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Practical 1-Acre Staple Foods?  RSS feed

 
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Which foods are practical heirloom calorie sources for me to grow in zone 6 on 1 acre of land?

To get 2000 calories in your stomach requires 5Lbs of potatoes, or 11Lbs winter squash, or

15Lbs kale, or 20Lbs turnips (per nutritionvalue.org). Plants with caloric densities much below

that of potatoes would require an impossible weight of food in a stomach to sustain life.

Relying on cooked turnips, squash, kale, or asparagus as your kids' staple food would result in

their starvation. Can't go with buckwheat or quinoa or chick peas or lentils or sesame or

sunflower (too few calories/acre), not sunchokes (most people cannot eat quantities), not nut

trees that take 20 years to bear, not casava or taro semi-tropical plants, not black locust leaf

meal or other such with serious anti-nutritional factors. So what remains? Chufa, corn,

potatoes, fava beans, amaranth, & dried mulberry bush leaf (for protein). Other suggestions with high caloric density and high calories/acre in zone 6?
 
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marcus thompson wrote:Which foods are practical heirloom calorie sources for me to grow in zone 6 on 1 acre of land? ....Other suggestions with high caloric density and high calories/acre in zone 6?



Potatoes/sweet potatoes are a no-brainer option.
I myself do regular potatoes every year since organic potatoes are expensive and choices are limited.
So I just do it.
If do cardboard and mulch - you do not even need to water them. I never water.

I have done sweet potatoes but do no longer - did not like the process of curing them (too much hassle as for me).
But do try and see the sweet potatoes also.
This way you can have a good variety of your choice.

(Zone 5a.)
 
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While your protecting your garden you can use the venison to supplement your diet. Hopefully your not in an area that bans hunting because that makes it almost impossible to grow anything except turnips and maybe hot peppers. I'm in zone 6 and have trouble growing peppers. I know for a fact that deer don't like turnips. I once helped put up a fence around a garden that was 70x75'. Two foot high chicken wire on 1/2 inch iron pipe. Inside the iron pipe was a 10 foot galvanized conduit pipe that held up deer netting. The deer jumped the fence to sleep there. They felt safe, protected by their fence. Of course they had a mid night snack.

I'd add lots of beans. Pole beans taste the best.
 
pollinator
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I've heard that nutritional values of industrially farmed foods have dropped on average 30% since 1950. Paul from Back to Eden states that he eats far less than he used to now that his soil is so good, the fruits and vegetables have far more nutrition than they used to have. So you might find X pounds of something might not be needed over time, as your soil improves and you produce higher quality food.

You will also be able to plant various crops together on the same acre, 3 sisters style, where the plants have different root depths or provide nutrients to each other, nitrogen fixers mixed with heavy feeders for example. Back to Eden videos on Youtube show Paul putting things like potatoes under his apple trees, and they aren't in each others way.

Hazel nuts don't take very long to bear, and if they are part of your other systems like coppiced firewood or crafting (along with nitrogen fixing black locust, both work in zone 6) then you will get a year or two of nuts before you cut them for the wood, and in a couple years they are producing again. Cutting back the black locust probably causes some root die back which releases the nitrogen fixed to the roots, fertilizing for new growth. So don't count out nuts if you like them.
 
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I think of eggs as a staple in my diet.  3 eggs a day will bring in 10% of your calories.
 
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Three eggs/day is feeding at least 5 chickens...or three ducks, since their eggs are roughly twice the size. You could potentially feed them largely potatoes that you grow on your land, but you'd probably still need to supplement food scraps &/or feed and growing that feed would take a lot of space. My ducks--which free range over 2 acres--usually eat a cup of feed/duck/day. That's a lot of feed over the course of the year, and a lot of work in growing/harvesting/storing that feed if one wants to be totally self-sufficient. I'm not saying that eggs aren't a great source of food, and shouldn't take part in a one-acre system. In fact, I really appreciate how my ducks eat all my slugs and spiders and how I can use their bedding as mulch in my garden. And, their amino acids and proteins are pretty great at preventing malnutrition. But, it's good to remember that those poultry need food and them just free ranging with little/no feed might result in either (A) sick poultry, and/or (B) No eggs because the poultry is underfed. I had both happen to my ducks :(. Also, especially with chickens, one chicken can devastate a garden in 30 minutes if she gets in there. I had that happen, too! These are all things to consider when thinking of eggs as a source of calories.
 
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I am not sure I understand all of the assumptions and limitations on the question, and it may not be possible to "get there from here" when all are taken into account.  But potatoes were certainly popular with hungry land-poor peasants in Europe as soon as they became available, because they became the best available solution to maximizing calories in limited space.

Prior to the availability of potatoes, I know that peasants ate an awful lot of dried field peas, hence the rhyme: "Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot, nine days old."  They also starved a lot.  And ate a lot of boiled turnips and rutabagas.  And starved a lot. 

I myself am prioritizing squash fairly highly on the list after the potatoes; it's not as dense but they grow really big and they store well and, so what if you have to eat a lot?  They boil up nicely with the peas and the potatoes both and stretch the porridge. 

Also, "staple food" thinking is a bit like monocrop thinking to my mind.  Growing all kinds of things including berries and fruits and nuts and melons and ... whatEVER ... maximizes your weird surpluses that feed your chickens and your compost bins and your pig and your dehydrator and your canner and that corner of your attic where you still have bags of dried zucchini discs from the year that the zucchini patch literally grew four thousand pounds of marrows.  You hope you never get that hungry and someday you'll throw them to the chickens but meanwhile....
 
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Marcus, more detailed information is needed for me to make suggestions. What is your climate like? Saying zone 6 says nothing about precipitation, wind, sun vs shade, soil fertility, gardening experience, gardening method, etc. How many people do you hope to feed? Adults? Children? Do you plan to preserve your production and by what methods? (for example, growing lots of pumpkins but having no proper storage space = lost effort and food). What are your diet requirements? Vegan? Vegetarian? Raw? Omnivore? Fruit? etc.

An acre, if successfully intensely cultivated, can produce a heck of a lot of food with good variety. But unless you plan to significantly change your diet to just what you can produce, you will need to supplement it with some store bought items, such as butter, milk, fats, etc. That's important to consider especially if family members are not willing to give up their hamburgers, grapes, ice cream, etc.

Zone 6 gives you lots of opportunity to grow a wide selection of veggies and fruits. Plus it should be able to support 3-4 rabbits for meat production. With rabbits, one can always gather food elsewhere to bring to the rabbits, including drying cut grasses for winter fodder. But most rabbit raisers find that feeding pellets and supplementing them with greenery and waste veggies/fruits is easier.

Preserving what you produce will be just as important as growing it. Preserving takes time, effort, initial start up expense, and storage space. Things to consider.
 
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Well it's also going to depend on your heat days. For example I am zone 7b but I cannot grow tomatos outside or peppers at all! Winter squash is also hit and miss here, not what one needs for a staple.
If you wanted to live off of one acre it would be tight, Traditionally where I am two acres was enough for a family, but not all of their food would come from that, fish and grains would have been bought.

Not everything is calories, you're going to need fat and protein as well, fat is hard up here in the cold, there are NO vegetative options that produce a decent yield (other than rape) So one needs to go with pigs or possibly ducks, now I have raised ducks on cooked potatoes and pumpkin, yes they lived and yes they grew but they had very little fat (Muscovy so less fat anyway) and they didn't grow fast.

I would probably go for a base of potatoes with runner bean seeds. not peas, as peas take a lot of land for their yield whereas runner beans grow up so produce a lot more per foot. That with other vegetables for vitamins could form a base but it would still need something else, Of course traditionally diary products would have been very important and many older societies had common land for grazing on. on an acre even a milk goat is going to take too much land. Rabbits may well be an answer for protein, no matter how you lay out your land there's always going to be some wierd shaped bits of grass left over, if you could get them into rabbit production it would help.

A way to get round the low calorie density is to dry things, or cook them for a long time to evaporate a lot of the water, potato flour is/was popular up here, removing the water gets potatoes up to the same calorie content as grain. Alcohol was also important, the temperance movement in the Uk in the late 1800's caused mass malnutrition! Drinking weak beer instead of water had been providing a large proportion of the calories and also b vitamins for the working classes.
 
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Still not knowing your specifics, I'll give it a go on suggestions.

What I'd grow......
...peas. Shelling, snap, and snows. Can be easily preserved by freezing, canning, and in the case of shelling, by drying. I'd plant them on a 2" grid for productivity.
...dry beans. Not a big yielder, but individual plants and be stashed here and there in empty spaces, along fences, in an empty spot vacated by a dead or failed plant. I don't plant a bed of dry beans but can produce quite a lot by simply using them as individual fill in plants. I grow varieties that are good in the shell stage or can be preserved by drying. That gives me flexibility.
...snap beans. I'd choose a heavy producing, early, concentrated set variety. That way I could follow it up with another crop before winter.
...greens. Lots of variety to choose from. Kale. Collards. Asian greens. Cabbage. Lettuces. Spinach. Chard.  Plus others depending upon your taste preferences. Excess can be preserved by drying and ground into "green powder" for soups, stews, wtc, Drying cabbage was once a popular storage method.
...radishes and daikon. Can be preserved as pickles, frozen for soups, and leaves dried for "green powder".
...potatoes. Easy to store. Flexible to cultivate. Pretty reliable.
...sweet potatoes. I'd be highly selective on the variety I'd grow. I'd pick a bush bunching type for such as small garden space. I'd also harvest the leaves.
...cowpeas. Some varieties are very productive and beans are easy to dry for preservation.
...corn, a little just for variety in the diet. It's not a high yielded per square foot, but it's really enjoyable to eat.
...peppers. I'd go for a high yielding frying type. The frying types are easy to dry and easier to grow,
...tomatoes. Paste and grape types are very productive. They can be canned, frozen, or dried.
...onions, or onion greens of some sort.
...basic herbs. While most herbs can be dried, I find that frozen as icecubes retains flavor better. They can also be preserved via extracts, infusions, and vinegars for winter use.
...strawberries, Easy. Productive. Can be tucked into empty corners.
...turnips. Pretty reliable and easy.
...cucumbers. Always jazz up a salad, plus they can be stored as pickles. I'd go with a bush type or plan on growing them vertically to save space.
...Squashes. I'd opt for bush types or short vines.

Even though I'd emphasize the productive veggies & fruits, I'd also include a little of the less productive items simply for variety. One or two eggplants (oriental types), a couple of broccoli plants, a couple of kohlrabi can make dinners less boring. Many of these sort of plants can be used to fill in a row or bed that ended up with an empty spot.

I'd also plan on succession gardening, for example growing spring greens and following it with a short season summer crop or a fall harvested crop.
 
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I'd go with Jevon's Grow Biointinsive method for what you are describing.  Predominantly staples and compostables, and a smaller percentage of what most people would consider "garden" crops (i.e. tomatoes, greens, etc).  Check out the Biointinsive method for specific recommendations....
 
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1 acre of cow peas and maize planted together over a good summer would have to be high on the charts in terms of simplicity vs calories per acre. Especially considering that corn could bring two harvest in a year AND it's nutritional value is greatly increased when you "nixtamal" it. 
 
Nicole Alderman
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Dan Boone wrote:
Also, "staple food" thinking is a bit like monocrop thinking to my mind.  Growing all kinds of things including berries and fruits and nuts and melons and ... whatEVER ... maximizes your weird surpluses that feed your chickens and your compost bins and your pig and your dehydrator and your canner and that corner of your attic where you still have bags of dried zucchini discs from the year that the zucchini patch literally grew four thousand pounds of marrows.  You hope you never get that hungry and someday you'll throw them to the chickens but meanwhile....



I think this is such an important point! And, it's especially true for anyone (like myself) who's starting out gardening. There's just so many factors that affect your crop. Something just might not grow for you, or might not grow until you're more experienced--so it's good to have variety so you have something to eat. Having that variety is also great for times when weather just doesn't cooperate. One year might be fantastic for potatoes, but the next year might not be. It's good to have diversity so that there's always something...even if it's just daikon radish roots or, as Dan said, "bags of dried zucchini discs from the year that the zucchini patch literally grew four thousand pounds of marrows."
 
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John Duda wrote:While your protecting your garden you can use the venison to supplement your diet. Hopefully your not in an area that bans hunting because that makes it almost impossible to grow anything except turnips and maybe hot peppers. I'm in zone 6 and have trouble growing peppers. I know for a fact that deer don't like turnips. I once helped put up a fence around a garden that was 70x75'. Two foot high chicken wire on 1/2 inch iron pipe. Inside the iron pipe was a 10 foot galvanized conduit pipe that held up deer netting. The deer jumped the fence to sleep there. They felt safe, protected by their fence. Of course they had a mid night snack.

I'd add lots of beans. Pole beans taste the best.



John, it's funny you say that about turnips.  People here plant them in food plots because the deer love them.  I have watched them digging frozen turnips up to eat them in the winter.  My father always adds a lot of turnips to his 5 acre food plot so the deer have food through the winter.  His garden is in the corner of the food plot.  He has a 5 foot fence around it with extension built up 2 feet and rope strung across them to keep the deer out.

To the original question, Dan's answer sounds much the same as the conclusions I have come to.  I try to grow everything, but potatoes and squash are my "staples", for just the reason Dan said.  Squash lasts so long, it's pretty hard not to consider it a staple.  All the calories in the world aren't any good if the food doesn't last long enough for you to eat it.  If I had 1 acre and had to survive from it, I would grow 1/2 an acre of potatoes and most of the rest would be corn, squash and beans.  They grow well together and all store really well, beans for many years.  Dried beans have to be one of the ultimate survival foods.
 
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Leafy Vegetables (Kale family, Spinach family, etc)
Nuts (Hazelnut, etc)
Root Vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc)
Fruits/Dehydrated Fruits
Mushroom (Oyster, Wine Cap, etc)
Honey (2 or 3 warre bee hive)
Eggs
Fish
Chicken
Goat Milk

Famine grass seed
Beans

I like this idea of having a greenhouse with fish, chicken/egg, mushroom, vegetables, edible algae/seaweed also)
 
Skandi Rogers
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Another option that I forgot earlier is parsnips, they have 70cals per 100g and were a staple crop in Europe before potatoes.
 
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If I had to plant one acre all the same, I'd put it to field/dent corn interplanted with pole beans and squash.  The three constitute a pretty complete diet, as I understand it.  And, in my experience at least, you can still get a pretty decent crop even with heavy weed pressure.  That's less appealing if you have lots of time to devote to it, but if you're more the plant-it-and-forget-it type it's a boon.

My other consideration, merely from a nutrition perspective (and keeping with the idea of relative ease), would be to devote a portion of the acre to potato production and the remainder to fodder for a milking animal, since potatoes and milk constitute a complete diet (or so I've read).
 
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marcus thompson wrote:Which foods are practical heirloom calorie sources for me to grow in zone 6 on 1 acre of land?

To get 2000 calories in your stomach requires 5Lbs of potatoes, or 11Lbs winter squash, or

15Lbs kale, or 20Lbs turnips (per nutritionvalue.org). Plants with caloric densities much below

that of potatoes would require an impossible weight of food in a stomach to sustain life.

Relying on cooked turnips, squash, kale, or asparagus as your kids' staple food would result in

their starvation. Can't go with buckwheat or quinoa or chick peas or lentils or sesame or

sunflower (too few calories/acre), not sunchokes (most people cannot eat quantities), not nut

trees that take 20 years to bear, not casava or taro semi-tropical plants, not black locust leaf

meal or other such with serious anti-nutritional factors. So what remains? Chufa, corn,

potatoes, fava beans, amaranth, & dried mulberry bush leaf (for protein). Other suggestions with high caloric density and high calories/acre in zone 6?



Is it just calories you are after? Complete nutrition has more to it than just a count of calories. As others have mentioned already, foods you grow that are not grown with commercial fertilizers will tend to have far greater nutritional values than grocery store produce.
Your post seems to be looking for a mono-crop or minimal multi-crop system, neither is a good choice when wanting to grow most of your food, variety does more for the soil, provides enough variation in dietary needs and thus keeps meals from becoming boring.
The Irish put all their potatoes in one basket and it didn't take long before that basket was rendered empty by the potato blight which caused the great hunger that killed a million people and caused more than 3 million to move to the Americas. That is what mono-cropping sets you up for.

Please give some more information about what it is you desire to have this acre of land do for you and your family. Some more information on the climate conditions would be most helpful as well.
There are many nut trees that don't take 20 years to produce nuts, Hazels, almonds, chestnuts for examples will be producing some nuts within just 3 years of being planted if you are using yearling tree stock for planting. They also allow you to plan for partial shade for those vegetables that benefit from some shade in the heat of the day. There are many fruits as well as berries that will produce in as little as one or two years along with most being in good production 7 years from sprouting from seeds. 


Redhawk
 
John Duda
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Todd Parr said:

"John, it's funny you say that about turnips.  People here plant them in food plots because the deer love them."

I'm just going from my own experience. The turnips were unfenced near a 12 foot high garden plot. I took a packet of seed and carefully placed one seed a reasonable distance apart as an experiment. As I remember I got a 70 foot row out of that one packet. None were eaten by deer. My calf loved the greens but wouldn't touch the turnips. Her mother loved the turnips. From my experience deer will eat what they don't like if they have no option. In winter they'll eat rhos and evergreens even tho they get no nourishment from them. But it's something to fill their empty bellys.

Also from my experience they will adapt to fit their surroundings. Where I am now they seem to get to know the people in their surroundings. The deer here will occasionally allow you to get within 25 or 30 feet. They'll listen to you talking as you walk near them. I've been feeding them apple peelings, so they don't fear our scent. And they will eat anything unfenced that they like. If you get farther away from civilization they also get less civilized, so to speak. But during hunting season, bow only, they seem to know the intent of a hunter, they get skittish. During the winter they bed on the other side of our driveway, about 50 feet from the house.

 
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Is this 1 acre of land total or are there many acres with only one acre devoted to growing food crops? Hypothetically speaking, if there are more acres, one could have a grazing dairy cow and a couple pigs, and instead of eating 5lbs of potatoes for 2000 calories, one could add butter, sour cream and cheese made from that dairy cow, and some bacon from those pigs, and then one could easily have a single 1200+ calorie loaded baked potato, if calories is all that is desired.
 
Gregory T. Russian
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Gregory T. Russian wrote:

marcus thompson wrote:Which foods are practical heirloom calorie sources for me to grow in zone 6 on 1 acre of land? ....Other suggestions with high caloric density and high calories/acre in zone 6?



Potatoes/sweet potatoes are a no-brainer option.



I would add green beans (the climbing varieties).
Since they climb, the growing surface greatly expands upwards.
You can, actually, get lots of beans from from very small footprint.
These are also low maintenance (no weeds to worry about).
I grow the climbing green beans annually and want to expand (very popular with my kids).

PS: overall, I would not just shoot for raw calories;
I would shoot for balance of calories AND healthy nutrition, as others already pointed out.
1 acre is a LOT of resource if you ask me.
 
John Duda
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Just to give some perspective to a one acre garden. An acre is a plot of land 209.71 feet square. On 2 foot centers that would give you 100 rows of crops 209 feet long each. That allows about 10 feet of pathways. Some crops I'd plant wider like tomatoes, I'd use a double row. Obviously some crops I'd want more than one row. corn for instance. The corn needs blocks, obviously but for figuring, multiple rows. On lets call it 200 foot rows I could grow a LOT of food. 200 feet of beans is a lot of beans. It sounds to me that would give a family the vegetables and some fruit that many families would require.

I think for me, in my situation, I could put some semi-dwarf fruit trees on the north side. With 15 foot centers that'd allow me 14 fruit trees. A long wait for production, but I could grow crops between them. I think I might get some extras out of that much space that I could sell/barter for flour for instance.

I'd like a cow, if for nothing else..... just for the fertilizer. But that's a more acreage proposition. Same with a pig.

I'd grow nothing but heirloom varieties and save the seeds for the following year.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau John, actually an acre is 208.708 ft. x 208.708 ft.
 
Gregory T. Russian
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John Duda wrote:Just to give some perspective to a one acre garden. An acre is a plot of land 209.71 feet square....



Google says...
1 acre = 43560 square feet.
:)

PS:
you can easily keep a pig (actually, 2-3 pigs even) on an acre;
can also keep a flock of chickens.
just need to use a movable pen so not to let them destroy anything and gradually move the pen around;
there are tons of thrown away food that can be obtained to feed these - essentially free.
 
John Duda
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Bryant Redhawk

I'll give you that, take the .02 foot out of my row spacing.

I came up with a list remember I'm calling a row 2 feet wide and taking 100 rows out of my garden.

Rows      crop

12          apples
10          corn
8            potatoes
2            tomatoes
2           squash
1           cukes/pickles
1           beans
2           peas
1           carrots
1           other root crops
3           cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower
2           asparagus
2           leaf crops
3           herbs
1           onions
1/2        peppers
_____

50 1/2   rows


49 1/2    remaining

10         berries I'd put blueberries and straw berries on the high side of my garden here in acid country so my lime additions wouldn't effect the acid loving berries,

I got 39 rows left for variety or expansion or suggestions. Like wheat? Dent corn. I only mean the list as a way of seeing just how big an acre is. I'll let you folks adjust the list as you see fit. Your plot is your plot after all.

 
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Great list John, I do 2 ft. by 12 ft. beds between our fruit trees. We don't use standard orchard spacing, I have fig trees, plum, apple and pear all in about 3/4 acre area along with vegetable beds, strawberry patches and a boxing table and benches.

As I get older I seem to set things up for what I can manage easiest.  I still have plans for an asparagus bed that I hope to get installed this next season. We also use straw bale beds for tomatoes and peppers mostly but I do try out other vegetables like broccoli, squashes, Brussel sprouts, the veggies that need lots of water seem to be the ones that do best for us in straw bales.

We have dedicated herb beds one for medicine and one for culinary, I'm going to be adding a second medicine herb bed this year.

We also have chickens, and hogs, but my wife is ready to get out of the pork business so the breeding stock goes this spring and I'll be adding more chickens, some ducks and geese along with guinea fowl.

The only permanent beds we have are for root vegetables, garlic and onions. We grow sweets and gold potatoes in bins for ease of harvesting.
 
John Duda
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I wouldn't be able at 73 to take care of an acre garden. I couldn't hoe all those rows.

Looking at the 78x210' of garden space I have left in my 1 acre plot. I'm thinking if I fence off 78x50'of that and put in a pig that'd be, if any thing, too much space. I'd have 78x160 to plant dent corn. If I planted 38 rows x 1foot spacing that'd give me 6080 cobs of corn for the pig, on 1 foot spacing. That's 17 cobs a day for 365 days. Is that enough? That's allowing for 1 cob per plant. Sounds a little spartan except that if the pig ate the cob I'd guess it'd be happy?? I'd use the pig for my rototiller, moving him around the garden on his orders.

So, if I start out the season with a rototilled garden I'd probably be able to do some planting, assuming I can space it out over the spring. Transplanting all those tomatoes and peppers at the same time would be a real back breaker.

I once went to an auction and bought two piglets. I made a rule in my mind that you don't need two pigs for one family. By the time we ate pig one, pig two was 8 feet long; sorry hog two. I think my pig lot is too big, but I want to keep moving it and smaller just means more moves. The time I had the two pigs they started digging under the fence. Well there was a big pile of rotten wooden fence posts that came with property and I circled the fence, stapling the fence to the posts. The staples mostly held and I never had a pig break again.

If I had a small rototiller to weed with I think I could handle the weeding.

I've never planted in beds, raised or otherwise. I just plant in the ground. Works for me. People say a raised bed would cut down on the bending, but I just think about shoveling all that dirt into the bed and I shrink away.
 
marcus thompson
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Thanks for all of the responses. I live in Pennsylvania, USA. My zone is 6b. I have a dozen Black Austrolorp chickens, four caged Giant Chinchilla rabbits, and two pet Embden geese. Tried bees three times and lost all to suspected local neo-nicotinoid issues. Lots of corn grown near me by mostly Amish farmers. I'm thinking about... 25% Painted Mountain corn for calories & chicken-feed, 25% Vroma fava beans (max nitrogen recharge for the corn), 25% Golden Amaranth (only 1/4 of total calories allotted due to anti-nutritional factors), 10% early potatoes, 5% winter squash along the fence line, 5% Western Front kale for vitamins and 5% chufa nuts as emergency survival food. All rotated. I already have eight mulberry trees at the property edges (my rabbits love the leaves).

Cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, radishes, turnips, and zucchini all taste great, but are too dilute in calories to keep humans alive, so I couldn't spare much space for them. If I relied on growing them on my acre to feed myself, I would end up dying of starvation. Calories keep me alive. Stuff that can't keep me alive doesn't interest me. This is not a gourmet vegetable question, it is a survival food question. Only plants that are both calorie-dense and high calories/acre qualify. All suggestions that fit in that box are appreciated!
 
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John Duda wrote:

I'd have 78x160 to plant dent corn. If I planted 38 rows x 1foot spacing that'd give me 6080 cobs of corn for the pig, on 1 foot spacing. That's 17 cobs a day for 365 days. Is that enough? That's allowing for 1 cob per plant. Sounds a little spartan except that if the pig ate the cob I'd guess it'd be happy?? I'd use the pig for my rototiller, moving him around the garden on his orders.



Before I heard of permaculture, I new a guy who grew corn for his beasties. I remember he had a mule, and a bunch of chickens. Dunno what else. But he would wait for the tassels to finish pollenating the ears. Then, before the plant dried, he'd cut the stalks above the ears, and feed that to his stock. When the ears were dry, he'd feed, or store those. And then he still had the remaning standing,now dry stalks to feed to the animals.
 
Nicole Alderman
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marcus thompson wrote:
Cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, radishes, turnips, and zucchini all taste great, but are too dilute in calories to keep humans alive, so I couldn't spare much space for them. If I relied on growing them on my acre to feed myself, I would end up dying of starvation. Calories keep me alive. Stuff that can't keep me alive doesn't interest me. This is not a gourmet vegetable question, it is a survival food question. Only plants that are both calorie-dense and high calories/acre qualify. All suggestions that fit in that box are appreciated!



Malnutrition can kill, too. There was a great thread about this a while back (https://permies.com/t/56996/Minimal-diet-deficiencies). Diversity in diet is important not just for taste (which, like you said, really isn't life or death), but also for preventing malnutrition. Although, potatoes/sweet potatoes do a fantastic job of having most every nutrient that you need, in the ratios you need, if one were to just eat potatoes. Vitamin C is also important, and I don't think cooked potatoes provide it. One can go something like 6 months without any, but after those 6 months, bad stuff starts happening pretty quickly. Thankfully, it's reversed almost instantly once one eats any sort of vitamin C containing food. That could just be fresh "weeds," like dandelion.

It might be useful to enter in the corn, amaranth, eggs, rabbit, etc in the amounts you'd be eating per day, into a nutrient calculator. See if there's any glaring deficiencies, and then find what foods can give you the most of that nutrient per pound or growing space. Then hopefully you'll have your calories and nutrient needs met, without having to use too much space growing non-calorie dense food. That hopefully will prevent death by malnutrition or starvation.

Oh! And if you haven't seen it yet, you might really like this thread: https://permies.com/t/51692
 
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Marcus, how many people are you attempting to feed? A well grown acre can produce a devil of lot of food, making the need to grow chufa questionable.

Personally, I wouldn't discount growing the veggies you've rejected. Variety can make a world of difference in mental health and physical health. Besides, tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans can be grown vertically, taking up very little space compared to the amount of food they produce. Radishes and turnips can be grown for roots and greens, plus can be tucked into spaces between other young growing plants. For fast return, it's hard to beat radishes and Asian greens.

With 12 hens, you should be getting 8-10 eggs a day between January and June. That's a lot of eggs for just 1 or 2 people. Producing all the food for 12 penned hens will be challenging -- not so much from April to November, but storing a winter supply with enough variety to still initiate egg laying may be the challenge without resorting to commercial feed.

Personally, I wouldn't want to try living on just the variety you intend to produce. Besides being incredibly boring, I'm not so sure I'd stay in good health. I've always felt better when I ate a highly varied diet with lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Perhaps you intend to buy those veggies and fruits that you're not growing?

From your choice of crops, it looks like you don't plan to spend much time actually working a garden. That's ok, but I get the impression that you are looking for one long season crop a year out of the land rather than succession planting of any sort. With this requirement, it would make a big difference in suggestions of what to grow.
 
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marcus thompson wrote:Which foods are practical heirloom calorie sources for me to grow in zone 6 on 1 acre of land?



Perhaps, grow what you have a passion for and that thrives in your village, and is beloved by your neighbors. Grow it better and tastier than anyone else in your village, then swap with them for those foods that they are passionate about: venison, fish, eggs, beef, chicken, breads, wine, nuts, tree fruits, etc, etc, etc.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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At my place, Painted Mountain corn is highly  susceptible to predators, and productivity is low compared to other grain corns. Again at my place, fava beans are one of the least productive bean species. They are more suited for maritime climates in usda zone 8 and warmer. Common beans are common because they grow productively across many different environments. Common beans are about 50% higher in protein than fava beans.

I can't imagine that I would be willing to dig 1/10th acre of potatoes.

I grow some crops because that crop provides a single nutrient in high quantities. For example,
  • Flax and chia are high in essential Omega 3 oils. A half ounce of flax seeds provides the RDA of Omega-3 oil.
  • 2 ounces of poppy seeds provides the RDA of Omega 6 oils, 40% more protein than beans, more than half the RDA for 6 minerals, and 40% RDA of thiamine.
  • 3 ounces of ripe peppers provides near the RDA for vitamins C and A.
  • 1.5 ounces of turnip greens provides more than the RDA for vitamins A and K.
  • 1 ounce of butternut squash provides the RDA of vitamin A.
  • 1/4 ounce of parsley provides the RDA of vitamin K.
  • 9 ounces of asparagus provides near the RDA of folate.


  • There are other foods that may flow through my space that can be captured and eaten: For example, English sparrows, starlings, rock doves, Eurasian doves, mice, mosquitoes, house flies, moths, fish, beetles, road-kill,  ants, snails, etc. Even if I don't eat them myself, the chickens, microbes, or plants might. When I lived by a river, we kept a large bug zapper over the chicken run. By morning, the chickens would have a feast awaiting them. Then we ate meat and eggs from the chickens.

    Rather than growing one species of green leafy vegetable, I like to grow a number of species, so that I can have great tasting greens during any particular season of the year: spring, summer, fall, or winter. Even today with 6" of snow on the ground, I could brush the snow away tomorrow morning, and eat mallow and chickweed greens. Having many different species of greens minimizes problems with bugs, and provides security and redundancy against weather related mishaps.

    Foods rich in sulfur compounds are essential to good human health: Those include cabbage family things (kale, cabbage, turnips, radish, broccoli) and onion family things (onions, garlic, leeks). I like foods from both groups to be a regular part of my diet because they provide different sorts of sulfur compounds.

    Grain crops like wheat, rye, and barley are easy to grow, harvest, and thresh by human only labor. Corn is easier. But if I have both corn and wheat on my farm, then I have more options in the kitchen, and I'm less likely to have a total crop failure. All the corn might fail one year, but it would be a very odd year when the corn, the wheat, the rye, and the barley all failed! Same thing with other crops. Total failure of the fava beans happens somewhat routinely on my farm. I'm growing many different species of beans. I have never had a total crop failure of every species. In years that the runner beans fail, the lima beans tend to thrive. The labor and yield in protein per acre is approximately the same between beans and small grains.

    Basing my eating habits on nutrition tables seems risky to me. That's because the tables only list a few dozen nutrients. We are pretty much clueless about the vast array of micro-nutrients that might be vital to human nutrition. (Is lycopene beneficial in human nutrition?) I can't grow everything I need to be healthy on my farm, for example, my farm is deficient in salt (sodium), so I need to import salt from off-farm. And it's much easier for me to import selenium in the form of Brazil nuts than it is for me to grow crops containing sufficient selenium. And I import Vitamin E in the form of almonds. I import much of my protein and vitamin B12 from friends and neighbors that keep animals.






    lima-beans-2017.jpg
    [Thumbnail for lima-beans-2017.jpg]
    Lima beans
     
    Skandi Rogers
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    I decided to look at this a bit more, I worked out that you need to grow 26calories per square foot, allowing for one person on a 2500 cal diet and using 35000 sqr feet of land the rest being paths, composts etc etc. I then worked out the calories per foot of several common crops, I used my own yield data for most and for those things I do not grow I took the lowest organic published yield, I took all the LOWEST yields to allow room for mistakes. Now bare in mind that this is for my climate where I cannot grow maize or sweetpotatos or peppers tomatos etc etc. For me the highest calories per square foot is fava beans, followed by runner beans and then wheat. I decided pretty arbitrarily to do 1/4 calories from potatoes one quarter from wheat and the rest from everything else. so that meant I'm using

    1311sqr ft for potatoes
    1086 for wheat.

    Now something here is immediately obvious. that's a tiny tiny percentage of an acre, but should be producing half a persons calorie count and a decent amount of their protein. So I went and checked the figures a different way and it still works. so to take 1/4 of the calorie needs in beans I took an average for fava, runner and peas (all dried) that came to 266 cal per foot neccesitating

    857 feet mixed beans

    So I've now got 3/4 of the calorie intake and all of the protein intake and I've used 3200square feet just under a 10th of my allowance. This is telling me that life can get more interesting. so I added 4 apple trees producing 100lb of apples on 160sqr foot. (very conservative yield) No plan to eat these these, they are for fermenting and drinking, I added 4 pear trees and a pair of plums giving a theoretical yield of 250lb of fruit on 10 trees

    1000ft mixed fruit trees (10)

    The area under those trees would be set to grass/mixed herbs and used for chickens.

    Now I set aside 2000sqr foot for mixed veg so carrots, parsnips, greens, onions etc etc root crops average somewhere around 90cals per sqr foot, greens when single cropped are about 50. Even in my climate I can do 2-3 crops of most greens

    3000 ft mixed veg

    Up to now I have used 7254 sqr feet and have all calories and protein needed. But it is a bulky and boring diet thus far. One can get round the bulk by cooking things so that a lot of the water is boiled off, but it's still boring. So back to those chickens, my chickens who freerange more that would be allowed in this scenario consume around 1/4lb grain per bird per day I am going to assume that a chicken on this type of diet will lay 1/2 a egg a day (a heritage breed not a production layer) so for one egg a day we'll want 4 hens. The extra two are so we can freeze or otherwise preserve eggs for the winter, while we could force laying all year with lights it will be simpler to let them stop laying while we also have less feed for them. so we need an extra 365lb of grains or

    2607sqr ft chicken grains (wheat, barley, rye, etc)

    Around 25000 sqr foot left now, lets take 500sqr foot for a herb and spice garden

    500sqr ft herbs/spices

    And we still have over half an acre left. I'm not an expert on animals But It seems to me that that might manage to support a small milk goat? and would certainly manage some ducks or geese. Especially if some of it say another 7000 sqr feet (1000lb grain) was devoted to grain for winter feed.

    So now I have a diet that is based on wheat and potatoes with most protein coming from dried beans of various types, mixed vegetables and herbs/spices with one egg a day and then either duck meat or dairy depending on if half an acre can manage one goat. The dairy/duck is important for fat more than anything else. If the scenario was for two people then it becomes harder, the goat certainly has to go and in it's place I would add geese. Of course there are some inputs needed here. Salts and possibly copper etc for the goat, calcium for the chickens, medicines etc and there is no fuel so an outside source of cooking fuel is required. I would probably try to sneak in a bee hive or if I had had no luck with them as you say then jam some sugar beets in there somewhere.

    EDIT: of course if you want to grow your own seed potatos/corn the goat has to go.


     
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    I think it would be a good idea to get some perennials added in, with fruit trees spaced about, trellises with vines, you would get added calories, and seasonal surplus.  Plenty of annual crops could still be grown beneath, if one is set on growing annuals.

    Keep in mind the benefits of a thriving soil food web (increased nutrient density, decreased need for fertilizers and additives for enhanced plant growth). 

    Also consider mushrooms on crop "wastes", mushrooms as a garden crop if your soil has adequate for decomposers.

    A mulberry tree gives shade, high nitrogen leaves which could be fodder for a dairy animal, and fruits all summer long, berries for humans to eat fresh, dry, or ferment, and more berries on the ground for foraging chickens.

    Grape vines also have edible leaves and a heavy crop of fruit once a year to eat fresh, dry, ferment and allow to fall to the ground to feed the sil and your egg producing foragers

    Another reason to diversify away from a "staple" crop/ (mono crop?) is that it diversifies the farmer's tasks, and spreads the harvest as well as the periods of increased labor.  And that a single crop failure could starve a farmer who depending on that one harvest for a whole years' calories.
     
    Greg Martin
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    I'm with Thekla on this....plant your permie trees (fruit, etc.) across the acre the first or second season.  They will be small and spaced far apart for several years allowing you to grow lots of sun loving crops.  I probably wouldn't plant them in the middle of a corn block....wait until you rotate the corn to another location to plant trees in those spaces, but a ground cover of squash, for example, could be very helpful at suppressing weeds around your trees.  Using annuals like this is a great edible, productive mimic of succession.  In this way you can slowly transition to a very productive food forest.  If you could burn before the initial planting that would be great too, but be very careful if you can and it may likely not be legal.  I instead opted for sheet mulching and then preparing hills in the sheet mulch for running squash between my quinces, cornelian cherries, chestnuts, elderberries, figs, blueberry bushes, pawpaws and peaches.  As the trees begin to exclude more light I'll be planting more ramps, hostas, eastern camas, etc.  When there isn't enough room for the annuals I want I will just move to another spot and start the process over again with other food producing trees I'd like to add or do breeding/selection work with.
     
    Gregory T. Russian
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    marcus thompson wrote:.... it is a survival food question. Only plants that are both calorie-dense and high calories/acre qualify. All suggestions that fit in that box are appreciated!



    True survival situation then; oh boy!

    Consider the following - even some of the fruit/veg you consider too LOW in calories will by HIGH in calories when dry.
    The drying fruits/veggies increases their calorie content by factor of X.
    (e.g. Google says - "380 calories in a cup of dried apricots versus 75 in a cup of fresh halves"; this is a factor of 5).

    So now, you should seriously consider those fruits/veggies that produce lots of volume per unit of area and dry well at that.
    The entire point is you are looking for the highest caloric output from the unit of area.
    Well, the caloric output computed correctly should consider the final produce state (NOT raw produce state) per the unit of area.

    My case in point - I dry apples.
    I got lots and lots of apples from my various projects this year.
    Kids gobble them up and so I try substitute their sugar cravings by dry apples.
    Apple can produce lots of fruit per area and rather quickly (dwarf/semi-dwarf trees can start producing at near capacity in about 3-4 years).
    I know this because I do this as we speak.

    This year I also had a bumper crop of peaches and so I dried them too.
    Caloric ratio is not as high as of applies, but again, consider the output volume per area used - plenty high for me.

    An essential tip - plant these trees along the edges of the properties.
    Be strategic about so to help blocking cold winds of the area as well as block excessive sun too and create some shade if needed.
    You always want to consider impact of full-grown trees and try using them in many ways to your benefit (not fight them).
    I would not be planting fruit trees in the middle of the plot and then fighting them later.
    By default you want your fruit trees along the northern edge of the property.
    Train them into flat, fan-like shapes for efficiency as well as doubling their usage as landscaping feature.
    Make property hedges out of them AND produce fruit at the same time.

    Apples are capable of producing huge volume of fruit from a very small footprint.
    I have a semi-dwarf specimen, about 7 years old, trained as a fan next to my front porch.
    Foot print area is about 3-4 square meters (simultaneously used by low growing berry bushes - a bonus).
    This single tree produced this year about 30-40 kg of raw fruit (translates to 4-6 kg of dried fruit at 15% of the initial raw weight).
    Dry fruit is calorie dense product while being beneficial otherwise as well.

    This same approach transfers well into other fruit/nut trees and berry bushes.







     
    John Duda
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    Bryant RedHawk:

    Funny, you mentioned the: "straw bale beds for tomatoes and peppers". My plan the coming year is to mulch my tomatoes and my futile attempt for peppers with straw. I've been fighting late blight and the best luck I've had is my try at mulching with the straw left over from my strawberries in 2016. I think the straw eliminates the splashing as it rains/waters. I also plan to try Caliente 199 mustard in a new plot. My plans are to grow the mustard, cut it and mulch it under and around the tomato plants. Its not traditional and I don't even know if the mustard will take getting a regular trimming. In that 4 plant group I'm also going to experiment with late started transplants. I noticed that as we get into September the tomato production falls way off. I want to find out if the late starts will come into production as my traditional plantings taper off. Last year I used only seedlings I grew from seed, six different beefsteaks. My neighbor buys seedlings by mail. I'd given her 3 seedlings and she admitted last year that the only tomatoes she got late was from my beefsteaks. But I want to improve on that

    Joylynn Hardesty:

    You mentioned the corn stalks as feed. That was my plan except that I'd just let the pig into the corn plot after I picked the 6080 ears.... whooosh! I'm wondering If maybe I should get two piglets and sell one off. I think just before deer season is the time to put mine up. But then I don't need feed for the entire winter. After my fruit trees come in I'd feed the pig/s any early dropped fruit and any discards. I'd also give them the tree trimmings. The first time the pig idea came to me was realizing that I'd have a hard time with all the work. I feel the pig would cut down the work load and help me with fertilizing. Basically I'm using the pig for a fast compost pile/excavator.

    I want to again point out that my plot was intended to analyze what could be done on an acre plot. I tried to include what many Americans eat in their diets. I could revise that and I'd expect all of you would. I think there's not enough beans and too many brassicas. I'm from the Pittsburgh area, we eat lots of cabbage. I have a friend who's a railroad buff. He told me about a cabbage train that used to come to Pittsburgh, from Baltimore I think it was, EVERYDAY. A train load of cabbage! Anyway I think the acre is enough to provide the fruits and vegetables that we eat.

    I should revise the fruit trees to fruit and nut trees. I'd enjoy picking out the fruits and nuts. I'd make sure that I had good storage apples that'd keep in a root cellar over, hopefully, the entire winter.

     
    John Duda
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    I researched storage apples:

    Black Oxford Keeps till following July. My choice as a pie apple, BUT only recommend south to zone 5 !!

    Gold Rush Keeps till May

    Keepsake Keeps till July "Hard,Crisp, Juicy, Sweet"

    Roxbury Russet Keeps till Summer

    None of these are recommended south of Zone 6


    I think I might put two keepers on my list in case of no fruit on one.

    My choice I guess would be Keepsake and I haven't decided on a second. That would give me apples till next years peaches come ripe.

     
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    I think many folks have suggested this, but I'll just repeat that an acre is a lot of garden space.  If you took a mere 1% of it you'd have a row 2' wide by 208' long.  In a 2'x50' row I got 60 lbs of taters this year.  So planting a 208' row of taters would give me 240+ lbs or 2/3's of a pound of taters per day for the year.  Alternately you could plant that same row with 25' of tomatoes, 25' of peppers, 25' of bush zucchini, 25' of snap peas, 25' of snap beans, 25' of onions, 25' of garlic and 25' of carrots.  That would give you a lot of flavor variety from 1% of the land to go along with your corn, potatoes and squash.

    Mother Earth News has This Article on how to feed a family, chickens, pigs and a milk cow on a 1 acre homestead.  I don't really believe that they can squeeze a cow into their plan but it's still a good read.

    PS. I second Todd's comment about deer and turnips.  I haven't seen them eating them myself but I know they are a major component in deer plot seed mixes.  Possibly the deer only eat them after they've frozen and the other easy eating food is gone but I wouldn't risk them outside a fence if I wanted to get a good yield.
     
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