I’m still not sure if I’ll do vegetables for market. My plan is to get through a few seasons before deciding to give it a go or not. If I do or don’t, this book was a valuable read.
Right away, I saw a lot of parallels between this and another book I just read, How to Grow More Vegetables. Both are using biologically intensive methods. Fortier mentions in this book that they don’t produce their own fertilizers or compost. Most of it is brought in. They do experiment with cover cropping for soil improvement, but the schedule gets a little messy with so much to plan for succession and rotation. But intensive spacing and improving soil are found in both books.
There’s an estimation at the beginning of the book that I really appreciated. His opinion is that less than 2 acres of intensively cultivated land is the optimal size for farming without a tractor. He also believes that one full acre of diverse vegetables is about the maximum one person can manage. Since I’m planning on it being one person doing the work (me) and not using the tractor regularly (I may for initial bed prep), this estimate was a useful guide. I also added a new area of my property into production consideration because of his recommendation for a site with a less than 5% southern slope.
Designing the Market Garden
This section was so applicable since I’m starting with a blank slate (as far as production). Fortier is really serious about getting things standardized and efficiently laid out from the beginning. It covers:
- Building placement and foot traffic
- Considerations for washing station, cold room, bathroom, tool shed, greenhouse & hoophouse
- Field standardization
- Plot sizes and spacing, raised beds
- Deer management
- A lot of detail about their watering system, which is mobile and not drop irrigation
- Tool recommendations for working without a tractor
- This is interesting to read ahead of time, because a lot of field setup is based around specific tools
- Crop Rotation
- Cover Cropping and Weed Management
- A really interesting technique was the Stale Seedbed Technique, where you grow weeds in your bed as well as you’d grow your vegetable crop. Then you knock ’em down, cover ’em and plant your real crop. Apparently it’s a necessity for some crop’s weed management.
- Seed Starting & Transplanting
- Direct Seeding Techniques and Tools
- Insect Pests & Disease
- Season Extension
- Harvest & Storage Techniques
- Crop Planning
- Tons of references for crop notes, tool & suppliers, sample garden plans and a robust bibliography
Things I Liked:
- How tactical he is about growing. It really resonates with my planning/record-keeping obsessions that he is so detailed. He treats it like a business, listens to what customers want and knows what his product is worth.
- Love the resources, for both growing considerations and supplies. The tools section was really thorough on hand tools.
- There’s a ton of information! It really sets you up to get started with a highly productive market garden. He has detailed sample crop rotation and planting schedules. This is a book you go back to when you’re ready to plan for the season. I also thought it was really valuable to read for initial farm setup (or early farm setup).
- I’m torn with what to do for my bed sides. Fortier is passionate about 30″ wide beds, as well as Curtis Stone over at the Urban Farmer. I love the 30″ width, I think it makes a lot of sense. My conflict is with Floret Flower’s recommended bed sizes of 48″. She has a really cool system of about 5 different spacing groups and puts each flower into one of those groups. Her groups make more sense starting with 48″. So, I think I’m left with making everything 48″ wide. I don’t know if it makes sense to have flower beds 48″ and vegetable beds 30″. Then I could run into issues sharing supplies between them (thinking of things that are cut, like landscape fabric and row covers, etc).
- I’ve been getting this from every book I’ve read lately, but obviously it’s going to be really helpful to get a hoophouse. He gets a lot of use out of his.
- His watering system is different from the usual recommendation of drip irrigation. I really like the way they do it, but again, with flowers I’m not sure overhead watering would be the best. I also have to be careful with some spots on my property that get sun later in the morning because of a woodland edge that surrounds us. Don’t want too much moisture sitting on everything for too long.
Book Link: The Market Gardener