Intensive Gardening For Self-Sufficiency

Intensive Gardening For Self-SufficiencyIt’s time you join the intensive gardening revolution. This revolution is in your backyard. Gardening is undergoing a radical change, a food production revolution no survivalist can afford to ignore. This “new” method goes by the general name of intensive gardening or the foot gardening method.

All result in increased yields, and more efficient use of water and fertilizer. This article presents an overview of intensive gardening techniques and benefits, explains why survivalists should learn these skills and specifies how much land is required for survival.

If “The S*** Hits The Fan,” all humans will be confronted by possible starvation. Stored foods may carry you through a year, perhaps three, but the stockpile will run out eventually. Hunting and gathering are possibilities, but deer, rabbit and fish populations are limited, and competition from other hunters will be fierce—so desperate that the hunter may become the hunted. The most secure method to assure a continuing food supply is to grow your own.

The need for intensive gardening

Obviously, there will be a need to return to the land in a post-cataclysmic world. Less obvious is the need to grow your own food In today’s society. American agriculture is the most productive, large-scale food-producing system that has ever existed, and it can successfully sustain a plant-based diet.

A small percentage of the U.S. population feeds the vast majority of our fellow Americans. But, it is a fragile system, one that is now sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Modern agriculture is totally dependent on petroleum: gasoline and diesel fuel for tractors, chemicals for pesticides and fertilizers, and more fuel to transport the produce and generate electricity to operate local supermarkets.

In fact, a lot of the U.S. energy budget goes toward food production. Not surprisingly, if the energy production comes to a halt, the supply chain will be broken, and people will have to make do with what they have or what they manage to scavenge.


Fuel and energy are not the only or even the most likely, resource to limit America’s continued agricultural bonanza. Water assures the irrigation of farmlands, and it takes a large toll on the water consumed in the U.S. Many experts believe the combination of contaminating U. S. waters with salts and pollutants and overexploitation of groundwater will lead to a severe crisis. Add to this, the effects of an increasingly erratic weather system, and the threat becomes clear. Those who scoff should read some news coming from California in regard to the ever-increasing drought.


These aren’t the only threats. Other problems include:

  • Erosion of topsoil
  • Urbanization of prime farmland
  • Overuse of chemicals (there’s a current bee extinction in certain areas)
  • An increase in food costs

These are just the farmers’ problems. They do not include possible disruptions to transport and food merchandising. Something as commonplace as a truckers’ strike could cut off America’s food supply


American agriculture is amazing, but there are signs that all is not well. Many experts warn of decreased and less stable yields. When these projections become a reality, expect to pay a greater proportion of your income for food and anticipate heightened international tensions as the Third World starves and international support is requested from the U.S.

Only basic changes in our agricultural system will solve these problems. However, survivalists can minimize the impact of rising food costs and scarcities by growing all or a major portion of their food. This is where intensive gardening plays a practical role. The potential benefits of intensive gardening for the survivalist are impressive.

Pioneers in the movement claim that compared with conventional gardening methods, intensive gardening uses only 1/2 to 1/16th the amount of water, 1/4th to 1/62nd the amount of fertilizer, 1/100th of the energy, and yields up to 10 times as much as conventional gardening.

As fantastic as these figures appear, they are possible, but only by the most skilled, dedicated gardeners. The average-to-good gardener should at least double present yields while using water and fertilizer more efficiently.

No shortcuts when it comes to intensive gardening

Intensive gardening Isn’t the result of some trick or gadget. Rather it Is the systematic application of a variety, of techniques, including raised beds, loosening the topsoil and subsoil, planting in solid blocks, successional planting, use of starts, and an Integrated pest-management system.

While the application of any of these techniques enhances your garden, full benefits come only when they are all used. The key to intensive gardening is the use of permanent raised beds, usually 3 to 5 feet wide, 20 to 25 feet long, and with soil raised 2 to 12 inches above the paths. Soil in the beds is loosened initially to a depth of 24 inches by a process referred to as double-digging, compared with the 4 to 8 inches obtained by conventional tilling methods. By never walking on the beds and by occasional spading, the soil remains loose and uncompacted.

Related reading: How To Preserve Food In The Ground Like The Pioneers

The friable soil in double-dug beds creates optimal conditions for root development, leading to strong, rapidly growing plants. In the uncompacted soil, plants form deeper root systems which draw upon water and nutrients stored in the subsoil. Access to the resources in the subsoil allows closer spacing of plants, reduces the amount of watering necessary, and helps carry plants through droughts.

Raised beds use garden space much more efficiently than conventional planting rows separated by paths In typical garden rows, only 32 percent of the land area is actually used by the crops, while 68 percent Is lost to paths In a bed, plants are sown In solid blocks so that at maturity they are Just touching all their neighbors. The only paths are between solidly planted beds, not between each row of plants, and crops occupy at least 60 percent of the garden space.

Just by changing the spacing, you can approximately double your yield. At the same time, you are using water, fertilizer, and compost more efficiently by cutting in half the amount wasted on non-productive paths.


Within a bed, plants are separated from their neighbors In all directions by the “within-row” seed spacing given on all seed packets. The close spacing of the plants forms a canopy of greenery over the bed as the crops mature, especially leafy ones such as spinach in lettuce. This “living mulch” reduces evaporation from the soil and aids water conservation.

Shading by the canopy also retards weed growth. If the bed is kept well weeded while the plants are small, most crops will out-compete weeds as they grow larger. Harvesting a bed of spinach left unattended after an initial weeding, for example. produces only a few spindly weeds. The spinach does the work of herbicides or hand weeder with no chemicals, no expenditure of energy.

Hand Labor

Double-dug beds are made and maintained by hand labor. Although initial construction of a double-dug bed is hard work, maintenance in future years is relatively easy because the soil remains uncompacted. With Just a few simple hand tools and a few hours of physical labor, a survivalist/gardener can grow all or most of his food without the use of any fuel. Converting a garden Into double-dug beds is a major step toward food self-sufficiency and fuel independence.


Though raised beds are the cornerstone of intensive gardening, other techniques are needed to maximize yields. Intensive gardeners make full use of their garden soil by planting a new crop as soon as one is harvested, a technique referred to as successional planting. With careful planning, It is possible to grow two, sometimes three, vegetable crops from the same plot in one-season.

The main trick to successional planting is to discover the combinations which work best in your particular climate.

Be forewarned that a crop planted early or late in the season will take significantly longer to mature than the date given on the seed package. The second trick is to actually sow successional crops. A mistake is to leave portions of your beds barren for a month or more, they are reducing total yield at least 25 percent. It is better to develop a plan that calls for replanting the same day as the first crop Is harvested.


Juvenile plants grown under protected conditions are called “starts.” These, transplanted into the garden, can increase yields in several ways. Because the germination period and initial growth has taken place already, starts require less time in the garden to mature, as compared with crops sown from seed.

The reduced time to maturity may allow an additional crop or even two of rapid growing crops or give longer-season vegetables enough of a head start to mature in a short growing season. Fewer seeds are wasted with starts than with direct seeding. This saving is of little consequence today, but when seeds become scarce, you’ll have to treat them like bullets—making each one count.

Finally, transplanting a partially grown plant reduces the length of time that a crop is exposed to various pests that inhabit your garden.

Raising your own starts is not necessary for intensive gardening, though it is a skill that you’ll wish to master as you become more proficient. A greenhouse isn’t necessary. Starts can be grown in a warm closet under a few grow lights.


Intensive gardening works the soil hard. You must work to maintain or increase both fertility and soil structure. Slow-acting organic fertilizers, such as blood or bone meal, are better for intensive gardening than the faster-acting chemical fertilizers. Because many organic fertilizers ate farm by-products, their availability is not as tightly coupled to foreign oil flow as are petroleum-based fertilizers.

High humus levels are critical for proper soil structure, especially in problem soils, such as clays. Addition of compost and manures, or tilling-in cover crops such as clover, increases the nutrients and promotes beneficial microorganisms while helping to control certain disease organisms.

Problems in intensive gardening

As in any system, intensive gardening has a few problems. Without a doubt, the greatest drawback is the labor involved in double-digging the beds Initially. Six to 15 hours of physical labor are required to make each bed. This may not seem excessive until you try to make 10 to 50 beds.

Over four months, we managed to prepared 20 beds, our most notable garden accomplishment of the year. For your first year, plan on 5 to 10 beds, which in my honest opinion should be a realistic goal. If you really want to convert your entire garden to double-dug beds, realize that you are undertaking a major project.

Suggested reading: Growing Food When Drought And Heat Are Constant Problems

Another problem is that uncompacted soil drains rapidly, so the upper 1/2 inch to 2 inches of soil tends to dry out, especially if the soil is sandy. Seedlings, with shallow root systems, may suffer from a lack of water, even though there is ample water for larger, deeper-rooted plants.

After planting starts or sowing seeds, keep watch on the surface layer and water lightly. If it feels dry, increasing the organic content of the soil will increase its water-holding capacity and lesser need for frequent waterings. In hot, windy climates, an organic mulch, such as straw, may be useful, even though mulches are not used normally in intensive gardening.


Use of intensive techniques reduces to a minimum the area of land needed to supply a complete diet. However, there is no simple answer as to just how much land is required per person. The amount varies with the soil, climate, and crops, as well as the diet and skill of the gardeners.

if you were to equal the average U.S yields, you would require about half an acre per person for a typical diet which includes meat, and about a quarter-acre for a vegetarian diet of about 2.500 calories per day, It is um likely that you will be able to surpass professional farmers, so at least this much land is needed. If you plan to use conventional row/path gardening.

One person, working full-time by hand, can maintain a half-acre of Intensive garden. Therefore, the number of people fed per half-acre Is the maximum number that a single gardener could support. Raising fowl or small meat animals such as rabbits would increase the required area by at least two to four times


After conditioning the soil, intensive gardening should produce at least twice the average farmer’s yield. Thus, depending on the length of the growing season, a growing area of 2,800 to 5,600 square feet would supply a complete diet. This level of production requires neither great skill nor a greenhouse, tough the use of a greenhouse or other season extenders would reduce the land area required in cooler climates.

Depending on the Initial state of the soil and the level of your gardening skills, you can obtain this level of production anywhere from the first year to four years after starting your intensive gardening program.

Achieving a yield four times the national average seems feasible, though good soil, well-developed skills. and use of a greenhouse or cold-frame would be required. This type of yield from a growing area of 1.400 to 2,800 square feet could support one person. Any further reduction in land area is tricky.

At 700 to 1,400 square feet, the daily intake of calcium is only 400mg, which is below the US Recommended Daily Allowance, though it does meet the World Health Organization standard. With such a small area, your diet is limited, as you must concentrate on crops which produce the most protein and useable calcium per square foot, collards, say. A garden of this small size does not provide much—or any—leeway for a bad season. Though it is possible, do not plan to survive with such a narrow margin of safety.


Intensive gardening is the only proper course when your land area is limited. Even if you have several acres, converting to growing beds will conserve water, fertilizer, fuel and time, while making land available for pasture or orchards. For future food, start now!

Other Useful Resources:

Survival Lessons from the 1880s Everyone Should Know

Find Out What’s the Closest Nuclear Bunker to Your Home

Learn how to Safeguard your Home against Looters

The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation during a major disaster

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