Reducing spacing in vegetable garden

Aaron La
last month

Right now, I've got two new 8x4 raised beds, plus some even smaller patches in native soil.

Can I get some real talk on how much spacing is actually ideal between plants for small gardens?

For small vegetables, I feel like even if I'm going on the minimum size of seed packets/transplant instructions, I've still got pretty big spaces between vegetables, and even bigger spaces between rows. There's tons of advice out there about how if you don't use optimal spacing, you'll get reduced yield due to competition.

But then I see people on the internets who have planted insanely closely, like square foot gardening, or even closer than that; and honestly, their vegetables look just fine. If the size of each plant is reduced (and I'm not even sure that's true), they're definitely getting it back in overall yield.

I don't get the theory either. If I'm fertilizing sufficiently, and keeping the soil moist, and plants are still getting full sun, what does it matter if there's competition?

Just as an example of what I'm talking about: Bonnie here recommends romaine lettuce be 10-18" apart. Presumably they're assuming rows of at least 12". If so, there's going to be a massive amount of space between each plant if you plant at 12" or over. 18" makes no sense at all to me. But I've seen people on the internets who look like they're cramming these into 6" spacing or even less, and like I said, it looks great.

What's the real deal here? I strongly suspect I can significantly increase planting density, but how much? How do I know?

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