Whether you grow food in a spacious garden or a tiny backyard, adopting intensive gardening techniques can help you grow a more productive garden that’s more efficient to manage. These methods will open up a new world when it comes to small-space gardening, which can be so much more than just a few lone pots on a balcony. If you do it right, you can grow more food in less space and has a positive impact in your household’s fresh-food needs.

Use every usable space by growing plants
Use every bit of space by growing plants

The purpose of an intensively grown garden is to harvest the most produce possible from a given space. More traditional gardens consist of long, single rows of vegetables spaced widely apart. Much of the garden area is taken by the space between the rows. An intensive garden reduces wasted space to a minimum. The practice of intensive gardening is not just for those with limited garden space; rather, an intensive garden concentrates work efforts to create an ideal plant environment, giving better yields with less labor.

Square-foot gardening
Square-foot gardening

The 4 Principles of Intensive Gardening

1. Permanent garden beds: Establishing permanent beds enables you to concentrate your efforts only where plants grow, without wasting compost or irrigation water on unplanted areas. It also makes soil compaction a nonissue, because you walk on permanent pathways and never on your growing areas. Setting up permanent beds and paths is such a popular layout here in the Pacific Northwest that I haven’t seen a garden arranged in rows for years.

2. Reliance on compost: All systems  of intensive vegetable gardening rely on the tried-and-true groundwork of all organic gardening: heavy doses of compost to supply balanced, slow-release nutrients needed to grow healthy crops. The organic matter in compost also increases soil’s water-holding capacity and improves its texture.

3. High-density mixed planting: A key to the high productivity is that they take advantage of the entire surface of each bed to grow plants rather than leaving spaces between rows. This results in even more yield without adding more garden space. For novice gardeners, the method of marking off beds in 1-foot squares may be particularly helpful as a way to visualize how densely one can plant. Interspersing crops with different root depths, plant heights and growth rates also means you can grow more in a given space.

4. Prompt succession planting: Staggered planting and, thus, staggered harvests are more efficient for the gardener and maximize the growing season. Quickly replanting any gaps left after harvesting a particular crop lets you use every area of the garden throughout the year.

If you would like to plan your intensive garden or get help to start one, write to vandana@artyplantz.com. Happy Gardening!

Source: Mother Earth News

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