Reduced Spacing

Several systems are designed to increase the number of vegetable plants grown and the produce harvested during a single season in a given area. These systems increase yields without increasing the area to be fertilized, irrigated or weeded. Some of them also increase the length of the harvest season. We have discussed succession planting previously, and now will look at intercropping, double cropping, multiple rows and planting in raised beds.

Intercropping is growing more than one crop in a single area at the same time. Fast-growing and slow-growing vegetables may be planted together, either by alternating rows or by alternating plants within the row. The fast-growing vegetable matures and is removed before the slow-growing vegetable needs the space. For example, radishes and tomatoes, or onions and peppers may be planted in alternate rows, closer together than usual, since the onions and radishes can be harvested in time to provide space for the tomatoes and peppers.

Pole beans are often intercropped with corn in Tennessee. The bean yield is reduced, but two crops are produced in the space usually required for corn alone. Another example of intercropping is planting lettuce, radishes or onions early in the spring and setting caged tomatoes or vine crops between the rows in late April or May. The spring crops will soon be harvested, making room for the tomatoes or vine crops to grow. With intercropping, the control of insects, diseases and weeds is more difficult. Many intercropping combinations are difficult to apply in commercial production.

2' t Onions set March 1, harvested June 20

2' T Tomatoes set May 10

2' t Lettuce planted March 15, harvested by June 1

2' T Tomatoes set May 10

Figure 19. Intercropping of onions, lettuce and tomatoes.

Double-cropping is growing one crop and harvesting it, before planting and growing a second crop in the same spot the same year. By grouping cool-season and warm-season vegetables, you can grow spring and summer crops or spring and fall crops in the same space.

It may be possible to grow a cool season-vegetable, a warm-season vegetable and then another cool-season vegetable in the same garden area in a single year. Two rapidly maturing warm-season vegetables such as green beans or summer squash, may also follow each other in a single year.

Two or more rows of vegetables planted very close together are often called multiple rows. Vegetables are usually grown in long narrow rows with wide spacings between them. However, it is possible to increase production of some vegetables by planting two or more rows close together (double or multiple rows) or by broadcasting seed in a bed.

Vegetables suitable for multiple row or bed plantings are listed in Table 7, while the minimum spacings are contained in Table 8.

Begin by marking off multiple rows or beds. Beds may be any width as long as you can reach the center. Four feet is an often-selected width for raised beds. Leave aisles for walking between the beds or multiple rows. (See Figure 20). Beds or rows may be raised in home gardens if desired. Raised beds may be useful in poorly drained areas, because they will dry out earlier in the spring for planting and be easier to work. A small garden composed of raised beds can be extremely productive, attractive and may be edged with bricks, railroad ties, landscape timbers or other materials. Permanently raised beds, however, are very difficult to work with rototillers and other powered equipment.

Space the plants far enough apart so they will not be crowded, but close enough so they will occupy all available space when they mature. Recommended spacings for multiple rows of vegetables are given in Table 6.

Shade from mature vegetable plants reduces weed growth and evaporation from the soil surface. Because more vegetables are growing in less space, you must maintain a high fertility level and supply moisture during periods of drought. Be sure to fertilize beds as recommended by in your soil test, and apply nitrogen sidedressings as recommended in Table 4.

More information on building and using raised beds may be obtained from Extension SP291-N, "Raised Bed Gardening."

1'

3" bed turnips broadcast

2' walkway

4 rows carrots

4" apart

2' walkway

4 rows onions

6" apart

1'

Figure 20. Beds and multiple rows allow greater vegetable production in less space.

Raised Beds
Figure 21. Raised beds dry out early in spring. They may be both attractive and productive.

Protective Devices

The most commonly used plant protectors formerly available to home gardeners were buckets and old blankets. These still work, of course, but protective devices have evolved considerably. Plants can be covered not only to prevent damage during cold weather, but to modify climates and extend growing seasons.

One-gallon milkjugs are cheap, readily available and highly useful. Simply cut out the bottoms, take off the caps and push the remainder of the jug 1 inch into the soil directly over the small plants. The plants will be protected from cold winds and freezing temperatures, and will grow faster. Protection from cutworms will be an additional benefit. Remove the milkjugs when the weather moderates. Your reward will be greater and earlier production.

The jugs can be pinned to the ground with a long wire hairpin if necessary. The bottoms of the jugs can be used as small platforms to support cantaloupe, pumpkins and winter squash off the ground.

You can protect groups of plants by modifying the climate under an entire row or even several rows. Spun-bonded or floating row covers, for example, are placed loosely over one or more rows of young plants. They lie directly on the plants and are lifted as the plants grow. Floating row covers raise the temperature considerably during the day and offer two or three degrees of frost protection at night. This results in more rapid plant growth and early harvests.

It is important to apply these covers loosely so they can be lifted as the plants grow. Remove them from plants requiring pollination when they flower so insects can reach the flowers. The protection of young plants from insects is an important secondary effect of spun-bonded row covers. Try these covers on cabbage and broccoli where protection from insects is important, and over watermelon and cantaloupe, which respond well to increased heat units. Be sure to use them on weed-free soils or only on small areas, as they will have to be removed to control weeds.

There are also various kinds of small plastic tunnels used to protect plants. They consist of plastic strips 5 or 6 feet wide. The plastic may be clear or translucent with numerous slits or holes down the sides, or it may be solid.

The plastic is supported by 6-foot lengths of #10 wire bent into a hoop shape and inserted over the row at 6- to 10-foot intervals. The edge of the plastic must be well covered with soil to prevent its removal by wind.

Install plastic row covers immediately after planting or transplanting. Much of their benefit comes from increased soil temperature, which requires time to achieve. They are often used with black plastic mulch, which assists in weed control.

Row covers provide two or three degrees of frost protection and a considerable increase in heat units. They can shorten the cantaloupe growing season as much as two weeks and increase both early and total yield.

Table 7. Vegetables Suited to Multiple Row or Bed Planting

Double row only

Multiple row or bed

beans, bush

beets

beans, pole

carrots

collards

chard, Swiss

corn, sweet

lettuce

kale

mustard

peas, English

onions

pepper

radishes

spinach

turnips

Table 8. Recommended Spacings for Vegetables Planted in Double or Multiple Rows

Inches

Inches

Vegetable

between rows

between plants

beans, bush

10 to 12

3 to 4

beans, pole on wire

8

3 to 6

beets

6

2 to 3

carrots

4

2 to 3

chard, Swiss

8

6 to 8

collards

12

12

corn, sweet

12

8

kale

6

6

lettuce, head

12

12 to 15

lettuce, leaf

6

6

mustard

6

6

onions

4

3

peas, English

6

3

pepper

10 to 12

12

radishes

4

1 to 3

spinach

6

3 to 4

turnip, greens

4

2 to 3

turnip, roots

6

3

Like floating row covers, slitted row covers reduce insect infestation. They must also be removed from plants requiring pollination when they flower and from crops that cannot withstand extreme summer temperatures. The wires and perhaps even the plastic may be re-used. Row covers are very conducive to high-yielding small gardens, but difficult to use with some other cultural devices, such as plant supports.

Figure 22. Spunbonded row covers can protect entire rows of plants.

Wire hoop #10 galvanized wire 64 inches long center height:14 to 16 inches 5 feet between hoops

Slits in polyethylene for ventilation 5 inches long 3/4 inch apart

Slits in polyethylene for ventilation 5 inches long 3/4 inch apart

Soil covering edge of cover

Black polyethylene mulch

Buried edge of polyethylene mulch

Wire hoop buried 6 inches in soil

Figure 23. Slitted row cover.

Black polyethylene mulch

Soil covering edge of cover

Buried edge of polyethylene mulch

Wire hoop buried 6 inches in soil

Figure 23. Slitted row cover.

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Responses

  • bonifacio manna
    How tn use Grovida on seed beds?
    4 years ago

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