If you have a small garden at home, you’ve probably already Googled, “what is bio-intensive gardening” to see how you can make the most out of your garden. If you’re not familiar with the term, then you’ve come to the right place!
What Is Bio-Intensive Gardening?
In a nutshell, bio-intensive gardening is a type of gardening where the goal is to grow as much food as possible in the smallest space available. The goal of bio-intensive gardening is to be able to provide food safely and sustainably for people who don’t have a lot of lands to work on. In contrast to commercial agriculture, bio-intensive gardening does not practice-wide spacing, nor does it use chemical inputs such as fertilizers or pesticides. The main idea of bio-intensive gardening is increasing the quality of the soil used so that the plants will be able to get as many nutrients and minerals as possible from the soil.
There are two ways that bio-intensive gardening achieves this: through thorough tilling of the soil and by adding a lot of compost to the soil. When it comes to tilling the soil for bio intensive gardening, you will usually till twice as deep as you would for regular gardening. The deeper tilling allows the roots of the plants to penetrate through the soil deeper and get more nutrients and minerals.
For the composting, you will need to regularly add organic compost materials such as twigs, bark, leaves, vegetables, and fruit scraps. Unlike with regular composting, you will need to mix your compost materials deep into the soil and allow the material to compost under the soil.
How is Bio-Intensive Gardening Different from Regular Gardening?
The main difference between bio intensive gardening and regular gardening is the orientation of the plants. In regular gardening, the common practice is to place different plants in neat rows that have spaces between them. What is bio intensive gardening? With bio-intensive gardening, you grow different plants close together in intercropped rows provided that each plant does not adversely affect the growth of the other plant. One popular pair of plants that many bio intensive gardeners put together are lettuce and peppers. After you plant your rows of lettuce, you will plant the peppers in between the lettuce. The lettuce will grow close to the ground while the peppers will grow up and over the lettuce.
The 8 Elements of Bio Intensive Gardening
Here are the eight important elements of any successful bio intensive garden:
- Raised Beds – the soil inside the beds are double dug, allowing for a healthy soil for beneficial microorganisms. The raised beds also allow the distinctive close plant spacing that’s essential in bio intensive gardening.
- Composting – allows you to return the nutrients used by the plants to the soil. Compared to regular composting, proponents of bio-intensive gardening calls their technique “cold composting” because it does not have the same anaerobic process found in regular composting. While the cold composting method takes longer, it produces more compost in terms of weight.
- Companion Planting – planning to choose which plants will grow together best. Aside from planning with plants should be grown together, bio-intensive gardeners also consider the presence of beneficial microorganisms and insects to help boost the health of the crops.
- Carbon Cycling – most, if not all, the reusable organic matter is returned to the soil as fertilizer. Many bio intensive gardeners even make it a point to grow crops that have a lot of biomass that can be returned to the soil after harvest.
- Calorie Farming – growing specific crops with the highest number of calories per pound of food. The idea is to be able to grow an optimal balanced diet in the smallest space possible.
- Intensive Planting – planting close together to conserve space as well as to maximize irrigation.
- Open-Pollinated Plants – allows plants to pollinate each other to reduce dependence on human inputs continuously. Using open-pollinated plants also keeps the gene pool of the crops diverse to promote resistance to diseases and pests.
- Closed Loop Farming – all components of the farm work together to create a self-contained and self-sustaining system. The idea of a bio intensive garden is to honor the connections of an agricultural ecosystem, no matter how small the ecosystem. In bio intensive gardens, the importance is placed on the health of the system before the income of the farmer.
Advantages of Bio Intensive Gardening
When people use bio intensive gardening techniques, here are the benefits that they enjoy:
- Uses 60-80% less water compared to regular gardening, which is handy for places that are experiencing drought or water scarcity.
- No longer dependent on fertilizer, with fertilizer costs going down 50-100%.
- 99% less energy used compared to regular gardening.
- Produces 2-6 times more food per square foot of soil relative to regular gardening.
- Healthier soil because of the increased aeration and regular addition of compost.
Can Anyone Start a Bio Intensive Garden?
The most attractive part of a bio intensive garden is that it can be started in gardens that are too small for conventional agriculture. To start a bio intensive garden, you need a plot size in your garden that is at least 20 square meters. You will also need materials to create the raised beds as well as space for your compost pile. Know more about gardening.
Now that you know what bio-intensive gardening is, there is one catch that you should also know: starting a bio intensive garden is not a quick or easy process. Most bio-intensive gardeners report that there is always a process of trial and error at the beginning as you find which crops work best together as well as which crops grow best in the climate and soil that you have in your garden. However, this should not put you off from learning and practicing bio intensive gardening. Over time, you will refine your practices, and you will be able to be more food secure!