INTENSIVE GARDENING On The Hobby Farm ( Spring Is Coming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)


You know spring is coming again right?

Yes you are right it isn’t even winter yet, “technically”. Just mid December! You haven’t even finished the Christmas shopping yet and I want to talk about a spring garden! What is he crazy?!

Well in answer to your query that is just a vicious rumor. The verdict on my sanity is still out. In fact they haven’t even run any test yet. So NO I am not crazy. Well maybe a little but  I enjoy it.

But back to the spring garden. What are you going to plant and how much of it. The same places or are you going to practice crop rotation? At least as much as you garden space allows I hope. Is the compost already in so the worms and micro organisms can get started on it? Looking at the seed catalogs; maybe even ordered already to beat the spring rush and back orders? Well if your answer to all of these are yes then you are way ahead of me.

I have been doing some studying to see if maybe I want to get a little deeper into Intensive Gardening. That is French Intensive Gardening actually. If you are not familiar with the term let me see if I can offer a little help so you will understand more easily.  First Bob’s explanation before we get to the more intellectual explanations.

Intensive Gardening simply put is the practice of HIGHLY improving the soil, with organic matter,  in raised bed of a size and design that allows a person access to all the plants to weed and work as needed  while not going into the bed itself.  It also includes the planting to be done in a manner that puts the plants close enough that when mature the leaves of each touch each other and shade the ground  inhibiting the growth of weeds and evaporation of moisture from the soil.  We can also use elevated trellises for the larger or vining plants to conserve space and provide shade for other plants that don’t like a lot of direct sun .  Companion planting can  be used in this plan to allow plants to offer or receive aid one from one  another.

This is a lot of information to cover and you will not find all the information here but let’s get started!

According to Wikipedia French Intensive Gardening is as follows:
French intensive gardening started in the 1890s on two acres of land just outside of Paris. The crops were planted in 18 inches of horse manure, a readily available fertilizer, and planted so close together that the mature plants’ leaves touched their neighbors. Introduced to the United States by Alan Chadwick in California in the late 60s, early 70s.

Bed preparation:

Getting the bed ready is the most time-consuming aspect to a well-prepared garden. First thing is to plan a lay-out with beds roughly 5 feet (1.5 m) across, and a path between each bed large enough to work in. After the layout is planned, the bed prep-work begins. Double-digging is essential to a proper garden. Double-digging is accomplished by layering fertilizer (most traditionally horse manure) onto the top-soil. Now start digging a trench around 12 inches in depth, placing the top-soil aside to be used later. once the trench is completed, use the shovel (or garden fork) to loosen the under soil another 12 inches. Then move next to the trench and start placing the loosened top-soil from the new trench on the old trench. Continue this process until the far side of the bed has been reached, using the topsoil from the first trench to fill in the last. This creates a raised bed providing improved drainage and surface area for plants to grow. As an added benefit, weeds are much easier to pull out when the roots do not have a firm grip in the soil. Once finished, care must be taken to not compress the earth, as good aeration and drainage are important to a successful garden.


When placing plants in the garden, optimal spacing is achieved when the mature plants have their leaves barely brushing each other. This creates as a kind of mulch, keeping unwanted weeds at bay, because of their close proximity, companion planting is often employed to get the most out of the plants. Companion planting is growing 2 or more plants in close proximity that improve the growth of each other.


This technique has been claimed to produce up to four times the produce per acre and half the water consumption than traditional farming

Quite a good explanation of and some detail to boot.

Now here is just part of what Mother earth news has to say

Mother Earth news

Whether you grow food on a spacious homestead or are digging into your first urban garden, ditching the plant-by-rows approach and instead adopting intensive gardening techniques can help you grow a more productive garden that’s also more efficient to manage. These methods will open up a new world when it comes to small-space gardening, which can be so much more than just a few lone pots on a balcony. If you do it right, you can grow more food in less space and put an impressive dent in your household’s fresh-food needs.

Whether the problem is feeding a hungry world or simply increasing the productivity of a small backyard garden, the solution might well be bio dynamic gardening.
Back in 1966 Alan Chadwick — an English actor, painter, pianist, and master horticulturist — was offered a chance to demonstrate the techniques of bio dynamic (aka French intensive) gardening on a barren four-acre clay hillside at the University of California’s Santa Cruz campus. Chadwick tackled the little “desert” (land that was so inhospitable that few weeds even grew there) with hand tools, a love for the garden that he knew the plot could become, and incredible energy. Before long the once dead-looking slope was a veritable paradise of vegetables and flowers, and a beacon that attracted students and followers.

Since then, bio dynamic gardening (often referred to as aquaculture or “the method”) has slowly gained a reputation among organic gardeners in North America, largely through the efforts of Chadwick and John Jeans (of Ecology Action of the Mid-Peninsula in Stanford, California). It was Jeans who eventually took the technique — which Chadwick had synthesized from the intensive gardening practiced in turn-of-the-century France and the bio dynamic theories developed by Rudolf Steiner in early 20th century Austria — and subjected it to careful modification and testing. He was always striving to produce the optimum yield from the smallest possible space

If you want to get a little more in depth here is a good site to start with and Mother Earth news has a lot of info and different articles on this subject as well.
As an aside, (I think that is the right way to say it), I remember reading many years back of the European peoples during or after the two Great Wars; now there is a contradiction in terms if ever I have heard one. I participated in a small one in the late sixties and there is nothing GREAT about a war. As I recall the article food was short or very expensive or both. These were town people without the space to have even a garden so they took up plots of land along the public transportation right of ways to garden. Railroad lines was  the one I remember. Each day they would gather the tools and whatever else would be needed and carry it, by hand, cart, or bicycle if lucky, with them to their garden spot to work their food plot. This included carrying  the water and nutrient needs as well. Then when finished for the day they would have to take every thing home with them again including the food they had grown.


Those people were serious about their gardening. They were hungry. If memory serves me well France was either one of or the place this took place. Did they practice intensive gardening? I would imagine that if they had the knowledge to do so they would have. There was a need to get all they could from a small space with as little effort as possible.

Another aspect of this you might want to check into would be companion plantings. If you are not familiar with the term it is simply put the planting of plants that are beneficial to each other near each other in order to reap the highest benefits from both or in some cases just one. You might want to look at  In this article you will find two charts for companion planting.

Does it help? We have experienced some benefits from it I think. Is it a cure all for all the gardening pest and harvest problems we will have. Not in my opinion but it is worth the effort. Check it out it is worth the time.

A word of advice or warning.  All the site prep and work involved may sound and can be a little overwhelming.  Especially if you have a large garden.  You may want to start with one bed of a size and shape that will fit well in your gardens space.  Try that one as suggested and add from there as you see the benefits and have the time and material.


Well I seem to run on here so I will wrap it up by saying “Spring Is Coming Again”. It is not to early to start planning and preparing for it.

Bob & Pauline


Let us know your thoughts as well

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