Garden arrangements and light

I practice intensive, raised-bed gardening and I extend my seasons on both ends. That means that I try to get a lot of plants in every square foot of my raised beds and that I am constantly swapping old plants (fully grown) out and new plants (small and developing) in. Furthermore, my garden beds are concentrated into one section of my yard and are separated by about 2 feet. They are oriented roughly east-west along their length. Because everything is so close together, one of my biggest challenges is light.

The light challenges divide into two categories … where to put things that grow tall so that they don’t shade out other things nearby (northern edges of the garden are prime spots) and how to give late planted things light when their long growing neighbors want to flop over them. Some examples are warranted.

Tomatoes are a problem since I prefer varieties that are indeterminate.  I grow my tomatoes in the back (northern side) of my beds on wooden trellises. They love it and grow to 8′ or more … so tall that they wind up shading my fig just when the fig is trying to ripen its fruit. Or, the tomatoes flop over the top and start to overhang the eggplants in front of them in the same bed.  I grow snow peas and pole beans where there is nothing to shade.  The bigger problem is with smaller crops … greens of all types in competition with nearby root crops for example.  Fall carrot tops get mighty tall and shade out nearby starting lettuces. Parsnips are even grosser in follage and flop over their neighbors as do leeks and even beet tops.

I think this is why most large scale gardeners and market gardeners plant in space wasting wide rows … lots of access to light. But every year I try to learn from my mistakes and rethink my arrangements. Next year, for example, I will plant Speckled Roman tomatoes in front of the fig since they do not grow nearly as tall and their foliage is much thinner than the “Little Shop of Horrors” Brandywines that are in that place now. And, I will plant my parsnips in the same end bed that I plant my snow peas.

Photos may follow later.

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