In our annual veggie garden, we incorporate a variety of permaculture methods to increase yields, reduce pests and maintain healthy soil. One such method is biointensive gardening, where a single garden bed is inhabited by a variety of compatible plants for maximum use of space. It has been our experience that plants grow better in a diverse bed rather than a monocrop, so we plant biointensive beds just about everywhere.

Baby broccoli in the early spring greenhouse

One such bed we call our "brassica bed" because the primary crop is range of brassicas - Kale, Cauliflower and Romanesco Broccoli (known as hippy broccoli on the ranch). We planted our brassicas in staggered rows, so that each plant is approximately 18"-24" from one another on a diagonal line.

Hippy Broccoli - Fall 2014

These brassicas grow upward, with most of their food value harvested from the "canopy" of the garden bed (imagine it's a tiny forest). This leaves plantable area below and just above ground. The gaps in between our brassicas were filled with low-growing lettuce and carrots (beets are technically a better companion, but we eat more carrots). So in the end, we will be harvesting food from the flowering tops of our brassicas (2'-3' above ground), the leaves and whole heads of our lettuce (about 1' above ground) and the roots of our carrots (up to 12" below ground). That's a lot of vertical growing area!

Now, we are admittedly very chaotic with our gardening habits. What little space that is left in beds is filled with scrambling peas, aromatic herbs and a ridiculous amount on Calendula (for use in Wild Rose formulas, of course). We combine biointensive gardening with lasagna gardening (no-till) plus whatever else sounds good and organic. Diversity is key!

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