Intensive, Companion and Succession Gardening Methods

With the high cost of fresh food, more and more people are growing their own fruits and vegetables at home, even those residing in senior living centers, condo’s & apartments and mobile home parks.It can be tricky, but with a little planning, you can grow a lot of your own food in a very small space.

Intensive, companion and succession gardening methods are surely becoming the mantra of modern-day gardeners. With yards getting smaller and growing space and water at a premium, it is important to utilize what space is available to grow the most vegetables and herbs you can within your limitations. Elevated or raised garden planting boxes are the basic foundations of an intensive garden. The elevated beds allow you to focus your soil preparation into small growing areas, resulting in efficient use of soil amendments and a perfect environment for high yield vegetable growth.

By using intensive, companion and succession gardening techniques experts calculate that the average home gardener can grow upwards of $10 worth of food per one square foot of space per growing season. Knowing what plants can be grown next to each other is the key factor in achieving your maximum harvest.


Plan Your Garden Bed for Future Growth

Planning a garden bed layout can take some time and research. You must consider which plant needs a lot of root space and which ones not so much, nutritional requirements, maturity dates, growing speed, planting space, and sun and water requirements. Intensive planting methods take into account all these requirements.


What Is Intensive Gardening?

An example of intensive gardening is growing radishes and carrots in the same space. Carrots take about 15-20 days to sprout and 90 days to reach maturity; radishes come up quickly and are ready for harvest in only 30 days, so when planting carrots from seed in your garden you can plant radishes at the same time, just tuck them in between the rows of carrots. Once the radishes have grown to maturity and harvested, the carrots will then have the space they need to grow. Since carrots grow to a deeper depth than do radishes, the carrots will get their nutrients from the deeper soil.

Corn, squash and beans, growing in the same garden beds are called the “Three Sisters” in Indian lore. The squash vines cover the ground between the rows of corn to prevent weeds, deters some pests and helps to mulch the ground and keep moisture in the soil during dry spells. The beans (string, not bush types) use the corn to climb on and that helps the stalks to remain upright during wind storms. The beans are a nitrogen-fixing plant, meaning the bean plants bring nitrogen into the soil, which helps the corn grow since it is a nitrogen-loving plant.

Once the crop has been harvested and the soil is being readied for the next season, the remaining crop parts can be incorporated (chopped or rototilled) back into the dirt where it will provide beneficial nutrients for the new plants.


What Is Companion Planting?

Sowing companion plants next to each other, gardeners have learned that the need for pesticides can be reduced or eliminated altogether. Most gardeners know that planting marigolds next to cole crops, such as cabbage and broccoli, help to deter the cabbage moth, but marigolds, especially French marigolds, helps to keep nematodes (tiny worms that attack root systems) under control.

Most onion family members (onions, garlic, chives, shallots, leeks etc.) repel aphids, carrot flies and cabbage worms; it has also been reported to help keep deer from eating nearby plants. Garlic and green onions can be tucked into a lot of empty spaces in your garden as they do not take up much room to grow at all.

Cilantro/Coriander will also fend off aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and potato beetles. Coriander will also attract beneficial parasitic wasps that help to kill hornworms that can be found on tomato plants.

Sage is good for beans, cabbage and carrots and tarragon is a good companion for almost all plants. Planting a variety of different plants in close proximity to each other equally confuses bugs so they stay away.


Be Mindful of What Helps and What Hinders Your Crops.

 

  • Basil planted next to tomatoes helps to increase tomato yield, but keep dill away from them, as dill will attract those ugly and destructive hornworms.
  • Do not plant potatoes and tomatoes in the same area in subsequent years; they both attract the same pests.
  • If you want to grow fennel, it’s best to give it its own space. Fennel will inhibit growth, causing plants to bolt and may even kill nearby garden plants.
  • Don’t plant tomatoes near a walnut tree, as they are not compatible.
  • Using pallets can be dangerous and harmful to food safety and health.

 

What Is Succession Planting?

Succession planting is sowing a quick growing crop early in the season in one space, then replanting more of the same or a different type of plant after the first crop has been harvested.

Cole crops, radishes, lettuces, peas, beets, and spinach are all fast growing cool weather crops; they can be followed up with beans, cilantro, more peas, beets, and radishes or any other fast-growing summer crop.


What to Use to Grow Crops and Gardens on Patios or Small Backyards with Limited Space?

Elevated garden planter boxes and raised garden beds are beneficial with these types of gardening methods. They are easily built/assembled, last many seasons, and helps the soil to warm up quite nicely. They also keep the plants from being washed away when there is too much rain. Elevated garden planter boxes are great for confined small spaces like a patio or balcony, or for people with back and knee issues. Since you control the soil in elevated and raised garden beds, you can always be assured you are using the best soil in which to grow your food.


A sample of a 4’ x 4’ garden layout using some of the methods outlined above:

16 Beets  16 Bunching Onions  9 Bush Bean Plants  8 Snap Pea Plants

2 Broccoli Plants  16 Carrots  1 Tomato Plant  2 Heads of Cabbage

9 Turnips  1 Pepper Plant  16 Radishes  4 Heads of Romaine Lettuce

9 Spinach Plants   4 Heads of Red Leaf Lettuce

Bush or Pole Beans,9 ea.

Snap Peas,

8 ea. Staked or caged

Pepper Plant

Tomato Plant

Staked or caged

Romaine Lettuce, 4 ea.

(replant)

Red Leaf Lettuce, 4 ea.

(replant)

Carrots,16 ea.

Bunching Onions, 16 ea.

Radish,16 ea.

(replant)

Turnips, 9 ea.

Spinach,9 plants ea.

(replant)

Beets,16 ea.

(replant)

Cabbage Plant

Add a Marigold

Cabbage Plant

Add a Marigold

Broccoli Plant

Add a Marigold

Broccoli Plant

Add a Marigold