Growing All One's Food on as Little Land as Possible

(This was originally written as a post to the RunningonEmpty2 mailing list: You will need to cut-and-paste URLs; sorry.)

A great challenge for 2006: Learn to grow a person's entire diet on as little land as possible *sustainably*.

Specifically, this means growing the necessary compost crops to maintain fertility, as well as so called 'calorie crops' (to supply calories and protein), plus veggies, plus even a very small income if desired.

John Jeavons' outfit (Ecology Action/Bountiful Gardens) has published a book and research booklets on how to do this, and evidently they have actually done it too.

I have a few of their research booklets. One of the booklets gives information necessary for the full-scale whole-diet plan (which takes 2100 sf per person, btw, in one of their plans, and 3000 sf in two of their other plans - the Mexican and Kenyan models). The diets given are spartan, but one could always grow more veggies, salad stuffs, and herbs to supplement the basics. All necessary nutrients are included (there are charts so demonstrating), although certainly there will be some disagreement in certain areas (people doing hard physical labor will require more calories, etc.)

The booklets assume that you have read Jeavons' basic book,'How To Grow More Vegetables, Fruit, Nuts, Berries, Grains and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine'. The entire diet described was grown sustainably on 3000 sf (at most) which is less than one-tenth of an acre and, although this amount is exclusive of space needed for paths between beds, many, many people in the USA, Canada, Europe, in fact all over the world, have at least this very small amount of land available for their use, very often more.

Three of the booklets give all the information needed to grow a small-scale trial model (100 sf) of an entire diet. That's only 10 x 10 feet... (Details of the booklets and how to obtain them are given below.)

The idea of the 100 sf plan is to grow a small-scale model to learn how to do it in general, and how to grow each plant in particular (and to learn how save the seeds and increase soil fertility with compost crops). Then it could be scaled up if needed. The first year probably wouldn't meet the goals: it would be a learning experiment after all.

I like the idea of the small scale model very much. I probably cannot do it myself (although I'm considering giving it a try), because my resources of energy and physical ability are really *extremely limited* now, and I need to devote all my gardening efforts to growing our veggies, fruits and salad stuffs. We rely upon the garden for these, it's necessary. If we don't grow them, we cannot eat them. We cannot buy any comparable garden produce locally either. By contrast, it isn't, at present, necessary that I grow the compost crops or the calorie crops.

But I'll bet a lot of people *could* do it.

Note that the research booklets contain all the information necessary for *experienced gardeners* to do this: they are not a 'how-to-garden course'. [Again, having read Jeavons' basic book 'How To Grow More Vegetables, Fruit, Nuts, Berries, Grains and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine' is assumed. This book is available here:]

Here are the essential research booklets with all the necessary information, plus some others: . If this URL doesn't work for you, go to then click on 'Books' from the left-hand menu, then on Ecology Action Research Papers.

Booklet 14: The Complete 21-Bed Biointensive Mini-Farm John Jeavons, 1986, (This is really essential.)

Booklet 15: One Basic Mexican Diet J Mogador Griffin, 1987, (Not essential but interesting, worth having.)

Booklet 22: Grow Your Manure For Free John Jeavons & Bill Bruneau, 1989, (Not absolutely essential, but a good idea to have it.)

Booklet 25: One Basic Kenyan Diet: With Diet, Income & Compost Crop Designs in a Three Growing-Bed Learning Model Patrick Wasike, 1991, (Not essential but interesting, worth having.)

Booklet 26: Learning To Grow All Your Own Food: OneBed Model For Compost, Diet and Income Crops Carol Cox & Staff, 1991 (This one is *essential*, this is the scaled-down version of Booklet #14.)

Also, of possible interest:

One Circle, How to Grow a Complete Diet in Less Than 1000 Square Feet, Dave Duhon & Cindy Gebhard 1984.

This book demonstrates how to grow a person's entire (very spartan) diet in less than 1000 sf. It was actually done for a year by a grad student (of course!). I read this book (as a library copy, I don't own it) and found it very confusing - it's pretty dense. (I could figure it out if I needed to, though.) I should also warn you that doing this - in this small a space - is pretty much a full-time job. But still, you might glean ideas from the book that you could use.

28 May 2006

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