Grow More Food in Less Space with Biointensive Gardening

Create a sustainable mini-farm capable of producing a complete diet using organic gardening principles based on millennia-old traditional farming systems, or just maximise your harvest in small spaces with Biointensive growing.

What is Biointensive?

Biointensive gardening was influenced by the intensive agricultural methods developed thousands of years ago in China, Greece, and South America. It also draws on techniques practised by the French in the 16th and 17th centuries, and Biodynamic techniques originating in Europe in the early 1920’s.

An English gardener, Alan Chadwick, brought his combination of these techniques to the US in the late 1960’s where he converted a barren slope at the University of California-Santa Cruz into a thriving garden. In 1972, Ecology Action, lead by John Jeavons, began researching and developing the eight essential aspects that provide the foundation of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE® sustainable mini-farming system:

  • Double-Dug, Raised Beds
  • Composting
  • Intensive Planting
  • Companion Planting
  • Carbon Farming
  • Calorie Farming
  • Use of Open-Pollinated Seeds
  • A Whole-System Farming Method
Biointensive garden bed prepared using the double digging method.

Biointensive garden bed prepared using the double digging method.

To improve water retention, aerate the soil, and promote excellent root growth, garden beds are “double-dug,” loosening soil to a depth of 24 in (60 cm).

Soil health is maintained using compost produced from resources within the system, creating a sustainable closed loop.

By planting closely, yields are maximised, due to the efficient use of space, soil life is protected because it’s not exposed to the elements, and water loss is reduced.

Companion planting promotes optimal use of light, water and nutrients, boosts beneficial insect populations, and builds a mini-ecosystem in the garden.

Growing calorie crops for people and carbon crops for the soil ensure sustainability of both garden and grower.

By choosing open-pollinated (non-hybrid) seeds, the grower can help preserve genetic diversity while they create their own supply of seeds and plants adapted to their particular growing conditions.

Using all the principles of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE® system together will avoid depleting the soil and ensure optimum results.

What are the benefits?

The GROW BIOINTENSIVE® method will allow you to grow food while improving your soil at the same time. It reduces inputs of water by 67% to 88% and fertiliser by 50% to 100%. When used correctly, the techniques can also produce 2 to 6 times more food, build the soil as much as 60 times quicker than in nature, and reduce the amount of land required by half or more.

Biointensive garden beds prepared using the double digging method then sown with green manure (mung bean and french white millet).

Biointensive garden beds prepared using the double digging method then sown with green manure (mung bean and french white millet).

How to Sustainably Grow Food & Soil.

While you can certainly maximise your harvest in your existing garden or a small space using the eight principles of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE® method, if you want to sustainably feed one person for a year from your mini-farm you’ll need 5,000 ft2 or 465 m2 (including paths), or about 40 beds. The key to achieving sustainability for the grower and the soil is to allocate your crop area using the 60/30/10 ratio, as follows:

  • 60-65% carbon and calorie crops - grains and beans for calories, and carbon production for composting (24 beds)
  • 30% high calorie root crops - area and weight-efficient crops for calories (12 beds)
  • 5-10% Vegetable crops - low calorie producing, low carbon producing misc veg for vitamins and minerals (4 beds)

Whether your growing space is limited or you want to grow your entire diet sustainably without any animal inputs, the GROW BIOINTENSIVE® method is well worth a closer look.