Tomato is one of the most popular plants grown in America. As discussed in the last post, location, soil quality, fertilization, climate and spacing are essential to the success of a tomato harvest. Today let’s go on to dive into the useful tips on how to grow tomatoes in a metal raised garden bed.
Tomatoes require a lot of water and they need even a little more of it in a raised garden bed. A long slow trickle is best, so it can sink down to the deep root system of your plants.
If you don't have that set up, try watering several times within a few hours. This also saturate down deep into the soil. It is also best to water lower close to the ground, especially if you are watering in the evening, so leaves don't remain damp all night (a potential cause of disease).
Never water from above. As packed full of plants as your raised beds may be, avoid taking the garden hose and simply spraying everything, hoping the roots get wet. It may be time-consuming, but it’s worth watering at the base of each plant to avoid splashing the leaves (which could spread soil-borne diseases) and to make sure each plant gets a good drink. To save time and water, consider installing an irrigation system like this one that will deliver water directly to the base of your plants.
Proper watering of a tomato garden can reduce the occurrence of problems like blossom end rot? Blossom end rot results in black, leathery patches at the bottom of the fruits and, while it is not a disease, it is a condition triggered (calcium deficiency) by inconsistent watering. Aim to water regularly, if there has been no rain, and never let plants dry to the point of wilting.
Always water the base of the plant, not the foliage. Spraying water on the foliage can – you guessed it – spread disease. Installing a soaker hose around the base of plants is another irrigation option that make watering quick and easy. Plan to irrigate regularly to promote healthy growth.
Mulching Tomatoes in Raised Garden Beds
Mulch is perhaps the most crucial step of keeping a tomato raised bed garden healthy. It helps maintain that essential moisture for the root system, maintains the warmth of the soil and reduces the occurrence of weeds. Make sure to leave a few inches around the base of each plant to ensure water gets in well and leaves room for the plant to breathe. We don't want to encourage disease in our plants.
Mulch covers the soil surface with an organic material like shredded leaves or straw. Placing a barrier on the soil surface reduces the splashing of soil-borne pathogens onto the foliage, but it also holds soil moisture, and minimizes weeds. Straw can be used, applying a two-inch thick layer around tomato plants as soon as they are planted.
Some gardeners prefer to use a red plastic mulch or black plastic mulch in their tomato garden. There are advantages and disadvantages to plastic mulches. They do warm the soil, accelerating growth, and like straw, keep weeds down and reduce soil-borne diseases. However, they make irrigation more difficult and you need to run soaker hoses beneath the mulch to provide water.
There are a lot of benefits to mulching plants in a tomato garden. Not only does it reduce the spread of common diseases, it also helps hold soil moisture, and reduces weed growth.
Although cutworms are less of an issue in a raised bed vs. in ground planting, those little monsters can still get in there, especially if you add regular garden soil or your bed is older. Place cardboard or metal collars can be used to protect your young tomato plants.
As far as most other pests, keeping a watchful eye is your best defense. If you notice withering or discoloration immediately check for infestation. Many home remedies are simple to do and organic pesticides appropriate for vegetable gardens are readily available these days.
As with dealing with insect pests, keeping your raised bed tomato garden free of disease requires your watchfulness. Remove ripe fruit promptly, as it will draw not only insects but animals. If you start having blossom end rot issues, add calcium to the bed. Fungal diseases and blight can often be avoided, by not crowding and by properly supporting tomatoes. A quick inspection once or twice a week can help you head off any potential problems.
As tomato plants grow, continue to tie them to their stakes. Remove the bottom leaves so that by the time the plants are full-grown, they usually have no leaves along the bottom foot of stem. These bottom leaves are often the first to discolor with issues like early blight and removing them can help reduce the spread.
Also watch out for any yellowing or curling of the foliage, brown spots, and other irregularities. If your garden is prone to tomato diseases, be sure to practice crop rotation, all the tips mentioned above, and grow disease-resistant varieties like Defiant, Jasper, and Mountain Merit.
Raised beds make crop rotation easy because you can keep track of where everything is from year to year. Rotation is a simple way to cut down on potential pests in your raised bed tomato garden is to rotate beds with another unrelated vegetable each year. This way any leftover pests from the year before will not be lying in wait. Tomatoes are nightshades, like peppers, potatoes and eggplant. I suggest rotating with cruciferous vegetables, lettuces, greens, peas, carrots, beets or beans.
Attracting Pollinators to Your Tomato Raised Bed Garden
Planting flowering trees, bushes or flowers near your raised bed garden will help attract bees and other pollinators.Make sure to plant some flowers bees love in your landscape even if you don't have a fully dedicated flower garden. Drawing these insects to your yard will help pollinate your plants!