I'm thinking about trying my hand at biodynamic gardening...also called permaculture, or French Intensive gardening. Has anyone else tried gardening using this method? How did it go? Did it work well for you? Did your amount of produce increase?
Just curious to hear your thoughts on the subject. :)
My mistake... I am just now starting to try and learn about French Intensive Gardening, and I took this quote from Mother Earth News to mean that they all were the same thing, just different names... "Learn how biodynamic gardening (or permaculture, or French Intensive gardening) can help you harvest the highest possible yield in the smallest possible ..."
Good to know I was wrong; they are 3 different forms of gardening. That being the case then, I'm interested in French Intensive Gardening. ...My first question then is, can I use my big rototiller on my JD tractor to turn the soil over and loosen it up? Will that do the same thing as "double digging" if I add rabbit manure to the soil? I'm going to assume that my abundant supply of fresh chicken manure is too "hot" to use.
Tilling is not the same thing as double digging at all. Jeavon's "How to Grow More Vegetables" is a classic (and may be available in your library) and was really the original US work on the topic.
But, hey, you don't have to be dogmatic about it. What you do have to do is stop tilling and destroying your tilth each year if you want to do intensive gardening. If the first year is a deep till to get started... well, it will save you much effort this year. I don't know what the soil is like in Fowlerville, but if I tried to start my current garden by double digging, I'd still be out there trying to finish 4 years later! :)
Thanks Nicole and Drthor! I appreciate your help!
I did more reading today, and yes, it is French Intensive Gardening that I'm interested in learning about, not Biodynamics. I just want to grow more vegetables in a smaller space...that's all. You know, Nicole, I think I have the book "How to Grow More Vegetables". I'll go look on my shelf and if so, I'll dive right into it! :-)
WOW drthor!! Your garden is amazing!!! :) Thanks for suggesting I look at your pics! You are definitely a "squeezer"! I'll give squeezing a try this year and see how I do! LOL
I spent this evening going through my copy of Jeavons' “How To Grow More Vegetables”, highlighting and peppering it with small post-a-notes. I'm grateful that it includes step-by-step instructions on how to create a compost pile. We'll take a stab at it this spring and see how we do. ;)
Wish me luck!
Here is a book I have found useful for many things:
The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith (Dec 2, 2009) ; also his book for containers and vegetables, which is good for self watering and DIY SW pots. One thing I love about this book, is the estimates on how long the seed will last; helpful for those of us with small plots who don't use much of the seed from a packet each year. He certainly is organic, the other 2 gardening systems I am not familiar with. I will look for the Jeavon book at my library- always try before I buy when possible.
Good luck to you; raising some of your own food is so satisfying.
Yes it is, MartyR. I can't wait to start seeds indoors tonight!
One of the many things I like about the Jeavons book is it has to-scale bed plans that you can use and it covers companion planting too. I hate having to reinvent the wheel and at least this way, I know I'm laying it out right. ;)
Don't forget that with intensive methods, you also need inputs from somewhere. Even if you compost faithfully, some stuff exits your system you can't recover, so you have to bring in compost or mulch, etc.
Double-digging has gone out of style because of the labor involved, but I am still working away at it because I have had good results in the areas I have finished. It works well if you have a layer of good topsoil over a layer that really needs improving. If you already have deep topsoil, or don't have any topsoil at all, it probably is not the method to use.
I also try to use rotations (I don't have enough beds dug to do it right yet). Each rotation has different veggies herbs and flowers. I have seen improvements in insect control. The CSU Insect Expert says that mixed plantings do better than mono cultures because they create a little ecosystem that encourages beneficials - NOT because it repels bad bugs. So plant to attract not repel insects (I landscape to attract insect eating birds, too)
Where I haven't rotated, I have had some problems with disease in tomatoes. Proper rotation should fix that - but I have stopped putting potato peelings in the compost, too.
In my mind, I simplify or over-simplify French Intensive down to "raised bed plus good soil".
The soil has to be very fertile and well-drained if you want to grow more plants in a small space.
Hence good soil structure, which almost requires lots of organic matter added (compost in the soil, and mulch on top).
I suspect that "everyone" is right about not needing much tilling AFTER you create great, deep, rich, well-draining soil.
But if you start out with heavy clay soil with no drainage, no worms, no soil structure and almost no organic content, and you're impatient, I personally think that deep tilling to mix in the first few year's worth of soil amendments works wonders.
Once you have a bed with 18-24 inches of well-structured soil supporting a healthy root zone, and loads of worms maybe "everyone" is right that you can just add compost and mulch on top and trust the worms and seepage too.
So many "lasagna" people have told me it works that I have to believe them: if you can get by for a few years growing things in a shallow layer of compost laid ON TOP of unusable soil, with a layer of corrugated cardboard between them, eventually roots and worms will rescue the deeper soil layers.
I do no-till and put compost on top of my rows every year. I'm curious about the French intensive system so I'm going to read up on it. Although I garden organically I still have trouble with pests like squash bugs, and I'm also never sure when to plant successive crops. The Jeavons book sounds helpful.
Yes - I have bad soil. It is salty alkaline clay. The best way to mitigate the salt is to add organic matter (salt free, not manure or salty native plants) to decrease the percentage of native soil in the the top soil - or use raised beds with different soil in them. People here do a lot of "dump truck" gardening. We order in a dump truck load of topsoil, and often just build our bed or garden around the pile without bothering to move it!
Believe it or not, you can actually have too much compost. I heard of a Master Gardener who ordered a Dump truck load of straight compost for her raised beds. It did weird things when watered - there would be a spot that was too wet right next to a spot that was too dry. And bagged potting soil always looses its nutrients after a season. So I firmly believe that you need that you need some dirt in your dirt.
That's my own fervently-followed policy, but I know many "lasagna people" who manage to garden "above" the soil in (it sounds to me) like pure compost-makings and compost. But I don't know.
I hope that people researching French Intensive share their findings here.
All I really recall is
- double dig in lots of compost to prepare the bed, at least the first year.
- Then keep it very fertile in nutrients and organic matter,
- keep the soil very fluffy and very well-draining. Never step on the soil,
- plant the crops close together in both space and time
Maybe French Intensive is anti-rows, or at least anti space-between-rows.
I didn't realize that French Intensive was always no-till after the original bed prep. They might go together well, since well-fed raised beds don't need ongoing tilling unless you have really heavy clay insufficiently amended.
Wikipedia says that it started started in the 1890s outside Paris, and was introduced to the US by Alan Chadwick in the late 60s, early 70s.
It seems to me that workable schedules for shoehorning 3-4 different crops into the same bed in one year would depend a lot on climate and varieties: how fast things mature and what the day lengths and air temps are during which months.
Does that kind of multiple-sequential-cropping require starting seeds in one bed and then transplanting into the "production" bed? I vaguely seem to recall reading things like "start the XYZ seedlings BETWEEN the ABC mature plants", so that XYZ is half-grown by the time you harvest ABC. But I'm not sure.
Will do everyone!! Our frost laws just expired yesterday, so I will order compost and top soil this week! :) Thanks for all your insight and wisdom! I'm a firm believer in learning from others and not finding out the hard way...that...seem so foolish to do.
I did get the book "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible" by Edward C. Smith, and for me, it explained French Intensive Gardening in an easier way to understand and make sure I'm doing it right.
Glenda, that's interesting - the description of Smith's book never mentions French Intensive Gardening at all. I just got it for $1.99 for my iPad but that's probably not the best format for a book like that! Jean-Martin Fortier's book The Market Gardener looks good, too.
drthor wrote:Yes I do that too.
I grow everything vertical and very very close. I do have a small garden and this is really working for me.
I am a squeezer !!
You can check out my harvests in my garden gallery.
Wow just checked out your showcase. You take wonderful photos. I have enjoyed taking photos of various aspects of my garden, but never thought about doing something like this. I'm still learning about this marvelous forum!
Thanks so much.
I did a lot of work at the beginning and now I am just enjoying the results.
Definitely I am a "squeezer gardener".
Soon I will upload pictures for this year. It will be a good year too.