Do you enjoy a variety of fresh vegetables, but don't have the space to grow them? If your space is limited, you can still enjoy vegetables by using intensive gardening methods.
The purpose of an intensively grown garden is to harvest the most produce possible from a given space. Traditional gardens consist of long, single rows of vegetables spaced widely apart, and much of the garden area is taken by the space between the rows.
Intensive gardening is not just for those with limited garden space. It helps concentrate your efforts to create a better plant environment and to give better yields with less labor.
Good planning is essential to a good vegetable garden. First, there are a number of questions that need to be asked about last year's garden.
The first question that I ask is whether I planted too much or not enough of certain vegetables. Looking back at my garden, I planted too many tomatoes and not enough squash.
The second question is about the varieties that I used. I look at how well they produced and their flavor. I try new varieties every year. I will plant a new variety of squash along with the ones that I have planted in the past. Some of the new varieties I continue to use, and some never get planted again. Also, I try new varieties to see if they are resistant to insects and diseases.
The third question that I ask is about planting dates. Did I plant too early or too late? You need to get your vegetables in as soon as possible. Earlier planted vegetables have fewer insect problems.
The next part of planning is determining the size of the beds for the intensive garden. The standard practice is to have beds three feet to four feet wide. This allows you to reach in to the bed to weed, check for insects and harvest your vegetables without entering the bed. Walking only on the paths between the beds will reduce the amount of soil compaction in that bed.
The bed can be as long as needed. In my first garden spot, my beds were 40 inches wide and 20 feet long. With the beds this size, it didn't take me very long to prepare the soil for planting. The paths between the beds were 30 inches wide, which was too narrow for me. The plants would get so large that they would grow into the next bed, and this would block the paths. Last summer, I started a new garden area. The beds in this area are four feet wide and 20 feet long, and the path between the beds is four feet.
The most important part of intensive gardening is the soil. In intensive gardens, you will grow more plants in less space, so the soil has to have adequate nutrition and water. The best way to increase the nutrient- and water-holding capacity of the soil is to add organic matter. This can be in the form of compost, green manure or leaves. Adding humus to the soil increases the amount of earthworms, beneficial fungi and acids in the soil that help the nutrients become more available for the plants to use.
Another way to grow more plants in a bed is to vertical garden. The use of trellises, nets, strings, cages or poles to support growing plants can increase the amount of vegetables that you can grow. I use trellises to grow cucumbers, spaghetti squash and string beans. Instead of spreading out on the ground, they grow up.
One problem with vertical gardens is shading. Some vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach, are shade tolerant. You can extend the harvest on these crops by providing them with shade. Plants that are grown on trellises need to be mulched. Because the foliage is up in the air and not on the ground, the soil will dry out faster.
Good gardening practices such as watering, fertilizing, crop rotation, composting and sanitation are especially important in intensive gardening. An intensive garden does require more detailed planning, but the time saved in working the garden and the increased yields make it worthwhile.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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