How to Space Vegetables When Planting


Planting a vegetable garden allows you to save money on fresh produce while also allowing you to grow the better quality vegetables than one is available in many grocery stores. There are many ways to space plants in the garden bed. Row planting is simple but the square foot method allows you to maximize small beds. Plants that are spaced too closely together compete for nutrients and water, resulting in smaller yields and making the plants more prone to disease. While spacing distances are written on the plant label or seed packet, translating these measurements to your garden requires a small amount of work.

Row Spacing

Step 1

Locate the spacing information and expected plant height on the back of the seed packet or on the plant label if you are planting purchased seedlings. Plan to sow shorter plants on the south side of the bed and taller plants on the north side of the bed.

Step 2

Create a furrow for each row of plants by dragging a garden hoe across the bed. Make the furrows so they run east to west across the bed. Space the furrows at the distance indicated on the packet or label as the row spacing. Generally, 2 to 3 feet between rows is advised for most plants so they have room to spread out while still leaving space between the rows for you to work in the garden.

Step 3

Sow the seeds in the furrows at the the depth indicated on the packets and plant seedlings to the same depth they are at in their nursery pots. Space the plants apart in each row as indicated on the packet or label. Small plants may require no more than 3 inches between plants while large plants, like tomatoes, may require 18 inches or more.

Square Foot Method

Step 1

Divide the garden bed into 1-foot squares. Place short stakes around the edges of the bed at 1-foot intervals, then stretch twine between two opposing stakes to form a 1-foot square grid over the entire bed.

Step 2

Plant seeds or seedlings of one variety in each square. Plant taller plants, such as tomatoes or pole beans, on the north side of the bed and short plants like lettuce on the south side of the bed.

Step 3

Space the plants as indicated on the seed packet or plant label in each square. Use only the plant spacing measurement, as the row spacing is not needed in this form of gardening. Sow several plants with small space requirements in one square, or a plant a single plant per square if the plant requires more space. For example, you can plant nine bean plants per square or a single tomato plant in a square.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid using square foot gardening in large beds unless you have room to make paths between the sets of grids. Otherwise it is difficult to reach the center of the bed for weeding and harvesting.

Things You'll Need

  • Hoe
  • Stakes
  • Twine


  • Iowa State University Extension: Planting the Home Vegetable Garden
Keywords: vegetable plant spacing, starting a garden, growing requirements

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.