Growing Nutrition & Soil

On February 1st, 2015, 60 people gathered at the Little Lake Grange to hear John Jeavons talk about planning a summer garden. His presentation went far beyond the usual basic discussion of preparing beds and planting tomatoes, beans, squash and other popular summer crops. Instead, he focused on growing nutrition and soil.

In GROW BIOINTENSIVE sustainable mini-farming—which John has played a major role in developing—only 10% of what's grown is devoted to kitchen crops and income production. Sixty percent of the beds are dedicated to keeping the soil fertile by growing compost crops (like corn, which can also provide food). The remaining 30% of the beds grow calories to provide nutrition for the gardener.

Although there are a variety of plants that can meet these suggested requirements, at this presentation John focused on growing potatoes for nutrition and flour corn and sorghum for compost. He handed out a chart to show why these particular crops excelled at these tasks, while taking less growing time and less water.

John related that he started over 40 years ago trying to find out the smallest amount of land a person would need to grow all her/his own food and income. Since no one knew, he has spent the years since finding out for himself and sharing that knowledge with the world.

Rachel Britten, Field Coordinator at the Golden Rule Garden and Jes Pearce, Coordinator of the Demonstration, Teaching and Research Mini-Farm at the Jeavons Center, backed John up in his presentation. At the beginning of the evening Rachel asked how many people there had gardens. Almost all the hands went up. When she asked how many were growing nutrition and soil, there were only a couple. However, at the end of the evening when Jes asked how many would like to start gardening in this way, there was an enthusiastic show of hands.

(Report by Mary Zellachild)