French intensive gardening
French intensive gardening is a method of gardening in which humans work with nature to foster healthy, vibrant plants with smaller space and less water than more traditional gardening. As a very detail oriented method, more time will be spent than on an average type of garden, and the maximized productivity and beautiful arrangements will be more than satisfying for the patient gardener.
French intensive gardening started in the 1890s on two acres of land just outside of Paris.1 The crops were planted in 18 inches of horse manure, a readily available fertilizer, and planted so close together that the mature plants' leaves touched their neighbors. Introduced to the United States by Alan Chadwick in California in the late 60s, early 70s.
Getting the bed ready is the most time-consuming aspect to a well-prepared garden. First thing is to plan a lay-out with beds roughly 5 feet (1.5 m) across, and a path between each row large enough to work in. After the layout is planned, the bed prep-work begins. Double-digging is essential to a proper garden. Double-digging is accomplished by layering fertilizer (most traditionally horse manure) onto the top-soil. Now start digging a trench around 12 inches in depth, placing the top-soil aside to be used later. once the trench is completed, use the shovel to loosen the under soil another 12 inches (300 mm). Then move next to the trench and start placing the loosened top-soil from the new trench on the old trench. Continue this process until the far side of the bed has been reached, using the topsoil from the first trench to fill in the last. This creates a raised bed providing improved drainage and surface area for plants to grow. As an added benefit, weeds are much easier to pull out when the roots do not have a firm grip in the soil. Once finished, care must be taken to not compress the earth, as good aeration and drainage are important to a successful garden.
When placing plants in the garden, optimal spacing is achieved when the mature plants have their leaves barely brushing each other. This creates as a kind of mulch, keeping unwanted weeds at bay, because of their close proximity, companion planting is often employed to get the most out of the plants. Companion planting is growing 2 or more plants in close proximity that improve the growth of each other.
This technique has been claimed to produce up to four times the produce per acre and half the water consumption than traditional farming techniques,2
- John Jeavons (1974). How to grow more vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine. Ecology Action of the Midpeninsula. p. 1.
- John Jeavons (1974). How to grow more vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine. Ecology Action of the Midpeninsula. p. iii.