Hello, I am new to the forum and my wife and I planted our first vegetable garden this season. We have a space that is about 35 x 6 where we have planted a variety of vegetables. Neither of us has any idea about gardening, so we just jumped in feet first and are learning as we go. This is our first house, so we are getting a crash course in gardening both edible and non-edible plants.
Now that our vegetable plants are coming up, (exciting!!), I know the next step is to thin them out. The problem is, I am not sure how much thinning is necessary, or exactly when to do it. I was hoping someone with some experience could offer some advice. Here is a list of what we have planted, and what we are seeing so far.
For the root vegetables, I know I need a couple inches between each plant to get good sized vegetables. I read a good rule of thumb for roots is what size you want the plants to grow to, plus an inch. Is this a good rule? I have radishes, green onions, carrots, and yellow onions all growing in rows. Any thoughts or special tips on thinning these?
Below are the other plants I have. I know I do not necessarily have the recommended amount of space for each plant. Our goal was variety over quantity. I do want to thin enough to make sure I get some production out of the plants though. Any advice you can offer on thinning (when, how much, etc) would be greatly appreciated.
Watermelon, 3 mounds spaced about 18 inches apart. Each mound has about 3-5 sprouts.
Cantaloupe, 3 mounds spaced about 18 inches apart. Each mound has about 3-5 sprouts.
Zucchini and Yellow squash, 3 mounds spaced about 18 inches apart. Each mound has 1-3 plants.
Broccoli, 4 mounds about 8 inches apart. Each mound has several seedlings
Assorted hot peppers, about 12 inches apart. each mound has several seedlings
Assorted tomatoes, about 12 inches apart. Each mound has several seedlings
Green Beans, about 8 inches apart, each mound has several seedlings
You may can get by with 2-3 plants on the watermelon and cantaloupes. Since they are 18 inches apart, I would go with 2. I would thin them, let's say, when they are 4 inches. Pick the best looking ones and pull up the smaller/less healthy plants. Sometimes this is difficult though because each plant looks about the same. I must say that I plant my watermelons and cantaloupes about a hoe handle apart. They love to run and can run a long ways.
The squash and zucchini plants, in my experience, are ok with the spacing. I would thin them to 1 plant every 18 inches.
Peppers can stand to be crowded a little. One plant every 12 inches should be good.
I have my tomatoes a yard apart but know many folks that plant them a lot closer and they do very well. I space mine because I want them to be able to 'breath' better than touching other plants. By spacing them apart and allowing them to 'breath,' it supposed to cut down on some foliar diseases. However, determinate plants can be planted closer together than indeterminates.
I have never planted green beans in mounds but 8 inches per plant is fine in a row.
I have limited experience with the other vegetables that you mentioned so I won't comment on them.
You may have some difficulty with some of your plants due to summertime heat. Some things, like radishes, beets, broccoli, and onion bulbs are early spring vegetables. Most because they do best in cooler weather. The bulbing onions need to be planted early because they take quite a while to develop. If you plant onion seeds, you actually need to start them in the fall or winter (inside). If you planted onion bulbs (sets) or plants then you may have time to get bulbs, but they may be small.
You should thin your tomatoes and peppers to one or two seedlings per hill. Even then, 12-inch spacing is very close for tomatoes. It should actually be fine for the pepper plants. Thin the green beans to one or two per mound as well.
You may have trouble with the zucchini, yellow squash, melons, and cantaloupe crowding other plants around them. For the melons & cantaloupe you can save space by training them up some sort of trellis. It has to be sturdy, though, to support a melon. You will also need to make some sort of sling to support the developing fruit-- some people make a sort of hammock with panty-hose. I would definitely thin all these to only one plant per hill.
There is a methodology that many here use called "Square Foot Gardening". It is geared toward making the best use of limited space and more intensive growing techniques to produce garden vegetables. There is a Square Foot Gardening website (it has lots for sale) that includes a "foundation" with general information about the technique. Here's a link to the start of the intro: http://www.squarefootgardening.org/?page_id=1607
There is also a "High-yield Gardening" Forum under the paid subscription area that has lots of information on square foot gardening and small beds. There are general gardening and specialty forums for many things you might encounter. I paid for a two-month subscription for you to access the member areas-- since you are a brand new gardener I would like for you to have the best chance to ask questions and succeed. If you like the member forums, then you can renew your subscription.
Good luck with the garden! Once you start picking your own produce, you get hooked and keep wanting to grow more.
Broccs and cauliflowers are cool/cold winter veggies. They're not phased down to temps of about 42°, and can take a few hours of a light freeze. But, any sustained freezes and they need covering up. I've planted them as close as 12" together and they did fine.
On the root veggies, you DEFINITELY will need to thin out the carrots, at least 2-3" apart. Otherwise, you'll not get the full growth you want -- they'll be thin and spindly.
On the bulbing onions, you can let them grow as they are for now, then begin thinning as they get crowded, pulling every other one as necessary to create 4" space between them. Use the thinnings as green onions. Your full-size bulbing onions will take at least 6-8 months to mature, so I hope you don't need that space anytime soon!
P.S. When thinning, it is best to snip off the tops of the thinnings, rather than pull them out. You risk disturbing the roots of their neighbors when you pull them...Use a sharp, CLEAN pair of snips (very handy little tool), or some sharp scissors.