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Posts: 75
Reply with quote  #1 
From my limited understanding and solely from what I read years ago, the 'French Intensive Method' of farming using raised beds has been around for hundreds of years in France.  The article I studied years back claimed that such 'farms' existed all around most French cities and towns and were/are used to provide vegetable produce and herbs for the nearby urban restaurants.  

The description of the French raised beds was very interesting.  I had a small rural property and home at the time in the Boston Mountains about 25 miles north of Ft. Smith, AR and lots of spare time so I decided to try it.  I used an old 5 horse Troy Built tiller and made repeated passes to an area about 4' wide by 40; long.  I dug the soil out after each tilling, then tilled again, shoveled, and so on, until I had a 4x40' trench about five feet deep.  I then refilled the trench starting with a six inch layer of cut grass, leaves, twigs, and appropriate kitchen waste in the bottom, then several inches of dirt, more organic material and more dirt until the trench was about 16 or so inches above ground level at the top.  I watered the topped up trench heavily, let it sit a day or two, and then planted it in okra, melons, onions, carrots, tomatoes, etc.

Wow!  The result was stunning and I wish I had pictures for evidence.  The okra stalks shot up to 7 to 8 feet high, and everything else was phenomenal.  Huge melons, tomatoes, etc.  It was everything the article had claimed, fantastic yields and that the French farmers, even those with small properties were able to make a good living with the crops from their raised beds.  The article went on to state that the decaying organic matter in the multi-layered beds made fertilizing unnecessary for something like 15 to 20 years.  Then, when production lessened after many years, the farmers would dig up the beds and refresh them with fresh organic material.

I only got two seasons from my Arkansas bed before a job offer I couldn't refuse had me moving to New Mexico.  But, now that I'm retired again and for the final time, a raised bed or two is going in on my property this spring and---using the same now 40 year old Troy Built tiller.  It really works, both the beds and the tiller.  

BTW, during year one of my AR raised bed, I happened to look out one day and say an okra stalk bent over and waving back and forth.  I went to look and there was a big woodchuck with the stalk pulled over while he was munching okra pods.  I went back to the house, got my shotgun, and went back out to execute the chuck.  Hell!  There he was, an old, old fellow with a grey muzzle and fat as a pig. He had to be something like 15 years old and had no doubt spent his life in the woods that were all around my house.  I stood there six feet away with the shotgun and didn't have the heart to shoot him.  I just planted more okra the following year so we could share.  LIve and let live.  GOM 



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Posts: 2,240
Reply with quote  #2 
nice story, I like it !


(1)  "Heat goes from hot to cold, there is no directional bias"
(2) It's wrote, "voilà" unless talking musical instruments...
Old McDonald

Posts: 66
Reply with quote  #3 
GOM, I have used raised beds for many years, although I do not go to that extent. At most I go down two spade depths, and apply fym. I do go deeper for an Asparagus bed. Cato used them a couple of thousand years ago and if I remember right his asparagus bed making technique was rather similar to what you did. 

Here is another old Asparagus bed making technique that you might like to try:-
Begin by taking a bed with a recommended width of between 3 and 5 feet . Dig out this bed to a depth of 3 feet.  Fork over the base to loosen it, throwing in at the bottom a considerable quantity of well-rotted dung.  Incorporate into the next spit of soil returned to the trench a good deal of short, rich manure. Then a large proportion of sand should be intermingled with the next spit, leaving the top spit almost all sand, with a liberal amalgam of salt and some soot.  

Cato’s recommendation has been translated to 5 feet.  Exactly what those descriptions of quantities are supposed to mean is a bit of a guess, but no doubt the considerable quantity is more than the good deal, which in turn is more than the liberal.  

One thing I have done as I get older and not so supple (I am 10 years younger than you, but had a hard life playing sports and riding horses that sometimes fell) is to reduce the width of the beds from my original 4 feet. I do not like to have to go around to the other side of a bed if I cannot reach much beyond the middle. I am never short of ground wherever I live so go for narrower beds that I can straddle if need be - especially useful when sowing seeds across the width. 

I too remember reading about these French vegetable growers (in the Paris area) about 60 years ago in an English farming magazine, and remembering it was reported they used up to four hundred tons of fym an acre. That is a lot of BS. Maybe the article was BS.

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