Archive for September, 2008

Intensive Gardening – Part I

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After a friend sent me a link to Freelance Farmers website, and after all of the talk of the Slow Food Nation event that happened last weekend in San Francisco, I was inspired to search and find out more about this French Intensive gardening method I was hearing about.  After reading about it a bit on the internet, I found a reference to this book, which led me to a garden supply store in Palo Alto.

When I measured my garden, I realized that I had attempted to garden on about 400 sq. ft. of earth to very limited success.  Yeah, I got a lot of lettuce, but I couldn’t keep up with the supply!  Also, I found that I hadn’t dug down deep enough, added any nutrients or compost, and over watered my seeds before they even germinated.  This was bad news.  I only wanted to try this method on 100 sq. ft., and I had a 16′x16′ plot which could easily be fenced off, raised a bit, and shared with someone else.

So I called my friend Anders, who was looking for land in the city that he could garden on.  His back yard is a porch with some home made containers.  We surveyed what we needed to buy in terms of irrigation, fencing, raised box wood, nails, tools, etc.  We also talked about seeds, plants, and fertilizer.  We decided to check out Common Ground in Palo Alto to see what they had to say about soils, seeds, etc.

Saturday morning (before the Slow Food Nation event I had tickets for), Anders, his girlfriend Anna and I went down the Peninsula and met some really happy people.  I bought the book everyone was talking about, looked at fertilizers, talked about methods and what to do at this time of the year.

Anders and I spent about $400 total on fencing, hoses, fittings, nails, 1″x2″ “fence posts”, seeds, and fertilizer.  The only thing we didn’t get were tacks for the fence, and compost (which we should be able to get for free from the Alemany Farm).

Sunday morning (not so bright and early) I started double digging.  I thought we could get through the whole 16′x16′ plot in a few hours.  Boy was I wrong.  After trying different ways to get 1′ of topsoil out of the ground, I traded tilling and digging until I got that far down.  Then I started using a pick axe.  Then Anders showed up, and after two hours of really intense digging, I removed 4 cubic feet of soil…1/4 of one row.  We had 16 total rows to get through.  Later on, we realized that the corner I was working in was the most compacted soil in my back yard.

Anyway, after using different tools, we found out that Anders was better with a shovel, and I was better with the axe.  Neither of us liked the other tool, so we traded off running down the rows digging or removing soil.  We finished three rows, got some lunch, came back to finish another three rows, and my original 16′x6′ plot that was for me to use was dug.  We still have 10′x16′ to do, but Anders says he probably won’t double dig that part.  Eventually, I’d like to.

What we had after the first day (we added stones and bricks to the walk way).

What we had after the first day (we added stones and bricks to the walk way).

Then we put up some fence posts and 6″ wood I got for free on Craigslist to make “raised bed”.  Now I have to get compost, spread it, spread fertilizer, hook up irrigation hoses, and plant some seeds before I can make any more progress.

To-do’s beyond that: build another compost heap for the winter; finish tilling/digging the rest of the plot; clean up the path ways so we can make gates and doors in the fence, and; build an automated irrigation system which is connected to a weather station that can water the garden automatically.