I would like to learn, starting from almost total gardening ignorance,
how to grow a substantial percentage of my family's diet in my back
Any suggestions on good books or other educational resources?
Any comments on Bartholomew's "Square Foot Gardening" or Jeavon's
"Grow More Vegetables"?
Some things to think about.
1. You need to figure out is how much of various foods do you need to
be reasonably self sufficient -- numbers of quarts and pints for
2. How much space is needed to grow this amount of food. In order to
preserve 60 quarts of green beans you need 200 feet of plants. And
that assumes a fairly decent harvest.
3. How you are going to preserve and store this amount of food.
Why don't you start out by planting a few foods that your family likes
and increase from that. You may find that it takes a lot of time to
produce and preserve food.
There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and
I have been doing what you want to do for a few years now. I find it
very rewarding. the books you are considering are good books. Since
you are looking at those, I am guessing you don't have a lot of room.
It would help if you specified the zone, area to be cultivated, number
of people in family, how many hours of sun, and soil. some general
comments (if you need to know more, just ask):
1) for intensive gardening, the soil has to be very good. High organic
content, nice nutrient profile, and the texture that comes from years
of compost or organic mulch (and thousands of earthworms). so go
ahead, get a complete test, and then no matter what they say a little
rock phosphate and two years of manuring to get things going. Keep in
mind that the limiting factor for growth is almost always a macro- or
2) some veggies produce a lot, some produce little. much of that "grow
more vegetables" is simply "grow more productive vegetables". If you
have a small area, you better like lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, chard,
or french beans.
3) drip irrigation strongly recommended. I just installed my system
and I can't believe I used to be without. check one of my past posts
for how to.
4) some people can, some people have a root cellar, some people
freeze, some people dry, and I extend my season with hoophouses over
the beds. you can do all, of course, and some veggies are well suited
to some of the techniques (zucchini are great dry, but don't freeze.
peas are exceelent frozen, etc.). I pick my veggies well into january,
and back again in march. I am emotionally attached to veggies, such as
collard and radicchio, that keep top eating quality for months in the
middle of winter at temperatures of 15F.
5) go with the soil, the seasons, and the zone. some stuff just grows
well in your place, and some does not. Lettuce will grow in the fall,
but just not as well as in the spring. Just about every other salad
green will grow better in the fall. carrots in heavy clay are not
great, and favas in sand are poor. Okra does not grow in Seattle, and
zucchini resent part shade. Chard does not like acidic soil, and
potatoes alkaline. zucchini may regularly catch a disease but tomatoes
grow if only given sun and water. etc. etc.
6) you will need some equipment and you will have a learning curve. It
now takes me minutes to start a tray with 288 seedlings. It would take
me half an hour years ago. When you plan your garden, keep efficiency
7) perennial herb patch a must.
8) mulch everywhere you will start plants. I just weeded a bed where
the soil was left bare (I ran out of leaves). It took four hours, and
the radicchio had successfully closed its canopy, else it would have
been much worse. Leave bare soil only where you will direct seed. it
is very efficient, as it will reduce your watering and fertilizing,
and alomst eliminate your weeding.
I like Square Foot Gardening. It's a good place to start, with plenty of
information, and well thought-out advice about how to garden logically and
efficiently. I've adopted the system for my garden and use the 4 X 4 foot beds.
This is very possible, as long as you don't include grains, dairy products, and
Hardly ever mentioned in books, though, is the most time-consuming part of
all--harvesting, processing (culling, washing, chopping, etc.) and preserving
Jeavons' Grow More Vegetables is excellent, but his yield calculations don't
seem to take into account the inevitable bumps along the way--poor weather,
There's always something. :)
email@example.com (Tuckermor) wrote in message
chicken are a useful item in the garden. Let them loose into the
garden the month of april, and they will get all earwigs, many if not
most weed seeds, all grubs, and all slugs. Of course, you have to have
another place where to put them after you plant things.
that's why I prefer tunnels, and fresh salads. Ten minutes of work
every night, or twenty on a winter sunday (harvesting for the whole
week), feel like nothing. the best way to preserve veggies is to leave
them in the garden.
it takes maybe five years to become 90% efficient. In the meantime,
one learns to do away with all crops except those that are foolproof.
Plus, I always seed a tray of mixed greens in late june (288
seedlings), to fill gaps in july.
my garden does not look nearly like those in gardening books, all
perfect rows of uniform seedlings...
I don't have his book but there is lots of info on the net. I'm doing
SFG for the first time this year. I have 2 - 8' x 10' 1 8" deep and 3 -
8' x 10' x 10" deep raised beds as well as a temporary unraised bed. So
far, everything is growing and healthy. Most of what I have growing was
started from seed. Add a greenhouse if possible. However, I have
already begun pinpointing some of those veggies that aren't producing as
much or are taking up too much room as I would like so I won't be
growing that variety next year. In general, the overall outcome has
been very good though. Some general comments on SFG: planning is a
good thing, look for veggies that can be staked and grown upwards
instead of sprawling, go organic if at all possible, be creative
especially for trellises, dowels are cheap, and have fun! You will
quickly be able to find out what will work for you and what won't.
There are 101 books on sustainable gardening, all will provide you with a
wealth of information, but the most knowledge you will receive is through
trial and error, observation and experience.
However, it can be hard to start for some so :
As you haven't mentioned the size of your property, or how much of the land
you are willing to 'give up' to sustainable gardening. My advice if you are
have less that 3ha, is as much as possible, and this will require
consideration in regards to design, and a basic knowledge of the
requirements of the plants you decide to use.
Personally, I have always found permaculture the most well rounded concept
in regards to sustainable gardening as it includes a comprehensive and
holistic approach to design. And while I also use other sources, especially
when it comes to plant biology/process/yield, I like the 'cover all aspects
' that Permaculture presents.
There are many books written on permaculture, but a nice 'simple' one,
without the 'rhetoric' or the 'original's is
"earth users guide to permaculture' by Rosemary Morrow and 'The
Permaculture Home garden' by Linda Woodrow.
I also find the Botanical's Pocket Organic Gardening (for the Australian
Gardener) very useful. There may be an version for the country you reside
in!! Another favourite is 'The Rodale Book of Composting', as compost is
very important for sustainability.
A good web sites by a family who have logged their own experiences progress
(If anyone knows of other home bloggs please share them with me)
A few other sites I like are that all tie in with sustainable gardening in
some way are :
Here is my gardening example up till Dec 2003: (which we started with only
basic concepts of gardening/permaculture. This site may not open if you
don't use i.e. web browser due to Microsoft FrontPage 'crappyness'
2004 is not complete due to this years work commitments, though work in the
yard has continued. Hopefully I will update the new site in under 2 months
(When I sell my business and become 'unemployed')
(This site can be a dog to load without broadband as I did NOT reduce those
We eat anywhere between 20% to 80% of our own food per day. We spend roughly
$120 a week on food for 2 people 2 cats. 1/2 of this is probably cat food.
The food we do buy is organic and slightly more expensive.
We don't eat a great deal of meat. About once a week to once a fortnight. We
don't give much of our surplus food away, we preserve it by either
We will be trying to cold store root crops this year.
We aren't sustainable, but in under 3 years we have made a big impact on our
'food' costs, though this was never the primary or even secondary reasons
for applying sustainable 'living'.
At present we spend about $70 a season on heirloom seeds. This is probably
excessive but I like to try new varieties to test 'yields/quality/storing
We are saving seeds from some of these stock, so over time this cost will
Our fruit trees are not fully productive yet, except the lemon tree, so this
is a yield that we will obtain in the near future.
instead of purchasing expensive books (unless you can find some in thrift
stores), why don't you lurk around the news groups and also go to
www.gardenweb.com and some other garden sites and LEARN...to me, best way to
learn is: ASK QUESTIONS!! (remember, the only stupid question is the one
which never got asked!)
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