Overcrowding the garden

Hi group. NJ zone 6 here. For the past several years I have gotten greedy and end up planting my plants way too close together. The peppers in particular don't like this, end up tall with small peppers if any. The tomato patch was so crowded they could not get picked and spoiled.
This year I have vowed to reform. Now, how crowded is safe? I don't have a lot to work with. I have two 10 by 12 plots seperated by a 3 ft wooden walkway.
I plan to dedicate one entire side to tomatoes. How many and what configuration would you suggest? Any ideas for the peppers on the other plot plus other stuff like squash, peas, greens?
Thanks for your ideas.
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Part of your problem is the size of the plots. Thay are too large in order to reach the middles without tramping in the plot. First, think about laying a path, bisecting each in half, thus reducing each to approx. 4x12.

Part of the equation involves the condition of your soil. Soil that is is high in humus, worms, compost use, mulch, etc. can support a higher number of plants.
Another factor is the type of tomato and peppers. What kind of squash? You talkin' zukes, which are a kinda bush type or a vining type of squash, such as butternut, acorn, hubbard? Heirlooms or hybrid 'maters.
I'm not tryin' to be difficult here, but you, like I, am working with limited space and this requires a different approach to gardening, an approach that works both in small areas and is easily applied to large crop areas.
I would suggest John Jeavon's "How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine" as an excellant primer on growing in limited spaces. This book has everything you need to do what you want to do. In conjunction, of course, with the most excellant information you will receive in this group! ;-)
Here is an intro and there is plenty of info available online about his work. Seriously, this book is more than worth the price and contains more info than I can possibly give you in this forum.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/04/13/HO126062.DTL
You Can Do It ;-) Charlie
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Not a practitioner of the SFG method, just a gardener.
General observations: Location, location, location: taller crops need to get planted where they will not shade out the other plants - unless of course you can actually USE the shade, for say, greens during the heat of the season.
As already mentioned, and you noticed, access to the plant is important. I have 3 tomato plants (OP) planted right smack-dab next to each other - maybe 16inches?, but I can get to all sides of all 3. Peppers are on the south side where, today, they are protected from a ridiculous high wind by the wrapped tomoato cages. I have four peppers, about 12" apart. If they seem to be too close later I may pull every other one or try to TP.
Greens can get tucked in anywhere, so if you are pressed for space, it's a bit silly to reserve a row just for lettuce. Put between longer crops like cabbage or broccoli. Wide-row or SFG makes sense, it's how Nature does gardening in the big 'ol world.
I like the idea breaking up the space a bit. 4ft is about the widest you can reach across, so at a minimum, one additional walkway would be good. It doesn't have to be any wider than a footpath - just enough to stand in/walk on. Two paths would be ok - 3ft beds. The space you are giving up to footpaths is not "lost" because it's an investment in the health and care of your remaining crops.
Some varieties may not like being crowded more so than others, so maybe your spacing was OK for other varieties - but it sounds like maybe you need to increase by 25-35% esp. peppers. Last year I had planted mine (baby bell, banana, jalepeno) about 16 inches apart, and the plants themselves weren't giants but I got a decent crop of peppers!
Do some more research into wide rows and SFG, and good luck to you!
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Follow recommended spacing for peppers but remember, pepper plants like to hold hands (leaves of mature plants should just touch). This will also block sunlight to the ground, discouraging weeds. Investigate companion planting and you don't need to grow in rows, beds are more effective for preventing weeds.
I'll second Charlie's recommendation of John Jeavon's "How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine".
If you don't want to make new paths in your garden right away (4' wide plots mean that you only have to reach 2' to weed or harvest), you might use 2'X 2' stepping stones, to avoid compacting the gardens soil.
At recommended spacing for caged tomatoes, you could potentially grow 30 tomato plants. Do you need that many? Are you canning? A couple of cherry tomato plants would keep you in salad and a half dozen others for sandwiches.
Save some space to try something different.
Have fun:-)
--

Billy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KVTfcAyYGg&ref=patrick.net

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Every year, my garden is looking more hodge-podgey, stuff growing kinda wherever I can stick something in. I'd still like to have the space somewhere to try Bill's broadcast method. That sounds way easy.

The *only* problem I have with the biointensive method, as espoused by Jeavons and others, is the double diggy thingie. That is just too damned much work. I think doing the lasagna thing and loosening the soil in reverse, by building *up* is much easier, though it will take a bit longer. Len, in Oz, has a great idea for doing this. Check this out, if you haven't.
http://www.lensgarden.com.au/straw_bale_garden.htm

Good idea.

Charlie
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Even in lasagna gardening, I think the idea is to dig the first year to jump start the organic soil and after than you just stack mulch and other PLANT FOOD (PO4, NH4, K, compost tea, ect.) on, rotate the crops, and try to grow cover crops, and let Ma Nature take her head.

--

Billy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KVTfcAyYGg&ref=patrick.net

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wrote:
[...]

[...]
How do you make a wooden walkway? Straight question.
Persephone
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On Sun, 11 May 2008 23:51:49 -0700, Persephone wrote:

Whilst we are waiting for Billy to lumber in, I'll tell ya' how I have done it. Poor old Billy is either back in harness, or about to be saddled up and ridden hard, I fear. ;-)
Two or three landscape timbers, depending upon the thickness and strength and length of your walk boards, laid parallel and leveled.
Simply deck screw your walk planks across them. Back before I knew better, I used treated lumber. I've also used rough cut 5/4 cypress, thus the three runners for support. Depending upon availabilty, redwood should work also. Kinda like a narrow deck laying flush with the ground. I dig in the runners so that the walkway is near to the ground.
Isn't new treated lumber done differently now? I'm not using it any longer so I haven't kept up.
I suppose one could also use the newfangled plastic decking for your walkway.
HTH and that I was clear Charlie
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I use stepping stones. My growing areas are pretty accessible but in the couple of situations when I've had to enter the garden plots I use what ever scrap wood that I have. Fortunately, because of on going work on my garage, I have some 1"X 12"X 4' siding available. The main thing is to spread the weight over a large area to reduce compaction, rather than just the smaller area of your shoe. Like Charlie said, avoid treated lumber, past and present, and that plasticized deck wood looks particularly inviting. Thing I like about the stepping stones is that I grow clover between them to fertilize the plots. I'm on a terraced hillside so my plots are half raised;-o)
--

Billy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KVTfcAyYGg&ref=patrick.net

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It seems that is a postive thing, in that one needn't bend over so far.
Charlie
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Unfortunately not. The path is the same level as the bed, except for my lettuce patch.
--

Billy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KVTfcAyYGg&ref=patrick.net

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