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High Yield Gardening: Plant spacing

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jkehl
Rome, GA
(Zone 7b)

January 19, 2007
2:03 AM

Post #3098561

So I have been reading a lot of books on growing vegetables... They all give a distance of how far apart you can put the plants and how far the rows should be apart. Then I read some books on 'square foot' and 'intensive' gardening that say you can put the plants much closer together.Does this mean that I can generally ignore the 'how far the rows should be apart' and only use the 'how far the plants should be apart'?

I know traditionally rows were 2-3' apart so that a tractor could drive between the rows for cultivation or spraying but don't the plants also need a certain spacing just to get the light in to them? I especially wonder about this for tall plants. Like tomatoes for instance are planted 1' apart in rows but if the plants were actually 1' apart in all directions it doesn't seem like the plants would get enough light let alone me getting in there to pick tomatoes. And yet growing up in Indiana I saw corn always planted like 8-10" apart in all directions and it did fine...

I'm also confused on shorter plants like onions (grown to full size dried onions). The seed packet says 3-4" apart in rows 12" apart. If you just plant them 3" apart in all directions do they grow to full size?

This message was edited Jan 18, 2007 10:06 PM
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

January 19, 2007
2:53 AM

Post #3098732

jkehl, the plant spacing will depend not just on the type of veggie but also on your method of growing.

Field crops, usually planted in rows, will go by one set of "rules" while raised bed crops can go by another set. (Raised beds will more often than not have deeper and often amended soil and plants can be staggered in a zigzag pattern to allow proper plant spacing; this is also allowable because those beds are often worked by hand as opposed to field crops, which are often worked with machinery (and machinery doesn't understand "zig zag" yet!) :>)

The "square foot" method has been shown to work for some folks, for some plants, in certain soils, and the spacing is variable. Personally, I can't see planting a tomato plant in a one foot area unless you are of the mindset that stakes and religiously prunes it to only one trunk. As far as planting tomatoes in a row and only allowing 1 ft between each plant is too close also (even if you prune it); and yes, you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the plants not getting enough light when planted that close. They also wouldn't get the needed air flow around them and that would make them susceptible to molds/mildews and other problems caused by lack of air flow.

As for corn, when planted 8-10 or 12 inches apart in the row, it can easily handle it as long as the ground is fertile enough to support those heavy feeders and as long as there is enough room between the rows to allow the pollen to fall onto the corn silks.

Shoe.

Oh yeh, as for onions, again, growing them 3 inches apart in all directions will work in good rich soil. Personally, I set them out 2 inches apart then as they grow I pull every other one for green onions/table onions and that leave the ones left behind a spacing of 4 inches to grow in thereby letting them grow to full size bulb onions. Ah yessss...it's the best of both worlds! (I gotta have those onions greens as much as I like the bulbs)
drivenbonkers
Perth,, ON
(Zone 5a)

January 19, 2007
1:51 PM

Post #3099645

jkehl I used the 'square foot' method of gardening for the first time this past summer, and for me, it's the only way I will veggie garden.

With a couple of exceptions, the method worked GREAT!

I found that once I had the 'blocks' and paths laid out, the care was minimal. I had a great number of lettuces planted, and they grew to fill in the block, and kept the weeds down.

Onions,.radishes, carrots and beets were planted 16 seeds per 1ft block. I never had good results with these seeds using the traditional 'row' method. (Soil sandy/poor) With the block method, I am only amending the block area, not the paths. By walking only on the paths, the soil in the blocks remain light and fluffy!

I ate lunch EVERY day from the garden last summer...

The water usage is better conserved too, sprinkle a 1ft block and all the plants are watered within the block, where in a row, you need a considerable quantity of water.

For next year, the tomatoes (tall, large indeterminate) will be on their own block, along the front of the greenhouse, leaving the rest of the garden for the other veggies, best suited for the square foot method.

jkehl
Rome, GA
(Zone 7b)

January 19, 2007
8:35 PM

Post #3100960

Thanks for the replies. This is all starting to make more sense. I have a tractor but am mostly using it to make raised beds and I'm planning on handling the planting/weed control all by hand since I'm only working about 1/2 an acre. The beds are 5' wide because that's how wide my tractor is. Do you think that if I put 3 rows 2' apart with 1' between plants in the row that they would have enough room?

I'm going to use a determinate type for the bed. I have space on a fence I'm going to plant some inderminates in.
drivenbonkers
Perth,, ON
(Zone 5a)

January 20, 2007
1:30 PM

Post #3102936

jkehl: there's no harm in trying! For me, gardening is a learning experience. Each year is different (weather, weeds etc)and each year I try something different. (seeds, or different method)

It does depend on what you are growing in the 5'wide beds, if you plan to mulch, your irrigation system, soil quality etc. Are you growing for personal use? or a farm gate garden? How much time do you have to care for the garden? There's so many questions/answers that drives this gardening stuff, lol.

The book about square foot method does not list potatoes, yet I had a couple of blocks in potatoes (3 rows in each 4x4' block) THIS summer, I plan on at least 6 blocks in potatoes, lol. the planting of the second crop of spuds in early July failed, :(

The book also suggests physically marking the blocks, I just eyeballed them... Just take different ideas and use what works for you and your garden.

I put 6 strawberry plants in one 4x4 block with the honeywort, and this summer should have more than enough strawberry plants to have a decent strawberry dessert, with several dozen plants to populate another couple of blocks! I have several pots of rasberries (had to move them last spring) that I may plant in another 4x4 block...

For the first time, this year my carrots, beets and onions actually grew to the proper size! Swiss chard was a first timer in this year's garden and WILL be invited back again next year. The beans and peas toppled the trellises...

I also had several blocks in flowers (zinnias, asters, nastursums, marigolds, honeywort) only because there was no room in the other flower beds, lol.

From what I have learned, the row spacing evolved because of commercial farming...

I think there's nothing more beautiful than several kinds of lettuce in all their glory in a 4x4foot block...

Happy Gardening!
jkehl
Rome, GA
(Zone 7b)

January 20, 2007
8:28 PM

Post #3104047

Hi Driven,

Thanks for the info. I'm creating these beds to sell vegetables at the local farmers market. On some smaller beds I have, I have used some of the square foot techniques/spacing and they are working well for me. I just get confused sometimes applying it to larger beds. With tomatoes for instance, I have a 6' fence about 130' long that I am going to grow tomatoes on. Well square foot gardening says to space them 1' apart along the fence. So I'm planning 130 plants. I think this will work well for me.

But then, I was also going to plant a 5'x90' bed with tomatoes and just using the same, 1 plant per 1 square foot I came up with 450 plants and figured that couldn't possibly work. What I was forgetting I think is that they say to do vine crops only on the north side of a bed. So I've been trying to figure out exactly how many tomatoe plants I should put in the bed. Where I'm at now is 135, 3 rows 2 feet across with the plants 2' apart in the rows. They're a determinant type tomato so hopefully won't get too big.

The other vegetable that was confusing me was Onions that I want to grow to full size. I planted 100 with the SFG spacing of 3" apart with 16 per square foot but they just look too close together to me so I planted the rest I had 4" apart in rows 6" apart.

But as you say, I'll just have to try some things and see how it works out. This is my first year doing this an I'm learning alot. And I agree with you, the experimenting part is half the fun :)
drivenbonkers
Perth,, ON
(Zone 5a)

January 21, 2007
12:42 PM

Post #3105713

jkehl,

this year I planted 2 indeterminate tomatoe plants (yellow pear) in one 4x4 block, and they took off and crushed the metal trellis and took over the entire block! So, for this year the plan for this year is to put them along the greenhouse, at 2' intervals.

I've been interested in the heirloom tomatoes, and will continue the experiment this summer.

But it is SO tempting to plop those small transplants shoulder to shoulder, lol!
1gardengram
Fayetteville, NC
(Zone 8a)

January 28, 2007
5:19 AM

Post #3130287

Just my two cents worth: When I was living in Hawaii, I found that the Japanese and Filipino families planted their veggies very close together and their gardens were stunning. I asked and was told that you plant everything close together (as you said if they can be 6" in one direction, they can be 6" in every direction, or whatever distance). It's almost like the square foot gardening in a way. They thin unmercifully and eat what they are thinning. Baby leaves taste great and there is more room for the rest of the plants to get bigger, which they then keep thinning. There is little weeding to do and watering is much easier and more economical. I started gardening that way and could not believe the fantastic results. I also had access to wonderful fish parts that I buried along the rows, which was the only fertilizer I ever needed.

Maybe try some of your veggies with one system and some with another system until you find what works best for you in your climate and your own smaller microclimates, your time to work outside, etc. Whatever you do, I hope that you have a wonderful crop!!
jkehl
Rome, GA
(Zone 7b)

January 28, 2007
4:03 PM

Post #3131245

Thank for for the info gardengram. I find that I'm learning more every day. There are so many varibales to take into account that it gets a bit mind-boggling sometimes. Like for instance I have had good luck this fall/winter spacing plants close together in raised beds. But the plants are all smallish plants like lettuce, carrots and broccoli. It's a whole different ball game when I start planning things like tomatoes and melons for this spring.

Also, you mentioned planting fish with your gardens. The raised beds I'm using are a combination of topsoil I had trucked in along with the remanants of the forest floor after I got done clearing the trees from the area. So they're very rich in nutrients. The larger beds where I'm planning on putting the tomatoes are in what was for 25 years someones cleared backyard and just had grass and weeds on it. I've amended it with composted chicken litter but it still is porbably no where near as rich as the smaller beds so it probably won't support a dense planting of vegetables right away.

Jeff
1gardengram
Fayetteville, NC
(Zone 8a)

January 28, 2007
5:38 PM

Post #3131621

Jeff,
You have done a lot of planning and are being careful about what you put where. I don't think you are going to have any problems growing pretty much anything you want to. I would love to see pictures as you progress. Have a great time with it all.
Diane
flowers_for_u
derby
United Kingdom

March 29, 2010
7:18 AM

Post #7663968

Informative read :)
LiseP
San Antonio, TX
(Zone 8b)

March 3, 2011
7:08 AM

Post #8404186

Hmmm, I have a box of frozen fish that has been in the freezer too long. I never thought about putting it in the garden. Any advice about that? Size of pieces, depth to bury, time it takes to decompose, or how to avoid attracting every cat in the neighborhood? Thanks!
yehudith
silver spring, MD
(Zone 7a)

March 3, 2011
7:30 AM

Post #8404242

I did the square foot method for tomatoes and winter squash. It definetly works! I also had okra, kale, chard, beans etc and they all worked great. Everything the rabbits didn't get that is.

Yehudith
drivenbonkers
Perth,, ON
(Zone 5a)

March 4, 2011
5:34 AM

Post #8406009

re: the fish, years ago, when we were kids, Dad used to take us sucker fishing in the early spring.

Usually a fun one day outing, tromping around in the creek, getting wet, and spearing large fish.

We'd drag home a bushel basket of fish, and Mom would hack them up into chunks, and bury them in/around her peony beds.

She had the most BEAUTIFUL peonies. Blooms the size of soup bowls!

As long as the fish bits are buried deep enough (Mom put hers about 6" deep IIRC)
there's no odour.

paracelsus
Elmira, NY
(Zone 6a)

March 4, 2011
6:11 AM

Post #8406091

jkehl, for years I grew indeterminate tomatoes in four foot wide beds with two feet square to each tomato plant. I used a trellis made of bamboo and jute twine that ran the length of the row. The main stalk of each tomato was wound around the twine hanging from the bamboo supports. I did prune some suckers, but not all. I used a top-dressing of composted manure for fert. It worked very, very well. Nowadays I don't use animal ferts and I don't grow so many tomatoes--just can't eat that many anymore. But I would still use the same plant spacing.
LiseP
San Antonio, TX
(Zone 8b)

March 4, 2011
10:39 AM

Post #8406643

Thanks for the fish info. I may try it!
cocoa_lulu
Grand Saline, TX
(Zone 7b)

March 4, 2011
5:08 PM

Post #8407176

I was just telling others today that I was going to make all my own fertilizer this year. And how hard it would be, because I miss fish emulsion so much. Brilliant, we fish, I can make my own!
podster
Deep East Texas, TX
(Zone 8a)

March 6, 2011
5:07 AM

Post #8409632

Regarding fish, my FIL always buried the remains of the cleaned catch of the day in his garden (like row composting) and it produced an excellent crop. In the past, we have placed the fish remains at the bottom of the hole the tomato plants are planted in with an inch or two of soil between the fish and the plant.

I am interested in the closer plant spacing but wonder if things should be mixed rather than planted closely together? It would be quite difficult to monitor a tangle of tomato vines for hornworms. I can just imagine those hornworms rubbing their hands together and thinking they had found heaven! LOL
Jeffanderson21
Minneapolis, MN

April 12, 2011
3:49 PM

Post #8490985

hello im wondering how far apart rows of vegetables should be? Im planting corn, tomatos, pumpkins, green beans, cucumbers, and strawberries. I know that the pumpkins need to be seperate and in a hill of 3. But I do not know how far apart i should put my rows. I am a beginner gardener this is my first year. I am putting a garden in right next to my garage and the garden will wrap around the back half of my garage. so it will be 13ft wide by 32ft long.. so the garden will be shaped like a 7, I have the top left part just for the pumpkins. I know 13ft isnt that wide but thats what I am goign to start out with. what would be the best way of planting, I could go with the garage North to south, or I could away from the garage West To east. Any Suggestions??? oh and the strawberries willl be grown vertically along the side of the garage, kinda as a decorative touch.
Jeffanderson21
Minneapolis, MN

April 12, 2011
3:51 PM

Post #8490991

hello im wondering how far apart rows of vegetables should be? Im planting corn, tomatos, pumpkins, green beans, cucumbers, and strawberries. I know that the pumpkins need to be seperate and in a hill of 3. But I do not know how far apart i should put my rows. I am a beginner gardener this is my first year. I am putting a garden in right next to my garage and the garden will wrap around the back half of my garage. so it will be 13ft wide by 32ft long.. so the garden will be shaped like a 7, I have the top left part just for the pumpkins. I know 13ft isnt that wide but thats what I am goign to start out with. what would be the best way of planting, I could go with the garage North to south, or I could away from the garage West To east. Any Suggestions??? oh and the strawberries willl be grown vertically along the side of the garage, kinda as a decorative touch.

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

April 13, 2011
7:03 AM

Post #8492425

If it were me, I would make each row approximately 2ft wide, with approximately a 2ft path between each row - just wide enough to walk down the row.

A North to South orientation would be best. Set the tallest plants on the North row so they will not shade the other plants.

Pumpkins take up a lot of space, unless you really like to eat a lot of them, I would opt to purchase rather than grow them.

greenhouse_gal

greenhouse_gal
Southern NJ
United States
(Zone 7a)

April 25, 2011
3:51 AM

Post #8518864

I set my garden up using Eliot Coleman's spacing suggestions. My rows are 30" wide with 18" wood chip paths between them. He recommended 12" paths but for us that was too narrow. Then I have a 30" wide wooden landscape rake that I fit with two or three movable extensions so that when I pull it along the row it marks my furrows for me - either three or two per row. It makes planting in neat rows much easier. For larger plants like tomatoes I place them in tripods, with the legs 18" apart. My orientation is roughly north to south, too...
mraider3
Helena, MT

April 25, 2011
4:05 AM

Post #8518874

greenhouse_gal...At the end of the growing season do you till in the wood chips? I have a source of wood chip fines which is virtually unlimited and I like the idea of mulching between the rows. One drawback is according to tapla is that decomposing woods chips take up nitrogen and this might be especially true of the fines. I will be adding lots of aged cow manure in the fall after the growing season has ended and the garden has been cleared. I do a complete tilling after adding the manure and once again in the spring before planting out. So I guess my concern is whether the wood chip fines would be a hindrance in the long run.

greenhouse_gal

greenhouse_gal
Southern NJ
United States
(Zone 7a)

April 25, 2011
4:55 AM

Post #8518927

We put down landscape cloth on our paths, and put the woodchips on top. We refurbish the woodchips each year. Of course by now enough soil has migrated that we do get weeds in our woodchips, but I keep after them and it still gives us a good surface for walking without compacting the garden soil, and helps us see where our rows are. Here's an old photo of the garden in early spring.

Thumbnail by greenhouse_gal
Click the image for an enlarged view.

mraider3
Helena, MT

April 26, 2011
3:44 AM

Post #8520942

I think I understand what you’re saying. Rows stay in place. My garden is completely tilled each fall after all refuse is removed. Rows never stay the same due to crop rotation and such. Anything I would put down as mulch would have to be removed or tilled into the soil along with the well aged cow manure/straw which is liberally applied each fall.

greenhouse_gal

greenhouse_gal
Southern NJ
United States
(Zone 7a)

April 26, 2011
11:01 AM

Post #8521762

Yes, my rows stay in place. I rotate in blocks, planting in the same rows I used in previous years but with different crops on a three or four year rotation.

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