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How to Grow Tomatoes in Raised Beds

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How to Grow Tomatoes in Raised Beds

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Overview

According to the University of Tennessee, growing vegetables in a raised bed is a good way to increase crop yield while decreasing the actual growing surface. Raised beds offer gardeners with poor or diseased soil a chance to grow vegetables under better soil conditions. Raised beds also help to elevate crops so that people who have trouble bending and lifting can more easily garden. One crop that grows well in raised beds is tomatoes.

Step 1

Break up soil in the raised bed with a cultivating fork to a depth of 6 inches. Spread a 3-inch layer of finished compost over the surface of the raised bed. Mix the compost into the soil by combing the soil with your cultivating fork. Compost adds nutrients back to the soil that are stripped out in the growing process.

Step 2

Lay out string in a grid pattern using garden stakes to anchor it. The grid will serve as a planting guide for your raised bed. Plants grow best in a raised bed if they are spaced equidistant from one another rather than in rows. Wait until nighttime temperatures stay above 50 degrees to plant tomatoes.

Step 3

Space tomatoes slightly farther apart than the recommended plant spacing instructions. Tomato spacing will vary depending on if you are planting a dwarf variety, staked variety or trellised variety of tomato. As a general rule, plant your tomatoes in the center of grid squares where each grid is 18 inches square.

Step 4

Dig a hole in the garden soil that is slightly larger than the plant's root ball and deep enough that the plant will be buried up to the first two leaves.

Step 5

Remove tomato from its seedling container by turning it on its side. Support the tomato plant with one hand and tap the pot on the side with the other. This will loosen the plant and allow it to slip free.

Step 6

Place the plant into the planting hole and cover with dirt. Pat the soil to eliminate any buried air pockets.

Step 7

Insert tomato cages in the ground around tomatoes to support the plants.

Step 8

Water tomatoes 2 inches per week as the soil dries out.

Step 9

Fertilize with a general-purpose (10-10-10) fertilizer at a rate of 1 lb. per 100 square feet. Rake into the top 1 to 2 inches of soil, but do not disturb the roots of the tomato plants.

Step 10

Cover the roots with a 2- to 4-inch layer of straw once the soil has warmed.

Step 11

Cover tomatoes with floating row covers at night until daytime temperatures reach 80 degrees.

Tips and Warnings

  • Only use finished compost for amending your raised beds. Unfinished compost has large particles of undigested organic material, as well as bacteria that break down the organic material still in it, while finished compost is completely broken down and has no bacteria. The bacteria present in unfinished compost can damage the roots of tomato plants. To ensure that your homemade compost is finished, sift through compost to remove large particles. Move the large particles to a new compost pile. Allow the fine dirt to sit for several weeks so that bacteria die out. If you are purchasing compost, ensure that the package is marked as finished compost.

Things You'll Need

  • Cultivating fork
  • Finished compost
  • String
  • Garden stakes
  • Garden trowel
  • Tomato plant
  • Tomato cage
  • Garden hose
  • General purpose fertilizer (10-10-10)
  • Straw mulch
  • Floating row covers

References

  • Your Small Kitchen Garden: How to Plant Tomatoes in Raised Beds
  • University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service: Raised Bed Gardening
  • Kansas State University: Raised Bed Gardening

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Tomato
Keywords: raised beds, small space gardening, raising tomatoes

About this Author

After 10 years experience in writing, Tracy S. Morris has countless articles and two novels to her credit. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets" and "CatFancy," as well as the "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World," and several websites.