Do you want to grow a lot of food, in a small space, using not too many resources?
If you’re willing to put in some work in order to accomplish that, biointensive gardening may be for you.
It’s Sunday morning, June 21st, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.
I’m doing my once a month garden maintenance, pulling the small number of weeds that made it through my leaf mulch, spraying some organic fertilizers and microbial inoculants and sowing some seeds.
When following biointensive gardening principles, the way to relieve compaction, improve drainage and promote deeper root growth is by double digging garden beds.
If you’re on especially sandy soil, you might be able to skip it. I’m on clay, which is why I double dig a couple of beds each spring for my potatoes.
By moving my potatoes every year, it ensures each part of my garden will get double dug at some point.
The main biointensive method for improving soil fertility is to use compost.
The purpose of compost is to bring beneficial organisms and nutrients into the soil, as well as improving water-holding capacity, drainage and aeration, among other things.
Many of us get our compost materials from elsewhere, perhaps the garden center or a local farmer.
And that’s okay. Most of us are gardening on the side, doing other work that enables us to purchase these inputs, thus helping out the person we’re buying them from.
If a garden store or farmer is selling or giving away straw or manure, you’re helping them out my buying or taking it, so I have no problem with this.
But if we want to be truly self sustainable, we should be growing our own compost materials.
If you’re trying to grow most of your own calories, it makes sense to grow calorie-dense food, which especially points to root crops such as potatoes and parsnips.
When growing biointensively, 30% of the land is often allocated for this.
With 60% of land going to ‘carbon’ and 30% going to ‘calorie’ crops, that leaves just 10% for vegetables.
Companion planting means placing plants together that grow well together (and may even help each other out), while avoiding placing plants together where one inhibits the other.
The companion planting charts you can find online and books shouldn’t be treated as hard science, but can be very worthwhile as a starting point when you’re trying to figure out how to lay out your beds.