permies.com bookshelf - Books on growing vegetables?
posted 8 years ago
I've had this link in my bookmarks for several months now and I finally registered. I'm just getting started with my own gardening efforts. While my mother's garden has always been of the "the strong will survive" type, with no effort put into it at all, I would like to start growing vegetables there to practice and learn until I finally find the place for "Felixland".
So... where do I start. Joel Salatin is the one who inspired me and in his books I came across the term 'permaculture'. I love the concept of sustainability, frugal living and letting nature do the work. I would like to grow my own vegetables. I read Crawford's "Creating a Forest Garden" and Jeavons' "How to grow more vegetables". While the latter contains some very interesting information, it seems to me that its focus lies on maximum yields. Growing 24" deep several times a year is not what I would call sustainable (not to mention: fun").
Crawford's work, on the other hand, leaves me wondering "Well, how DO I start, WHERE and HOW can I plant my carrots, parsley root and pumpkins?". I would love to learn more about this and to find the balance of "ok" yields and a healthy garden. Is there a book (or several) that touches this area more concretely? I was quite disappointed by the "no dig approach" (can't remember the author).
Sure, I found the "permaculture books n stuff" link at the bottom of this website, but it does not seem to lead anywhere, does it? Or did I miss something?
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
posted 8 years ago
Not really sure what you're asking here. Jeavons' book is one of the most popular primers on growing vegetables and with good reason. Plenty of people skip or skimp on the double-digging part, and still get really good results. Mel Bartholomew is another how-to-grow-intensively that is pretty good. If you're a left coast person, anything that Steve Solomon or Carol Deppe writes is a must, and plenty of people in other climates make good use of their methods. Eliot Coleman writes from the point of view of a small farmer, and has a lot of creative ideas about how to get the most production with the least expensive inputs. Also check out Robert Kourik and Rosalind Creasy. There are many more, but if you started with those authors, you'd have a huge range of ideas to work from.
The annual temperate-zone garden vegetables you mention (carrots, parsley, pumpkins) are highly bred, and expected to produce high yields. You will need to attend to the tilth and fertility of the soil you grow them in, and that requires work. Like many people, I think it is a highly rewarding way to spend my time, but you have to put a reasonable amount of energy into the system in order to get the high yields these plants are capable of producing. In the case of the Jeavons method, the high initial work is compensated for by the high yields, and with time, the work does decrease.
If you are willing to change your diet, look into the book Perennial VEgetables. That has the best info I know of on veggies that require less input than the traditional annuals, and these plants in general do require less work. But generally they are less productive per plant, so you have to plant more. People are experimenting with reducing the amount of veggies they eat, and relying on tree and shrub crops for much of their food. If you are looking to produce the most amount of food with the least amount of personal energy input, that's probably the way to go.
If you tell us where you are, and what kind of land you are working with, we can undoubtedly get more specific!
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
posted 8 years ago
My first experience with growing vegetables was Mel's Square Foot Gardening method. It was easy to do and I had a nice time that first season. The second season things didn't perform as well. Then I got Solomon's Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades which convinced me that intensive growing was not for me (and we moved from the suburbs to a small acreage so now I had a choice). So I was all set to start this year with Solomon's methods and then I discovered permaculture.
One of the confusing aspects of this all (as one newbie to another) is how to reconcile growing the foods we are used to eating and wish to have (annuals) with the notion of a food forest. In reading the permaculture bibles I've come to realize that it's a "have your cake and eat it too" situation. People plant their food forests, their polyculture guilds on the berms beside swales, but close to the house (zone 1) they have more conventional gardens, raised beds, etc.
I'm currently intensively reading/studying Dave Jacke's Edible Forest Gardens Vol 1 and 2. The step-by-step design process in Vol 2 is especially good for us newbies. It tells us exactly how to start and where to go from there. So I'd highly recommend those.
I also bought Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway. Some of this was not applicable to me as it was directed towards urban and suburban plots of land and we have 4 acres to play with. However, it did explain many concepts in a way that really helped me understand.
I am still finding this all rather overwhelming but these books are helping a lot, so I'd recommend them to you.
What I'm hankering on doing at this point is create some keyhole design plots where the "peninsulas" are planted with conventional annual veggies. This way I've spread out my veggie crops among different areas of the beds, can even institute a rotation scheme, can follow Solomon's guidelines, while also having room for other plants that can be planted together in guilds, etc.
posted 8 years ago
Thanks a lot for your feedback and the book recommendations, I'll look into those.
jacque g wrote:Like many people, I think it is a highly rewarding way to spend my time
Absolutely, that's why I intend to pick up this "hobby". But if the system needs so much energy input, it does not feel right to me. It's not that I don't want to spend the energy but rather that I'd just prefer a closed system because I think that's the beauty of nature.
I'll definitely look into the perennials (kind of a "d'oh" moment for me), blueberries thrive over here and I love them. It seems to make sense to build a system around that concept. And changing my diet won't be a problem at all, I love experimenting with (natural) food and try new things.
I'm about here: 52.6475,7.098141 – ph is ~5,5
posted 8 years ago
Felix wrote: While the latter contains some very interesting information, it seems to me that its focus lies on maximum yields. Growing 24" deep several times a year is not what I would call sustainable (not to mention: fun").
Producing the most amount of food with the least amount of resources is the epitome of sustainability.
I would love to learn more about this and to find the balance of "ok" yields and a healthy garden. Is there a book (or several) that touches this area more concretely?
Try Mel Bartholemew’s Square Foot Gardening. Growing vegetables in beds, rather than rows, saves labor once the beds are established. Generally speaking a seed packet will tell you how far apart to plant the seeds in a row and then how far apart to make the rows. But you can use the in row spacing and plant the seeds that distance in all directions. You may get a smaller yield per plant, but you will get a larger yield for the area you have planted. Beds use less water and less fertilizer and the close spacing of the plants will shade the ground underneath and this discourages weeds.
I was quite disappointed by the "no dig approach" (can't remember the author).
Ruth Stout wrote a book on no till gardening some 30 years ago. You might also try One Straw Revolution by Mansuoka(sp?). A more recent approach comes from Lasagna Gardening- I cannot remember the author.