Saturday, April 4, 2015

Get the most from your space-plant intensively!

Interplanted lettuce, herbs, and flowers

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Before there was the square foot garden or biodynamic gardening, the French perfected intensive gardening for urban food supply.  Both rely on raised beds with hefty amounts of organic matter and fertilizer.  In the 1800’s, the French used horse manure as their fertilizer and heat source piled 2 feet high in raised beds.  The heat from the manure allowed them to garden year round to have fresh produce at market in the city. 

The start of biodynamic, permaculture, intensive gardening in the US today got their start at the University of California, Santa Cruz, by Alan Chadwick, a British horticulturist, in his university demonstration garden in 1966.  It was analyzed and then popularized by John Jeavons in his book “How to Grow More Vegetables” in 1974.  http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/biodynamic-gardening-zmaz80jfzraw.aspx  

In this technique, plants are planted in offset rows to maximize the vegetables for the space.  Compost and manure are worked down to a depth of 2 feet in 4-10” raised beds 3-5 feet wide.  Only all organic, natural fertilizers are used.  Plants are positioned with those that support their growth called companion planting.  For more on companion planting, here is a link:  Companion planting

The square foot gardening pilgrim Mel Bartholomew published his first book “Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work”.  Square foot gardening uses 6 inch raised beds filled with compost, peat moss, and vermiculite.  http://squarefootgardening.org/square-foot-gardening-method

If using manure, apply manure in the fall after you are done harvesting for the season to allow decomposition and elimination of harmful bacteria.  Compost or fully composted manure can be added at any time.

Add flowers to attract pollinators as well as a pretty addition to raised beds.

Intensively planted spring garden
Spacing of veggies
Basil-12”
Bush beans-4”
Pole beans-6”
Beets-3”
Broccoli-12”
Brussels sprouts-16”
Cabbage-12”
Carrots-2”
Cauliflower-12”
Swiss Chard-12”
Chives-6”
Cilantro-8”
Corn-12”
Cucumber, vine-8”
Eggplant-15”
Kale-15”
Heading lettuce-10”
Leaf lettuce-8”
Melon, vine-15”
Mustard greens-4”
Okra-12”
Onions-3”
Oregano-15”
Parsley-6”
Bush peas-6”
Pole peas-4”
Peppers-12”
Radishes-3”
Rhubarb-24”
Rutabaga-6”
Spinach-4”
Bush squash-36”
Vine squash-24”
Staked tomatoes-18”
Turnips-4”

Square foot gardening has a rule of thumb for intensive planting per square foot of garden space:
Extra Large – one per square for 12 inch spacing
Large – 4 per square for 6 inch spacing
Medium – 9 per square for 4 inch spacing
Small – 16 per square for 3 inch spacing.

Basically, you space them so that their neighbor’s leaves are just barely touching.  With intensive planting, you will have to water more often.   Another consideration to the planting is sun position and plant height.  You want to be sure that sun lovers are not shaded by a taller plant.  You can also plant those that appreciate some shade in the hotter months behind taller plants to extend the harvest.  Here is a link to average plant heights and root depths at maturity:  Veggie plant height and root depth 

A key tenant of intensive gardening is succession planting.  Never having an empty space in the garden.  Planning is key here.  Having transplants lined up to replace the crop you just harvested.  As soon as the spring crops are done, getting the summer growers in their spot.  If using seeds, you would plant your summer vegetable in between your spring vegetable as soon as weather allows.  As your spring crop is being harvested, your summer crop will be close behind.

Lastly, crop rotation is considered key by many.  Here is an easy way to think about crop rotation:  Crop rotation made easy for small gardens

I started my vegetable garden in my mulched flower beds.  It has the same concept and has the advantage of already having lots of organic matter from mulching each year.  Mulch also keeps in moisture, moderates the ground temperature and keeps weeding to a minimum.  For more on weed free, till free gardening  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds


It is simply amazing how much you can grow in a small space with good organic practices and planning.  Start your own French intensive garden this year!

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