Heirloom Tomato 4 x 4-foot Garden

Grow several heirloom tomato plants in one bed.

The heirloom tomato garden makes use of vertical space, growing tall and bountiful.

Heirloom Tomato Garden

Variety is the spice of life, so why not spice up your tomato garden with a selection of heirloom tomato varieties? Heirlooms are known for their unique colors and flavors. Plant this garden in late spring after your last frost date, and choose the heirloom varieties that are available and grow best in your area. The Finished Plan below shows the planted bed—the plants are pictured small to make the illustration simpler. The four tomatoes are planted near each corner, while four herbs are planted along the center of each side.

If you want to expand your garden, place two 4 x 4 beds symmetrical on either side of a 3 to 4-foot path, wide enough for you and your tools. Try a Mediterranean Garden or the Pizza Garden for the second bed.

Planting the 4 x 4-foot Bed

Heirloom Tomato Garden - Key

Take inspiration from these planting options. The plan allows for some interpretation depending on your taste. These plants are pictured small to make the illustration simpler, but your bed will be spilling over as the plants grow! Following spacing on the plant labels, add a few more plants than we have pictured if the spacing allows.
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Area 1 – Tomatoes

Choose one heirloom tomato from each category. Plant one near each corner.

  • 1 large to extra-large fruited (Brandywine, German Johnson, Mister Stripey, German Johnson, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter)
  • 1 black fruited (Cherokee Purple, Black Prince, Black Krim, Black Cherry)
  • 1 bite-sized (Black Cherry, Yellow Pear)
  • 1 small to medium fruited (Black Prince, Arkansas Traveler, Rutgers, Black Krim, Bradley, Marion, Marglobe, Homestead, Bradley, Seattle’s Best, San Francisco Fog)

Area 2 – Herbs

Choose four plants from the following low-growing herbs. Plant one along each side.

  • Chives
  • Spicy Globe basil
  • Curled parsley
  • Greek or Hot and Spicy oregano

10 Comments

Shannon

My Black Prince tomato plants are in a 4×4 box. I have a couple of tomatoes, but their growth seems to have stalled at the size of a racquet ball, with no change in color or size for about 2 weeks. What’s going on? I have two tomato plants, 2 big jim peppers, 1 jalepeno, 4 watermelon plants, and 2 honeydew plants in the same box. I thought my melons were taking up all the nutrients, but even my Topsy-Turvy tomato plant has stalled with a rather anemic-looking green tomato stuck at the golf ball size.

Mary Beth

Hi Shannon,
Thanks for writing. It sounds like you have an exciting assortment in your garden. I hope that we can get you “unstuck.” I have to admit that I searched the Internet for a photo of a raquetball to know just what size you were comparing for Black Prince! This variety is indeed a smaller tomato, averaging 3oz, as you can see in the photo. You will notice the coloration as indication of ripening, not the size. Be patient, as it does seem like eons pass while you stare at green tomatoes. As long as they are in full sun, getting regular water and occasional plant food, you are in good shape. I do think your 4×4 box is far overplanted, so you may not get the proper yields per plant and will need to watch the water and fertilizer levels. We have not tested much with Topsy Turvy containers, but do find that they will need daily watering and regular feeding and do not present ideal conditions. Give it a little more time and let us know if the Black Prince doesn’t become princely, or black! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Shannon

My Black Prince did turn, and the first fruit was the BEST tomato EVER. Thanks so much! I’m also reading (from Home Depot’s website) that I should be pinching off the branches that don’t have flowers for higher yield. What is your take on that advice?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Shannon,

Pruning is really about personal preference on tomatoes. We typically shy away from pruning a lot because the open cuts can harbor diseases. However, many gardeners pinch and prune and their plants do just fine, so I say do whatever works for. It’s all about trial and error. Great to hear about your Black Princes!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Shannon

Also, all of my plants are watered twice daily. I live in Zone 9, so I have to be particularly careful with making sure they’re good and hydrated. They don’t get the full sun like tomato plants in many other regions – even on a cloudy day, our UV index is 5!

Kelly Smith

Hi Eldon,

Glad you like the heirloom garden plans! What would you like to order? If you’re looking for Bonnie plants, you can find them at many retailers. Look for retailers in your area by putting your zip code into our Plant Finder. You can also order organic Bonnie plants online via HomeDepot.com.

Happy growing!
Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Marion jerrett

Would be a perfect world if you would publish a shipping date to various zones of various plants., i.e., Brandywine will ship to Syracuse Retail Outlets May 1st. Since I don’t know when you will ship and I am “ready to go” I ordered from Burpee today. More expensive, but I know when they will be here.

Jenny N

What kind of soil woulds you recomend for a heirloom tomatoe garden? Are these just examples of herbs to plant in the heirloom garden or could you use any one?

The is a simple and easy to do garden that any tomatoe lover would enjoy. Thank you for posting this!

Mary Beth

Hi Jenny,
We are glad to hear you like the garden plan! Good soil is one of the most important components of any garden, no matter the variety of vegetable you plant. Use a quality bagged garden soil from the garden center, or a mixture of compost and humus. Read this article on building raised beds for more details on soil to use. As for the herbs, you can swap for another warm-season herb or other flavors of basil. These are suggestions for low-growing herbs that complement tomatoes. Good luck! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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