Intensive gardening


Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

Vegetable gardening has enjoyed renewed interest in recent years. Not only do homegrown vegetables taste much better than store-bought vegetables, as the grower, you control how the vegetables are grown and what, if any, chemicals you use on them. Rewards are many, including increased physical activity, fresh herbs a few steps away from your kitchen, and a beautiful edible garden display in your yard. You need not have a large space to grow vegetables. Holly Kennell, former community horticulture agent for WSU Extension provides us with some intensive gardening techniques you may want to try.

Divide the space where you want to plant the vegetables into beds about 4 feet wide bounded by paths about 2 feet wide. Then plant the beds as a block, not in rows. If the vegetable needs 10 inches between plants in a row, plant it 10 inches from any other plant in the bed. Think of it like putting cookie dough on a cookie-baking sheet; get as many into the space as you can without crowding them.

Intercropping: Intercrops are fast-growing crops (such as leaf lettuce, green onions, spinach, mustard or radishes) that can grow between large, slower plants (like squash, tomatoes or cabbage). Both crops are planted at the same time and the intercrop is harvested before the main crop needs its full space.

Vertical gardening: Most gardeners with a small garden look for bush varieties of vining vegetables. You will get more production per square foot by using vining types, but trellis them up instead of allowing them to sprawl. Tall peas and beans grow up poles or a trellis with little work on your part. They will bear later than bush varieties, but will produce more. Tie trailing cucumbers, squash and pumpkins to a sturdy frame or trellis. The vine will be able to support the fruit, in most cases. If you have a very heavy squash or pumpkin developing, a sling made from old pantyhose will make it extra secure. I like to train my tomato vines up a pole or flat on a trellis too. By making the plants thin, they dry quickly after a rain and do not develop late blight disease as readily. This decreases the harvest per plant, but, since you can plant more plants per bed, you will probably harvest more, earlier and bigger fruit.

Successions: The idea behind successions is simply to keep your garden space occupied. When the early lettuce, spinach or peas are done producing, plant a second crop in that same space.

Transplants: We think about using transplants early in the season, but to get the most from a small garden, you need to use them constantly. Sow lettuce seed, for example, and you will be harvesting after 7-8 weeks. Plant out nice-sized lettuce transplants, and it will take only 4-5 weeks. This practice could get costly and it is hard to find good broccoli transplants in July, so grow your own.

Unlike spring transplant operations, which require a spot indoors with supplemental lighting, succession transplants are easy to grow. Just pick a handy corner of your garden and designate it a nursery bed. That couple of square feet may need tended daily, but will be an economical source for just what you need, when you need it.

The Mason County WSU Master Gardeners are holding a workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Memorial Hall. The topic, frugal gardening, will teach ways to stretch your dollar and get more bang for your buck. Cost is $15 and pre-registration is required. Please call 427-9670 ext.680 to register for the class.

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