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Biointensive gardening is an approach to gardening where people aim to get high yields from small areas while also using practices designed to enrich and improve the soil to keep the garden sustainable. This technique integrates concepts from a number of different schools of thought about gardening, ranging from practices used in ancient cultures to modern techniques like French intensive gardening. One advantage to biointensive gardening is that it can be practiced in spaces of any size, allowing people with even limited gardening space to improve yields.
Several different components are involved in biointensive gardening and people are encouraged to use the system as a whole, rather than picking and choosing elements to use, as it is designed to work as a complete system. Raised beds filled with soil prepared with double digging to aerate and enrich it are used and the soil is further enriched with compost and compost tea. Plants are grown close together to increase yields and companion planting is also heavily utilized. This includes crop rotation, where crops are planted sequentially in an order designed to enrich the soil, like planting nitrogen-fixers after nitrogen-depleting plants, and simultaneous companion planting. Plants like marigolds may be companion planted with vegetables to keep insects away, for instance.
In biointensive gardening, a closed system is created. Waste products for the garden are reintroduced in the form of compost and the garden sustains itself, rather than requiring supplementary fertilizer and other products. Rotating and companion planting wisely keeps the soil healthy to limit soil exhaustion caused by intensive farming practices, while techniques like double digging are used to keep the soil in good condition so it can continue to produce high yields.
Water usage is typically reduced with biointensive gardening and people may use techniques to improve water efficiency, including using plants suitable for the climate, recycling gray water, and taking other steps to limit waste of water. Techniques like using shade plants to conserve water by keeping the soil cool, watering in early morning or evening to limit water loss through evaporation, and so forth can all contribute to increased water efficiency.
The highly intensive nature of this approach requires a lot of manual labor on the part of the gardener. Mechanized farming equipment is ill-suited to things like tightly packed raised beds. Thus, biointensive gardening tends to be recommended for home gardens and small farms, where it is logistically possible to use manual labor to maintain and manage the garden. The increased yields result in higher efficiency and more potential profit for small farmers.