Growing your own tomatoes can be a fun and rewarding experience. Even if you’ve had less than a stellar experience with tomatoes in the past, every spring we are afforded a new opportunity to learn from your previous mistakes and get your tomato plants in the garden off on the right foot. Below are some tips on how to plant tomatoes in a raised bed that will put you on a path to a delicious and ripe harvest come summer.
How to plant tomatoes: tips for newbie gardeners.
If your tomato plants were slow to get started in previous years it may have been as a result of cool temperatures. Just because it's warm enough to wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts doesn't mean it's tomato-planting weather. The temperature of your soil is very important when planting tomatoes. Planting tomatoes when the soil temperature is below 50 F will impair tomato growth. Set your tomatoes in the garden when the weather has warmed and soil temperatures are above 60 F. Investing in a soil thermometer may be a good idea if you want to get exact soil temperatures. You can also consult with experienced gardeners, or your Cooperative Extension office, in your area and learn when the soil temperatures in your area are warm enough to plant tomatoes.
Direct seed sowing tomatoes.
Tomatoes are usually started from seeds indoors weeks before they are going to be planted in the garden. If, for whatever reason, you didn’t start tomatoes earlier indoors, or you don’t want to buy tomato starts, give direct seed sowing tomatoes a try. Simply take your tomato seeds and sow them directly in the space in the raised bed where you want them to grow. It’s a good idea to insert a bamboo stake next to your seeds to help support your seedling as it grows.
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Planting tomato seedlings.
You probably have be warned not to plant your plants too deep. Tomatoes are an exception to this garden rule. You can bury the stem of your tomato plants and roots will grow along the stem. If your tomato is planted in a plastic pot, remove the seedling from the pot. If your tomato is planted in a biodegradable seed starting pot, break it apart and set the roots and stem down into the soil. Leaving a stem or two above the soil line is enough to let the plant continue to grow.
Alternately, you can plant a tomato seedling on its side and angle the tip of the plant to grow up out of the soil. In both of these instances your seedlings will send out roots along the stem and the tip will continue to grow. The deeper your tomato is planted, the more roots it will send along the main stem to, which will help stabilize and support the heavy branches and fruits produced.
When you are planting your tomato starts it is a good idea to insert any stakes or trellises that you plan on using to train your plant. If you insert them at a later date you are risking breaking roots below the surface.
Every garden is different and there really isn't a “wrong” way to grow tomatoes. Some people may tell you that planting tomato seeds in the ground will not give you enough time to for a harvest, but don’t be afraid to experiment. I've started tomatoes from seeds in raised beds and had a great harvest. Tomatoes started later in the season soon catch up with tomatoes started indoors when the temperatures rise. When planting tomatoes in raised beds, make sure you've amended your soil with compost, and don’t forget to properly water and fertilize your tomatoes.