How many, how close?

We usually make sure to have all our seedlings or plant cells ready to plant the day before or right on Mother’s Day. By then I have already prepared the garden, and laid out a tentative plan of where every veggie is going to grow.


I don’t know if it happens to everyone else, but we usually end up with more seedlings and cells than we should put in our garden. I guess I get excited about trying a new type of pepper, or figure that we are going to need at least 4 plants of each variety of tomato, and of course you can never have too much zucchini or lettuce!!

early planting

I know it may not be good practice, but I have always managed to squeeze all plants in the space available. After all they are so small, and  the directions on the packs of seeds and the tags on the cells are too conservative…

This year, however, I resisted the urge of growing every tomato variety available, and stuck to only cherry tomatoes. My rationale was that since we always cut tomatoes to bite size, I would be saving lots of time by growing them only to that size. I also figured that since they are so small, I should make sure I had enough plants to get us through the season, so I bought 4X4 cell packs. I planted them on 2 double rows separated by a row  of zucchini, and an extra row of zucchini to the right of the last double row of tomatoes. The spacing between each tomato plant on the double rows was whatever distance allowed me to place a tomato cage around each plant as I was running out of room.

early plant detail

Early in June all plants were well established and growing nicely, at that time our concentration was on the lettuce which was growing very fast.

beg june 1

beg june

By end of June, we had already started to tie back some unruly tomato branches, some were as tall as me. We started to see the tomatoes forming on the vines. The zucchini was in full production, it was then that it downed on me… how were we going to get to the fruit?

end of june

By trying to maximize the use of the space we had prepared, I had not only crowded the plants, but had made it practically impossible to harvest them. In fact the first bowl of tomatoes that I collected, I ended up all scratched from crawling next to the zucchini plants.

when tomato started

It was not until two days ago, that the tomatoes started ripening in quantity, today alone we collected over 2 quarts. Luckily, I had noticed that the zucchini plants were not producing any more female flowers, so yesterday I decided to remove them, which gave me room again to get closer to the ripening tomatoes. I will leave these rows empty for a while.

ripe tomato

hand tomato

over two quart

I have put all these photos together in  sequence to remind us a few of the few lessons we learned this year: 1) We probably need 3-6 tomato plants at most. 2) Plants do need room to grow, and we need the room to work around them. 3) Big scratchy plants like zucchini should be planted on a border row for easier access, and should not be near plants that get harvested daily.

Have you ever over planted your garden? Do you have any suggestions on planting distances and location to make garden chores easier?

6 thoughts on “How many, how close?

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