Now’s the time to try your hand at cultivating your own food. Get your grow on with this simple raised tomato bed.
1. Spot On
Find a level, dry spot where the tomatoes will get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Clear a 4- by 8-foot patch of ground until it’s bare dirt. This’ll be enough space to grow eight plants.
2. Box Out
For a 4- by 8-foot box, buy nine 2x6s and two 2x2s, all 8 feet long and untreated. Cut the 2x2s into six 18-inch lengths for the vertical posts. Then cut three 2x6s into 4-foot lengths for the horizontal end pieces; the six remaining 2x6s will form the box’s 8-foot sides. Using four 18-inch 2x2s as corner posts, stack and screw the 2x6s to form the box. Halfway down the 8-foot sides, secure the two additional 18-inch 2x2s for support. You can also use 8-foot 1x4s for trim, as seen here. Or you can just go buy a raised bed at the hardware store for $100.
3. Ground Work
Cover the earth with a layer of cardboard and staple galvanized hardware cloth to the box to keep critters out. Then fill the bed with soil—a third vermiculite, a third peat moss, a third yard-waste compost. When ready to plant, don’t bother starting with seeds. Instead, buy young tomato plants from a local nursery, either heirloom Brandywine, black beauty, or Paul Robeson varieties.
4. Cage Match
Root your plants in two rows of four, with a couple of feet of space around each. Cage and thread a soaker hose between them. In 75 days or so, they’ll be BLT-ready.
This article is part of our Summer School series, a comprehensive guide to acing the year’s best season.