#14 Intensive Techniques

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Intensive Growing Techniques

Urban farming often occurs in small spaces, and is otherwise constrained by the limited availability of land.  As such, many urban farmers adopt intensive growing techniques to maximize productivity.  Intensive growing techniques include:

  • Succession planting – Replanting in the same area to keep all parts of the garden in production;
  • Intercropping – Planting fast and slow growing crops in the same row at the same time;
  • Vertical planting – Growing crops on trellises or other supports to use space efficiently; and
  • Intensive spacing – Growing crops as closely together as possible to maximize use of space. With intensive spacing, plants also act as “living mulches” that reduce weed pressure and water evaporation.  Keep in mind, however, that overly close spacing and limiting pruning can result in reduced airflow and plant disease.

More information on intensive growing techniques is available in the GreenThumb Gardener’s Handbook, available for download at www.greenthumbnyc.org/pdf/gardeners_handbook.pdf.

Small-Plot Intensive (SPIN) Farming

SPIN Farming is an intensive growing system that promotes high-productivity techniques and focuses on small farmer profitability, claiming that it is possible for SPIN farmers to gross $50,000 per year on just half an acre.  For more information and to purchase SPIN learning guides, visit http://spinfarming.com/.

Square-Foot Gardening

Urban farmers growing in raised beds might consider Square Foot Gardening, a raised bed growing system that involves planting in grids to maximize space use and productivity. For more information, visit the Square Foot Gardening Foundation’s website at http://www.squarefootgardening.com/, or see Mel Bartholomew’s All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space (Cool Springs Press, 2006).

Other Resources

Several organizations, such as East New York Farms! (http://www.eastnewyorkfarms.org/), offer occasional workshops in intensive growing techniques and related concepts such as trellising.  See Appendix A for organization information and check event calendars and postings. Though not in New York, an excellent example and resource of intensive urban production techniques is Growing Power (www.growingpower.org), which provides provides hands-on training, on-the-ground demonstration, and outreach and technical assistance.
Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres by Pam Dawling (New Society Publishers, 2013) is a detailed manual of small-scale organic crop production that includes information on intensive growing techniques, as well as season extension, profitable enterprise business skills, and more.  Visit the book’s website at http://sustainablemarketfarming.com/.
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