DIY Build/Gardening: Tomato Box

Hi Gardeners,

This year, I tried my hand at planting seeds, in January & February months, which from experience in the past two years, I’ve learned is much better than the Summer here in zone 9b.

I started off planting seeds in various containers but when I actually had plants, I realized I needed something better to be able to stake them, because they were starting to fall over and the containers were too small to hold bamboo sticks.

Here’s an easy Garden Box build- This one is specific for tomatoes (or whatever else that might need staking), but you could omit the staking-structure and plant whatever your heart desires. I decided to build with Pressure-Treated Wood. I really wanted to use Cedar wood. But, I couldn’t justify the cost- it was more than 2x per board for the Cedar.

I started off with Qty (6) 5/4″ x 6″ x 8′ Standard Deck Boards. I cut 26″ off each board to be my sides. With three boards per side, my total height is 16.5″. If you need a taller box, it’s easy to just add more boards.

 

Inner Corner Posts 2x4s

Cut Qty. (4) 2″x4″s for your Inner Corner Posts.  These will be how we attach the sides together. I cut mine to 15″ because I thought I might add enough dirt to cover them up.

 

Use clamps to help get you started if you need to. Attach your first board to an Inner Corner Post with (2) deck screws.

 

I attached all my boards and forgot to take progress pictures! Anyway, it’s pretty simple- Just keep adding your boards, with (Qty 2 or 3) 2 1/4″ Deck Screws in each. At the end, take an inner dimension of the depth and cut to size (so it fits tightly) a 2″x4″ and attach with 2 deck screws on each side. This box is fairly long and will be holding A LOT of dirt. It adds a lot of pressure on the wood, so this middle board will help keep it from bowing out. (Yes I removed the tags….eventually).

 

 

I placed the garden box in this particular location for the amount of sun it gets. I’m not exactly sure what this corner of the yard was used as by the previous owner, but there is a nice layer of rocks. If you are placing your boxes on dirt, you could add some hardware cloth and cardboard to prevent critters and weeds from crawling up through the bottom. Before adding my soil, I plucked all the weeds out.

 

I happened to have LOTS of these rocks around….I threw some in to cover some gaps I had so dirt couldn’t fall out, and just to use less soil.

Attaching the Staking Structure
I’m using 2″x2″s and cut to a height I could comfortably reach, so this will obviously vary for you. I’m using a clamp to hold it in place while I try to level it and attach with 3 deck screws, one through each board.

My laziness is showing here- I couldn’t even move the shepherd’s hook out of my picture. Oh, and that pile of rocks is what I was talking about earlier. Anyway, attach the other 2″x2″ to the opposite side. If you don’t have a helper to hold the top 2″x2″ in place, you could use a clamp like I did here to hold one side together while you attach the top board to the side boards. I used Qty. (1) Deck screw through the top on each side.

 

With this staking structure, there are a few different methods you could use. The Florida Weave, Bamboo Sticks, or what I’m trying for the first time here: The Single String Method.

 

But before I can start staking, I need tomatoes. And soil. I’m using a mixture of Compost, Cow Manure, and some Potting Soil on the top layer. I haven’t discovered the magical soil combination just yet, but this works well enough while I”m figuring it out. I do sprinkle in some “Dr. Earth Organic Tomato, Vegetable, and Herb fertilizer” throughout as well.

 

My poor tomatoes are falling over and the bamboo sticks weren’t cutting it anymore! These are 3 “Baby Boomer” Plants I started from seed!

 

After I transplanted all my plants in the new box, it was time to start staking. I had a few of these Garden Stakes on hand and decided to give them a try on a couple plants.

 

I put the Garden Stake near the root of the plant and tied my staking string to it. The string wraps around the main stem of the tomato plant all the way to the top 2″x2″ board.

 

I tried this method on a couple other tomato plants- I just tied the string to the plant itself, near the base.

 

After a transplant, make sure all plants get a really good watering to help build good strong roots in their new home.

 

I tie off each string with a tautline hitch so that it can be tightened later as needed.

 

 

A couple marigolds planted with the tomatoes. Anyone have good luck with Marigolds keeping pests away?

 

Green tomatoes on the vine

I hope my tomatoes survive the transplant!

 

My tomatoes look a little sad right now. Hopefully they’ll cheer up after settling in for a few days.

 

A few days later….

 

My tomatoes are ripening! These are “Baby Boomer” by Burpee. So far, they’ve been cute little tomatoes, about 2″ in diameter. We haven’t had a torrential downpour, so the skins looks beautiful. What normally happens is a big heavy rain will cause the tomato to grow faster than the skin, and that’s when I would see cracks near the stem.

 

I think most of my plants have cheered up! This one is “Super Sweet 100” by Burpee. Last year, this plant grew to be a 4′ wide by 6′ tall bush with more tomatoes than I knew what to do with. This year I”m going to try to keep it to a single stem.

 

Okay, so this one doesn’t look happy….I was thinking I would have to cut one back anyway if they got overcrowded, so this one might be it.

 

The idea with the Single String Method is that the plant will eventually be trained to grow along the string, and one healthy stem should produce better fruit.

After a few more days of settling in, cut the bottom branches that touch the soil. This will help with preventing disease from making it’s way up the plant.

Happy Gardening!!

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