Press-Republican

Cornell Cooperative Extension

March 31, 2014

Planning helps garden stand out from the crowd

This year as we wait for spring weather to finally arrive, no one can say they didn’t have time to do some preseason planning for their garden.

As we impatiently wait for the ground to thaw, we can put that enthusiasm to work by taking time to make some lists and sketches of what we plan to grow, and where we plan to grow it.

I have always struggled with allowing enough space for my plants to flourish in my perennial flower garden. I want a nice full effect, and the plants just look so small at the beginning of the season.

I’m always telling others how important it is to allow plenty of room, and that is excellent advice, but I confess I continue to find it challenging to follow once I get home.

In perennial gardens, allowing enough space lets your plants grow to their full potential.

Crowded plants compete with their neighbors for food, water and light. They grow taller as they reach for the sun and as a result, each plant is unable to produce a full show of flowers.

The densely packed foliage blocks air circulation so the morning dew takes longer to dry. This damp, jungle-like situation is ideal for many foliar diseases including powdery mildew, and insect pests can flourish in the dense cover. 

If you decide to treat for insects or diseases, whether you use organic or conventional pesticides, it will be impossible to get good coverage in this garden jungle and problems can get out of hand quickly. The only advantage I can see to a densely packed flower garden is that weeds can be crowded out.

The same principles apply in the vegetable garden.

A crowded garden may make you feel like a success when you see all that lush foliage packed together, but your yield will be reduced as the plants compete with each other. 

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Cornell Cooperative Extension