How Intensive do you plant your beds?

azbookwormMarch 16, 2011

Hey! I just put in some raised beds. Am considering planting lettuce type plants between my tomatoes. The tomatoes are approximately 18 inches apart. Very young plants.

Do you plant other crops? Fill in the gaps so to speak?

It just seems like a it isn't as efficient of the soil otherwise?!


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I agree with you, and sorta follow the square foot gardening rule. I plant tall stuff in the middle and fill in around the edges with shorter stuff. You have to fertilize VERY regularly and give plenty of water. I also mulch with alfalfa hay because it shades the soil and feeds it nitrogen as you water it and as it breaks down.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 1:55PM
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agility_mom(z9 AZ)

I plant things about like you do when it comes to things like tomatoes and other bigger plants and then fill in with smaller stuff. The whole idea is to use good soil and have things close together to choke out weeds and make the most efficient use of your space.
Mel Bartholomew's book "Square Foot Gardening" is a good reference.
Also, I would not use alfalfa hay. I made that mistake years ago in my garden and was rewarded with mass quantities of weeds. I have horses and can tell you that it's not just alfalfa in those bales.
If you want to use an alfalfa product, use alfalfa meal. I used this on the recommendation of the American Rose Society and it worked wonderfully for an organic soil amendment with no weeds.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 11:13AM
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mangledmind(AZ 9B)


we square foot garden in our raised beds ... fill in spaces with shorter and companion types ... fertilize according to plant needs and here in the HEAT of summer WATER very often ...

there are some great SqFt garden layouts out there using themes; taco garden, italian garden, salad garden, pizza garden etc ...

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 11:23AM
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It all depends on how good/deep/rich your soil is. In my winter garden, I plant extremely close together and have great results. In my summer garden, I use semi-intensive spacing but I rarely interplant for a few reasons:

Uniformity in trellising - I plant 40 tomatoes, 30 eggplants etc and use the Florida Weave method. It's impractical to have different sized plants all over the place that I'd have to stake or trellis individually.

Crowding out - in a couple months my tomatoes will be 6 ft tall and 2 or more feet wide...which would completely block out the sun for smaller plants and more importantly, would make it impossible to reach the other plants for harvest. Same with squash and looks like there's all this wasted space when you first plant the seeds or transplants, but in a couple months they've completely taken over and will engulf anything in their path.

Rotating crops - I like to be able to keep note of my garden layout so that the next season I can rotate my crops as best I can. Lots of interplanting makes it a little more difficult.

Watering/fertilizing - Garlic and beans are the main concern here. I like to have my garlic all in one bed because when harvest is approaching and I have to shut off the water, I'm not affecting any other plants that would require a ton of water. Beans, if inoculated, don't require nitrogen fertilizer...if you intersperse them with a heavy feeder, you can end up with beautiful foliage, but very little beans.

Also, just an might be a little late to start lettuce. You will have a hard time keeping it from bolting in the extreme heat and that which you do harvest will be quite bitter. However, I remember someone on this forum having success with summer lettuce so it might be worth a try!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 2:35PM
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mangledmind(AZ 9B)


Burpee's Lettuce, Heatwave Blend ;)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 6:09PM
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Point taken about alfalfa hay for an in the ground bed. However, the hay seems to keep the soil cooler than alfalfa meal or pellets, and I dont have any trouble pulling out the very few weeds in my raised beds. Quality hay helps.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 9:17AM
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agility_mom(z9 AZ)

I agree with you that it makes the soil cooler. In fact my grandma used straw as a mulch around her 1 acre strawberry patch and it worked great w/o the weeds. The only thing that I didn't like is that snakes used to hide under the straw :)
I mentioned using the meal as a fertilizer and not really a mulch.
To keep the soil cooler, I use composted mulch. Weeds are a bane to me. I have a yard that is 1 1/4 acres so any way that I can cut down on those buggers, I go for it ;)
Manglemind, thanks for the lettuce tip. I'll try it so that I can extend my season.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 1:00PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

I agree with agility_mom re: the mulch, I use straw instead of alfalfa. Same good, inexpensive mulch without the seed heads.

My gardening technique is not too regimented, I simply sow seeds, wait, pick and eat. But I'm not space starved either. I have more beds than I can handle at the moment and do try a bit of companion planting, especially for pest control. And I rotate crops in the beds, this year the garlic got its own bed for the reason stated above.

My raised beds are finishing up with beets and lettuce (thanks from me too on the HeatWave lettuce), some carrots, a few peas left. Just put in a few toms, planted bush beans, some more radish.

I'm always so surprised at how tiny little seeds/plants grow into huge plants, shading smaller stuff underneath.

Just sow and grow!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 2:50PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

The USA Weekend insert in today's [Sunday] paper has an article on planting a kitchen garden. This section might be of interest in this thread:

A Place for Every Plant - Determining the ideal spot is as important as what variety you choose. To avoid unwanted shade, position tall plants like corn on the north side of the garden. Also put fast growers like lettuce in and around just planted crops that take longer, like tomatoes. Once the tomatoes fill in, the lettuce will have been eaten. [that's the part I thought speaks to azbookworm's original question].

And then there's the "companion planting", or strategically placing certain crops next to each other because they rely on (and deplete)different nutrients.

Broccoli requires a lot of calcium to grow healthy, beets don't need as much so these two plants work well together. A great resource for determining companions is Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louse Riotte. [I've had this book for at least 30 years!!]

Hope this was helpful.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 12:14PM
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