[gardeners] A Challenge for 2003

Sharon Gordon (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Thu, 10 Apr 2003 09:32:46 -0400

Each year I like to challenge myself to learn something new, make better use
of my garden space, or experiment with new varieties or techniques,
or...being a person with irrepressible gardening tendencies...all of the
above :-).  So this year I've decided to challenge my gardening skills with
***Clinton Corner -- Ecology Action Internship Challenge*** .

And since it continues to snow and rain here well past when it is usually
spring planting time here,  I thought I'd share how I've planned to
challenge myself this year while I'm eagerly awaiting a gardening-friendly

***How the Challenge is Set uP***
As far as I know, the community gardeners with the most challenging
conditions with respect to space are the NY Clinton Community Gardeners.
The majority of the plots seem to be 5 feet by 7 feet (35 square feet),
about the size of a queen size bed.  Many people have wondered just what you
can produce in a garden space that small.  From experience with biointensive
gardening techniques, I've seen that 100 - 200 pounds of produce is
possible, depending on what is grown and if you can get in two or three
crops during the area's growing season.  Still, I wondered what would happen
if that were all the space I had.  How would it work if in order to get a
variety of produce, I had just one plant of a particular vegetable for
instance rather than an entire biointensive bed?  Could I use a few
permaculture techniques to make more use of the space? In order to find out,
I'm reserving a space in my plot to find out.  In my case the beds are four
feet wide, and I'm using 9 feet of length for 36 square feet.

In the meanwhile, a gardener I know is working to raise and save the money
to take the third level of biointensive gardening training which is a full
time internship.  So to help make that possible, I thought I'd figure out
what I would have spent on the produce from my CC--EAIC bed, and send that
amount to the gardener for the internship fund.

***What I'm Planning to Grow***
I'm still working on the plan, but so far I've worked out a way to plant:
22 different vegetables
10 different flowers
10 different herbs
3 different grains/seeds

***If you'd like to do a similar challenge***
1) Select a portion of your plot of the approximate size to focus on.  If
one side is near the north border of your plot, this provides a great
opportunity to take advantage of vertical space without shading the rest of
your plot.
Possible plot sizes in feet:
6x6  (36 square feet)
5x7  (35 square feet), Clinton configuration
4x9  (36 square feet), 4 feet wide allows most people to reach into the bed
without stepping into it
3x12 (36 square feet), 3 feet wide allows shorter people and most children
to reach all parts of the bed
2x18 (36 square feet), good strategy if you have a border bed against a
fence or wall
1x35 (35 square feet), this provides the square footage, but pretty much
turns the bed into a row garden and loses the advantages of a biointensive

2) Plan an intensive planting and when to start seeds in flats so that the
bed can be kept fully planted.  Information to help with this is available
in Jeavons' book on biointensive planting.  If you'd like to grow a portion
of a nutritionally complete diet and keep soil fertility in good shape, One
Circle by Duhon and some nutrition software are helpful additions.

3) Plant seed flats and prepare garden bed.  Plant plants when appropriate.

4) Collect harvest data.

5) If you'd like to make this a double challenge similar to what I am doing,
you could donate equivalent money to setting up more community gardens,
gardener training, groups that work to end hunger, or designate the actual
produce from the bed to a food bank, soup kitchen, house for victims of
domestic violence, or person who is no longer able to garden.  Or if you are
an actual NY gardener and 5x7 IS your entire plot, you could help show what
is possible on these parcels of treasured land.

6) Share your results with others in ways that might encourage others to
garden and/or create more garden plots.

   Bountiful Gardens.  http://www.bountifulgardens.org .  Has Duhon book,
Jeavons book, One Circle example booklets, information on learning to grow
biointensively, information on Ecology Action training and internships in
addition to other information, tools, and open pollinated seeds.
   Duhon, David, 1985. One Circle: How to Grow a Complete Diet in Less Than
1000 Square Feet.
   Ecology Action. http://www.growbiointensive.org .  Workshops on
biointensive gardening and other resources.
   Jeavons, John, 2002. How to Grow More Vegetables than You Ever Thought
Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine, 6th ed.
   Nutrition Software.  Best resource is if you have access to an online
nutritionists software.  Many universities have this for staff and students.
Less complete information on main nutrients can be calculated using
MasterCook or Dietpower software or similar software.  First use the Jeavons
book to calculate your expected yields from your challenge plot. Secondly,
estimate how many days of food that would be if you are doing a One Circle
style portion of a complete diet challenge.  If it's 20 days for example,
then divide each vegetable yield by 20 to get the average amount of each
vegetable you would eat per day.  10 pounds of tomatoes divided by 20 days
equals 1/2 pound of tomatoes per day for example (enough for a tomato
sandwich for lunch AND pizza sauce for dinner :-) ).  If you are using
recipe software, create a new recipe called something like 2003 Challenge
Plot.  Then enter .5 pounds tomatoes and the daily amounts of all the other
vegetables.  Choose the recipe to Serve 1.  Then check the nutritional
analysis of the recipe.  For a Dietpower type program, create a fake person
with your age and height who wants to maintain current weight or a standard
healthy weight.  Type in the .5 pounds of tomatoes plus all the other
vegetables as one day's daily intake.  Then check the nutritional analysis.
Or alternatively make the day's intake a recipe that serves one, and have
the fake person eat one serving.
   Permaculture.  If you'd like to figure out ways to increase the use of
multiple levels of gardening space, permaculture books are helful.  See
especially ones by Mollison or Hemenway.

***Want to Do a Challenge?***
If so, I'd enjoy hearing about what you choose for yourself and the
abundance your challenge plot produces.