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Struggling with biointensive ('How to Grow More Vegetables' book)

 
Charli Wilson
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Location: Derbyshire, UK
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So I would like to try Biointensive at my allotment- as I need it to be almost totally self-sufficient in biomass. I purchased the book 'How to Grow More Vegetables' by J Jeavons, but it is a Kindle ebook- and you can't read any of the tables and charts as they're too small and the Kindle can't zoom-in, which makes it a bit useless.

I know I need 60% carbon-and-calorie crops. This includes corn, sunflowers and seed amaranth (which I grow but only for the chickens to eat), but what else would it include? Are beans and/or peas included?

Then the 30% high-calorie root crops- I grow potatoes and turnips already. Do carrots count in this category?

And 10% veg- courgettes, lettuce, oriental greens.

Where do Winter squash come? (I grow lots of those!) Onions and garlic?

And I also grow willow- that is coppiced, chipped and composted- but as this isn't edible I don't suppose it would fit into the percentages? (and most of the wood chip gets used in the 'forest garden' bit rather than the annual-crop bit, or for basket-making)

Do you know of any of the lists published online anywhere? I don't really fancy having to pay for the book again, but they won't let me return it as I've 'already read 60% of it'- it's not until you get to the tables in the second half of the book that you realise they're impossible to read!

Thanks,
Charli
 
R Ranson
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Sorry, I can't be more help with the actual details, but I'm excited to hear what others have to say.

One thing I do with e-books that have tiny tables is to open them on my computer. Kindle has a 'cloud reader' I think it's called, which you can put on your computer and open the ebook on. That makes the images and tables much clearer. It's kind of a bother, so what I'll sometimes do is get the book out from the library so I can see the pictures and tables, then do the main reading on my e-reader (because the kindle has an easier font for my dyslexic brain).

Excited to hear more about this. This book is on my reading list, as I think it matches my style of growing kitchen veg. Deep soil, lots of organic matter, closely spaced plants, intercropping. Very much my cuppa tea.
 
R Scott
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I know I have seen at least partial tables somewhere online, either his website or a presentation on YouTube.
 
Tyler Ludens
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If you can use some of the willow for compost, I think you can reduce the percentage for compost crops and use that area for calorie crops that don't produce much biomass. Unfortunately, carrots are not a high-calorie crop. According to the chart they only contain 156 calories per pound versus parsnips at 293 calories per pound. Garlic contains 547 calories per pound but it can be a challenge to eat that much garlic. Dry beans and peas are good calorie crops but can take up a lot of space in the garden. Sadly, winter squash is low calorie, 117-171 calories per pound depending on variety.

I think it makes the most sense to grow what you're most likely to eat, versus what is strictly "the best" as to calories.

The book "One Circle" goes into extreme detail about designing nearly complete vegan diets in the smallest space. These diets are pretty dreary, but the book is a good planning tool if you're really serious about this. https://www.bountifulgardens.org/products/BEA-0370

If I can find my copy I can share some of the sample diets here, I think it would be fair use.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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video how to do it

PDF on biointensive growing

Those two should be of help to you. The second one has the charts large enough to read easily.
 
Denise Spencer
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Here's a link to the Grow Biointensive page.

http://www.growbiointensive.org/grow_main.html

Click on the tab labelled " Geow Soil and Grow Food in the smallest space" There are a couple charts and clarifications and examples that I am able to enlarge on my Kindle. You can save it to your reading list using Kindle's Silk browser. Click on the 3 vertical dots and choose "save to reading list" You'll then be able to access the file off line.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Turnips are not considered high calorie. The best high calorie crops are potatoes, parsnips, garlic, onions, and sweet potatoes. Squash is in the ten percent "other"
 
Charli Wilson
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I'm mainly interested in being sustainable in compost- whilst also growing food either for the chickens or for me. I did try putting half my area down to compost crops but didn't seem to end up with appreciable quantities of compost of food (thought the soil I put the compost crops on was brilliant the next year!).

For my carbon&calorie crops I've got sunflowers, corn, amaranth and quinoa. I'm too late for wheat but that would be good to try for next year.
Root crops will be garlic, potatoes, onions
Then the 'other' includes my courgette and squash

Then with my composted willow chip I may manage to be sustainable in compost!

Whilst I can view all of the tiny tables in Cloud Reader I haven't managed to get them big enough that I can ready them yet! They blur as they enlarge which means it is still impossible to read. I've got a few more things to try to get the Kindle ebook in a pdf format or something- if I can view it on a real screen instead of in 'reader' software it should be fine

Thanks for your help,
Charli
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Charli,

I have read of one person in the UK that completely covered her allotment with wood chips 16 cm deep.
The first year she put them down she planted through (to the soil below).
The second year and every year after she top dressed with wood chips to return to the starting depth and planted in the wood chips.
Her photos showed her plot and the plots around her, her plot was out performing the others 3 to one at least.
As I recall she is located near London, but I might be wrong.
The article was on M.E.N. I believe, so a search on Mother Earth News might bring the article up for you.

If you can find that article, it might give you some tips and ways to not be dependent on compost materials.
 
Charli Wilson
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I have seen that article Bryant- but I can't work out how on earth to get free woodchip! Arborists around here sell it for £40 per cubic metre! I did order a truck-full once (probably about 3 cubic metres) but it doesn't go very far!

My allotment is split into two halves, the 'forest garden' half has woodchip- but only a light dusting of it- stuff from my own garden where we cut a large conifer down and I painstaking spent 3 weeks chipping it! I've since planted an area of willow (again only small- 5m by 7m I think) to try and supply my own whilst the plants fill up the space.

The annual-half I have tried various things- it is only 5m wide and about 10m long so it isn't the biggest space. Because I don't get to the allotment very often (I work full time and I'm a carer for my injured partner)- I can only plant low-effort things.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I have used grass clippings and old news papers (shredded them by hand) to create compost. Of course that means you have to find folks that bag their clippings for the rubbish pickup.

Cardboard works pretty well too. I hope you can devise a method that will work for you, (Don't know about there but I get spent coffee grounds and used tea from a couple of specialty shops here and those work really well as a "greens" substitute).
 
Marco Banks
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Charli Wilson wrote:I have seen that article Bryant- but I can't work out how on earth to get free woodchip! Arborists around here sell it for £40 per cubic metre! I did order a truck-full once (probably about 3 cubic metres) but it doesn't go very far!

My allotment is split into two halves, the 'forest garden' half has woodchip- but only a light dusting of it- stuff from my own garden where we cut a large conifer down and I painstaking spent 3 weeks chipping it! I've since planted an area of willow (again only small- 5m by 7m I think) to try and supply my own whilst the plants fill up the space.

The annual-half I have tried various things- it is only 5m wide and about 10m long so it isn't the biggest space. Because I don't get to the allotment very often (I work full time and I'm a carer for my injured partner)- I can only plant low-effort things.


That's too bad. Around here, the private tree-trimmers are overjoyed when you take the chips off their hands. I've been doing it for so many years, most of the local guys know me by name and know exactly where my house is. It's helpful to speak Spanish, because the vast majority of tree trimming services around Los Angeles use Mexican labor, and many of them don't speak English.

The only people who do not dump them for free are the municipal guys, who don't give a rip about saving money. They like driving the truck to the dump --- it kills a couple of hours and they aren't looking to save time or money. But everyone else who is working for themselves see it as a way to save an hour or two in driving, and save on dumping fees.

I could use a load right now, but I haven't seen a truck in the past month or so. But when I hear the whirrr of the chipper somewhere in the neighborhood, I'll track it down and ask for them. You have to have some flexibility, because they don't want to dump until they've completed the whole job. Often, I'll drive the car over and wait until they are done (sit there in the car and read a book while they finish their job), and then I'll lead them back to my place. In the end, it's all worth it.

Best of luck in finding a source of free carbon.
 
Cristo Balete
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I think it's really important to get experience with the process of wood chip breakdown. It's crucial to know what kind of wood they are. Redwood bark chips will put out growth inhibitors for more than a year, and it could take years for them to break down to the point where the annual plants can coexist with them. Redwood and other woods that have growth inhibitors, like red cedar, are much slower to get you what you want. The first and second year of living with wood chips could actually be discouraging because they are absorbing the water with the plant nutrients in it, and those nutrients won't get to the plant roots.

Wood chips are carbon, so they need lots and lots of extra nitrogen to get them broken down. Nitrogen is dissolved in water, the bark chips absorb the water, and that combination starts the proper reaction for decomposition.

Bark chips buried in soil and kept wet will break down even faster, but again, they are holding the nutrients that plant roots want, so there has to be applications of extra nutrients for the plants. The soil reacts differently to this overdose of one thing, soil critters respond differently to this overdose, and it will take a long time to get things to "normal." whatever that may be for your situation.

I still think the Permaculture principle of Always Use A Mix of Ingredients is the best way to go. Just one thing, just grass, or just bark chips, or just one kind of soil amendment isn't the way Nature does it, and isn't that what we're trying to copy? In order to get the best nutrition for us and health for the soil is to add on a biodiversity of soil amendments, and keep maintaining high levels of all of those ingredients.

I know there's always controversy over bark chips. Eventually they do improve the soil, but we are looking for nutrition in our food first and foremost, and I've never found a source that just bark chips is going to supply that.

----

I have seen other posts on this forum where people have a big source of wood chips, and they will spread a thin layer on the soil, work those in, and with the rest set up hot, hard working compost piles with lots of additives and turning, and when those piles are done, then add them back in.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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