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A Disease Barrier

How to Create and Plant A Tomato Disease Barrier 
Raised Bed Garden


I hope everything is growing well in your gardens. I have already seen powdery mildew on my hyssop plants. They have been sprayed. My kale is doing the best it has every done because I learned how to control the cabbage worm with baccilus thurengiensis or bt.  Well... I knew it worked but this year I have sprayed regularly and followed my disease and pest management plant. That is probably the main reason.

Disease management is the key to health and harvest for both humans and gardens. So go get your physicals now!  All disease if most effectively addressed early and preventatively. The garden's health and our health! This year I am going to follow my management plans but I say that every year. I am also going to experiment with some key principles and that leads to...


How to Create a Tomato Disease Barrier Raised Bed Garden
(Part 1 of 2)

A video viewer commented that he thought some things I was doing was overkill. I can't disagree with him unless you have had diseases like leaf spot and blight attack your vegetables. I don't think the idea of disease prevention is overkill. The main reason is that these ideas don't take up a lot of time. The least amount of work occurs during the prevention stages.

The concept of a Disease Barrier Raised Bed Garden is based on facts.
  • Create a barrier to prevent soil splash and disease spore splash
  • Mulch to maintain moisture and tomato plant health
  • Fertilize and compost key nutrients for healthy plant development
  • Prune to manage airflow and decrease plant density that supports disease spread
  • Spray with 'the most' organic spray when needed to fight disease that is don't go so organic your plants die out.
These concepts will be part of a 6 part video I do on my disease barrier raised bed garden over this growing season.  I am presenting the blog version first. Before you get started this idea is designed for plants that will stay in your garden for most of the season like tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, eggplants, zukes, cukes and squashes. It isn't useful for lettuces, greens, radishes and other quick growing vegetables.


Step One: Setting Up The Raised Bed

I am using a 4 foot by 8 foot raised bed. It is about 10-12 inches high on the sides. I filled my bed with a mix of 2 year compost and edging soil that I dug out edging my flower beds. I also added a bit of peat moss, a few cups of lime and 10-10-10 fertilizer. Don't get stuck on this part. Just fill up your raised bed and leave about an inch from the top for mulching.

Creating a Disease Barrier Tomato Garden - The Rusted Garden

I just dumped in what I removed from around my yard.  I left whole clumps of grass in it.  I quickly turned the bed over and added a few things. It is important to really soak your bed before the next step. Get moisture in there before you lay your plastic or landscaping barrier and mulch.


Preparing a Raised Bed Tomato Garden - The Rusted Garden

Step Two: Put Down the Disease Barrier

I decided to use a painters plastic drop cloth. The measurement you need is about 9 feet by 12 feet for this bed size. It was .7mm thick. It was doubled over to create a 1.4 mm layer of plastic. MAKE SURE you punch holes in it when you are done. You can also use landscaping fabric that lets water through, newspaper or other barriers that breath. I chose plastic because I got the idea while buying a drop cloth and it will allow me to easily discard the mulch.

The Plastic Disease Barrier for the Tomatoes - Gary Pilarchik

Step Three: Mulch The Plastic 

You can mulch the bed with many things. It is your choice. I chose shredded cypress because it was cheap, hopefully disease free and heavy. It won't wash or blow away. Cover your first barrier with about an inch of mulch. You now have 2 barriers between your soil and your plants. MAKE SURE you punch holes in the plastic when your are done.

A key reason I used plastic is because I wanted a barrier that would not decay. I wanted to be able to remove all the mulch at the end of the growing year easily and move it to my flower beds. Each year I plant to use fresh mulch. Decaying wood, like mulch,  in your garden can reduce nitrogen levels. This is caused by something in the way wood decays.


A Tomato Disease Barrier Raised Bed 1 - The Rusted Garden

A Tomato Garden Disease Barrier - The Rusted Garden
A Tomato Disease Barrier Raised Bed 2 - The Rusted Garden

Step Four: Poke Lots of Holes in It

If you use plastic you will need to put in 100's of quick holes. You need to keep an eye on it and make sure water drains through it. It takes about 3 minutes to fill it full of holes. Water will also drain in the openings where you plant the tomatoes. Just don't forget this step. Other barrier choices will allow you to skip this step. I used a screw driver and followed that basic hole pattern below. After I planted the tomatoes, I went back and added more.


Punch Holes if the Plastic for Drainage - The Rusted Garden

Well this entry got pretty long. I am going to create another blog entry for planting. It will be called and found at this link: Planting a Tomato Disease Barrier Raised Bed Garden.



Planting a Tomato Disease Barrier Raised Bed Garden
(Part 2 of 2)

The concept of a Disease Barrier Raised Bed Garden is based on facts.
  • Create a barrier to prevent soil splash and disease spore splash
  • Mulch to maintain moisture and tomato plant health
  • Fertilize and compost key nutrients for healthy plant development
  • Prune to manage airflow and decrease plant density that supports disease spread
  • Spray with 'the most' organic spray when needed to fight disease that is don't go so organic your plants die out.
These concepts will be part of a 6 part video I do on my disease barrier raised bed garden over this growing season.  I am presenting the blog version first. Before you get started this idea is designed for plants that will stay in your garden for most of the season like tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, eggplants, zukes, cukes and squashes. It isn't useful for lettuces, greens, radishes and other quick growing vegetables.

Part 1 showed you how to build  a Tomato Disease Barrier Raised Bed Garden. This is a basic planting guide.

Step One: Layout Your Plants

A raised bed will allow you to plant earlier in the season because the soil warms more quickly than an earth garden bed. It will also allow you to plant you vegetables more closely together because the earth around your vegetables stays loose. There is no foot traffic to compact the soil. The vegetables roots can grow downward and compete less for space. That being said, you also need to make sure you don't over-crowd your tomato plants because air circulation is necessary for disease management.

Tomatoes in a raised bed can manage well with 2 -3 feet of space between them. The closer you put them together, the  more you need to prune and manage them. Use the lower end if you want to prune less and worry less about air circulation. You can fit 6 to 8 tomatoes in a raised bed that measures 4 feet by 8 feet.


6 Tomatoes in a Raised Bed - The Rusted Garden
8 Tomatoes in a Raised Bed - The Rusted Garden

Step Two: Clear and Cut a Planting Hole

Clear out a space by moving the mulch and puncture or tear the plastic. Loosen the soil and plant to a depth of about 1/3 the size of the tomato.


Planting a Tomato in a Raised Bed - The Rusted Garden
Planting a Tomato in a Raised Bed : Gary Pilarchik
Plant to a Depth of 1/3 the Tomato - The Rusted Garden

Step Four: Fill the Planting Hole and Replace the Mulch

I filled the hole in around my tomato with some prepared soil. You can fill the hole with whatever you would like.


Fill the Hole - The Rusted Garden
Close the Plastic - The Rusted Garden
Replace the Mulch: Gary Pilarchik


 Step Five: Stake and Label Your Tomatoes

Place the stakes in the ground. You aren't going to tie the plant off to the post until they grow. I use the post as a way to label my tomatoes. You will forget. A tip is to write the name 2 or 3x's on the the post. The sun will fade marker and ink.

This is going to be my prize poundage tomato garden.  I am going for 1-2 pound tomatoes and hope for a record breaker.

I planted:
  • 2 'Aussie' Heirlooms (I got my 2 pounder off this variety last year)
  • 2 'Brandywine Suddath's Strain' Heirloom
  • 1 'Mexico' Heirloom
  • 1 'Mortgage Lifter' Heirloom
  • 1 'Black Plum' Heirloom (cherry)
  • 1 'Yellow Pear' Heirloom (cherry)

As the tomatoes grow, I will blog more about managing the plants and raised bed.  Good Growing!


Stake and Label Your Tomatoes - The Rusted Garden
Label the Stakes in 2 places (notice the top) - The Rusted Garden