Posts Tagged ‘french intensive method’

I’m long overdue with an update on my terraced garden bed.  I wish that were garden beds, but alas, I’ve only gotten the first one done so far.  It’s planted, though, which is worth the delay on the rest of the terrace wall-building project.  Simply put, it took longer than I had expected, to excavate the 3′ x 26′ area a foot deep, and fill it with soil saved from previous growing containers and beds.

That didn’t surprise me, it just slowed me down.  Which isn’t a bad thing, as my right wrist and elbow had developed some soreness from all the block lifting and dirt moving, and needed some down time to heal.  I was able to get the bed finished and soaker hose laid down for a short row of carrots before our Farm trip, leaving four flats of seedlings in the care of our neighbor with the hopes of having something to put in the ground when we got back.

Thanks to Jo over at 14 Acres, I have squash and tomatoes up and thriving along with the carrots, and last year’s beet and bean seeds started well too.  The potting mix I grabbed at the store to use ended up being horrible – extremely hard to wet, and it dried out in the cells even though the top was moist, so not everything made it, but enough to give me a first planting.

Mine is a small garden, and so to maximize the productivity of each square foot, the bed is not planted in rows, but in blocks, at the spacing called for between plants in rows, which is known as the French intensive method.  Relying on organic fertilizers, compost, and companion planting in raised beds to ensure soil and plant health as outlined by John Jeavons in his revolutionary book, How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine expands this approach to gardening into what is known as Biointensive, a combination of Biodynamic and French intensive methods. 

A student of Alan Chadwick, the horticultural genius Englishman who brought this method of gardening to UC Santa Cruz in the 1960’s, Jeavons is still active today in Willits, California, at the Common Grounds Garden as executive director of Ecology Action, the organization he joined in 1972.  I would love to have the opportunity to attend one his Grow Biointensive workshops.

My beds are not so much raised yet, but I forked the bottom thoroughly to a depth of 6″ and filled them with 16″ of very mature, compost-enriched growing soil, amended with beneficial bacteria and fungi, rock fertilizer and bone meal.  If I had years and years to garden here, the additions of compost each year would eventually raise the bed surfaces; for the two growing seasons I’ll have, ground-level growing will work just fine, I reckon.  And, that’s all the soil I had, or I’d have made them higher.

The soaker hose is a new experiment for me, and I haven’t determined yet if it will water the bed uniformly all on its own; it’s really just a back-up watering system for when we’re gone to the Farm.  I enjoy watering by hand, at least a garden this small, and it’s really the best way to ensure everything gets the right amount of the precious stuff.  Here in semi-arid desert country (11″ rainfall/yr), watering is mandatory.  At the Farm, with its 45″ of annual rainfall, this will not be a problem, obviously.

At any rate, the season’s food growing has begun, and I’m delighted beyond words with my tiny 75-square feet of honest-to-god garden bed.  Even considering possible critter damage, insect predation and plants that just don’t want to grow, there should be puh-lenty of good stuff to eat this summer.  Right outside my back door.


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