Tuesday, April 13, 2010

French intensive planting

While planning my garden this year I did a lot of reading (thank you for all the wonderful books, Doug!) and thought I might try my hand at French intensive planting. Now planting a bunch of plants in a narrow plot of ground seemed to go against everything I had learned thus far, but it not only gave the gardens I've read about a certain beauty but boosted their overall production as well!
French intensive gardening means planting your vegetables closer together than normally recommended on seeds packets. As a result, the dense foliage helps shade out weeds and you get more harvest from your space.
Instead of hoeing out rows this year, I raked up raised beds/plots. Now I REALLY hate weeding so I put down landscaping fabric. In theory, you don't have to do this due to the close plantings but I'm not taking any chances!
In these plots are green beans and cowpeas. These are bush type plants and they are planted fairly close together. In this small space I would normally only get two rows with five plants in each row (so 10 green bean plants all together). With this new method, I will have 16 plants in just HALF the space! As you can see, I just planted eight seeds of each plant for now. In two weeks I'll plant eight more and that will give me a longer harvesting season.
I did the same thing with my cucumbers. I'm training them up these homemade trellises and planted three seeds on each side of the trellis. In two weeks I'll plant along the other trellis for a longer harvest season. Normally where there would only be one row with six cucumber plants, I will now have eighteen plants!

Next to the cucumber trellis is okra. Normally that space would be one row and carry about six okra stalks. By broadening the row into a raised bed and making the plantings closer, I will now have 14 stalks!
French intensive gardening takes a bit more planning and work than a traditional garden. I really thought about companion plantings (planting things close together that were beneficial to one another, like the cucumbers and beans, or tomatoes and peppers). I also had to really make sure the soil was nutrient rich with organic matter so that the plants didn't have to compete for nutrients being so close together. I also think the look is more interesting than traditional rows.
I'm really excited about this new method and look forward to sharing my findings. I'm also really excited about the additional harvests this means for our family....not to mention our pocketbook!

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