How to Grow More Vegetables


The work has always been worthwhile despite the continuing challenge of attracting strong, ongoing support. The biggest single asset to this undertaking is John Jeavons’s unfailing stamina and dedication.

Over and over, when we all ask, “Can it work?” he answers, “How are we going to make it work?” It is becoming increasingly clear that GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming will be an important part of the solution to starvation and malnutrition, dwindling energy supplies, unemployment, and exhaustion and loss of arable land, if the social and political challenges can be met. met.

After forty years of testing, GROW BIOINTENSIVE food-raising has produced amazing bene2ts. Yields can average 2 to 6 times those of U.S. agriculture, and a few ranges up to 31 times higher a plus at a time of peak food. But there’s still more to learn; for example, we are still working to develop an optimally healthy soil system.

Compost and calorie crops present the most challenges because they are crucial in meeting the nutritional needs of people and the soil.

Experiments include alfalfa, fava beans, wheat, oats, cardoon, and comfrey. So far our yields are from one to 2ve times the U.S. average for these crops. Water use is well below that of commercial agriculture per pound of food produced, and is about 33% to 12% that of conventional techniques per unit of land area.

This is especially important in a world that has reached a point of peak water. Energy expenditure, expressed in kilocalories of input, is 6% to 1% of that used by commercial agriculture, and this helps meet the challenge of peak oil.

The human body is still more e=cient than any machine we have been able to invent. Several factors contradict the popular conception that this is a labor-intensive method. Using hand tools may seem to be more work, but the yields more than compensate. Even at 50¢ a pound wholesale, zucchini can bring as much as $18 to $32 per hour depending on the harvest timing because it is easy to grow, maintain, and harvest.

Time spent in soil to grow, maintain, and harvest. Time spent in soil preparation is more than oCset later in less need for weeding, thinning, cultivation, and other chores per unit of area and per unit of yield. Hand watering and harvesting appear to take the most time. Initial soil preparation, including fertilization and planting, may take 5 to 9 1⁄2 hours per 100-square-foot raised bed.

Thereafter, the time spent decreases dramatically. A new digging tool, the U-bar, has reduced subsequent bed preparation time to as little as 20 minutes. A new hand watering tool that waters more quickly and more gently is also being developed.

Nature has answered our original queries with an abundance even greater than expected, and we have narrowed our research to the most important question that can be asked of any agricultural system: Is it sustainable?

The GROW BIOINTENSIVE1 method currently uses 50% or less of the purchased fertilizer that commercial farmers use. Can we maintain all nutrient levels on site, once they have been built up and balanced? Or is some outside additive always necessary? We need to look more closely at all nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, calcium, and trace minerals. Anyone can grow good crops on good soil, cashing in on nature’s accumulated riches.

The GROW BIOINTENSIVE method appears to allow anyone to take “the worst possible soil” (Alan Chadwick’s appraisal of our original Palo Alto research site) and turn it into a bountiful garden or maniform.

Preliminary monitoring of our soil-building process farm. Preliminary monitoring of our soil-building process by a University of California soil scientist was probably the most important information garnered about our initial site. Continued monitoring will unlock new secrets and provide hope for people with marginal, worn-out, or deserti2ed soils.

However, a complete answer to the long-term question of sustainable soil fertility will require at least 2fty years of observation as the living soil system changes and grows! We continue to work on that opportunity.

Why not create ecosystems of hope? 

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