How to Build Your Own Raised Tomato Bed

Hand trowel, tomatoes, tomato plant and seedlings on dark wood
 Westend61/Getty Images


Now’s the time to try your hand at cultivating your own food. Get your grow on with this simple raised tomato bed.

 

Tomato bed
Illustration by Todd Detwiler

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.