Lazy Gardening Part Three: Growing Intensively


Now that you have no-till, wide growing beds in your vegetable garden, what’s the best way to maximize your harvest?  We discussed the first step, growing almost year-round, in the last post.  The next step is to plant in succession and replace everything you harvest with a new crop.  Use all of your space wisely.  This is what we mean by growing intensively.

Even though we have land, it has always struck me as silly to put too much of it into vegetable gardens.  If I can get the same number of vegetables out of a smaller space I save on the effort I put into the garden, time walking around the garden, and the money I put into maintaining the garden.  We spent a few years early on growing a large variety of crops, including some pretty unusual ones, and determining what we really enjoyed eating.  Then we experimented with which ones intercropped well and how late into the season we could grow each one.  We’ve now devoted the smaller garden to edible flowers and herbs.  In the main garden, about 2000 square feet, we grow 75% of the vegetables our family of three eats in a year.  And we eat a lot of vegetables!

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Methods for gardening intensively abound in books and on the internet.  Information on two of the most popular ways can be found in Intensive Gardening.  You need to determine what works best for you.  Many of the named methods require either a significant amount of work or money to implement.  Desiring to minimize both inputs we came up with our own approach.  Our approach to lazy, yet productive, gardening includes intensive intercropping, lots of homemade compost, going vertical, and succession planting.

Each winter we gather our seeds, plan out the garden for the next year, and determine which quick growing crops can fill spots emptied by partial harvest of other vegetables.  Each bed has something growing in it for the majority of the year.  Every bed supports a minimum of two crops in a year, while many grow 3-4 crops. 

When harvesting a few individual vegetables from a bed we quickly pop in fast growing seeds of something else.  When harvesting an entire crop, we top the soil with our farm grown compost then immediately plant a new crop.  We try to alternate heavy feeder crops (think cabbage and corn) with light feeders such as beans or sweet potatoes.  We also go vertical whenever possible which allows us to plant other crops in front of, or in between, teepees or trellises.

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