Do Your Vegetables Have Enough Space to Grow? Soil Depth and Seed Spacing

| 2/26/2018 9:37:00 AM

Over time, gardeners realize their plants are very similar to people. They need to be fed, cared for, protected, and given space to grow. Plants need ‘personal space’ so they aren’t fighting for nutrients and can stretch out as far and deep as they need. If crowded or in a shallow garden bed, then they won’t grow to full potential…or grow at all.

Each plant has unique spacing and depth requirements, which may sound daunting to new gardeners. Fortunately, online spacing charts, certain planting styles – like square foot gardening, and a general rule of raised garden bed depth, makes growing simple.

Square Foot Gardening & Garden Area Sizing

Traditional row-style gardening isn’t space effective for a typical backyard garden. The purpose of a row is to allow for ease of navigation between plants (e.g. walking); this walking row then of course can not be utilized for growing. Square foot gardening, on the other hand, maximizes space utilization, easily segments your plants and more efficiently utilizes water and nutrients in the garden when coupled with a grid irrigation systemBasically, with square foot gardening you plant by area instead of rows.

 grid irrigation system

Separating a gardening space into roughly square foot sections, gardeners then place the appropriate amount of plants within each square based just on the seed spacing needs (not the row spacing needs). This method, explained in greater detail in the spacing chart link at the end of this paragraph, allows for higher density of growth when compared to rows. However! A pivotal component of this planting method is the dimensions of your garden area/garden bed. To utilize square foot gardening to its best potential, your garden should always have a dimension of 4 feet or less (e.g. 4x12, 4x8, U Shaped with 4 ft ends, etc.) this sizing then allows you to reach the middle of your garden area from one side or another, without needing to walk into it (hence, why we don’t need rows!). Professionals have created square foot garden spacing charts like this one, The Comprehensive Plant Spacing Chart, so anyone can grow a diverse, healthy garden and plant with ease.

How Deep Your Soil Needs to Be

Depending on the vegetables you want to grow, you will need anywhere between 8 and 36 inches of usable soil depth. If you are using a raised garden bed, then use one that is at least 8 inches tall. That way plants can still grow even if it’s placed on concrete. However, garden beds need to be taller or placed on top of earth if you want to plant anything that needs more than 8 inches of soil. Seasoned gardeners will advise the you double-dig the soil beneath your raised bed as well, to ensure loose soil. Roots don’t like packed dirt, so digging two feet into the ground and loosing the soil guarantees roots can grow through.

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