"Grow Biointensive" and winter sowing - Mothering Forums

"Grow Biointensive" and winter sowing

onetrumpeter's Avatar onetrumpeter (TS)
07:35 PM Liked: 11
#1 of 9
01-22-2011 | Posts: 289
Joined: Jul 2007

anyone using this "method"?  it seems to involve 8 main components: 1) deep soil prep (double dug raised beds); 2) composting; 3)intensive planting; 4)companion planting; 5) carbon farming; 6) calorie farming; 7) using open-pollinated seeds; and 8) a whole-system farming method (using all the other 7 components, I think).

 

I'm trying to decide if it's an approach worth delving into for us.  We have very limited space: a 4'x10' space and a 5x10' space, approx, and it doesn't even all get a long sun period as it's our backyard which has a high fence all around it (townhouse - all of our fences are like this).  There's decent sun - I think the backyard might be south-ish facing.  I know I can grown in it.  We've stuck a few plants in the ground but it's very clay-like and I'm just trying to figure out what to do.  So I wanted to investigate the biggest bang for our space and saw "How to Grow More Vegetables" at the library.  I've superficially looked at square-foot but don't want to feel like I'm buying our soil (a huge goal in gardening for me is cutting food cost, at least a bit).  So far, Grow Biointensive looks like less of an expenditure to get started.  I just checked the book out.  It's pretty hard for me to read.  Looks like a lot of math (which I normally love but am having a hard time reading this for some reason).

 

Lastly, anyone played with winter sowing?  I found wintersown.org and love the idea of letting nature take its course as far as germination goes!  no grow lights, etc.  I'd have to buy perlite or some sort of non-soil seed starter medium, but it seems low cost other than that...


Owen'nZoe's Avatar Owen'nZoe
07:19 PM Liked: 30
#2 of 9
01-23-2011 | Posts: 2,312
Joined: Sep 2005

I've tried Biointensive. Honestly, I didn't see that much of a difference between beds I've double dug and ones that I've sheet mulched, and sheet mulching is much, much easier, so I go with that now for improving my soil. But I do love a lot of what Biointensive recommends - close spacing, succession planting, cover crops, mounded beds, etc. and still use the parts of it that work for me. I do not get anywhere near their yields, but I live in a less favorable climate with a much shorter growing season, so I'm not really surprised. 


onetrumpeter's Avatar onetrumpeter (TS)
07:37 PM Liked: 11
#3 of 9
01-23-2011 | Posts: 289
Joined: Jul 2007

thanks for sharing.  interesting.  I'm still waaaaay a novice and had to look up "sheet mulching."  it does sound a lot easier.  but I have so little space that probably double digging it wouldn't take me that long, either.  just trying to figure out a good plan.  is succession planting concerned with what's planted after what?  like "crop rotation?"  lots of new terms for me.  trying to not be afraid of all the new concepts!

 

still wondering about winter sowing! :)


onetrumpeter's Avatar onetrumpeter (TS)
09:00 PM Liked: 11
#4 of 9
01-23-2011 | Posts: 289
Joined: Jul 2007

oh my.  almost tempted to start a new thread except I'm not sure my inexperience in gardening warrants it, lol :)

 

In my research on double digging, and Biointensive, and then OwenNZoe's response here, I found a couple archived articles from motherearth news... suggesting a different approach of "no till."  didn't even know there were nearly opposing viewpoints; figured some sort of tilling was the only way.  I think Ruth Stout was one auther, and

 

hmmm.  sounds a lot easier.  don't disturb the weed seeds that are already in the soil by tilling them up.  the whole "Nature builds soil from the top down" and lots of mulching sort of rings true with me, too.

 

so... mulch?  or double dig?  or till?  sheet mulch?  you can do that with a raised bed?  and what exactly IS a raised bed?  I used to think it was walled and filled with brought-in-soil (want to avoid that) but in Biointensive it seems they mean soil that's been double dug and thus aerated and raised somewhat.  thanks for letting me process what I'm reading here ;) and any thoughts are much appreciated!


FarmerCathy's Avatar FarmerCathy
07:30 AM Liked: 43
#5 of 9
01-24-2011 | Posts: 4,185
Joined: Jun 2005

A good book for biointensive planting would be John Jeavens "How to Grow More Vegetables."

 

I love winter sowing, its easy and I don't have a place for lights this year so that is what I'm doing.  Here is how I do winter sowing.  You can do it will half gallon jugs as well.


lexapurple's Avatar lexapurple
08:34 AM Liked: 28
#6 of 9
01-24-2011 | Posts: 226
Joined: Dec 2006
I am a lazy gardener and after learning about benefits of sheet mulching/lasagna gardening and no digging I combined that concept with tall raised beds and square foot gardening. It really worked for me on my super sandy soil. I personally think that if you have heavy clay soils you would get same benefits with less work if you just build raised beds and work on building you soil on top of clay.
Owen'nZoe's Avatar Owen'nZoe
09:42 AM Liked: 30
#7 of 9
01-24-2011 | Posts: 2,312
Joined: Sep 2005



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by onetrumpeter View Post

thanks for sharing.  interesting.  I'm still waaaaay a novice and had to look up "sheet mulching."  it does sound a lot easier.  but I have so little space that probably double digging it wouldn't take me that long, either.  just trying to figure out a good plan.  is succession planting concerned with what's planted after what?  like "crop rotation?"  lots of new terms for me.  trying to not be afraid of all the new concepts!

 

still wondering about winter sowing! :)


Double digging always takes way longer than I expect. We have heavy clay, and a 4x8 bed takes me about 3 hours to dig.

 

Succession planting is a bit like crop rotation, but it means that when a plant is done producing, you pull it and replace it with something else. So, you might plant lettuce in one spot in the spring, then replace it with green beans when it is done.

 

As for what counts as a raised bed - really any bed where the soil is raised up above ground level. It can have a box around it, but as you saw in Biointensive, it doesn't have to. Doubledigging is easier without a box,and you can fit a few more plants in without it, but some people prefer the look of a box.  You can definitely sheet mulch a raised bed! I've started 2 of my boxes this way, and it worked great.

 


lexapurple's Avatar lexapurple
09:45 AM Liked: 28
#8 of 9
01-24-2011 | Posts: 226
Joined: Dec 2006

I posted my first reply without reading the whole tread, than I read it. So I will try to answer some of you questions. Maybe it does need to go in separate thread.

 

Tilling and digging is the same thing just done by different tools.

Mulching is always good even if you till. mulching helps to preserve moisture in the soil.

Sheet mulching/sheet composting/lasagna gardening all refer to putting layers of organic material on top of existing soil to improve it without digging. I would not garden in any other way. I get my organic materials from neigbors and other neighborhoods on trash days and I was able to start and plant a flower bed 30x12 feet for $150 where most of the money went to buy plants. While my other beds (conventional started before I knew about the method) suffered with heat and drought in our South summer this one was lush and green and blumed through the summer without any extra watering that other beds did not recieve.

 

You can absolutely do no dig/sheet mulching in walled raised beds. It would take several seasons for your mulch to turn into nice soil and build up to full hight  but if you work on adding organic material in between growing seasons you will fill in you beds without bringing soil from some where else. Would you like to avoid bringing soil in or to have structured beds?

In biointensive method beds are slightly raised because the soil is fluffened. However double digging works well only if your soil is improved. For clay soil it would mean that you need to bring loads and loads of organic material (compost) and mix it in to you soil. Just double digging you clay soil would not improve it enough to make a differnece for plants.

If you do not like to have structured raised beds you can simply do your layering on the ground but it may prove difficult to keep edges of the bed neat and weads from growing into you beds.

I have both structured and just plain raised beds and I have been working on converting all of my vegetable beds into structured beds because they are neater and need less upkeep. My flower beds are going to stay the way they because I like the organic shapes for them.

The most succesfull ones that I started from scratch were done by building a rectungle 4 feet wide and 12 feet long and 12 inches wide. The ractangle can be any lengh but 4 ft width allows you comfortably work on your bed from both sides and the higher the bed the more soil it can accomodate. Than I put a layer of cardboard and on top of it started putting horse manure, grass clippings, fallen leaves adding layers as matterial were becoming available to me. I put compost almost between each layer. It took several months to build it up. Then it was time to start planting I would just make a hole, fill it in with good soil/compost and put my seedling in. Usually bu the end of growing season all of the layers are decomposted and I add new layers. Overtime you beds can get preatty high. 

 

 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by onetrumpeter View Post

 

so... mulch?  or double dig?  or till?  sheet mulch?  you can do that with a raised bed?  and what exactly IS a raised bed?  I used to think it was walled and filled with brought-in-soil (want to avoid that) but in Biointensive it seems they mean soil that's been double dug and thus aerated and raised somewhat.  thanks for letting me process what I'm reading here ;) and any thoughts are much appreciated!

 

 


goldfinches's Avatar goldfinches
12:09 PM Liked: 0
#9 of 9
01-24-2011 | Posts: 396
Joined: May 2008

I'm trying lasagna gardening of a sort this year.  I'm using cardboard with organic matter on top, trying to begin weed control.  I'm not sure how good it will be this year, we'll see...

 

I did winter sowing 2 years ago.  I loved it!  It was so easy, and fun to see things popping up way sooner than regular seedling starts.

 

I thought I blogged about it, but apparently, I was wrong.

 

I used plastic cartons, milk jugs, oj containers, etc., and starting soil and some fairly old seeds and they grew like crazy.  Give it a try!


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