Intensive planting means that plants are spaced as closely as possible in triangular patterns covering an entire bed. When the plants are mature, their leaves should barely touch each other. Such spacing encourages improved growth, conserves moisture and greatly helps to control weeds.
Make sure that the spacing you plan are based on the true needs of your plants. Think of a plants most basic needs; water, minerals and organic matter in your soil, carbon dioxide and sunlight in the air.
The roots of the plant can range deeper and farther than the leaves and branches can spread in the air. And the roots can intermingle freely as they snake through the soil. The minute root hairs have an astounding number of soil pores to penetrate and particles to cover in their search for nutrients and water. The leaves, by comparison, are much more limited in their spread and freedom to overlap without competition. If a leaf thoroughly shades a neighbors, it takes up the vital sunlight.
As you decide on plant spacings for your garden beds, think of each plants place in the plan as a circle, described by the spread of its leaves near maturity. If adjacent plants begin shading each other early in the season, neither will develop fully or fruit heavily. Large, vigorous plants can totally dominate small neighbors. If, on the other hand, plants are spaced so widely that the leaves never overlap, space won\’t be used to full potential. Where the sun can strike bare ground, water will evaporate rapidly and needlessly. Weeds will sprout. The leaves of neighboring plants should start touching each other right around the onset of harvest, shading the soil with a living mulch. Working with these relationships is the first step toward successful companion planting.
Intensive gardening does not mean that numerous plants can be crammed into a bed simply because the ground has been worked deeply and is well enriched. No matter what resources are available to the roots when the tops crowd each other, the stems will become spindly as the plants stretch for more sun. Yields will drop. Garden soils should be so rich and well watered that competition for sunlight is what determines optimum spacings.
In every garden, plants with vastly different characteristics must be mixed. When each type of vegetable gets its own row you still have very different plants side by side in adjacent rows. In a bed-style garden, the mix can get more complex. Rarely can an entire bed be devoted to only one vegetable? You\’d be swamped with a single food. With raised-bed gardening, the safest plan is to keep the mixing simple.
- The best spacing is an equal distance in all directions between plants of one kind.
- Your planting plan should get the entire surface of the ground shaded by leaves as early in the season as possible.
- Whenever possible, restrict each bed to one vegetable. Keeping like plants with like is the simplest way to prevent overcrowding by more vigorous varieties.
- Avoid pairing plants with big differences in time to maturity. For example, a bed partially devoted to early broccoli should be filled out only with other early vegetables, like onions, peas, cauliflower, lettuce or spinach.
- When you must mix vegetables, mix plants of similar growth habit and growing season.
- If you must mix unlike plants, always put the taller, more vigorous ones where their shade won\’t inhibit smaller plants.
As you begin to work with these techniques, stick to the basics and make your initial experiments small. Good combinations will occur to you later as you work among the plants. Most important, \”observe\” each plant type so that you learn well what its ideal mature size is. When you get a feel for that, you can give them the room they need to thrive.