Gardening Blunder #1

February 11, 2006

This is the first post in a series about common gardening problems that focuses on mistakes that vegetable gardeners make without even recognizing that there is a problem. The series was originally published as part of my minicourse entitled Gardening Blunders.

Gardening Blunder: Planting the Garden in Rows

One blunder that many gardeners make is to arrange their plants in nice, orderly rows that are bordered by empty space or pathways. The common practice of planting in rows has been adopted from commercial agriculture where it’s required in order to allow large pieces of farm machinery to plant, cultivate, and harvest the crops.

The assumption we make is that what’s good for professional growers must also be the best practice for the home gardener. In reality nothing could be further from the truth. The heavy equipment that’s a necessity when farming hundreds of acres isn’t a factor in the backyard garden, and there’s no need to space your plants as if you intended to drive a tractor through them.

Instead you can plant in a fashion that will enhance plant vigor, suppress weed growth, and increase productivity. Simply modifying your plant spacing can effectively double or triple the amount of area available for vegetable growing. This will allow you to plant a smaller garden, or grow more produce in the same amount of space that you currently cultivate.

There’s nothing magical about planting your garden in rows. In the case of the home garden, planting in this manner results in reduced vegetable harvests and forces you to spend more time and labor tending to the garden. Not to mention the wasted water, fertilizer, and soil amendments that are applied to bare ground that isn’t used to grow vegetables.

The Raised Bed Garden Solution

A better option is to use wide row or raised bed growing techniques. Whether you’re growing vegetables, herbs, or even a flower garden, raised beds provide many advantages and in the long run will save you time and effort, and make your gardening easier.

Best of all, raised beds are more attractive in the landscape and capable of producing many more fruits and vegetables per square foot than growing vegetables in the conventional row format.

It may take a little getting used to, but once you try raised beds you’ll be surprised by how well your plants perform. Soil compaction will be a thing of the past and you’ll enjoy easy access to your entire garden regardless of the weather conditions. Each season the depth and texture of your soil will improve allowing for better plant growth.

In the next gardening blunder we’ll take a look at what’s really bugging the garden, and discover the surprising truth about whether insects are responsible for destroying your precious garden plants and vegetable produce.

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

  • becky

    Hi Kenny: I’m thrilled to have stumbled on to your site. I’m a beginner gardener, and am soaking up everything you’ve written. Thank you! Can’t wait to read more.

  • Kenny Point

    Becky, you are very welcome. Thank you for visiting and for the kind comments. If there is ever anything that I can do to help you with your garden don’t hesitate for a second to contact me.

  • Caroline

    Just wondering if you have any how-tos on planting raised beds? I don’t really even know what this would look like or how to do it. I am a very beginner and haven’t yet begun our gardening project. We live in Texas and it is warmer earlier here. I have 2 little boys and thought gardening would be a good recreational hobby for them to start to learn with me. I have absolutely no experience but want to learn. Thanks for your site. Hope to get lots more tips as I read things. I’m also wondering if you could recommend some resources or books for knowing how and when to plant what. We’d like to grow veggies and pumpkins but don’t know when to plant what, etc.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Caroline, there are photos of raised beds throughout this site. The following link is to a post with a picture of an empty raised bed. I post tips about creating and using raised beds regularly and also include detailed information in my gardening ebook. You can also find lots of raised bed information by doing a Google search. I think your sons will love gardening and that there are many valuable lessons for them to learn through growing a garden. Look up your local Cooperative Extension Service or the Master Gardener program to obtain a planting timetable for your area. Good Luck, and let me know how the garden grows.

  • I use raised beds for almost all veggies and herbs that we farm. You may build wooden frames for a more finsihed look. However, to keep it green and simple, I just start building up the ground adding compost, etc.

    The tip I add is to build up a dirt border about 6″ above the top of the bed. You’ll have to increase the size of the bed a little because you’ll have 12″ or so additional area after building up a wall/border.

    Why? This type of bed is great for catching and holding rain water. No run off! You catch 100% of the rainfall. You can also flood the beds if needed. This is an dry area technique, but helps reduce watering requirements and time in any area.

    I put heavy straw mulch(don’t use hay) on the beds, once the seedlings are tall and strong enough, and never have to weed during the season. This also reduces watering requirements, too.

  • Pingback: Are All those New Vegetable Gardeners Throwing in their Trowel? — Veggie Gardening Tips()

  • I guess I kind of just followed in Dad’s steps. He always grew our veggie garden in rows, just the fields of crops he planted for our farm animals.

    It seemed right to have rows. I have been reading a bit about square foot gardening and really thought plants would over shadow other plants because they were so close together. It’s great to learn other methods and to have content that helps me understand it better.

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