Being Neat And Tidy Not Always Good In The Vegetable Patch
How many times have you seen pictures of vegetable gardens with nice neat rows almost as if they were planted using a ruler? Have you ever visited someones vegetable garden leaving with a sense of envy or jealousy after having seen all those plants organized into neat little rows all spaced so proper? Well it is true there seems to be something about a well organized garden that gets a gardener excited about it’s appearance. Looks can be deceiving though. What may appear to be a great looking garden layout that will produce an abundant crop and make good use of garden space may not be.
The idea and notion of having straight rows of plants with plenty of spacing in between them is not so much a cultural issue as it is an aesthetics issue in the home vegetable garden. In fact in the home garden this type of planting plan is usually not only a waste of valuable garden space but requires a much higher degree of maintenance. The idea of straight rows and plant spacing has it’s (no pun intended) roots in commercial farming. The spacing of plantings in farm fields is so that equipment such as tractors and cultivators can work in the fields with out destroying the plants. In the home garden where almost all the work is accomplished with hand tools the planting scheme can be much different.
To have a truly productive home vegetable garden the goal is to grow as much produce in as small a space as possible with as little maintenance as possible. This is probably a completely foreign concept for most gardeners that have grown up with the string and stake method and have for years been perfecting the layout of those perfectly spaced neat rows. Okay now stop and think for a minute about what is going on in between those plants. There is a large amount of bare dirt not growing anything it is like a blank space meant to be a break in between plants.
This is where you need to give up some of your old habits and keep an open mind. Instead of planting in rows why not cluster your plants in beds. The goal should be to plant as many plants per square foot as possible. The leaves can touch each other and in fact this will help grow better plants with less maintenance. You need to forget about what the seed packages say about spacing plants 6 inches apart. Truth be known 4 inches will save on watering because the soil between the plants is better shaded and will not dry out as quick. Another thing is the closer together you plant your vegetables the less space there is for water and food stealing weeds to take hold and grow.
Take a cue from nature it’s self, when have you ever walked through a prairie or a field of flowers and seen all the flowers lined up in straight rows with perfect spacing in between? That is what I thought, never because that it not how plants normally grow. You will find clusters of plants together in groups, and they are doing well and are able to reproduce and return each year without a problem. Just think of how many more beans you could harvest if you had an extra plant in between every two plants.
Glenn Bronner is a professional grounds keeper with over 40 years of experience in gardening and the horticulture industry. Come join him as he tends the Urban Garden and The Woodland Garden and shares gardening tips and knowledge at his site.
Glenns Garden http://glenns-garden.com