I read a recommendation for “How to Grow More Vegetables” from the book “Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden” (read my review here). In the “Cut Flower Garden”, author Erin Benzakein shares this book as an influence for her flower spacing system. She gives the system credit for allowing her to grow so intensively on her small-scale farm.
Ecology Action is the site where the research and methods mentioned in this book are tested and created. Over the last 40 years, they’ve developed their own trademarked system of production methods called GROW BIOINTENSIVE. Ecology Action offers internship, training, education and publications surrounding their system and continued findings.
You can tell that long-term sustainability is a huge driver for the continual development of their system. Jeavons believes that we need to keep half of the world’s farmable land natural and wild to preserve plant and animal diversity – meaning we need to be more sustainable and efficient on the land we do farm. He also believes current world hunger solutions may create long-term dependencies and that a better solution is to train people in sustainable, productive ways so they can produce for their community.
Some Topics Covered:
Deep Soil Creation and Maintenance
All about planning, lay out and the creation of new beds as well as bed maintenance once established.
- Recommended tools
- Beds vs. rows
- Double-digging technique
The compost sections are very detailed and cover a lot of information. This was one of the sections were I was kind of overwhelmed. The philosophy for long-term, sustainable farming includes growing your own compost and fertilizer to reduce imports from other locations. He argues that importing is unsustainable, and depletes unrelated ecosystems from your production area. This was a realization for me, and I completely agree that whatever can be done onsite, should. However, just starting out with everything else to do, it’s intimidating. He recommends working towards this ideal, and that inputs will most likely be needed in the beginning to get you started.
- Growing compost crops and recipes for nutrient mixes
- Location, care and maintenance of compost piles
The guide to more sustainable fertilization includes: growing your own food and composting the residues, growing trees to bring nutrients to the topsoil, growing your own fertilizer, maintaining proper level of organic matter in the soil, and yes, exploring “proper, safe, and legal ways to recycle human waste”.
- Recommendations for organic soil modifiers and nutrient sources
Open-pollinated Seeds, Seed Propagation, Close-Spacing and Seed Saving
The section that led me to the book! It has useful spacing recommendations and the whys behind them. I do wonder, though, if this information could be found elsewhere in more detail. For example, Floret’s book actually has WAY more flower type spacing examples than this one, which only gives you a few. Still, lots of information in this section.
- Intensive spacing, companion planting & rotation planning
Interrelated Food Raising System
- Insect and pest control
- Natural predators
Master Charts & Planning
Definitely a reference section. I skimmed through a lot of this and marked areas to come back to when I need them.
- Planning sheets
- Sample garden plans
- Diagrams and specs for building hand-tools
Things I Liked:
- Growing your own compost and fertilizer
- Plant spacing (and the whys behind the method)
- “In order to have beneficial insects in your food-producing area, you must provide food for them – which may be some of the harmful insects”
- “Soil needs your energy, not the insect”
- The lost art of reading soil nutrition based on what weeds are growing and the idea of creating a living soil test of plants grown to express the nutrient levels of an area
- This book is very detailed, and while I know the information is useful – it was almost too detailed for me just getting started. There were points where I felt overwhelmed at the amount of work it suggested.
- Even though I read the 9th edition, which came out a few months ago, almost every reference to another resource is quite difficult to find. I tried searching Amazon for almost every book suggested and many didn’t even have a third-party used option available.
- Sometimes it felt like advertising for the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method in particular. There were a lot of claims and I found myself writing a few times in the margins, “is this true?” to go back and research more later.
I’m glad I read it. Some of the ideas this book sparked will be much easier to plan while I lay out my initial farm plan. Overall, it has a lot of recommendations for tools, fertilizers, insect controls, etc. I’ll reference it during initial setup and revisit it again when I start expanding.