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Intensive Vegetable Gardening

How To Grow More in Less Space

intensive vegetable gardening

Hungarian peppers growing in a pot.

Gardeners in the know use intensive vegetable gardening methods to grow and harvest the most possible produce in their garden space.

Traditional gardens mainly consist of long rows of vegetables with lots of room to move between them for cultivating, weeding and harvesting. There’s a lot of wasted space, not only between rows, but also often between plants.

Intensive vegetable gardens are planned to make the best use of all the available garden space. Some planning points to consider are nutrient needs, shade tolerance, growth patterns, and best growing season. Gardeners use a variety of methods to gain the most produce from the smallest space.

Techniques for Intensive Vegetable Gardening:


Raised Beds

intensive vegetable gardening

Raised beds can be planted earlier, since the soil warms up faster.

Raised beds simplify intensive gardening. It’s easier to prepare specific soil requirements for plants in a raised bed. They warm up sooner in spring, so planting can be done earlier. They lessen cultivation and weeding, and simplify harvesting.

In raised beds seeds and transplants are planted in wide bands of several rows or broadcast in a wide strip. The goal is to space plants at equal distances from each other on all sides, so leaves will touch at maturity. This saves space, and the close plantings reduce moisture loss from surrounding soil.

Vegetables that grow well in raised beds in wide rows include carrots, chard, lettuce, radishes, spinach, bush beans, kale, onions, beets, broccoli and cabbage.


Vertical Gardening

vertical growing

Vertical gardening makes used of trellises, nets, cages, poles and strings to support plants. Vining and sprawling plants, like cucumbers, tomatoes, pole beans and peas are the most obvious ones for this type of growing.

Plants grown vertically take up much less space, but the plants are also more exposed to sun and wind, so dry out more often. If you’re using this method, make sure your soil is deep and well drained so roots can extend downwards, and not have to compete for moisture.

Sprawling plants, like melons or squash, do not have tendrils for climbing, so supports for them must be tall and strong, the plants draped over the supports and slings for the fruits provided. Tomatoes can be caged or staked, forcing them to grow upwards rather than sprawling.



Interplanting is simply growing two (or more) types of vegetables in the same space at the same time. This method has been practiced for hundreds of years, and is one of the basic techniques of intensive vegetable gardening.

Several factors have to be taken into account:

  • The growth pattern – height, below or above ground
  • The growth period – time to harvest or season
  • Possible effect on other plants – will they grow well together
  • Need for light
  • Preferred climate – temperature, water needs

Long season and short season plants are planted at the same time. For example, radishes and carrots can be planted together. The radishes are ready to harvest long before the carrots are crowded.

intensive vegetable gardening

Combine growth patterns by planting shorter plants close to larger plants – radishes at the base of broccoli, or leaf lettuce between pepper plants.

Shade tolerant plants can be grown in the shade of taller plants. Spinach and lettuce, which prefer cooler shade, can be seeded among taller plants like beans or chard.


Succession Planting

After harvesting one crop, you can often plant a second one. Warm season crops can follow cool season crops. Bush beans or carrots can follow spring radishes, lettuce or spinach. Early cabbage or broccoli, once harvested, can be replaced by Brussel sprouts, fall onions or kale.

Before planting a second crop for a fall garden, remove any weeds and plant residues. Fertilize or add fresh compost, just as you would in the spring. Plant the seeds or seedlings deeper in the summer, and keep them constantly moist to get a good head start

Vegetable Spacing Guide

intensive vegetable gardening


Decide what crops you want to grow based on your own likes and dislikes, as well as how much of each you will need. Keep track of which cultivars were most successful or tasted best so you can make the best choices next year.

As always, good gardening practices such as watering, fertilizing, crop rotation, composting, and sanitation are especially important in an intensive garden. Intensive vegetable gardening requires more detailed planning, but the time saved in working the garden and the increased yields make it worthwhile.

Use your imagination and have fun!

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