@onlyyoudear asked: Hi! I was just hoping to get your
advice on some raised bed gardening. In the past I’ve done just traditional
gardens, but this year am building four 4'x8’ raised beds to hopefully have a
more plentiful harvest. I’ve seen everywhere that people say you can plant
things closer together in raised beds, but no one says HOW much closer together
you can plant things. Do you have any recommendations on this? For instance how
close do you think you could plant two indeterminate tomato plants? Thanks so
much! Hope your planting adventures get to begin soon!!
Okay, so this is probably going to wind
up being rather lengthy, and I apologize for that. But I have several different suggestions for
planting, and you’ll have to test them out to see what works best for you.
If you’re looking to follow “the rules”
of garden spacing, I highly recommend looking into square foot gardening. I’ve found that SF Gardeners follow the
playbook pretty closely and swear by it.
They have everything covered from plant spacing to soil mixes for the
ultimate growing experience. In other
words, someone did their homework. I’d
done some reading into it myself after several gardeners convinced me that it
was “The Way”. And in some aspects, it
was. If you’re working with smaller
spaces and want to really cram as much as you can in there, by all means, give
it a go. In my experience, SFG showed me
just how closely you can place certain plants (for example, I’d always given
peppers more room than they needed and wound up with a lot of wasted space),
but for others I felt like it was just too cramped. Also, if you like clean lines, neat rows, and
order in your garden, this might be the plan for you. I planted a garden two years ago that did not stray from the rules and didn’t care for it overall, so now I use the
spacing rules loosely, and focus more on crop rotation and companion planting
as my methods of choice.
You’d asked about indeterminate tomatoes. SFG will have you allow 2 square feet per
plant, which sounds completely asinine, and frankly, it is. Unless you’re going to prune your plants back
to force them to stay within this space, it’s just not enough room. I wound up with a huge mess, more fruit loss
than I care to admit, and so much unnecessary work when it came time to take
the garden down in the fall. That’s not
to say that SFG failed me, but rather, my pruning theories didn’t match what is
required for this type of gardening. With
tomatoes, I feel like you can never give them enough space, but I guess that
all depends on how you prune. Do you
remove suckers? Do you allow the plants
to just take over all willy nilly like?
I start off with good intentions and prune in the beginning, but once
those plants start taking off and producing fruit, I tend to leave them alone,
adding support as the plants get bigger.
I fertilize with egg shells, ground dried banana peel, Epsom salts, and
a large fish head in the planting hole.
This sends the plant into overdrive, making for massive, towering
monsters like I’d never seen before, and more fruit than I knew what to do with. Last year, I had two indeterminate plants in
a 4 x 8 bed (okay per SFG rules), and not only did they start growing into one
another, but they heaved soil out of the raised bed and began crawling across
my mulch path. This year I’ll plant one
tomato plant in that 4 x 8 bed, and maybe pop some basil in there, hoping for
So I guess what I’m getting at
is that you can follow the rules that someone else set up, but there are so
many variables in each gardener’s space and style that will determine the
success or failure of those methods. I’d mentioned companion planting
earlier on, and I really think this is more important than anything else. You’re looking to plant certain things
together, or keep certain plants apart based on their ability to attract or
repel insects, prevent disease, etc. I
find that I can ignore the SFG spacing rules on, say, basil planting, and kind
of cram them into a space that is shared with tomatoes. I’ve never had a problem with overcrowding,
and aside from the random hornworm invading the space, the basil keeps a lot of
other bugs and critters away. I am
guilty of breaking SFG rules and popping lots of flowers into the provided
growing space of my veggie garden in the hopes that they will attract
pollinators, and have never had a problem with that either. You could also take into consideration the
Native American “Three Sisters” method of pairing, say, beans, corn, and squash
planted closely together. The corn acts
as the trellis, allowing the beans to climb up its stalk, and the squash grows
beneath them, shading the ground and keeping weeds in check. This is a traditional method that is proven
to be effective. It’s all trial and error, and you have to
figure out what works best for you in your space.
So my short answer is this: give tomatoes and brassicas as much space as
you can afford (or be strict with pruning to keep their size in check), never crowd root veggies, but
allow yourself to take liberties with plants like peppers, herbs and climbers
(like cukes, beans, peas). I am guilty
of cramming a lot of these things into my growing space, and aside from the few
extra minutes I have to give up to ensure that everyone gets watered and weeded sufficiently, the only downside I’ve encountered is difficulty when harvesting. Densely planted plants hide fruit! Also remember that you can maximize spacing
by growing up via vertical trellising or plant in a triangular pattern instead
of squares, which allows you to put at least one more plant in any given space.I really hope this helps! If any other gardeners want to chime in, I’d
love to hear your input!
Do you like organic gardening? Then you’ll appreciate this colorful and super helpful chart. It’s all about companion planting, an easy and effective permaculture technique that will help your vegetable garden flourish. The idea is that certain plants grow especially well together (and repel pests). Try it! You’ll probably become a convert to companion planting, like me.
This brilliant info-graphic gives some great tips to start growing vegetables. You might want to check about the months for planting listed for your zone, but the rest of the tips are relevant no matter where you live!
10 Things this Vegetable Growing Cheat Sheet will show you
When to plant
How far apart to plant seeds
What needs propagating
What needs to be in a greenhouse
What size pot to plant in
Distance to thin seedlings out to
Germination & maturation times
Which pests to look out for
What veg works best together
When to harvest!
Growing your own food instills a true sense of the value of food, and it’s not difficult. Large yards with plenty of sun can grow enough vegetables and herbs to significantly supplement your household needs, and even small homes and apartments can have herb pots.