Every season, I make sure to reserve ample space in my garden for growing tomatoes in raised beds. There’s something about the taste of fresh tomatoes that adds an unbeatable flavor to summer dishes. From tiny cherry tomatoes that burst in your mouth like candy to juicy, sliceable varieties perfect for summer burgers, I can’t get enough of them. However, laziness can sometimes get the best of me during late summer, impacting the quality of my harvest. To help you avoid the same mistakes, here are five tips to follow when planting your tomato seedlings and throughout the growing season.
Tips for Growing Tomatoes in Raised Beds
1. Provide Early and Careful Support
Depending on the height of your raised beds, the soil beneath may not be forgiving. Setting up a tomato cage can be challenging if you’re not careful. Instead of haphazardly shoving the cage into the soil, take your time to press each leg into the ground, one at a time, until the entire cage is securely placed. Even if your seedlings appear small, don’t wait to provide support. Waiting too long might result in inadvertently breaking a limb or damaging the plant as it starts to grow.
2. Water at the Base
While your raised beds may be densely packed with plants, avoid the temptation to spray everything with a garden hose, hoping the roots get wet. Take the time to water each plant at the base, helping to prevent the spread of soil-borne diseases caused by water splashing the leaves. If you want to conserve time and water, you may consider installing an irrigation system that delivers water directly to the base of your plants.
3. Pinch off Suckers Regularly
To encourage better fruit development and maintain an organized tomato plant, remove suckers promptly. Suckers are new growth that appears between the stem and branches. By simply pinching them out with your fingers, you can save yourself the trouble of cutting off unruly branches later on, while also helping the plant focus its energy on producing fruit.
4. Practice Crop Rotation
One of the advantages of raised beds is the ease with which you can rotate crops from year to year. By changing the location of your tomato plants every two to three years, you can maximize soil nutrient availability and minimize the risk of pests and diseases. Some pests, like Colorado potato beetles, overwinter in the soil and eagerly await the arrival of your tender new plants. Additionally, consider moving the entire plant family when relocating your tomatoes to a new garden, as this prevents the clustering of nightshade vegetables in the same area.
5. Clean up at the End of the Season
At the end of the season, when clearing out spent plants, make sure to discard any unripe or rotten tomatoes into the compost rather than letting them decompose in the garden. Failure to do so might result in the emergence of unintended tomato seedlings during the following spring.
For more tomato-growing tips and to delve further into the world of raised beds, check out the resources below:
- Ames Farm Center
- 6 steps to growing a healthy tomato garden
- The best tomatoes for containers and 7 strategies for growing them in pots
- How far apart to plant tomatoes
- A step-by-step guide to growing tomatoes from seed
Additional Information on Growing in Raised Beds:
- The best soil for a raised bed
- Advice for preparing a raised bed garden
- The benefits of raised bed gardens
- Layouts for a 4×8 raised vegetable garden
- Planting a raised bed: Tips on spacing, sowing, and growing
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Remember, with these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to harvesting a bountiful crop of delicious, homegrown tomatoes from your raised beds. Happy gardening!