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Avoid Over-Crowding the Vegetable Plants

August 04, 2011
Greenhouse inside view

It’s a jungle in the greenhouse — good thing I can optimize airflow with open Dutch doors!

Overcrowding in a greenhouse — or even in a planting bed — is a sure-fire way to invite pest and disease problems. And, if you’re like me and unwilling to spray pesticides and fungicides, then keeping your greenhouse clean and well-ventilated, and being sure plant crowding is minimal is ideal.

So, perhaps I really should have titled this post:  “Oh, here go hell come.” (Calvin Tran).

Yep, my greenhouse is just asking for it this year.

Yes, it is well ventilated. But, it is also terribly over crowded with overlapping vines and leaves of multiple cucumber and tomato plants.

I’m watching it closely. Thinning the tomato suckers almost daily. Cutting out cucumber leaves that look suspicious. And, I’m unwinding areas that are really getting thick and are building up moisture, which fungus and mildew loves — especially when its coupled with little airflow and warm temperatures. (Sounds like a greenhouse to me.)

Greenhouse View 2

The Greenhouse viewed from the patio — those Cukes want to escape!

So far, I’m doing okay with things as crowded as they are. The cucumbers are producing beautifully. And, the tomatoes, while still only green, are laden with fruit. Air is flowing through the vent and the dutch door windows. Bees are traveling in and pollinating. Fruit is forming, and so far disease isn’t.

Protecting both these crops from this year’s incredibly long spring and late arrival of summer, has been a good thing in the greenhouse. But, I may have over-done it. And, I may pay for it later.

If the vines start getting sick, they’ll be culled. Again, I’m checking them at least once a day. But, really kids, don’t try this at home. It requires a trained eye and regular, diligent inspections to make this work.

And, let’s be honest, in the end, it may end up failing completely. So, please, for your own sanity and success, follow the old adage: do as I say, not as I do. All this maintenance and worry probably isn’t worth the potential of an extra tomato late in the season. My greed may result in a total loss. Or, if I work hard at it, I might get an overwhelming glut.

Stay tuned. Updates will follow.


  1. Amy says:

    Hi there,

    I found you through Willi’s capture of your greenhouse in her Kitchen Gardens Pinterest board. We just tried our first greenhouse last summer (purchased, on sale, demo floor model) and it wasn’t great…no easy ventilation led to incredible heat inside during the height of our late prairie summer (Western WA, Thurston County). I was afraid to keep any plants in it, for fear they’d burst into flames! It’s not very nice to look at, either. I’d prefer something like yours, but I’m curious…how did it fair in winter? Have you had to deal with much snow load? (We get more than Seattle, normally…last month’s freak storm brought 14″, which was excessive, and in other years we’ve had only 8″ but lows as low as 4 degrees.)


  2. Amy thanks so much for following Willi and for getting in touch re: our greenhouse. I’ll tell you, I still really love this greenhouse. I’ve had it several years now, and it hasn’t needed any repairs yet. We’re getting a bit of algae build up at the polycarbonate cut points, but it isn’t bad. It tends to dry out and fall off by summer and never creeps up the walls to block light (yet).

    As for snow load. As you know, we don’t get a lot of snow in Seattle, but we did get hit pretty good with snow then heavy ice earlier this winter. And, it was no problem for this greenhouse. The roofline is very steep, so snow doesn’t usually pile up for long on it. Nothing broken at all to date.

    There are several posts and pics of this greenhouse throughout gardenhelp.org. And, you like Pinterest, please follow us at http://pinterest.com/gardenmentor/

    Again, thanks!

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