There are a number of factors that affect plant growth, including sufficient light, water, soil and soil nutrients. Overcrowding will affect plant growth in many ways, including encouraging the development of diseases, hampering flower production, stimulating insect and pest problems and influencing the overall growth and development of a plant.
Signs Caused by Overcrowding Plants
Weak Branches and Stems
When your plants are overcrowding, they are fighting for a finite amount of nutrients. In order to compete for light and oxygen they will end up stretching up too far and as a result become weak and brittle. They will begin to use other branches for support and can sometimes end up breaking them. This is a problem especially when attempting to move plants with weak branches. You could end up snapping off a stem or even an entire branch!
You Could Suffocate Your Plants
Overcrowding plants tend to have poor airflow, so if you let the situation get too out of hand, you could end up suffocating your plants! You’ll know your plants are suffocating if they gradually start wilting, drying out, and then turning that dreaded shade of yellow.
Overcrowded plants must compete with each other for soil nutrients, which can result in increased fertilizer needs. Soil contains a finite amount of nitrogen and other necessary plant nutrients. The more plants there are in a small space, the more quickly these nutrients are used up. Although increased applications may prevent nutrient problems, it’s better to space plants appropriately to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Plants suffering from nutrient deficiencies may develop weak or yellow foliage, grow poorly, or they may fail to fruit or flower well.
Weak flowering and fruiting occur because of a lack of sunlight, moisture, air circulation and nutrients in a crowded garden bed. Plants expend energy reaching for sunlight instead of using it to produce flower buds. If a crowded plant does flower, the blooms may be small or sparse. A plant flowering poorly because of overcrowding may still exhibit healthy foliage. Perennial plants that require periodic dividing, such as spring and summer bulbs, flower poorly because the crowded bulbs or roots aren’t able to extract sufficient soil nutrients for bloom production.
A crowded garden bed often dries out quickly because too many plants are striving to absorb the necessary moisture from the soil. The bed requires more frequent watering to maintain moisture levels. It’s also difficult to soak the soil since the plants cover it densely. Water applied from overhead, from irrigation or rain, soaks the foliage but may not reach the ground beneath. The wet foliage paired with drought-stressed roots make the plants more prone to disease.
Pests and Disease
Poor air circulation can lead to an increase of fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew, in an overcrowded garden. Pests, including aphids and mites, can also more easily move between plants if they are spaced so closely that they touch. When plants grow with proper spacing, air can move freely between the plants, stems and foliage, which dries out the leaves and prevents fungal infections. Plants grow stronger, which also minimizes the impact of pest and disease occurrences in the garden.
Keep in mind that a little bit of overcrowding is to be expected, especially when growing in a small space.
Make sure that there is always more than an inch of space between each plant on all sides. Take the time to trim and maintain your plants so they don’t start to suffocate, or start leaning on each other. If you’re growing in a tight space, don’t try to cram too much in there!