• Silly Farmer Billy

Extensive Gardening: Social Distance for Plants

Hey there,

Did you know..

That sometimes people social distance their plants?

We call it Extensive Gardening. It's not as popular these days. Intensive is all the rage. 

This one’s basically the opposite.

The idea is to give your plants enough space that they aren’t competing with each other for nutrients.

For instance.. you can grow more broccoli per square foot if the plants are much closer together, but your broccoli heads will be much bigger if you space them out. So which way do you want it?

But there is another reason you might want to go extensive.. 

Nutrient density.

There are some who say that plants that have the breathing room will produce food that packs more nutrients per pound. And there’s data to back it up.

The best source of more information on this method would be a book called:

The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-Dense Food” by Erica Reinheimer and Steve Solomon.

But honestly, that book might go beyond the ‘extensive’ concept quite a bit. There’s a lot about specific soil nutrient levels, which could be applied to any gardening method.

I haven’t read the book, so I’m not saying it’s any good.

How do you start applying extensive methods?

It’s easy.

Just don’t apply intensive methods. 

If you just follow the instructions that come with the package of seeds you buy, or other conventional (old-school) sources of information, then you’ll be planting at densities that fit the bill.

Let me be clear: Conventional and/or industrial farmers didn’t read “The Intelligent Gardener”.

And they don’t care about nutrient density.

But incidentally, they’ve used extensive plant spacing for over almost a hundred years. That’s because they use giant machines to work the soil and the crops, so they had to space their rows far enough apart to fit giant tractor wheels in between.

Also, they didn’t need to worry about having a dense crop canopy to shade out weeds, because they just sprayed chemicals everywhere.

You, however, can avoid weeds without a dense crop canopy by using a plastic mulch (landscape fabric with holes burned in them for the plants), or an organic mulch like hay or wood chips.

Let me make one more point..

Choosing a gardening method is all about what’s important to you.

If you want the most volume of food for the amount of growing space you have, then intensive methods are best. If you want the most nutrition in each bite of food you produce, then extensive gardening might serve you well; but you’ll need the extra growing space. 


I want the most volume of food with the most nutrition per bite.. for the least possible amount of maintenance. I need a maximum return on my time.

That means I’ll select my methods on a crop-by-crop basis. 

Beans, onions, garlic, and greens are getting planted intensively this year. Trellised plants like peppers and eggplant are getting plenty of space.

And if I’m wrong, I’ll adjust for next year.

But that’s just me.

Talk Soon

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