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Many gardeners find benefits to growing tomatoes in a raised bed. As with growing other vegetables, raised beds offer several advantages over traditional garden beds. Raised beds warm up earlier in spring, which allows you to plant your tomato plants earlier. Raised beds also drain more quickly, so tomato plants do not become waterlogged. While tomatoes will spread if given room, you can contain tomato plants in raised beds to maximize space and they still produce a bountiful harvest.
Till to the existing soil with a rake or rototiller to a depth of 8 inches, shovel a 1-inch layer of compost on top of the soil and till the area again to mix in the compost.
Dig a hole for each tomato plant, about the size of a soccer ball. Space holes 24 inches apart on all sides when using a block-style layout, advises the Colorado State University Extension. The Square Foot Gardening Foundation recommends spacing tomatoes as little as 12 inches apart on all sides.
Set tomato plants in the middle of the hole and pack soil firmly around the roots and base of the plant.
Place a tomato cage over each plant to keep it contained as it grows and to maximize growing space in a raised bed.
Avoid using creosote or pentachlorophenol-treated lumber when building raised beds, especially for vegetable gardening. Instead, opt for pressure-treated outdoor-grade wood, such as cedar or redwood, or use stone block or bricks instead of wood.
Cut the lining material about 6 inches wider than than your raised garden bed. This will provide a 3-inch border on both sides to staple or nail to the side of your raised bed. If you are using a cloth or fiber-based liner, cut the liner with scissors. If you are using a stiff plastic or metal mesh liner, use a pair of tin snips to cut the liner.
Lay the lining material flat on the surface ground under your raised bed.
Press down on the liner until the 3-inch excess liner is pressed flat against the wood sides of your raised bed.
Staple or nail the 3-inch excess to the sides of the raised bed. Staple or nail the liner in place every 1 to 2 inches, especially if you are lining to prevent a mole problem.
Fill your bed with soil and plant your vegetables.
Dig holes 2 feet deep at each corner of your small raised-garden beds.
Cut your lumber to the desired height of your beds plus 2 feet. For example, if you want 2-foot high raised beds, cut the lumber 4 feet to accommodate the underground portion of the posts.
Set your posts in the holes and fill the holes. Use a level while backfilling the holes to ensure that the posts are vertical.
Cut your plywood to the length and width of your beds.
Screw the plywood to the posts. Place screws every 1-1/2 to 2 inches along the post to ensure that the wood is secure. Screw wood to all sides of the bed for structural integrity. Try to avoid leaving one side of the bed open. If you are installing your beds against another structure and can't install the final side, screw your posts on that side to the structure.
Determine how much water the plants in your raised bed garden needs. Some plants, like tomatoes, will need a lot of water, while other plants will not.
Connect a backflow preventer to the outdoor faucet. Next, connect the soaker hose timer and then the pressure regulator. Finally, connect the garden hose. Connect the soaker hose to the end of the garden hose.
Lay the soaker hose along the base of the plants you want to water in your raised bed garden.
Set the timer on the soaker hose.
Turn on the water at the outdoor faucet.
Mark the area where you will be preparing your raised bed. Use stakes and string or untreated wood planks for this purpose.
Soak a large quantity of shredded newspaper thoroughly with your garden hose. Apply a thick layer to the bottom of your raised bed. It will attract earthworms, which aid greatly in all types of garden preparation.
Alternate layers of compost, shredding, grass clippings, leaves and soil on top of the newspaper. Use your shovel to spread these layers out evenly.
Cover the raised bed with black plastic when you are done. Use bricks or heavy planters to hold the edges down so that it does not blow away. This layer of plastic will heat the bed, encouraging decomposition. It will also protect vital nutrients from washing away over the winter.
According to the University of Missouri Extension, optimal height for raised beds is 24 inches. This allows people to reach the garden easily, whether standing or sitting.
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