How to Space Your Plants To Make Your Garden As Productive As Possible

Keeping up with traditional gardening every seed packet comes with 2 measurements, the spacing between plants and the spacing between rows. If you were to follow the packet's instructions and space your plants our accordingly, you'd end up with rows of vegetables and big gaps in between your rows. But wait a second, doesn't having 2 feet of vacant space between rows of leaf lettuce seem like a huge waste? Leaf lettuce only needs 6 inches of space between plants. Why not plant more lettuce in those rows? In those 2 feet of empty space, you could grow another 4 rows of leaf lettuce. Unless you've got more land than you know what to do with, it seems like a good idea to use your garden beds as efficiently as possible. Seriously, why do seed packets even suggest rows?

To utilize your available gardening space as wisely as possible, you should be doing something along the lines of square foot gardening. Square foot gardening is a method, as the name suggests, where you divide your garden beds into units of square feet. This makes it very easy to design and plan a garden bed. Grids can be set up using sticks or you can use a ruler.

You can even take the ideas of square foot gardening and instead use plant diameters. This is essentially square foot gardening, but using circles. Instead of planting in linear formations, you plant in hexagonal, off-set rows - much like how cookies are aligned on a baking sheet. This can be done with a simple triangular tool with equal sides cut from scrap wood or laying out properly spaced chicken wire over the bed. Planting in this way will squeeze the plants just a little closer together.

There are other benefits besides making the space as productive as possible. Plants growing close together will hinder weed growth. With other plants nearby, their leaves will touch; the blanket of leaves will cover the soil, reducing moisture evaporation and creating a micro-climate.

To calculate plant spacings for yourself use only the distance given for spacing between plants. Ignore row spacings entirely.

Some examples based on square feet:

3" between plants = 4 plants x 4 plants - 16 plants per square


4" between plants = 3 plants x 3 plants - 9 plants per square


6" between plants = 2 plants x 2 plants - 4 plants per square


12" between plants = 1 plant per square


3" between plants with trellis = 8 per square


24" between plants with trellis =  1 plant per 2 squares


24" between plants with cage = 1 plant per 4 squares

18" between plants = 4 plants sharing 9 squares


How many plants per square foot, because sometimes packets can be unclear on their measurements:
Artichoke - needs 48" not a good idea for small spaces
Asparagus - need 12"
Basil - 4
Beans, bush - 9
Beans, pole - 8
Beets - 9
Broccoli - 18" 4 per 9 squares
Brussels sprouts -18"  4 per 9 squares
Carrots - 16
Cabbage - 18" 4 per 9 squares
Cantaloupe - 24" 2 with trellis
Cauliflower - 18" 4 per 9 squares
Celery - 1
Chives - 9
Cilantro - 9
Collard Greens - 1
Corn - 3
Cucumbers - 2
Dill - 1
Eggplant - 1
Garlic - 4 or 9
Kale - 1
Leeks - 4 or 9
Lettuce, leaf - 4
Lettuce, head - 1
Mustard Greens - 16
Okra - 1
Onions - 4 or 9
Onions, green - 16
Parsley - 1
Parsnips - 16
Peas - 8
Peppers - 1
Potatoes - 1
Pumpkins - 24" 2 with trellis
Radishes - 16
Rhubarb - 36" not a good idea for small spaces
Rosemary - 1
Rutabagas - 4
Spinach - 9
Summer Squash - 24" 4 with a cage
Sweet Potatoes - 1
Swiss Chard - 4
Tomatoes - 1 with stakes, 4 with cage, 9 with no support
Turnips - 9
Watermelon - 24" 2 with trellis
Winter Squash - 24" 2 with trellis
Zucchini - 24" 4 with cage

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