Intensive or square foot gardening uses space more efficiently than traditional methods. Instead of wasted room between rows of crops, the garden area is maximized — that way you get the most vegetables, fruits and flowers in the smallest amount of growing space.
Even if you have plenty of room in your backyard, intensive gardening can require less work while still providing lots of heathy plants. Usually there is less weeding involved since plants are spaced closer together and every bit of garden space is cultivated throughout the entire growing season. However, because there is less room between crops, weeding will need to be done by hand or with smaller garden tools — there will not be enough room for machinery. Another drawback — to some people — is that because plants are always growing, they are not all ready to harvest at the same time.
If you’re looking for the fastest ticket to a lush garden, start at ground level. Planet Natural offers a large selection of amendments, potting soils, inoculants and testing kits to help you produce healthy, productive plants year after year.
- Higher yields
- Improved soil conditions
- Ease of working
- Ease of pest control
- Water conservation
A raised bed should be just wide enough that you can reach all the way across without climbing into it (or, if you can access both sides of the bed, you need to be able to reach half way across). See (PDF).
One of the reasons raised beds have such high yields is that the soil is mixed with amendments to create a light, fluffy growing medium to a depth of about 2-feet. This encourages great root growth.
Vertical gardens are both a wise use of space and aesthetically pleasing. They can help keep plants up off the ground and can be used to define landscaped areas, by creating interesting focal points and eye-pleasing boundaries (see our article Containers with Altitude). Plants grown on walls, trellises and fences can cool your home or garden and block views you don’t want to see.
Good support surfaces for a vertical garden include:
- Openwork fences
- Hanging baskets
- Poles with string or nets
#1 VINE SUPPORT
Tomatoes do better grown in a cage or other support system than when left on the ground. Not only do they use up less space, but they are less likely to become infected with a soil-borne disease. Learn more about tomato gardening here.
Perfect for tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers… any tall plant! Reusable Tomato Clips make it easy to tie plants to stakes, trellises or support wire. Works with stems up to 3/4″ in diameter and features open sides to improve air circulation and reduce disease problems.
Cucumbers grow as vines and are a natural for vertical gardening.
Corn grows vertically, naturally, and can be used as a support for beans or other plants.
Peas, melons, and passion fruit take well to upwards growth. Even zucchinis, pumpkins and other squashes will grow vertically as long as their support system is strong enough.
Tips for a Successful Vertical Garden
- Make sure your vertically-grown plants are in a location where they won’t shade out sun-loving plants.
- Grow plants on the south side of the support structure for maximum sunlight.
- Don’t forget to water. Your vertical garden will dry out faster without plants laying on the soil to shade it.
- Soil should be deep and well-drained so plant roots can grow down into the soil, rather than growing outwards where they will compete with other plants.
- Heavy crops, such as melons, pumpkins and squash, may need additional support. Construct a “hammock” from strips of old pantyhose by tying it to either side of the crop you are supporting and place the vegetable/fruit inside.
Growing two or more plants in the same place at the same time is known as . This can be done by alternating rows within a bed, alternating plants within a row or mixing up plants throughout the bed.
- length of the plant’s growth period
- growth pattern (tall, short, below or above ground)
- possible negative effects on other plants (such as the allelopathic effects of sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes on nearby plants)
- preferred season
- preferred light
- nutrient and moisture requirements
Increase harvests in small spaces with Dalen® Trellis Netting. Made of high-quality nylon, it can be used to support extremely heavy crop loads and has large 7 in. reach through mesh for easy harvesting. Lasts for years and is available in 3 convenient sizes.
In a raised bed or interplanted garden, plants are grown more closely together than in a traditional row garden. When growing vegetables, herbs or fruits, stagger your rows so that a plant in one row is between two plants in the other row. This creates an almost continuous leaf cover that shades out weeds and reduces the amount of area that needs to be mulched.
The following chart from the indicates how closely seeds or seedlings can be planted.
|Asparagus||15 to 18||Lettuce, head||10 to 12|
|Beans, lima||4 to 6||Lettuce, leaf||4 to 6|
|Beans, pole||6 to 12||Melons||18 to 24|
|Beans, bush||4 to 6||Mustard||6 to 9|
|Beets||2 to 4||Okra||12 to 18|
|Broccoli||12 to 18||Onion||2 to 4|
|Brussels sprouts||15 to 18||Peas||2 to 4|
|Cabbage||15 to 18||Peppers||12 to 15|
|Cabbage, Chinese||10 to 12||Potatoes||10 to 12|
|Carrots||2 to 3||Pumpkins||24 to 36|
|Cauliflower||15 to 18||Radishes||2 to 3|
|Cucumber||12 to 18||Rutabaga||4 to 6|
|Chard, Swiss||6 to 9||Southern pea||3 to 4|
|Collards||12 to 15||Spinach||4 to 6|
|Endive||15 to 18||Squash, summer||18 to 24|
|Eggplant||18 to 24||Squash, winter||24 to 36|
|Kale||15 to 18||Sweet corn||15 to 18|
|Kohlrabi||6 to 9||Tomatoes||18 to 24|
|Leeks||3 to 6||Turnip||4 to 6|
To determine spacing for interplanting, add the inches for the two crops to be planted together, and divide the sum by 2. For example, if radishes are planted next to beans, add 2 inches + 4 inches = 6 inches, then divide 6 inches by 2 inches = 3 inches. The radishes should be planted 3 inches from the beans.
Tip: Be careful not to sow seeds too closely together or your crops may be at a higher risk of plant disease (often caused by poor air circulation). Always refer to the seed packet for appropriate spacing.
Succession and Relay Planting
Once a crop has reached its full production, it is time to plant more. Cool-season crops (peas, lettuce, broccoli) are followed by warm-season crops (peppers, tomatoes, beans), and if you live in a mild climate, these may be followed by more cool season plants, or even a fall/winter crop. Read our article on successive planting in the home garden to learn more.
T5 GROW LIGHT
If seeds are started indoors, there is always something ready to go into the garden as space opens up. Don’t forget to add compost or an organic fertilizer to get the soil ready for the next crop of plants.
Say goodbye to leggy plants! The Jump Start T5 Grow Light produces more than double the light output as standard shop fixtures — perfect for seedlings, cuttings and houseplants. Each system includes a T5 high output grow light fixture and bulb (6400K daylight spectrum – 10,000 hour life).
Planning & Design
Start early when planning an organic garden. In January or February, while snow still covers the ground, it is time to get out some graph paper and seed catalogs and get to work.
1.) Pull out last year’s garden journal to see what did and didn’t work in your garden. What? You didn’t keep notes? Learn here.
2.) Grab a pencil and paper and draw your garden plot(s). Using graph paper helps determine how much space you have to work with more precisely.
3.) Choose what plants you wish to grow. For each plant consider:
– Nutrient needs
– Shade tolerance
– Above and below ground growth patterns
– Preferred growing season
4.) Determine which plants can be grown together or successively. Read our article about companion planting here.
5.) Add the plants to your chart after determining how closely together they can be grown.
6.) Order your seeds. You can start some plants indoors so they are ready to go or directly seed into the soil.
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