The purpose of an intensively grown garden is to harvest the most produce possible from a given space. More traditional gardens consist of long, single rows of vegetables spaced widely apart. Much of the garden area is taken by the space between the rows. An intensive garden reduces wasted space to a minimum. The practice of intensive gardening is not just for those with limited garden space; rather, an intensive garden concentrates work efforts to create an ideal plant environment, giving better yields with less labor.
Chemical interactions also affect plants growing in close proximity, either promoting or retarding their growth, and health, above and below ground.
A garden planted with single rows uses more soil area and resources, is more difficult to mulch, the soil dries out faster and produces more weeds, and becomes quickly compacted from walking and jumping between rows.
Planting crops closely together in wide rows, takes advantage of the physical and chemical characteristics of each plant. Planting crops close together for the highest yield of each plant will benefit each plant, if planted in symbiotic relationship.
An intensive intercropping in 3 to 5 foot wide raised beds will provide the most efficient use of soil area. Framing the edges with soil, brick, stone, or wood will provide an area of containment for the soil, organic nutrients, water, and mulch. Plant foilage can be used to provide an area of "living shade", promoting water, nutrient, and soil, conservation.
Since wide raised beds are never stepped on, or walked in, they are not trampled or compacted, allowing each plant to easily spread it's roots and grow to it's maximum potential, live and grow in a miminum of stress, and provide the healthiest crop. Unstressed plants are more able to resist an insect attack.
The amount of time it takes to mature a plant from seed or transplanting, its leaf and rooting patterns, light, and nutrient requirements are major factors when planning an intensive garden. Timing your crops to provide a constant harvest is another important aspect. Successive planting means that you do not plant all your seeds at the same time in one big crop. By planting successively, two or more crops may be harvested assuring a continuous supply throughout the entire growing season. For example, by planting lettuce or spinach every two weeks, you can harvest it all season with no gaps in production.
Intensive intercroping, along with companion planting, will provide the maxium amount of food production, and will reduce your garden size, water and nutrient requirements, and allow you to grow the healthiest plants.
Understanding the growth patterns of each plant's foilage will allow you to plant smaller plants next to larger plants, for the benefit of both.
Plants have different sun and shade requirements, and plants that prefer shade should be planted under those that want sun. Lettuce and spinach will benefit if planted under the shade of a taller companion.
Plant foilage also acts like a "living mulch", cooling the soil under the plants, as well as providing shade.
Water and nutrient needs are different for each plant, both which can be maximized by conditioning your soil with organic matter such as composted manures, compost, and a good layer of alfalfa mulch. Plants that require a lot of nitrogen and sunlight need to be rotated with plants that don't. Always follow a root crop with a leafy crop, and a heavy feeder like corn with a legumes crop.
More information on Intensive Gardening methods
Space Saving Complimentary Growth Combinations
Beans can be intercropped with celery, squash, corn, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, melons,and radishes. Cabbage can be intercropped with peppers, tomatoes, chives,and onions. Corn can be intercropped with cabbage, lettuce, melons, beans, squash, cucumbers,and potatoes. Leeks and onions can be intercropped with carrots and parsley, cabbage, eggplant, pepper, and spinach.
Complimentary Growth Combinations
Beans, Cabbage, broccoli and other cole crops will provide shade for celery, lettuce, spinach. Tomatoes, corn, and sunflowers provide shade for lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, as well as providing a climbing place for cucumbers.
Space Saving Complimentary Growth Combinations
Bean roots compliment the roots of carrots, celery, corn, cucumbers, onions, radishes, melons, and squash. Corn roots compliment the roots of lettuce, and potato, radish, and onion. Onion roots compliment the roots of eggplant, pepper, carrot, radish, and spinach. Pea roots compliment the roots of turnips, and radishes.
Certain plants grow well together, and others do not. When plants are placed together within a complementary relationship, growth of both is encouraged. This is due to many things, among them: root excretions, plant aromas, and pollens. Certain herbs and flowers also have beneficial effects on surrounding plants, and many will discourage insects.