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.
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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.
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- 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.
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.
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 of Growing Tomatoes in Raised Beds
To reap the importance of a homegrown tomato, you don’t have to be an excellent gardener. Even expert gardeners, however, sometimes run into difficulties when it comes to perfecting these beauties. Here are some pointers to help you produce better tomatoes in a raised bed.
- Provide a Lot of Light
Tomato seedlings require bright, direct light to grow. Since the days are short in the winter, even placing them near a bright window may not be enough to supply them with enough natural light. Therefore, every day, for 14 to 18 hours, use some form of artificial plant lighting.
Keep immature tomato plants just a few inches from fluorescent grow lights to maintain stocky, not spindly, growth. When you’re ready to plant them outside, locate them in the sunniest portion of your vegetable garden.
- Stake Them Carefully
The subsoil beneath your raised beds may not be very accommodating, depending on how high they are. You can bend a tomato cage by haphazardly attempting to bury it in the soil around a new plant. Instead, gently press each “leg” of the cage into the earth, one at a time, until the entire cage is thoroughly embedded.
- Pre-heat the Soil
Tomatoes thrive in hot conditions. They won’t begin to develop well until the soil and air temperatures are both warm. Cover the planting area with black or red plastic a couple of weeks before you plan to plant to speed things up in the soil. Those additional degrees of soil temperature will result in tomatoes that ripen earlier.
- Avoid Watering from Above
Even if your raised beds are crowded with plants, don’t just spray everything with the garden hose in the hope that the roots will get moist. Watering at the base of each plant is time-consuming, but it’s worth it to prevent splashing the foliage and to ensure that each plant gets enough water. Installing a drip irrigation system that delivers water straight to the base of your plants is a good idea.
- Mulch Your Tomatoes
If you’re not planning to leave the plastic on the ground, wait until the earth has heated up before applying mulch. Mulching saves water and keeps dirt and soil-borne illnesses from splashing up on the plants, but if you lay it down too soon, it will shade and chill the soil. You may apply a layer of mulch to retain moisture throughout the day and at night.
- Pinch and Pinch
As quickly as possible, get rid of those suckers that is a new growth that appears between a stem and a branch. With your fingers, pinch them out. You don’t want to end up having to clip a loose branch later. It also encourages the plant to concentrate more on the fruit.
- Tidy Up At The Season End
When pulling out wasted plants in the fall, dump any unripe or rotten tomatoes into the compost bin rather than letting them decay in the garden. In the spring, you can find yourself digging up little tomato seedlings.
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.