Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do I do intensive gardening?

Wide-row planting, square foot gardening and raised beds are all good methods to produce more in a small area. These methods can be used individually or combined.

Wide-row planting reduces pathways and is done by planting seeds in a band, not a single row. The width of the band can vary between 4 inches to about 3 feet. Make the bed narrow enough to allow you access to the center of the bed from each side. Prepare the seed bed as you would for a traditional row planting. Scatter the seed over your marked bed and cover according to seeding directions. If you do not want to thin the seedlings, put one or two seeds in holes spaced evenly in all directions. Quick growing crops such as radishes, spinach and lettuce do best in wide row planting because they quickly form a leaf canopy to shade out weeds. Onions and carrots do not do as well.

For square foot gardening, mark off squares of ground for crops instead of planting them in rows. A common arrangement is to mark off an area 4 foot by 4 foot squares. Then divide this area into four equal parts, two foot by two foot. Plant a different crop within each 2 foot square block. The seed or plant count per acre is usually higher than row planting so you increase production per unit area.

Raised beds can also save you space. They have the added advantage of improving soil drainage, allowing for earlier spring planting and offer gardening access to those who are unable to garden at ground level. Wide-row planting and square foot techniques work very well in raised beds. You can also plant crops in rows closer together because you need not walk or take equipment through the rows. By eliminating this wasted space, you can boost production in small spaces.

For raised bed gardening, elevate the planting surface to a predetermined height. This can be done in several ways. The easiest is to mound up soil about 6 inches and allow the sides to gently slope to the ground. This is a non-permanent bed. As the season progresses the bed "shrinks" as the rain erodes and compacts the soil. Beds need to be rebuilt each year. A more permanent method is to use boards, railroad ties, layered rocks, cinder blocks, or other strong materials. Prepare the soil beneath the bed before you put side structures on the ground.

A good bed size is 10 feet long and 3 or 4 feet wide. For all raised beds, the width should allow you access to the center without having to walk in the bed. Height can vary from 6 inches to 3 feet depending on your needs. High beds need sturdy construction and can be costly. Use a good soil mixture in your raised bed such as one part peat moss, compost or other organic material, two parts topsoil, and one part perlite or expanded clay.

Do not use treated lumber. Instead plastic wood is a good rot-resistant choice.