Grasp Gardeners: Save water with French intensive gardening | House and Backyard


The French method of intensive gardening, also known as small space or square foot gardening, uses less water because the plants are not spread out.

Square feet of gardening 2

This gardener marked square feet on a grid for French intensive gardening.

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One advantage of close planting is that the leaves of large plants will eventually touch and more delicate plants can be grown underneath.

PENNY PAWL UC Master Gardener from Napa County

Because of the drought, I’m trying French intensive gardening (also known as small-space gardening or square-foot gardening) this year. Instead of spreading out my vegetables, I use the French intensive method to save water.

When I first became a Master Gardener, one of the seasoned members used this method and it seemed to work well for her. He had made a trellis in her garden and placed different plants in each trellis. I wasn’t that precise, but I reduced the spacing between the plants.

Once you learn a little about these methods, you may also be interested in trying them out.

The French intensive nursery started about five centuries ago in Paris. At the time it was known as “nursery”, a term for growing a variety of marketable plants on small plots. The gardeners took their crops to the local market to sell. They practiced accompanying planting – growing synergetic plants together to improve yield or pest resistance.

They also understood that they could warm the soil by adding fermented manure. Two French gardeners wrote a book on this method in 1845. With the title “Manuel Pratique de la Culture Maraîchère de Paris” it is still available on Amazon, updated for the modern era.

The French intensive method was popular in England around 1900. Books about it were written in English, and the ideas became popular in the United States in the late 1960s. A demonstration garden was set up at UC Santa Cruz, presenting French intensive methods.