AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Confessions of an Urban Gardener DATE: 5/22/2008 11:09:00 AM ----- BODY:
I have a confession: I plant seeds and seedlings too densely in my garden.

I could have kept this secret, but in light of my overgrown sage, I had to come clean. I was wondering why Lydia’s two plants behaved so differently—one spindly and thin, the other full and robust. The truth is, I know why my sage is so hearty this year and hadn’t been in years past – each plant had plenty of spreading room.

This does not come easily to me. Each year, I plant lettuce from seed. Maybe it’s just the minuscule size of the seeds and my clumsy hands or my distrust that such a small seed will produce a full head of lettuce. Either way, the little sprouts are so tightly packed now that even the Square Foot Gardner would shake his head. Similarly, the tomato plants get about 8 inches… they’re just so small when the go in the ground, I can’t seem to visualize how big they’ll become.

Then comes harvest time… and I look at the size of everyone else’s tomatoes, or my friend Brett’s lettuce (who’s using the same seed as me). I’ll admit I have size envy.

This year, I’m fighting every urge to crowd. I’ve already screwed up. On close inspection of my lettuce bed, about 5 sprouts crowd each millimeter hole. Crouched on my hands and knees, armed with office scissors, I first cut back about 50% of the sprouts. I didn’t pull them out as I would have disrupted the roots of the remaining plants. A week later, I went back, cutting out everything except 1 plant every 1/2” – 1”. From the second trimming, I yielded a gallon of baby arugula. Miraculously, the arugula is still growing strong, and I’ve managed to have a salad every day this week. Phew, I think it’s going to be okay.

My other vegetable bed is huge by urban standards, about 15’ by 4’. Nonetheless, I only planted for 5 tomatoes, giving 2 feet between each plant. This left me room so that I could also plant celery, eggplant, cauliflower and brussel sprouts, each with appropriate spacing.

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