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Try Intensive Gardens For Increased Yields
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Many of you probably get intense about gardening, especially when you see pests attacking. But there is a different kind of intensive gardening catching on in the South.
French intensive, square-foot, interplanting, vertical, wide-row, gardening by the yard and succession planting are all names for intensive gardening.
The purpose of intensive gardens is to harvest the most produce from a limited space. These spaces usually are small blocks, compared to traditional gardens which consist of long, single rows widely spaced. Much of the traditional garden area is taken by the space between the rows.
An intensive garden minimizes wasted space, but there is a limit on how much you can reduce open space. When you go beyond those limits, you open the door to control nightmares from disease and insects.
Intensive gardens concentrate efforts to create better yields with less labor. Fewer pathways and closely spaced plants often mean less weeding, but the work usually must be done by hand. Some gardeners prefer using machine cultivation on long rows to hand weeding.
Soil preparation is the key to successful intensive gardening. Plants must have adequate nutrients and water to grow together so closely.
Providing extra synthetic fertilizers and irrigation will help, but there's no substitute for deep, fertile soil high in organic matter -- just 3 to 5 percent would probably give you that proverbial green thumb.
Humus rich soil will hold extra nutrients, and existing elements locked up in the soil are released by the actions of earthworms, microorganisms and humic acids.
Nurseries and garden centers have specially prepared mixes that are excellent to use alone or incorporated in your soil. Use landscape timbers or railroad cross ties to enclose your bed. A 6- to 8-inch high bed would be ideal.
A good intensive garden requires early, thorough planning to make the best use of time and space in the garden. Consider the interrelationships of plants before planting, including nutrient needs, shade tolerance, above and below ground growth patterns, and preferred growing season.
The raised growing bed is the foundation of an intensive garden. Several beds allow the gardener to focus soil preparation in small areas, resulting in effective use of soil amendments and creating an ideal environment for vegetable growth.
Beds are generally 4 to 5 feet wide and segregated into blocks. This allows gardeners to work from either side of the bed, reducing the compaction on the soil.
The first step in deciding what to grow it to select what your family likes to eat.
Next, look at what costs you the most at the market per pound. Tomatoes, green onions, leaf lettuce, turnips, summer squash, beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, head lettuce and cauliflower are all among the top 15 economic crops to grow.
Consult your local county agent for recommendations on spacing for interplanting. In general, add the inches of recommended spacing for the two crops to be planted together and then divide the sum by two.
For example, tomatoes have a 24 inch spacing and leaf lettuce has a 4 inch space recommendation. The total of 28 inches divided by 2 means that you can plant your leaf lettuce 14 inches from your tomatoes. A caged tomato surrounded by lettuce sounds like a good salad combination.
Try a smaller garden but one that is intensive and your success may be greater.