Intensive Gardening


Close plant spacing (this is celtuce) also helps keep down weeds.

I am the first to admit that I carry a banner for home-grown food. I can hear some of you now: “The woman has 185 acres, raises her own cows, fer Chrissake, and she’s going on about me raising my own food when I live on this miniscule lot.” Well, yes, I do have lots of space. However, I am also growing older (darn it!) and am always thinking about how to keep gardening as I grow more decrepit. That means more intensive gardening. For that matter, I too have known what it’s like to garden in a small space. You can grow a surprising amount with a suburban lot.

No matter how small the garden, always plant something pretty – Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory.

For starters, if you have limited space, you can practice square foot gardening. This form of intensive gardening uses one-foot square blocks, with different plants in each block and larger plants centered in several blocks. If you choose highly productive plants, you can get quite a lot of food from a relatively small space. Green onions, for example, can be planted very close together – in fact, you want to plant them that way to keep them slender and straight. A cucumber only needs about two square feet (grow it on a pole or it will take over the whole garden) and will provide you with salad material for months. If you really ramp up the fertility of the soil, you can grow a cucumber in one square foot of space. Lettuce can be sown broadcast so it grows thickly; cut regularly about two inches above the ground. It will then regrow so you can repeat the process. Many plants and herbs can also be grown in pots, tubs or other containers. They should be at least two feet deep, and you’ll need to keep a close eye on them as far as watering goes.

No matter how small your garden, always keep new seedlings coming along for the bare spots.

In a 25-square foot space – that’s five feet by five feet for the math-challenged among you – your spring garden could contain:

  • 24 green onions
  • 4 heads of lettuce
  • 24 radishes
  • 9 leaf lettuces
  • 9 spinach plants
  • 2 sprouting broccoli
  • 24 carrots
  • 4 potatoes
  • 18 bush peas
  • Several of these plants – chard, sprouting broccoli, spinach and leaf lettuce – lend themselves to the practice of cut-and-come-again harvesting. You could seed more carrots as you pull the green onions and ditto radishes as you harvest the carrots. If you harvest everything, you could then plant in a summer garden:

  • 2 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 summer squash
  • 18 pole beans
  • 9 leaf lettuces
  • 4 cucumbers
  • Now, that kind of intensive gardening means you have to keep ahead of the weeds, pay close attention to watering and keep your soil in tip-top condition. It also means you need to grow your next season’s plants in containers, ready to pop into an opening as soon as it becomes available. But it can be done. For details consult Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew or How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons.

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