Gardening Articles: Care :: Plant Care Techniques
Planting Vine Crops
by National Gardening Association Editors
You can plant vining crops in rows, hills, or mounds depending on the layout of your garden.
A row is seeds planted at regular intervals in a straight line. After preparing the soil and working it one last time on planting day, mark the row by stretching a string along the ground between two stakes.
Using a hoe or tiller, make a furrow beside the string. The depth of the furrow depends on your fertilizer. If you use a commercial fertilizer, the furrow only has to be three to four inches deep. If you have bulkier organic matter, make a four- to six-inch-deep furrow, spread two to three inches of manure in it, and top that with two to three inches of soil.
Drop a seed every six to eight inches in the row, depending on the variety. Firm the seeds into the soil with your hand or the back of a hoe, creating good contact between seeds and soil; this is the key to good germination. Cover the seeds with 3/4 to 1 inch of soil and firm again.
When it comes to planting, a hill isn't raised soil; it's a circle of four to eight seeds. Use similar planting techniques for hills as you would for rows. Mark the planting area, but instead of making a furrow, dig a four- to eight-inch hole for each hill, depending on the bulk of the fertilizer. Space the holes 3 to 10 feet apart, depending on the vegetable. Place either organic or commercial fertilizer such as 5-10-10 in the hole and fill it back to ground level, making sure that at least two inches of soil cover the fertilizer.
Plant six to eight seeds on the perimeter of a circle at each hill, allowing two to three inches between seeds. Drop each seed, firm, cover with soil and firm again, just as in rows. When the seedlings emerge, thin each hill down to the best four or five plants. The extra seeds just ensure a full hill, even if germination is poor.
It's important for vine crops that the soil be dry and warm. If your soil stays very wet and you've had trouble raising healthy vine crops, try building up the hills into three- to five-inch-high mounds before planting. Then plant the way you would for hills. These mounds aid the plant's germination and improve the growing environment because the soil warms up and dries out faster.
Generally, the longer the growing season, the more the vines will spread, so you'll want to allow more room for winter squash and melons than for summer squash and cucumbers.
Here are some guidelines for seed and row spacing. You can always plant seeds closer together, just for the insurance of good germination. It's easy to thin if there are too many young plants in a row or a hill; it's harder to patch up an incomplete row.