For my farmer’s market business I grew a lot of tomato plants. In fact I grew more than I think I can sell over the next couple weeks and after that no one will be looking for plants. Gardeners will be wanting to harvest their tomatoes instead of planting more. I planned a few weeks ago that I would take a portion of what I can’t sell and grow them myself to bring the tomatoes to the market. The problem is I didn’t have a good spot inside the garden to house another 30 tomato plants. There just wasn’t enough room so it was time to make a new bed exclusively for the tomatoes.
I chose a spot on our property that wasn’t in a very well used area. Our slope tends to just be another area to be mowed so I took a 4 foot wide by 25-30′ area and claimed it for the tomato garden. The garden had to run from north to south and not from east to west. Using an east to west orientation it will receive morning sun and afternoon sun through about 4 PM then the area goes to shade. The tomatoes should have plenty of light since ideally they like 8 or more hours of sunshine.
I tilled the tomato garden area to break up the sod first. It took quite a few passes to break it up into the top layer of soil. The bed is higher on the left side and backs into the slope to catch rain as it comes down and hold it in the bed. Sloped areas generally drain faster than flat areas and I wanted to hold more moisture in the bed for a longer time so I sloped back into the slope.
After tilling to break up the sod I raked the area to remove roots from grass and weeds, added a combination of soil amendments, then tilled again. The second tilling mixed in the amendments so they would be present in the soil for the plants. This area has heavy clay underneath the topsoil and the amendments should help the plants a lot!
Then I dug holes in a staggered pattern and planted tomatoes. I pinched off the lower growth of the tomato then bury as much of the plant in the hole as I can. At this point the plants are a good size so I won’t plant them as deep as I normally would. Any stem area planted beneath the soil will grow roots and make a larger root system. My holes were also limited by the quality of soil underneath. Once I reached clay I didn’t dig any deeper.
I filled the holes and covered the base of the plant with a small mound of soil then came back with grass clippings for mulch. Grass is cheap and plentiful in my yard and does a good job of maintaining moisture in the soil. It breaks down eventually which improves the soil over time. It’s also nice that my grass has a good amount of clover which is awesome for fixing nitrogen!
I watered the plants well and set out a few ‘T’ posts to eventually use a staking method called the Florida weave. I’ll post on that later once my tomato plants are tied up.