For a beginner, Mel Bartholemew's book is an excellent starting point for gardening at home in a small area. Get the book, read it, learn it, let it become the fiber of your existence, but don't stop there. It covers the basics, its enough to get you started and will certainly give reasonable results for the effort you put into the system, but it is not the End All Be All of home food production.
A good recipe needs good ingredients. A little Mel, a cup of Lasagna, a dash of Fukuoka, a generous amount of Salatin, mix well with the sweat of your brow, bake at 350 for an hour, serves as many as you like.
I've been an organic grower for several years, and have been exploring permaculture principles for a couple of years now. There is a path to follow, and Square Foot Gardening is a fine first step. How far you want to go down that path is up to you. The results get better the more you combine the principles of several growing methods.
Take the features that intrigue you the most from each method, develop your own blend of methods. If you go far enough down the path, you will end up developing some permaculture principles of your own. The methods employed by Batholemew, Lanza, and others are not necessarily complete methods as far as the natural environment is concerned. Each method develops part of the complete picture, but the jigsaw puzzle needs to be completed. Nature is a complex system. These methods are simplified descriptions which certainly offer advantages but don't take the reader all the way.
It's up to you to follow the path further.
Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
I thought it was a long way to describe a few simple principles. But that is coming from the background of already being a home vegetable gardener. If you're a new gardener, then it probably contains everything you need to know.
While the principles made sense, and it's an approach that would work, I found it impractical to follow precisely. It was very expensive to make up as much "Mel's Mix" as he recommended, and marking all the garden beds into square feet felt a bit anal .
In addition to the excellent recommendations above, check out John Jeavons' biointensive system. It has similar ideas about maximising yield, although it aims to do it without bringing in outside fertility (e.g. by growing compost crops).
Does anyone have a more environmentally friendly version of Mel's soil mix?
I think something mined out of the ground x2 is irresponsible and not sustainable and his excuse of we are going to use less than row gardening is a cop out/bad excuse. Vermiculite to make it worse needs to be crushed and 'cooked' after mining thus using even more energy. I am guessing peat often has to travel long distances too as it is found only in certain geographical areas..
My first replacement/substitute idea is coconut fibre (coir) as this is at least sustainable. Unfort it needs to travel fairly long distances depending on how far away you are from palm trees and needs shredding + compressing.
How about wood shavings? is it okay if these are in the soil mix - they will break down over time. Will they decay anaerobically though? and would this be bad for the vegetable plants?
Any more ideas? What Mel does is great, but it needs to be MORE sustainable (so everyone in the future can continue doing it - not the case if all the vermiculite is finished and all the peat gone)...
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
posted 9 years ago
Not meaning to be flip... but how about dead plants.. ...rotted this and than, lawn clippings, covercrops, food waste, leaves, feed the earthy maw the usual death and decay and everything will be OK. If you really sold on durable particles.. terra preta
Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
Location: Ontario, Canada (44.265475, -77.960029)
posted 9 years ago
Paul Cereghino wrote: Not meaning to be flip... but how about dead plants.. ...rotted this and than, lawn clippings, covercrops, food waste, leaves, feed the earthy maw the usual death and decay and everything will be OK. If you really sold on durable particles.. terra preta
Absolutely. Whenever we build a raised bed, we start with a layer of cardboard followed by small brush up to 1" in diameter and then add whatever plant material/green food waste we have. Sometimes it's brown. Sometimes it's green. Sometimes it's both. We do make sure to bury the green food waste as deeply as we can to avoid attracting the local raccoon(s). We don't mind them turning over the compost pile since it saves us doing it but turning over a raised bed isn't appreciated. We're always on the lookout for bales of straw that have started to decompose. We pick up garden bags of leaves in the fall whenever we can but we never seem to have enough and the contents are always a bit of a crapshoot.
Doesn't seem to matter if there's a N/C balance of not because we keep adding material each year as the previously added material rots down. During the growing season, we mulch heavily with grass clippings which by the fall are mostly brown material thanks to exposure to the elements.
Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.
posted 9 years ago
abcde wrote: Does anyone have a more environmentally friendly version of Mel's soil mix?
with our new raised beds this year i just mixed good dark topsoil with rich compost and woodshavings/sawdust. even filled the bottom of all the beds with wood/branch material. the garden did good i think, the very top was covered with topsoil that was mostly made up of worm castings i scraped up from underneath some yew bushes,teeming with earthworms underneath them.
speaking of earthworms, i was gardening last friday with a friend and we found 2 worms snaking along the top of the soil, these dudes were the length of a garter snake! at least 10" i'd say. i've never seen such HUGE worms here. from now on i'll keep a camera with me out there for photo proof.
there is a revised version of the square foot book out too, i think i have a PDF of it. hes put a few videos as well... i like the plant spacing index for a starting point,but i usually do plant a little denser just to keep weeds down more,more like 'bio-intensive .
heres a shot of the beds adn 1 new square with some dry branches at bottom.sort'a "hugel"square foot.
I am putting together a book/dvd/magazine page for Paul, and to save him some time from making a written review of everything, I figured I'd ask permie folks to write "what Paul would say" in each thread something is talked about.
So what would Paul say about Square foot Gardening?
One of Mel's best suggestions is to replace a harvested plant
at the very same time> So How do you do that....?
Well it takes planning and multiple plantings in plastic pots.
Lets say, you want to harvest a head of ruby red lettuce.
you don't just grab a knife and head to the garden.Instead you
first choose which potted plant (several weeks younger)
needs to be planted next (by size) in the spot the ruby red lettuce
is occupying and take it over there and do it all in one effort.
His spacing (the Key) i have found is rather tight for things like broccoli
but everything else is right on the money! You make your beds twice
the width of how far you can reach without over extending.
Diego Footer on Permaculture Based Homesteads - from the Eat Your Dirt Summit