The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Summing up the Grow Biointensive method

Grow Biointensive

Other aspects of Jeavons' Grow Biointensive system are less unique.  Grow More Vegetables sums up the method with seven techniques:

Double-diggingOf the techniques I haven't discussed in earlier posts, the one I'm most on the fence about is double-digging (which is followed by loosening up the soil between crops with broad forks, aka U-bars).  Our oldest garden plot is ready to go into its seventh growing season since the ground was last dug into, and the plants there seem to do better every year, so I can't say that loosening the soil is really essential.  On the other hand, I'm very careful to keep foot traffic on the aisles, and I can see from Grow More Vegetables that Grow Biontensive's wider beds are often impacted by human traffic --- for example, the author actually pictures a board you're supposed to sit or stand on atop the bed while loosening the soil or planting.  If you regularly put human weight on your garden soil, you probably do need to fluff it up from time to time.

Companion planting is another dicey topic, and one I don't really feel expert enough to delve into in depth.  I used to lap up information on companion planting, but my limited trials have shown no improvement when mixing multiple types of vegetables together in the same bed.  Meanwhile, companion planting seems to always make the vegetables harder to harvest and has lowered yields in my garden.  Until I see some side-by-side scientific studies proving that specific types of companion planting work, I'll stick to my diverse garden with each variety segregated in its own little bed.

I know I've been pretty critical of a book that many seem to find ground-breaking, so I thought I'd offer the same exposure to the other side of the argument.  After a similar series about square foot gardening, a reader sent me a lot of photos and an explanation of why the method worked for him.  If there's a Grow Biointensive fan out there who wants to share their side of the story, just email me and I'll set the record straight.

Learn to hatch healthy, homegrown chicks in Permaculture Chicken: Incubation Handbook.

This post is part of our How to Grow More Vegetables lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I'm a double digger!!! Why because it's hardcore!!! But also, I use it to create raised beds in the process. I double dig each bed (most of my beds are three feet, and my paths are three feet.) I double dig the bed and single dig the path and shovel that soil on top of the bed. This way it's like a double dose of compost amended soil on each bed.
-I have heavy clay soil (even though I am in the mid west) and last year my double dug garden survived and thrived with a month and a half of drought and long heatwaves.
** If you stay off the bed you only have to double dig maybe once or twice a decade! ----It's hard hard work! But you'll never have a clay-pan.

Comment by Gineen Fri Feb 8 14:22:44 2013
I agree with you about companion planting. I practice it a little bit in my forest garden, but I've mostly switched over to segregated beds, as you call them. Companion planting is a fun idea in theory but in my experience, it really does take a lot of thought and planning and effort with questionable results.
Comment by Sara Sat Feb 9 09:27:10 2013

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