Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How to Grow More Vegetables

The bible of biointensive gardening is John Jeavon's book How to Grow More Vegetables (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine.It is absolutely the best gardening book you could own if you are serious about growing your own food.

It includes instructions on how to double dig your garden beds, sample garden plans, and companion planting guides, among other things. But by far the most useful and amazing part of the book is the section devoted to detailed planting charts. These tell you everything you need to know about spacing, planting and expected yields.

I know, for instance, that in my house we go through about 3 pounds of carrots per month, so next year I'd like to produce roughly 36 pounds of carrots. The charts tell me to space my seeds 3 inches apart and that I can expect a yield of at least 100 pounds of carrots per 100 square feet of garden. (This is the yield expected for beginning gardeners--it's 150 pounds for intermediate gardeners, and possibly over 400 for advanced gardeners.) Since I'll be planting in a newly dug bed next year, I'll use the lowest figure. I will need to devote 36 square feet of space to grow my carrots next year. Since carrots mature fairly quickly, I can plant two successive crops at 18 square feet each.

I was recently reading the reviews of this book on Amazon.com. Most people, like me, found the book to be an absolute godsend. But there were quite a few people with complaints that the book was "too technical". For a hobbyist, growing a few tomatoes--maybe. For anyone serious about providing for their family--no way. I wouldn't call the charts "technical", just highly detailed. And with each new edition of the book (now in its seventh), Jeavons adds more information to the charts. He's learning as he goes, just as we all do, and his dedication to this very important work is amazing.

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