• Silly Farmer Billy

The next generation: intensive gardening

Hey there,

Last time, I told you about my first experience with gardening: Square Foot Gardening.

Sq Ft is what we call an ‘intensive’ method.

Let’s talk about that..

Intensive gardening is high density gardening.

The plants are very close together. Also, the aisles might be tiny, the infrastructure and tools are usually compact and modular, and the crop selection is usually weighted towards high density production.

Another way to look at intensive gardening methods is that they are a hybrid of rediscovering old 17th-18th century French intensive farming methods, combined with modern tools and hacks that bootstrap farmers have developed in the past 15-20 years.

For instance, solarization is a method where a bed is prepped and watered, and then covered with clear plastic for a few weeks before seeding.

The weed seeds germinate and then die under the plastic, due to the sun’s greenhouse effect.

Occulation is similar, except that it’s done with a black plastic or even natural mulch (like hay, wood chips, etc.).. but in that case the weeds germinate and die from lack of light.

In both methods, the plastic/mulch is pulled off to reveal ready-to-plant, weed-free beds.

Intensive growing has been in vogue with home gardeners in the past 25 years thanks to Mel Bartholomew, Eliot Coleman, and others. 

But where intensive growing has really been popular is with urban and other small-scale farmers, such as Curtis Stone and Jean-Martin Fortier. They are a part of a recent generation of small-farming entrepreneurs who read those late 20th century organic pioneers and turned their methods into viable business models.

Here’s the gist:

..You don’t need a lot of space, a small front or back yard is more than enough.

..There are fancier tools than plain-old square foot gardening.

..There will be some weeding, this isn’t box-gardening.

..There will be a lot of work involved with bed-prep. Doing bed prep correctly is how weeding is minimized in intensive gardening

If you’re curious, just search ‘urban farming’, ‘market gardening’ or ’spin farming’ as it was called in the beginning.

Early-on for my farm, the plan was to deploy exactly those spin-farming business models and be a real ‘Market Gardener’. I ran test beds and tried out a lot of their methods. In the end, we decided to specialize in Microgreens only, but in my personal gardening I will be using many of the things I learned.

Next time, we’ll talk about the opposite of intensive growing… which is extensive growing.

Talk Soon

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