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Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers

Our Review of 6 of the Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers Available

lawn-mower

IF YOUR HOUSE HAS ANY lawn around it all, one of the most important tools you can have in your garden shed, is a good lawn mower. If you are like me, you are probably old enough to remember the old “push” mower whose blades only turned as fast as you pushed the mower. Talk about making for long hot and sweaty summer days. Today, most of us are turning to Lawn self-propelled lawn mowers that take most of the hard work out of keeping our lawns under control.

The Basics

For this section, I am going to assume that you know that a self-propelled lawn mower uses a transmission or belt to connect the drive wheels to the engine. This makes it possible for you to simply walk behind the mower controlling the direction of travel without having to push the mower along. To engage the transmission, most self-propelled lawn mowers have a lever on the handle that you squeeze. Then the mower will move forward slowly under its own power.

Front-Wheel or Rear-Wheel Drive

lawn-mower-wheel

This is a big question for those who are buying a self-propelled lawn mower for the first time. If you are blessed with a nice flat yard, a front-wheel drive mower might be your best choice. But, if you have a yard with lots of ups and downs and lots of corners to navigate, you might find a front-wheel drive model harder to handle. Rear wheel drive mowers are a better choice as they tend to be easier to maneuver. Also note, that if you plan on bagging your trimmings, a Image courtesy Gardenlines rear-wheel drive makes a better option as the added weight is on the back wheels, adding more traction without affecting your ability to maneuver the mower around your yard.

Wheel Size

lawn-mower-wheel-sizeImage courtesy of Amazon

When it comes to wheels, you may have already noticed that mowers come with all sizes of wheel. Big ones, little one, and some in between. Those with smaller wheels are ideal for yards that are nice and flat. But if you have a yard with lots of bumps and uneven ground, you should consider buying a mower with larger wheels, they will make it much easier for you to maneuver around your yard.

Wheel Adjustment

lawn-wheel-adjustment

At the same time, you might want to consider how the wheel height adjustment is made. Some models use a lever at each wheel, others use a single lever that adjusts all four wheels at the same time. If you don't plan to make too many height adjustments, the style of adjuster may not matter. But on the other hand, if you have to constantly change heights as you mow your property, you may find the single-lever style makes a better choice.

Type of Blade

lawn-mower-bladeImage courtesy of Amazon

Today there are three different styles of cutting blade available for self-propelled lawn mowers. These are mowing, mulching, and bagging. Few mowers come with a straight mowing blade today as consumers tend to be more interested in combination blades. The best blades are those that combine all three features into a single blade. The mowers equipped with these blades have a bag on the back with a closeable flap and a removable plug on the side that a discharge chute can be attached to. If you leave the flap down and the plug in place, you have a mulching mower. If you have never used one before, you may find you fall in love with a mulching mower as it makes clean up a breeze and provides your lawn with much needed nutrition.

Power Source

Gone are the days of noisy two-stroke engines, mixing oil and gas, and endless stinky polluting exhaust fumes. Today's self-propelled lawn mowers come with your choice of four-stroke gasoline engines or cordless electric motors. While gasoline powered models may more powerful and a better choice for those with large lawns, smaller cordless models have their own uses. Today, you may find you have to check with your municipality and HOA as gasoline powered garden equipment is being banned in favor of electric (corded) and cordless equipment.

Options You Might Find Come In Handy

Just like buying a new car, when you set out to buy a new self-propelled lawn mower, there are many available options you might want to consider adding.

  • Adjustable Handle Bars – this way the height can be adjusted for a more comfortable fit.
  • Variable Drive – this way you can adjust the drive speed to suit your pace and the terrain.
  • Blade Override – this allows you to stop the blade without having to turn off the engine.
  • A Washout Port – many new mowers are coming with a deck washout port designed to make keeping the inside of the deck clean.

Our Pick for the Top 5 Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers

So now that you have an idea of what you should be looking for and thinking about in your search for a new self-propelled lawn mower, let's take a look at five of the top-rated models on the market.

Honda HRX

lawn mower

Honda HRX217K4VLA HRX Series Lawn Mowers

The Honda HRX offers an innovativedrives system Honda calls Smart Drive® designed to offer better overall speed control. With a twist of the dial you can adjust the speed from 0 to 4 mph. Along with this, you get electric start, micro-cut twin blades, and a Clip Director that lets you bag, mulch, shred leaves, or discharge. Honda is the only company to offer the NeXite® deck. The GCV190 187cc engine has more than enough power for most yards.

Pros Cons
One of the most powerful engines A little on the loud side
2.5-bushell clipping bag A little on the heavy side
Micro-cut blade provides a nice even cut Controls can be a bit confusing

Troy-Bilt TB220

 lawn-mower

Troy-Bilt TB220 High Wheel Self-Propelled Lawn Mower

This Troy-Bilt self-propelled lawn mower features a 159cc OHV engine and front-wheel drive. The231-inch deck and lightweight design makes this mower an excellent choice for small and medium sized yards. The dual-lever design makes choosing one of the three heights for better mulching, bagging or side discharging. Comes with a 1.9-bushell clipping bag. The handle has been ergonomically comfortable for those long days of mowing.

Pros Cons
Easy to assemble Low bag capacity of only 1.9 bushels
Lightweight, only 80 lbs. Lots of plastic parts
Easy speed adjustment Front-wheel drive looses traction going up hills

Poulan Pro 961420127

Poulan Pro 961420127

Poulan Pro 961420127 PR625Y22RHP Front Wheel Self Propelled Mower

Imagine buying a lawn mower from a company that offers you a guarantee that your mower will start within two pullsonf the starter rope.  This Poulan mower offers you mulch, bag, and discharge options.  The four height adjusters offer nine settings and the 22-inch cut is big enough for most lawns. Features 12 -inch wheels in the rear and 8-inch wheels up front, perfect for most mowing conditions. Powered by a 150cc Briggs & Stratton Auto Choke engine.

Pros Cons
Powerful engine Lowering mechanism must be fixed manually
Large wheels for better maneuverability Some quality control issues
3 in 1 cutting capabilities

Husqvarna 961450023

Husqvarna961450023-Lawn-MowerHusqvarna 961450023 Hi-Wheel Mower

Powered by a Honda 160cc 4cycle OHV engine, this self-propelled lawn mower from Husqvarna offers a 22-inch steel deck designed with side discharge, mulching, and bagging capability. The Auto walk drive system lets you control mowing speed. For smoother operation and durability both front and rear wheels ride on ball bearings. The handle has three positions allowing you to set the height to match your own. This mower offers Low-wheel, High-Wheel, and All-Wheel drive options.
Image courtesy Amazon

Pros Cons
Auto choke makes for easy starting Noisy
Auto walk system offers exceptional traction Lots of plastic parts
Easy to maneuver The wheels lock up when you pull it backwards

Lawn-Boy 17732

Lawn-BoyLawn-Boy 17732 2Inch 6.5 Gross Torque Kohler XTX OHV 

With so many mowers coming equipped with Briggs & Stratton or Honda motors, it's refreshing to see Lawn-Boy opting to go with a Kohler engine. This 149cc engine is so highly thought of that Lawn-Boy has a warranty that states if the mower doesn't start within two pulls, they will fix it for free. Like most self-propelled lawn mowers, this one offers side discharge, mulch, and bagging capabilities. There are only two height adjustments, which may not be enough for every yard.
                  

Pros Cons
Rear-wheel drive   Some issues with setup
Guaranteed easy start Will not cut very short grass
Large wheels offer better control & maneuverability Hard to pull back

An Environmentally Friendly Option

 Greenworks-Cordless-Lawn-MowerGreenworks 19-Inch 40V Cordless Lawn Mower

One of the best things about this Greenworks self-propelled lawn mower is that it has a 19-inch steel cutting deck. Along with the standard three cutting options, this mower is designed to cover a large area in a short time, helping you to get the most out of the battery. The cool thing is that you get two batteries to extend your mowing time.

Pros Cons
Eco-friendly Only for small to medium lawns
Long-life powerful lithium ion battery Will not cut very short grass
Large wheels offer better control & maneuverability Issues with battery life

The Final Cut

I hope all of the information I have gathered together helps you make the right choice when you are ready to buy your next self-propelled mower. I am a firm believer in doing my homework before spending my money, so I hope that my research helps. If you like what you have read here, please let me know. If you know of anything you would like to see included, please contact me here.

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  • Thank you for reading this.

The Best Secateurs for Gardeners

The Best Secateurs/Pruning Shears For Gardeners

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A good pair of secateurs make spending time in the garden more enjoyable & rewarding

For the sake of simplicity, this article will use the term secateurs instead of changing between pruning shears and hand pruners.

ONE OF THE MOST important jobs in your garden is trimming and pruning. Regular pruning helps ensure your plants, shrubs, and trees grow properly and maintain a healthy size and shape. Pruning can be a very relaxing task, but you do need to have the right tools.

A good pair of secateurs is the perfect tool to make cutting back your plants and pruning trees or hedges a simple task. The problem is with so many different types to choose from, how do you know which are the best secateurs for you?

Secateurs Basics

The first and most important thing is that whether you buy the cheapest or the best secateurs on the market, they are made for a specific task. This is for pruning and trimming back plants. They are not made for cutting larger branches. This type of work is best left for a pruning saw or a lopper.

Typically, a good pair of pruning shears is designed to work on branches or stems that are no thicker than a standard pencil. Anything larger than this is likely to eventually break your secateurs or at the very least dull or damage the blades.

Best Secateurs - pruning a large tree

Secateurs are perfect for when you need to trim by hand, no matter how large the job

The 9 Factors of Good Secateurs

For what may look like nothing more than a pair of fancy oversized plant-cutting scissors, there are many things to consider before you spend a dime. Here are some of the most important things to consider before you buy one or two pairs to hang in your garden shed.

1. Maximum Cutting Diameter

The maximum cutting diameter is best described as the largest diameter of branch the secateurs can safely. One thing you should be aware of is that this number is usually used to describe the maximum diameter of soft or green woods, not hard or dry wood. If you buy a pair of secateurs based on this number for cutting harder woods, be sure to buy ones rated for larger diameters than you plan to cut.

2 .Left or Right-Hand Design

Let's face it, most tools like secateurs are designed for right-handed people, seems as though manufacturers have no idea just how many left-handers there are in the world. The good news is that there are a number of ambidextrous models available. These are the only ones we buy in our house as I am right-handed and my wife is a lefty.

Spring pruning roses in the garden with secateurs

Finding the right fit and feel is important when searching for secateurs 

3. The Right Fit

One thing you will find is that pruning shears come with varying sized handles. You may need to try several different pairs out to find a pair that fits your hands comfortably. This is especially important if you have a lot of pruning to do. If they do not fit your hands properly, they will be very tiring to use and could leave you with blisters.

4. A Safety Catch

Any secateurs you buy should have some form of safety lock such as a sliding catch or a thumb lever that is easy to operate. The goal of the safety lock is to keep the blades locked in the closed position when the shears are not in use.

5. An Adjustable Pivot

The best secateurs have a bolt holding the two halves together not a rivet. This makes it possible for you to adjust the blades with either a screwdriver or a wrench should they become loose.

Best Secateurs - stand out color handles

Finding your secateurs is important 

6. Brightly Colored Handles

Okay, so this might seem to be a bit on the silly side, that is until you drop them in the garden. Brightly colored handles will make them much easier to spot and save you from buying a new pair each time you drop them.

7. Replacement Parts

Any pair of secateurs you buy should have replacement blades and springs readily available. This will help to make your secateurs last much longer.

Pruning of  trees with secateurs in the garden

These much loved secateurs are starting to show their age

8. Coated Blades

Top quality secateurs come with a coating that is designed to prevent the blades from rusting. While this coating may wear off over time, it will help make the blade last longer. Some models come with stainless steel blades that should remain rust-free as long as you take good care of them.

9. Avoid Sharp Points

Some models come with sharp points, in most cases, this is completely unnecessary and should be avoided as the points are more likely to cause injury than anything else. (Trust me, you don't want to poke your hand with a sharp point)

The Three Distinct Types of Secateurs or Pruning Shears

Starting to get an idea of what you need from a pair of secateurs? To help get the job done best there are 3 distinct types of secateurs.

1. Bypass Secateurs

Bypass secateurs work a lot like a pair of scissors in that there is a single sharp blade that cuts as it passes the other blade.

These are the best secateurs if you plan to do a lot of precision pruning of smaller twigs and plants.

Because the blades pass by each other, this design allows you to get up close the to stem of the plant. This allows you to cut side stems flush with the main stem of the trunk.

As long as you keep the cutting blade sharp, these pruning shears will always give you a clean cut, even with softer stems.

One of the biggest problems with bypass secateurs is that if you attempt to cut through branches thicker than the listed specs, the cutting blade can become damaged and may not be repairable.

PROS

CONS

Precise cuts

For smaller stems and branches only

Design allows you to cut close to stems

Can break if used on larger, harder branches

2. Anvil Secateurs

If you need to trim back hardwood branches, chances are good they are going to destroy a pair of bypass pruning shears. The best secateurs for this type of work is a pair of anvil secateurs.

They work in much the same way as a knife on a cutting board. The blade itself is sharpened on both sides and is designed to contact either a metal or plastic plate when closed.

This type of pruning shear can cut quickly through hardwood stems quickly and with far less effort than a pair of bypass secateurs. But, you should know that this design crushes as it cuts and does not leave a clean cut like the bypass shears. This makes them particularly unsuitable for use on softer stems.

At the same time, the size and design of the anvil mean that it is likely to get in the way when you are trying to cut in tight spaces.

Because the anvil tends to get in the way, you will not be able to cut side stems close up against the main stem. If you need to cut in close quarters or cut flush up against the stem, you should buy a pair of bypass secateurs (personally, I recommend you have a pair of both of these style on hand).

PROS

CONS

Stronger than other secateurs

Cuts aren’t as ‘clean’ as other secateurs

Typically easy to disassemble for maintenance

Design leaves room for less precision

3. Ratchet Secateurs

In recent years a number of manufacturers have begun to sell ratchet secateurs. In most cases, these feature an anvil type blade. They have all of the same advantages and disadvantages of this style of pruning shear.

However, they also offer one very distinct advantage. As you squeeze the handles together, the ratcheting mechanism will lock the handles in place. This allows you to make the cut in several stages, meaning you will need to use less force to make the cut. However, using these secateurs can take a bit of getting used to.

As a side note, there are several models of geared secateurs on the market. These use a gear or power lever mechanism that makes them easier to use. Unfortunately, most of them do not have the power as standard pruning shears and are not well-suited to being used on woody twigs.

PROS

CONS

Less pressure needed from your hand

Don’t cut hard branches as easy

Easier to use

Different feel means they can take some getting used to

Here Are Three of My Favorite Secateurs, One from Each Category

Shine Hai

Professional Hand Pruner Bypass Pruning Shears with Safety Lock  

Heavy-duty secateurs with a high-carbon steel blade that can cut branches up to 0.48 inch (12 mm) in diameter. The blade is made from SK-5 Japanese steel and can be used for a number of pruning tasks.

Both sides of the blade are coated in low-friction ILAFLON Resist R coating and feature sap groove to make cutting easier. The cushion-shock absorber system helps to reduce discomfort when using them and there is a wire cutting groove for smaller gauge wires.

Pros

Cons

Heavy Gauge SK-5 Japanese steel blade

Bolt holding blade in place may come loose

Shock-absorbing system to reduce fatigue

Tension spring is not strong enough

Precision ground razor sharp blade

Will not work on larger branches

Spear & Jackson 6758GS Razorsharp Geared Anvil Secateurs

The Geared Action Makes Pruning A Breeze

This pair of anvil secateurs features a geared action that makes cutting much easier. They also feature an SK-5 Japanese steel blade that holds its edge far longer than many others.

The body is made from lightweight aluminum to help reduce the strain of using them over long periods of time. The blade is coated with PTFE (Teflon) for smoother cutting and rust resistance. The grip has a comfortable ambidextrous shape not found in many pruning shears.

Pros

Cons

SK-5 Japanese Steel Blade

Safety catch does not always work

Ambidextrous handle shape

Blade dulls easily

PTFE coated blade

Hard to use by those with larger hands 

Power Drive Ratchet Anvil Hand Pruning Shears

The Ratchet System Adds Plenty of Trimming Power

These secateurs offer a ratcheting mechanism that makes cutting effortless. The more you squeeze them, the more they lock onto the branch you are pruning.

Every time the ratchet clicks into place, more pressure is applied. The design increases the amount of power in your hand by up to 5 times letting the secateurs do the work instead of your hand.

The ergonomic design helps to reduce fatigue when you have plenty of pruning to do. The blades are made from hardened carbon steel that has been heat-treated to help it remain sharp longer and coated with PTFE to reduce friction.

Pros

Cons

Hardened carbon steel blade with PTFE coating

Ratchet pin may break

Ratcheting mechanism reduces effort

Spring comes detached

Ergonomic design for added comfort

Lock mechanism fails

Electric Pruning Shears

Like most garden tools, you can now buy power pruning shears that come with a rechargeable battery and work almost as well as manual shears. They take almost all of the strain out of trimming small trees and plants. Here is my favorite, I bought one last year and have fallen in love with it.

RYOBI Rechargeable Pruning Shears BSH-120

Rechargeable Power that Makes Pruning a Simple Task

Not everyone has the hand power to prune everything in their garden, this cordless tool makes the job simple for just about everyone. It can cut branches up to .48 inch (12 mm) in diameter and will last approximately 120 minutes on a full charge.

Comes with a blade, a blade cover, and a wall charger. Takes about 60 minutes to fully recharge the battery.

Pros

Cons

Makes pruning easy for those with carpal tunnel

Owner's manual not in English

Long life battery

Cutting blades break

Perfect for smaller branches

Not good for larger branches

Taking Care of Your Secateurs

If you want your secateurs to provide you with many years of faithful service, you will need to take good care of them. Fortunately, there isn't much to caring for them.

Keep Them Sharp and Clean

  • A dull blade will not cut anything, instead, it will crush anything you are trying to cut. You can easily keep the blade sharp with a small sharpening stone.
  • Every time you finish using your secateurs, rub the blades down with an oily rag to remove sap and dirt.
  • Never use your secateurs to cut branches bigger than they are designed for, this could quickly damage or ruin them.
  • You should also disassemble them from time to time so that you can clean and oil all of the moving parts.
  • This is really all it takes to keep even the best pruning shears ready to use and ensure they will provide you with many years of reliable service.

The Final Cut

There are so many different types of pruning shears on the market, it can be hard to know which one will be the best secateurs for your needs. If your yard has a range of trees, shrubs, and plants that need to be trimmed, you may want to do like I have and purchase both bypass and anvil style shears. This way you will always have the right ones on hand when you need them. Of course, a set of rechargeable secateurs is not a bad idea either, I love my RYOBI pruning shears.

If you have enjoyed reading about the best secateurs please let me know.

If you have any information you would like to see here, please contact us here.

Let everyone know you enjoyed reading this on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Thank you for reading this.

 

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The Beginner’s Guide to Plant Spacing & A Few Do It for You Calculators

The Beginner's Guide To Plant Spacing

& A Few Do-It-For-You Calculators to Help Get the Job Done Right

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Different vegetables require different amounts of room to grow.

YOU HAVE THE SOIL tilled, tested, improved, and ready to go, the next step is planting everything and making sure it all fits into the space you have to work with. Here is what I have learned about plant spacing, including a couple of plant spacing calculators which help do some of the work for you.

It's All About Space

When I first started, I had very little idea about how plants grow and why they need different amounts of space. My first year I planted way too many veggies in too small of a space and ended up with very low yields. This is when I sat down at my computer and started doing some heavy research.

One of the most important things you must understand when planting a garden is that different vegetables require different amounts of room to grow. The possibilities are virtually endless as are the spacing calculations. Every variety you choose should not only be chosen for the end product (the veggies and fruits your family will eat and any flowers you have in mind), but also for their ability to fit into the space you have to work with.

plant spacing on a large scale

Why is plant spacing so important?

There are in fact several very good reasons why providing just the right amount of space between your garden plants is so important. The right plant spacing will:

  • Help to reduce competition for the sunlight that is vital to growth
  • Help to conserve water by keeping the soil around the plants shaded
  • Help to ensure each plant gets the maximum amount of available nutrients
  • Help to reduce the amount of space for weeds in your garden

While you can add more nutrients to the soil in your garden, it is much better for your plants if they don't have to struggle for those that are already there. It is much better for your plants if you leave the right amount of space between them.

Timeline of seed to growth, illustrating the important of plant spacing

A simple diagram explaining that root growth has roughly the same reach as the the leaves and branches of plant

Your plants are going to leaf out (grow more and bigger leaves) as they grow. These leaves will create a canopy that increases the amount of shade that reaches their lower sections. The proper amount of plant spacing helps to ensure the entire plant receives plenty of healthy sunshine. In turn, this will help to ensure you have robust plants that bear lots of fruit (including veggies).

Shade may help to conserve water during the heat of the day, but if you plant everything too closely together, the plants will end up fighting for any available water. Ultimately, you have to come up with a perfect balance between spacing and how much water you can afford to use to keep your plants healthy.

The one place you cannot see the competition between your garden plants is underground where the roots are constantly expanding in their never-ending search for water and nutrients. If you don't leave enough room for the root structures to spread out, you will end up with stunted plants that produce very little in the way of edible fruits or veggies.

So How Do I Know What the Correct Plant Spacing Is

plant_spacing

When you have at least some idea of what you want to grow in your garden along with how much area you have to work with, it's time to sit down and draw up a plan of action. There are literally hundreds of suggestions for correct plant spacing. 

However, to avoid confusion the best thing you can do is to follow the instructions found on the back of the seed packet or on the tags that come with any starter plants you buy.

Image Courtesy of ParentingPatch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Planting Seeds

It is important for you to follow the information on the seed packs when planting your seeds for the best results. Although if you cannot find any information, some gardeners use the following method as a rule of thumb:

According to the horticulture department at North Carolina State University, you should plant seeds no deeper than 2 to 3 times the maximum diameter of the seeds. The seeds should then be covered with a light layer of soil that has been lightly stamped into place.

planting_starter_plants

Image By Lyn Lomasi – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15744253

Planting Starter Plants

With plants that come in peat cups, cubes, or plastic pots filled with soil, the job is a little different. You have to dig individual holes for each plant. The holes should be wide enough to accommodate all of the peat or soil and deep enough that the top of the peat or soil will be just below the level your garden soil. This helps to ensure they remain firmly in place and that the roots have a chance to spread out properly.

One thing to keep in mind, as you remove the plants from the containers use your fingers to gently spread the root structures out. Some gardeners call this teasing the roots out. Doing this will help the roots to spread out into the soil more quickly and leave you with healthier plants.

Young plants in pot sitting outside acclimatizing

Another Important Trick to Remember

If you are planting starter plants that were initially grown indoors, you should acclimatize the plants before permanently placing them in your garden. I usually start setting them out during daylight hours where they can get some sunlight and some shade. Then I bring them back in at night if it is going to get chilly.

Doing this gives them time to get used to being outside. I have found that simply sticking them out in the garden results in far too many lost plants. Once they are planted, depending on where you live, you may want to provide them with a little shade for the first few days as they get used to being outside or once again, you may end up with more than a few dead plants.

How Should I Lay Out My Garden

If you were to gather together a group of experienced gardeners and ask them, “What is the best way to plant a garden?”, you are likely to hear more answers than you are prepared for. I did my time in the trenches and it seemed as if every one of my gardening friends had a different answer. Some liked rows, some preferred the “square foot” method, others like intensive gardening, and then there is always raised bed gardening to consider.

Neat raised beds of potatoes  cauliflower  broccoli  lettuce  carrots  and parsnip as assortment of different home grown fresh vegetable and herb plants in wooden frames for easy cultivation

Why Row Planting Is Not Always the Best for Gardens

The traditional way to plant a garden has been to plant each type of vegetable in long rows. You might think this is a good thing, but there are a couple of very good reasons why this may not always be the best choice:

  • Waste of space: No matter how you plant your rows, you will always end up with a lot of wasted space between each row.
  • More maintenance: Not only do you have to weed between the plants, you also have to weed the spaces between the rows, making more work than necessary.
  • More water consumption: No matter what type of plant spacing you use, you end up watering the space between the rows. This wastes a lot of water.
  • Not all plants can be put in rows next to each other for reasons such as shade and room to spread out.

What about Square Foot or Triangle Gardening?

Square foot and triangle gardening are both forms of intensive gardening. These methods involve planting and raising your plants in compact raised or ground level beds. Using this method allows you to grow a wide variety of crops in a relatively small area. In essence, you map out your garden and then laying it out in a grid on paper.

garden_layout

This is what the typical square foot garden map might look like, You can do the same with triangles depending on how much space you have to work with. In your garden it might look like this:

Square foot gardening when plant spacing

Or this if you prefer raised garden beds:

There are several major advantages to this type of intensive gardening:

  • Your garden will take up less space due to the efficient use of every square foot of garden space.
  • Your garden will require less maintenance such as tilling, weeding, composting and watering.
  • Your garden will need up to 80% less water than traditional row gardening.
  • Easy weed and pest control as small sections are easier to protect from insects and the compact nature of the style leaves very little open soil for weeds to grow in.
  • Higher yields are considered normal with this type of gardening.

Planting Close Together

If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that intensive gardening, or planting close together has a number of advantages. It will allow you to maximize the productivity of every inch of available garden.

When your plant spacing is very close, you leave very little room for weeds to grow. Not only do they have little in the way of available soil to work with, but as your vegetables grow and create their own shade, this will help to choke out any sunlight reaching the ground and prevent weeds from growing.

Planting your garden in this manner also helps to reduce the amount of water needed to keep your garden growing. The plants still need the same amount of water to grow, the big difference is that your soil does not lose nearly as much through evaporation during the hot summer days. You may find you can do the bulk of your watering using drip irrigation rather than a wasteful sprinkler system.

Not only is this type of irrigation better for your plants because it put the water right at the roots where it's needed most, but it will make a big difference in your monthly water bill. It will also help to prevent problems like root rot as the soil should never become over-soaked.

Plant Spacing Calculators

If you have never planted a garden before and have no real idea how to calculate proper plant spacing, you may find that a plant calculator can help make the job a lot easier. I personally used one for the first few years until I got the hang of it. Here are a few of the best plant spacing calculators I could find, all you have to do is fill in the information and the calculator will tell you how many plants will fit a specified area.

  • Helps work out plant spacing in grid form. You will need to know how much space between each plants and your total square footage
  • Spacing guide for vegetables
  • Most comprehensive calculator. Will tell you how much space you need inbetween plants for different varieties of vegetables. Also will calculate how many plants if you know the spacing and size of your plot (also in rows)

Important Notes

The simple fact is that no matter how much information you read, there is always going to be a certain amount of experimentation. There are a few important things you need to know and a few extra tips that I have found useful along the way.

  • When planting seeds that are only going to be covered by a thin layer of soil, be sure to water them as soon as they are planted and keep the soil damp for the first few days. This will keep the seeds from being blown away by the wind. It will also keep them from being eaten by birds.
  • If you are going with square foot gardening, be sure to leave enough room between each section so that you have room to walk between them and so that you can weed the sections and otherwise maintain them.
  • Use mulch, landscaping cloth, or old newspapers to help keep moisture in and weeds out.
  • Plant tall crops like corn, pole beans, even tomatoes and cucumbers on the side of the garden furthest from the sun so they don’t leave your other crops in the shade all day long.
  • Weeds will compete with your crop plants for water and nutrients, be sure to keep your garden weeded to give your plants the best chance for growth.

Here are a couple of great videos I found on getting started planting your garden:

10 Ways to Make your Vegetable Garden More Productive in 2017...and Beyond!

How to Grow a lot of Food in a Small Garden - 9 EZ tips

Square Foot Gardening (SFG): Growing More in Less Space

And In The End

Of all the things you can do to help ensure your garden produces a bountiful harvest, is to start it out right. This means making sure your soil is perfect, you have plenty of sun and shade, the right amount of water and all of your plants are properly spaced. While it might not be rocket science, there is, as I found out, a science to creating the perfect vegetable garden. I hope that all of the above information and the mistakes along the way I have made help you to create the garden of your dreams.

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