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    Intensive Gardening

    Five Intensive Gardening Techniques

    by The Old Farmer’s Almanac staff

    Whether you are planting for the first time or are a vegetable veteran, these tips and techniques will help you to get the most out of your garden. 

    1. Properly Feed Your Soil

    The most important component of your garden is the soil. Amend and improve the soil with organic matter such as compost and aged manure. At the start of the growing season, spread a thin 2- to 3-inch layer over the garden and work it into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil. The organic matter adds minerals and nutrients to the soil and can help to reduce the need to fertilize. 

    2. Plant Closer Together

    Grow more in a smaller amount of space by planting vegetables closer together. One rule of thumb is to sow so close together that the leaves of adjacent plants will touch. When seedlings begin to get crowded, harvest the mature crops to give room for their neighbors to grow. This technique shades the soil, which helps to keep weeds down and conserve moisture. 

    3. Grow Vertically

    Plant cucumbers, summer squash, and zucchini at the base of trellises, fences, and netting to save space. These sprawling vines take up valuable growing surface and shade smaller vegetables with their large leaves, possibly inhibiting their growth. When sent to the skies, these vines are out of the way and produce straighter, cleaner fruit that are easier to manage and harvest. Unlike tomatoes, these vegetables need a little guidance only early in the season. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, gently wrap or hook their leading tendrils around the base of the trellis, fence, or netting. 

    4. Use Succession Planting

    To produce delicious veggies all season long, use succession planting. When a crop is harvested, have seedlings standing by to transplant and fill the space. Use varieties that mature quickly in order to seed, nurture, and pick several harvests through the year. 

    5. Employ Portable Hoop Row Covers

    Lengthen the growing season by protecting crops during colder weather with row covers. With a few row covers in place, plant some cold-hardy vegetables like spinach, carrots, brussels sprouts, and kale before the last frost. Save the covers through the summer because you can use them to grow into the fall and past the first frost as well. 

    How to Make a Hoop Row Cover

    Here’s a simple row cover that’s easy to put up and take down. 

    You Will Need: 

    • Rebar in 1-foot lengths

    • 1/2-inch-inside-diameter flexible PVC pipe

    • Zip ties 

    • Plastic sheeting

    • Plastic or metal snap-clamp pipe clips, or binder clips 

    • A few rocks

    • Tools (as needed): hacksaw (for rebar), utility saw (pipe), utility knife or shears (sheeting)

     

    Push or pound pieces of rebar into the soil every 3 to 5 feet on opposite sides of your bed or row. 

    Cut lengths of PVC pipe to make arches over the bed, slipping the ends of the pipe over the rebar. 

    Cut three straight pieces of pipe the length of the bed. Lay one across the top of the arches and attach it with zip ties. 

    Cut a piece of sheeting long enough to extend over the ends of the frame down to the ground (and then a little) and wide enough to extend at least 1 foot beyond the bottoms of the hoops on the sides of the row cover. Lay the sheeting over the PVC frame and clip it to the arches with clips.

    Lay the remaining two straight pieces of pipe on the trailing plastic on both sides of the arches. Roll the plastic around each piece of pipe until the cover is tight over the arches. Secure the covered pipes in place with a few rocks. 

    Gather the sheeting at the ends of the row cover and use a couple of rocks to weigh it down. This keeps the inside sealed off from the outside cold air until your plants are ready to flourish in the open. Check your row cover regularly to make sure that it is intact and in place.