Part 2: Explaining Intensive gardening and deep organic methods

Traditional row gardening uses agricultural techniques developed for ease of harvesting with farm machinery. In a home vegetable garden we have no use for such techniques, and the spaces between rows of vegetables meant for a tractor wheels are a liability and a waste not only of space, but time and resources spent weeding, watering and caring for this non-productive space. Our intensive gardening method uses raised beds no more than 4 feet wide (if you have access to both sides or no more than 2.5 feet wide if not) and plants are spaced as close together as the mature plant size will allow. This technique eliminates that space used for rows between vegetables and allows you to plant for the same yield as a traditional row garden in just 20% of the space, and therefore using a fraction of the resources. Deep organic gardening means you become a steward of your land. Instead of controlling different aspects of your ecosystem (fungus, parasites) you encourage a healthy and complete ecosystem that controls itself. Practically speaking this means NO pesticides, fungicides or herbicides regardless of whether their origins are chemical or biological. Example: if you use a product to wipe out all of the aphids from your garden, you will starve the ladybugs, which are the aphid’s natural predators and they will leave your garden for somewhere else where they can find more food. Once the ladybugs are gone, and your product washes away, the aphids will come back 10 fold because your garden is a predator-free space for the aphids to roam. To create a balanced ecosystem, you need to start with a healthy, fertile soil. This soil has to have good drainage, good water retention, lots of organic matter, a pH close to 6.5 and lots of the elements that plants use as their building blocks – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. With a healthy soil, you have healthy plants. Healthy plants are much more resistant to pests and disease. With the addition of herbs and flowers to attract beneficial insects as pollinators and predators, lots of sun and consistent watering and voila! You have a beautiful vegetable garden to call your own. Small space means you can do this wherever you have enough sun, and access to water: In your front yard, on your balcony, up your spiral staircase or walk up, on your rooftop. I recommend a planting depth of 10” if you are on concrete and make sure you have good drainage if you are planting in containers. In Montreal we have a relatively short growing season. To get the most out of your vegetable garden you need to choose quick growing, highly productive varieties, start seedlings and continually replant them as you harvest to make the most of the space that you have. Details on this to follow, it suffices to say that Santropol Roulant produced well over 1 tonne of vegetables this summer on a 1000 sq ft rooftop and in containers at the “edible campus” at McGill.

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