what is the best spacing for tomatoes? I would suggest about 24″ / 2ft. This might seem a lot especially if your plants are small right now but remember they will grow and grow.
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Step 6: Plant care
Tomato plants are high maintenance, but they will require plenty of water to grow. More water is required for plants that grow in raised beds than those that grow in the ground because of the efficient drainage of raised beds. A slow stream of water is best, allow it to continue for a long while so that it reaches through the deepest portions of the plant roots.
Include two-inches of mulch around the plants. It will help the soil retain its moisture and warmth, both of the features that the tomato plants prefer. Additionally, it also reduces the growth of weeds between the plants.
Feed the plants regularly using a vegetable-safe fertilizer. Follow the instruction on the package for the proper application of fertilizer.
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Keep an eye out for pests. Although raised bed gardening is less prone to infestations than in-ground, those nasty little things have their way of getting anywhere. As soon as you see any withering of the leaves or discolouration, take action. You can use organic pesticides or some simple home remedies to get rid of the pests before they cause any further damage to the crop.
Tips for effective gardening
Here are a couple of additional tips that you can follow during the growing season to ensure healthy plants and richer yields.
Water at the base
Rather than watering from above, as you do for most plants, it’s a better idea to water at the base. Wet leaves can encourage soil-borne diseases, and watering at the base will keep the leaves from drenching as far as possible.
Prune out suckers
Tomato suckers are small leaves that shoot out at from points where the stem meet the branch. They’re not useful and suck in energy from the stems that would otherwise go into a healthier growth of the fruit. Keep a watch out for them, pinch tomato suckers out by hand, or use a sharp pruner to make a clean cut.
Rotate your crop
Rotating the crops every two to three years is a good idea for multiple reasons. Firstly, different plant varieties use up different nutrients inside the soil. Additionally, pests and plant diseases can survive in the soil for the next season. Move your tomato crop to a different raised bed after a couple of years and plant something else in the vacated raised bed.
Stake the plants
As the tomato plants grow, they’ll need to be supported by stakes. You can use wooden stakes or wire supports to train the plants.
Growing Tomatoes at home is a thoroughly delightful experience for experienced and new gardeners alike. Follow the tips and guidelines mentioned above to make the most of your tomato cultivation experiences.