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How to Grow a Spaghetti-Sauce Themed Garden

I inherited my love of gardening from my mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.

Tomatoes in raised beds get a head start. For the real giants, you must thin the tomatoes. So, either choose to grow a lot of smaller tomatoes or grow fewer fruits to get giant tomatoes.

Tomatoes in raised beds get a head start. For the real giants, you must thin the tomatoes. So, either choose to grow a lot of smaller tomatoes or grow fewer fruits to get giant tomatoes.

Grow a Raised-Bed Theme Garden

Planning a recipe garden is as fun as it is delicious. Let your favorite meals and recipes inspire a custom-designed garden. Why not start by growing your own spaghetti sauce in a 4'x 4' theme garden?

A spaghetti-sauce garden will obviously have tomatoes, but it will also include onions and these herbs: oregano, basil, parsley. Grow garlic chives if you did not plant garlic last fall.

Plan a garden to include as many homegrown ingredients as possible. Kids are more likely to eat vegetables that they grow. You will have your favorite freshly made recipe and perhaps even enough produce to freeze or can a jar or two of salsa or spaghetti sauce.

You will need:

  • 2 determinant tomato plants
  • 1 sweet pepper
  • 1 Italian pepper (optional)
  • about 2 or 3 dozen onion sets
  • 1 or 2 starter plants each, oregano, parsley, basil
Choose coir or peat moss. Coir made from coconut shells is a readily renewable resource. Many growers prefer it over peat moss.

Choose coir or peat moss. Coir made from coconut shells is a readily renewable resource. Many growers prefer it over peat moss.

The Real Dirt

First things first. Work organic matter into the soil before you plant. Once your plants are in, don't want to disturb the roots. Prepare the soil before you plant.

→ Your garden soil needs increased water-holding capacity and good drainage.

→ Your tomato plants will withstand the spring's heavy rains and summer's drought.

What to add to your soil: use chopped leaves, wheat straw, shredded newspaper, grass clippings. Or, use leaves, straw, shredded newspaper, crushed eggshells. Used coffee grounds. (Some coffee shops giveaway used coffee grounds.)

And, buy bagged, composted animal manures, sharp sand or builders sand. Canadian sphagnum peat moss, or organic mulch.

Add organic materials now. Work these materials into the soil. You cannot add too much organic matter. Once the tomatoes are planted, disturb the soil as little as possible. Consider adding N, P or K by using blood meal (Nitrogen), bone meal (Phosphorus) and greensand (K potassium).

Keep in Mind: Most plants fail because we try too hard. We over fertilize and over water the vegetable patch. Apply fertilizers only as recommended. Too much fertilizer means big tomato plants, not more tomatoes.

Peppers and tomatoes

Big, juicy, thick walled bell peppers are tasty served green or let them ripen to red for a sweeter flavor.

Big, juicy, thick walled bell peppers are tasty served green or let them ripen to red for a sweeter flavor.

Pompeii tomato are meaty, paste-type tomatoes perfect for topping a pizza or making spaghetti sauce.

Pompeii tomato are meaty, paste-type tomatoes perfect for topping a pizza or making spaghetti sauce.

Variety Suggestions

2 Determinant Tomato Plants

Stupice (heirloom), Celebrity (hybrid). Determinant tomatoes are a good choice if you don't want to climb a ladder to pick the tomatoes off heavy, tall vines that don't stop growing until frost. For youngsters or seniors, determinant plants are much more manageable.

In a 4x4 garden, you have plenty of room for 2 or 3 full sized indeterminate tomatoes. Or, 2 full size, and 1 cherry tomato. Adding a cherry tomato will give you the earliest ripe tomato.

Plant Roma or paste type tomatoes if you will be making sauce. Planting three tomatoes will not crowd the plants and will decrease the possibility of disease. Serious pasta and pizza gardeners might choose three Roma tomato plants

1 Sweet Pepper and 1 Hot Pepper (Optional)

You have room for two pepper plants. One a sweet bell pepper, your color choice. The other pepper plant can be mildly spicy or hot, your choice.

Sweet bell peppers come in red, orange, yellow, purple and chocolate color, their taste is similar. All may be picked green with mild flavor getting slightly sweeter as it ripens to its full color.

Mildly hot peppers include Ancho or Pablano, Anaheim, California Mild, Corno di Toro Rosso, Cherry Bomb.

When it comes to parsley, curly or flat leaf is the gardener's choice. Most people can't tell the difference in a blind taste testing. Grow both and taste test for yourself.

When it comes to parsley, curly or flat leaf is the gardener's choice. Most people can't tell the difference in a blind taste testing. Grow both and taste test for yourself.

Fresh Herbs and Onions

Oregano, Parsley, and Basil: 2 Starter Plants Each

Buy starter plants. Sink 2 pots into the soil in two corners. Plant an oregano in each pot. Oregano is a perennial. You will be able to lift the plants and move to a permanent home.

Plant the two parsley pants in the other two corners. Sweet Curly or Italian flat leaf is your choice. In a blind taste test, there is no difference. This will give herbs the full sun that they need to thrive. You will have easy access to weed and harvest.

Imagine the 4 x 4 square is divided in quarters. Plant 1 tomato into each of 3 quarters. Plant the two pepper plants in the fourth quarter. Space plants so they will have maximum air circulation as they grow.

Plant the basil roughly between the tomato plants and a little closer to the edge. Basil and tomatoes are good companion plants. They will encourage each other to grow.

2 or 3 Dozen Onion Sets

Choose red, yellow or white onions. You have room enough to grow more onions (double) if you want to try a couple of varieties.

Finally, plant the onion sets about 3” from the edge of the garden and about 4” apart. Skip the spaces in front of the basil. You can plant onions closer, if you intend to pull or thin them to every other onion.

Mulch, mulch, mulch the entire 4 x 4 garden. Then apply more mulch later in the summer. Mulch keeps vegetables clean, prevents soil born plant disease, keeps the soil cooler, retains moisture.

Try Something New

Try something new. Either start from seed or buy starter plants. Put tomatoes in the garden when night temperatures stay in the mid-50 degree range.

Roma / paste

heirloom tomato

cherry tomato

Heinz Super Roma

Gold Medal

Sun Gold

Renee's Garden Pompeii

German Pink

Yellow Pear

Principe Borghese

Black Krim

Black Cherry

Add flower power

Nasturtium, "Cup of Sun" tumbles over the raised bed. Add color and attract pollinators by adding a bit of flower power in empty spaces.

Nasturtium, "Cup of Sun" tumbles over the raised bed. Add color and attract pollinators by adding a bit of flower power in empty spaces.

Grow More in the Same Space

Spaghetti Sauce

Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce Recipe (Originally published as "Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce" in Taste of Home)

  • Before you plant the spaghetti sauce garden, use the space for an early salad garden. Grow a variety of lettuces and radishes.
  • After your tomatoes and peppers are finished for the season, plant turnips, kale, chard. You have plenty of room some more salad greens and radishes.

Scallions

I am planting a double row of onions on two sides of the raised bed. By the time the tomatoes start getting big, you will have harvested at least half of the onions as scallions or green onions.

BONUS Color

Poke a couple nasturtium seed in empty spaces.

Plant 1 or two giant sunflower in the very center of the 4x4 square. They will sore above the tomato plants.

Extra Growing Space

The soil squares in the concrete blocks are filled with early spring lettuces and onions. All lettuces and small green onions will be harvested, leaving a single onion to grow to a 3-inch wide bulb.

The soil squares in the concrete blocks are filled with early spring lettuces and onions. All lettuces and small green onions will be harvested, leaving a single onion to grow to a 3-inch wide bulb.

Example Garden

  • Plant a pasta garden in a 4' x 4' raised bed
  • Peppers, "Corno di Toro Mix" or
  • Pepper, Italian Sweet, Organic, "Sunset Mix"
  • Choose one of these Italian peppers and plant two plants
  • Tomato, "Chianti Rose"
  • Tomato, Plum, "Italian Pompeii"
  • Fresh Herbs
  • Basil, Container, "Italian Cameo"
  • Parsley, Organic "Italian Large Leaf"
  • Oregano, "Italian Heirloom"

I am planting a spaghetti sauce garden using seed from Renee's Garden.

In the fall, after garden cleanup, work in organic matter and cover bed with grass clippings of shredded leaves. Then, consider planting a few garlic cloves.

Concrete Block Raised Bed

Plant an herb and leafy greens border in the small squares in the blocks. Take advantage of the small, squares for marigolds, calendula, nasturtiums.

Plant an herb and leafy greens border in the small squares in the blocks. Take advantage of the small, squares for marigolds, calendula, nasturtiums.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Patsy Bell Hobson

Comments

Patsy Bell Hobson (author) from zone 6a, SEMO on April 05, 2015:

wodawgs, "can I just till that matter right into my garden boxes and have it come out composted by spring?" Yes, if the matter is broken down or finely chopped it will quickly decompose when added to the soil. Another option is to dig a hole in you garden and bury you scraps, layering with a little soil in the hole as well. It will quickly decompose with the added benefit of putting the earthworms to work for you.

twodawgs on April 05, 2015:

I love the theme idea, it's a great way to plan growing space so that what you grow gets used efficiently. Efficiency aside, I'm just droolin' for some home-grown tomatoes.

Re: the growing mix... I've been experimenting with home-made compost from dead leaves, shredded paper bags and coffee filters, coffee grinds, and vegetable scraps. Instead of brewing them in a container indoors for the winter - which works okay, I haven't had any problems with bad odors - can I just till that matter right into my garden boxes and have it come out composted by spring? I did add some dead leaves to some of them last fall and they are fairly well consumed now.

Patsy Bell Hobson (author) from zone 6a, SEMO on March 08, 2014:

Thanks for stopping by.

Suzanne Sheffield from Mid-Atlantic on March 08, 2014:

Excellent idea for a Hub!

Patsy Bell Hobson (author) from zone 6a, SEMO on March 08, 2014:

You may need to make two trips to the garden center. These concrete blocks are very heavy. They may be too heavy to haul all at once.

Patsy Bell Hobson (author) from zone 6a, SEMO on March 07, 2014:

Robertr04, Jodah, and MarleneB, it is a happy day to have new readers. Thank you, Please ask if you have gardening questions. I appreciate you.

Patsy Bell Hobson (author) from zone 6a, SEMO on March 07, 2014:

MarleneB, another advantage is growing basil and tomatoes close by, it it will encourge us to harvest some basil every time we pick tomatoes. If you have any questions, please ask.

Patsy Bell Hobson (author) from zone 6a, SEMO on March 07, 2014:

Faith Reaper, and Jackie Lynnley I appreciate your kind words and attention. The best news I can imagine is hearing that someone is actually using my advice or tips. I love to share my love of gardening. Thank you.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on March 07, 2014:

Wow, I have never heard of such a garden! How clever and you have provided excellent instructions here. You know your stuff as to gardening. I am glad Jackie wrote about you or rather gave you a "Hug" or I may have not ever come across your wonderful hubs. Up and more and sharing. Blessings, Faith Reaper.

Robertr04 from Detroit,Mi. on March 07, 2014:

No wiser words could I have read today, "know where your food comes from and what's in it."

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 07, 2014:

What a great idea. Wonderful hub, putting all the ingredients for a spaghetti sauce in one garden. Very well set out and easy to follow. Thanks. Voted up.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on March 07, 2014:

This is excellent information. I'm just getting ready to start planting my garden. You have given me some excellent ideas. For instance, I didn't know that basil and tomatoes are companion plants and I am glad to learn that I should select determinant tomatoes. Last year, my tomato plant grew so large it almost took over the back yard. I didn't know what to do. Now I know. Thank you for such valuable gardening tips.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 07, 2014:

This is a great idea, I think I will do a couple of them! I can't wait to use your tomato planting tips. Wish I could pack in all your knowledge. I have a friend here, Faith Reaper, and we have decided to definitely make up some of your vinegars, they sound so good.