One of the things that you don’t see talked about much is the variables involved in determining how much distance you need between your vegetable plants.
I think it’s a safe bet to say that seed packs give spacing based on what’s done (or necessary) in conventional gardening.
Things are Different When We Work With Nature
Those of us who work with nature have a few more things to consider before we make that final decision.
While it’s true that plants need space to grow, they might not need as much space as you think under the right conditions.
If you prepared your beds when you first started as I recommend — the soil has been properly loosened to a depth of about 2 feet and the soil life has been provided with compost or other organic materials to feed on, — your garden can easily thrive with intensive (closer) planting.
Deeply prepared soil allows roots to go down rather than having to spread out to the side where neighboring plants reside.
The Last Two Sentences in the Next Paragraph Are Key
And the great news is — deep preparation need only be done once: when you establish your permanent beds. Soil compaction won’t be an issue anymore since you’ll walk on the permanent pathways rather than the beds. And covering the soil will prevent compaction from rain and keep the soil workable.
The result is not only space saving, but time saving.
Take tomatoes for example. The general recommendation for indeterminate tomatoes is 3 to 4 feet apart. I plant them about 1 to 1 1/2 feet apart.
Soil Not Quite Ready for Intensive Planting?
If you think your soil is not quite ready to support close planting, but almost, laying down a layer of compost over the bed before you plant might help. But it does not replace deep preparation, feeding the soil with additional organic materials, and keeping the soil covered.
The Small and The Big; The Stronger and The Weaker
Keep in mind as you experiment with intensive planting that some seedlings will be smaller than others and end up not growing as large. If you’ve started enough seed you can just plant the biggest and strongest. If not, go ahead and plant them all if you want, but just keep in mind that there’s always the stronger and the weaker. That’s the seed, not your soil.
If you already have the 3 keys working in your garden, you might want to give closer planting a try.
Pictorial Examples from my May garden:
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