Most vegetable seeds can be planted in straight, neat rows, allowing for enough space between the plants and the rows of cultivating, weeding and harvesting. When space is at a minimum, however, vegetables such as pole beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), corn (Zea mays), squash (Cucurbita spp.) , cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) and melons (Cucumis melo) are often planted in hills which are far enough apart to give them lots of space to roam without impacting nearby plants.
What is at a Hill?
Planting in hills does not always mean building a mound of dirt in which to set the seeds. Even though it can be done that way in areas that have a lot of rainfall and that need extra drainage, the term more correctly refers to clusters of seeds planted in a circle. In drought-prone locations, it is also a good idea to make a small basin for the seeds, that will trap just as much rainfall or hose water as you can. Technically speaking, though, it is not a hill at all, as the seeds go into the soil at bottom level. What is more important is just how far apart from the hills, or clusters, are spaced to allow for motion and adequate moisture absorption involving them.
Commercial growers have thousands of acres at their disposal and can afford to sacrifice some together with the row-planting method for most crops. It makes more sense, however, on a backyard scale to plant vining and sprawling plants in this way that they will grow within a certain prescribed location. As a seasoned gardener, you understand just how much space you need to work with and just how fast vining and sprawling plants can take over what little space you have. Generally, the types of vegetables that make the largest most aggressive crops are candidates for hilling, as this keeps things neat and under control.
Exceptions to this Rule
While corn (Zea mays) has an upright growing habit and pole beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) pretty much stay put once they’ve started climbing up their support systems, both plants still occupy considerable space as their big leaves reach out. Planting them in hills not simply makes it easier to walk one of them during cultivating and harvesting, but in addition, it makes better utilization of the available moisture and does not encourage exposure one of the plants. Corn also depends upon its leaves demanding for proper fertilization, which is accomplished more efficiently in a smaller area if the crops grow together in groups rather than rows.
The Hill Method
Remember that plants with a sprawling habit can develop from the primary stem as much as 12 feet, with vines fanning out in all directions. Stake out the area and calculate how much space you’ll need involving the hills. For winter squashes, cucumbers and pumpkins, hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 9, intend 4 to 6 ft between the hills on all sides. Melons, hardy in USDA zones 4 to 11, needs to be 6 ft apart, while beans, hardy in USDA zones 3 to 10, and corn, hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8, need at least 6 ft of space. Plant from five to ten seeds at an hill and cover dirt to the recommended depth.