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USDA square-foot spacings - huh???

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USDA square-foot spacings - huh???

Post  ander217 on 1/30/2011, 7:31 am

I have a copy of the 1977 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, titled Gardening for Food and Fun. I was looking through it last night and noticed this paragraph on page 105:

Chart for Small Space Gardeners - For those who must grow their vegetables in small spaces this chart gives the approximate number of plants a square foot of container space will accommodate. Containers should be at least eight inches deep for medium sized and small vegetables but a foot to 18 inches deep for vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, or corn...

But what really blew my mind is the chart that followed. The veggie is followed by the number of plants they recommended per square foot. (These numbers are not typos.)

Beans 3-4
Beets 25 (*1)
Broccoli 3
Brussels sprouts 2
Cabbage 2
Carrots 100 (*2)
Cauliflower 2
Swiss chard 9
Corn (dwarf) 4
Cucumber (standard) 1 (*3)
Cucumber (dwarf) 2 (*3)
Dandelion 6
Eggplant 1
Endive 4
Garlic 36
Kale 4
Kohlrabi 4
Leeks 64
Lettuce (head) 4
Lettuce (leaf and semi-head) 6
Muskmelon 1 (*3)
Mustard greens 9
Onions (cooking) 16
Onions (hamburger) 9
Onions (green bunching) 100 (*4)
Parsley 16
Parsnips 25
Peanuts 4 (*3)
Peas 25 (*3)
Peppers 4
Potatoes 1
Sweet potatoes 1
Radishes 144 (*5)
Rutabaga 5
Spinach 4
Summer squash (bush) 1
Winter squash (bush) 1
Tomato (regular) 1 (*3)
Tomato (dwarf) 2
Husk tomato (Physalis) 2
Watermelon (dwarf) 1 (*3)

*1 - thin at 1-inch diameter for greens and let remainder grow
*2 - Thin every other one when "fingerlings" and let others grow
*3 - Train on trellis
*4 - Can thin to eat and let others grow into cooking onions
*5 - Thin small ones to eat and let others grow

I hope this gave everyone a smile. Thanks, USDA, but I think I'll stick with Mel's spacing. I'm not sure how one would even plant one radish seed per square inch. I have enough trouble keeping the little beggars in line with 16. (They obviously weren't growing German Giant radishes. I had one the size of a baseball last fall.)


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Re: USDA square-foot spacings - huh???

Post  camprn on 1/30/2011, 8:42 am

Ander, thanks for posting this!! What a Face
With small things like beets and carrots, parsnips, leafy greens, radish and the like, I prep the soil in the square and then broadcast the seed and cover with a thin layer of soil. As the vegetables grow I will thin the seedlings and harvest as immature plants, allowing the more vigorous of them to mature. Intensive, it works for me. I cannot figure the 4 peppers, 2 Brussels sprouts and 2 cabbages to a sq. ft. Maybe the cabbages in the 70's were a lot smaller? Shocked But, they did qualify this list by stating what 'a square foot of container space will accommodate'. If you move the containers farther apart, I suppose it would work better :?:


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Re: USDA square-foot spacings - huh???

Post  elliephant on 1/30/2011, 9:23 am

The one that got me was "Broccoli 3" Really, it's more like a full grown plant covers 3 squares!


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Re: USDA square-foot spacings - huh???

Post  Lavender Debs on 1/30/2011, 9:33 am

1977? We were just starting to experiment with urban farming (rather than gardening) We tried all kinds of things that we don't do now. Have you read the original Square Foot Gardening? Urban farming now has its own magazine... and farmers still cannot agree on how much per square. It keeps life fun, don't ya think?

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It would be fun

Post  ander217 on 1/30/2011, 4:42 pm

I agree, Lavender, it keeps things fun.

What made me really smile was picturing myself trying to plant a single square of 144 radish seeds, 12 across and 12 down. I don't see as well as I used to, and I was just picturing the mess I would make if I tried that. In that case it makes more sense to me to do as Camprn said and just broadcast the seeds and then thin later.

I bought Mel's first book when it originally came out and that's how we started our SFG last year until I found this forum and learned there was an all new book and method. "Onward and upward!"

Another one on the list that has me scratching my head is the leeks. I've never grown them before, but why 64? Does one usually thin leeks and eat the thinnings? thinking


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Re: USDA square-foot spacings - huh???

Post  LaFee on 1/30/2011, 4:58 pm

It's interesting, though...for two reasons (to me, anyway!)

It's interesting that the USDA was thinking along this line (it was dawning on somebody that row gardening might not be the end-all way to grow food!)...and I can't help but wonder if the reason why they've since backed away from this line of thinking is that their densities were too high so it didn't work well?

It's armchair quarterbacking at its finest...but unless someone who was with the FDA at that time shows up here on the forum, we may never know!


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Re: USDA square-foot spacings - huh???

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