As the name suggests, French intensive gardening was developed in France from where it spread to other parts of Europe and the world. This method is also known as biodynamic agriculture, Marais system and square-foot gardening. The main objective behind this method is to generate maximum yield in least possible space. Although this method defies certain preconceived notions about agriculture and farming, it is highly effective.
What is French Intensive Gardening ?
French intensive gardening is a method invented to maximum possible yield with the help of particular changes in the garden layout and using biodynamic agricultural techniques. Apart from being productive, through this method a huge variety of crops can be produced within the limited space. Planning is extremely important in French intensive gardening as the type of crop and method of planting need to be carefully determined well in advance.
A unique aspect of French intensive gardening is the use of raised beds. The gardening beds are huge which allows people to walk through the entire area in order to maintain the garden. The garden beds are dug up twice which means that the soil below is loose and worked up. Due to this, light and fluffy soil is generated which is them improved by addition of humus and compost, leading to a respectable plant growth with wide and deep roots.
Instead of flattened garden beds, French intensive gardening advocates mounded beds which increase the surface area and thereby facilitate more planting. Establishing these kinds of beds takes a lot of effort but people feel it is worth it, as the yield is excellent. To maintain the garden bed, it has to be watered lightly everyday along with regularly adding compost and fertilizers.
Plant spacing is another important feature of French intensive gardening. Plants are grown in proximity to each other which ensures the soil staying moist and prevents unwanted weed growth. The various French intensive gardening methods are discussed below.
French Intensive Gardening Methods
As per the climatic conditions, normally it takes a lot of months to harvest a crop in the same place where a crop was previously harvested. During this period, quick maturing or fast growing crops like radish, onions or lettuce can be grown to utilize the idle space.
In this method, to utilize all available space in the best possible manner, a fast-maturing crop is planted between rows of crops which grow slowly. Quick maturing crops like onions, lettuce or radish can be planted between (or within) rows of slow maturing plants like cabbage, tomatoes or broccoli.
This method of French intensive gardening involves planting the same quick-maturing crop over a period of 1 to 4 weeks. Plant one row each of lettuce, radish and spinach and leave some space around the planting which can be used later. After a week, plant one more row each of all the plants and do the same one week later as well. Subsequently, when one row is harvested, the second will be ready and so on. This will ensure a consistent supply of fast maturing vegetables all through the season.
In relay planting, an altogether different crop is planted in the same space where a crop is just about to mature. This means that as and when the new crop is prepared for harvesting, the crop planted later has got an early beginning advantage. Thus more crops can be planted in the same space all through the year.
Wide Row Planting
A variation of the inter-cropping method, wide row planting involves planting of plants in groups or rows about 1 to 4 feet wide. Although walking space between the rows reduces, this method facilitates economic use of fertilizers and water. Also, it is tougher for weeds to grow in this kind of an arrangement. Make grids so that it becomes easier for marking out sections and enables proper utilization of space.
It should be noted that French intensive gardening is not for people who pursue gardening as a hobby. Rather only those people who are hardworking and dedicated towards gardening should start it. It involves hard work, especially in the bed preparation and maintenance stage, so only committed gardeners should try this method.