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A Garden to Dream of

Consider your space as you plan your vegetable garden

For the best harvest, plan before you plant. Crowded plants that have to compete for light do not produce a good crop and often have disease and insect problems. Here’s how I plant my garden to give each plant the best chance.
    Sweet corn should be planted in blocks, not single rows. Four to five short rows of sweet corn sown six to eight inches apart in two-foot-wide rows will produce higher quality ears due to better pollination.
    Such crops as carrots, beets, salsify and parsnips can be planted in double rows 10 inches to a foot apart to maximize yields. Planting peas in double rows with a fence between the rows will result in increased yields.
    Dedicate a single row to snap beans, but limit each planting to no more than 10 feet in length and make three to four plantings three to four feet apart to provide a continuous bean harvest through most of the summer. If space is limited, try growing pole beans, especially Gita, at the north border of the garden to avoid shading other crops. Gita will produce quality beans all summer long even during hot and dry periods.
    Plant onions in a narrow bed of four to five plants widely spaced four apart. To facilitate planting and guarantee each plant proper spacing, build a dibble board with three-quarter-inch dowels spaced four inches apart. Press the dibble board into the loose soil, drop the seedlings into each hole and water with a heavy stream of water to back-fill the soil around the holes.
    Plant tomato plants no closer than three feet apart in 36-inch-wide rows. To conserve space, I stake tomatoes and cage my pepper plants, which are planted two feet apart.
    Plant squash, melons and cucumbers in hills spaced six to eight feet apart. Each hill is arranged so four plants surround a five-gallon bucket with four 3/8-inch-diameter holes in the bottom. The bucket is filled with compost. When the vines start to spread, add two heaping tablespoons of calcium nitrate to each bucket. Fill the buckets with water  to irrigate and fertilize the plants in one effort.
    As soon as the peas have finished producing, replace them with okra plants started in three-inch pots. After the onions and potatoes are harvested in August, plant their area in cabbage, kale, collards, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kohlrabi and cauliflower.
    Replace snap beans with fall plantings of carrots, beets, turnips and rutabaga.
    One more word of advice: Repeating the same crop in the same location often increases soil-borne diseases. If your garden is too small to rotate your plantings, amend your soil with a one- to two-inch layer of compost just before planting. The beneficial microbes in compost help reduce soil-disease problems.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.