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Eyeballing It, or “Close Is Good Enough” Gardening

June 23, 2011

I am used to people making fun of my crooked garden rows.  But in reality if I measured every single thing I would not be getting much garden planted.  I am a little OCD, ok a lot, but I reserve that for stuff that matters like balancing my checkbook to the penny, or tracking feed consumed by chickens, or how much gas is costing me.  In gardening, I usually take the lazy, or passive approach.  Say for instance our greenhouse bows are on 4 foot centers, and  I want to plant my indeterminate tomatoes at 4 foot spacing and my determinate tomatoes at 2 foot spacing.  So instead of measuring the tomato plot out, I just dig my planting holes while eyeballing the bows.  We have done that measuring once, no need to do it again.  You’ve probably heard the saying, “measure once, plant forever.”  For the determinate tomatoes I still use the bow and divide the space one more time.

For greens in between my tomatoes I use a 3/2 planting scheme.  Again no measuring, I just stick them in.  Minor flaws in spacing are noticeable, if you scrutinize the spacing, but when I am looking at my garden as it grows, I am looking at how the plants are doing, not if they are laid out in a neat little pattern.


Same tomato pictured above.  It hardly matters now how much time I spent measuring, all the plants have grown and filled in the empty spaces and are ready for harvest.


I simplify in the outside gardens too.  My tiller measures 48 inches so I use that as my row marker.  I employ dryland gardening techniques in my garden so the wide row spacing is essential.  I can always irrigate if I have to, but if I don’t use wide row spacing, I have to irrigate.  Keeping your options open is a good thing.  I am usually trying to beat the weather, and getting out my row marking twine just slows me down.

To mark my rows in the garden, I just use a handle of my rake and mark out the centerline for either a single row or to use as a guide to plant a double row.


I keep it simple too with my bean poles and trellises.   Mark out the center of the row, decide the spacing and put in poles.  Pretty easy.  By the time the beans are ready to pick, if I was off and inch or two in pole spacing you can’t tell because the garden is a virtual jungle.


Maybe lazy isn’t the correct term, but I do not like doing unnecessary work.  I like having all my supplies gathered up and in place before I start.  And I hate going back to the barn or house for one more thing.

To put in bean poles and pea trellis I assembled the following in the row where I wanted to work:

♥ Cedar bean poles

♥ T posts

♥ hog panels

♥  T post driver

♥  sisal twine cut to length for tying panels to T posts

Yes, it’s cool enough to plant peas here for summer, note the down vest.

I find it easiest to rake and mark my row and then lay out the panels in approximate position, with posts and twine placed at each junction.


To drive in the posts, position the bottom of the post where you want to start, tip the post back and put the driver on the post.


Stand the post upright, and pound it in.  Lightly.  My post driver was a gift from my brother (so he could get out of building fence), and he built hell for stout, so it is heavy.  I have no idea what the store bought variety with the handles weighs, but I am guessing that the handles mean you have to work it harder than my heavy one.  Basically I just slide it up the post and drop it a couple of times.  It does the work.  Me and this post driver go way back, we have a lot of permanent fence.    And a note to the new to farm life, wear ear plugs, it will save your hearing in the long run.


Another note – no need to pound it to clear to China.  It’s not a permanent fixture and the hog panels are stiff enough to hold the trellis upright.  For removal, just wiggle the post and it comes out.  No need for a T post puller either, this is just for holding up vegetables, not keeping beef in a pasture.


Working my way up the row, I tie the panel at the top and bottom of each post with twine, then move to the next post and repeat the process overlapping the panels at each post about 6 inches for stability.


After all the poles and trellis are in, I plant.  For beans I plant 4 beans per pole at the corners of the stake, and for peas I plant a row on each side of the trellis.  The poles have lasted me several decades, and the T posts and hog panels will last probably a lifetime.  Simple, effective and economical too.  For home food production, close is good enough, especially if children are involved, better to be a little carefree, and nurture ourselves and our future gardeners.

That’s a lot of kraut!

Just for fun, here is a 20 acre cabbage dryland cabbage field near my house.  I love watching all the stages of this field throughout the year.  They got the entire field planted just before a good rain.  Perfect.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. DEE permalink
    June 23, 2011 11:59 am

    I’ve found that if you plant lots of flowers in the rows you can’t really tell how crooked-y they are!! DH always says you can get more plants in a crooked row…my potato rows got pretty wild!

  2. Patty permalink
    June 23, 2011 6:59 pm

    Your posts are a powerhouse of information. I always look forward to what you’re going to share next. Now I’m going to go learn about determinate and indeterminate tomatoes, and why I might want more spacing between one than the other. I always learn how much I have to learn when I read your posts. 😉 I have about six types of tomato planted this year, but no idea if they’re determinate or indeterminate.

  3. June 24, 2011 3:21 am

    Loved your post, Matron. Especially since I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler!
    T-posts and hog wire. Need to remember that one, too. Thanks!

  4. akaangrywhiteman permalink
    June 24, 2011 5:22 am

    I like the pinkie finger thing, I suppose that’s the finger that didn’t have sense enough to stay out of the wood splitters way?

    Nice post, nice pics, Thank you.

  5. June 24, 2011 1:54 pm

    MOH- Thanks again for sharing! Question- you mention tilling, do you not use cover crops (ala- Steve Solomon), and if not why? (I am trying to get away from tilling as our ground is SOAKING till early June….) I’ll look through your archives and see if I can find any hints…

    • June 24, 2011 7:29 pm

      Adam, I do use cover crops, but they do or can delay you getting garden prepared for planting. Ideally a for good seed bed prep a winter-killed cover crop works good. it’s just hard to get a winter cover crop killed here in the PNW. Spring oats sometimes die back but not reliably, sudan grass would be a good choice, puts on lots of biomass and does die out. I don’t use Sudan, because of the possibility of my stock getting into it and getting poisoned if it is frosted. A straw mulch would work good and can be pulled back in the spring and the soil is nice and mellow. Just beware that voles love straw mulch and may set up camp in your garden 😦

  6. July 16, 2011 5:55 am

    Just browsing back posts, and found this one – with – (no surprise!) exactly what I needed to know. have been increasingly interested in using hog or combo livestock panels for a variety of things – finally went and saw some in person, hefted them, etc. But t posts, what are those? And what’s that mysterious driver at the store where I buy my welded wire fencing and those green metal posts with the spike on them….. ahh. T posts. Been using them and didn’t know. Driver? A good to have, but in my sandy soil I can usually drive it with my foot. Maybe that means it’s less secure, though.

    So, once again thank you! And it’s fascinating to see you’re using panels for trellis’, too. Seems they’re pretty useful.

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