The table of contents has special notations to make this book especially easy to use for the beginning gardener. One of the advantages of How to Grow More Vegetables is that it describes a complete general approach to gardening. As you learn the basics of soil preparation, the simple joys of gardening will gain depth. Bed preparation, fertilization, composting, seed propagation, transplanting, watering, and weeding are performed essentially the same way for all crops. Only the seedling flat and growing bed spacings are different from one crop to another (these are given in columns H, L1, and M2 of each section of the Master Charts beginning on page 87). So, once you know how to grow lettuce, you know most of the basics for growing onions, tomatoes, wheat, apple trees, and even cotton!
Remember to enjoy gardening while you are working— experience the warmth of the sun, the touch of a breeze, the scent of a flower, the smell of freshly turned soil, a bird's song, and the beauty of it all. Above all, have fun!
One way to harvest your fullest enjoyment is to garden with your family or friends. Light conversation makes the time pass quickly during even the most difficult tasks. Consider having a barbecue or picnic after double-digging, holding a neighborhood compost building party, or inviting your children to join in the harvesting! And preserving the year's harvest through drying, freezing, or canning vegetables and fruits is always a social occasion. Gardening together is half the fun of this practical experience of learning and sharing.
If you are a beginning gardener or mini-farmer reading How to Grow More Vegetables, you may want to skip most of the tables except for column H in the Master Charts for planning on pages 87-115, which lists plant spacings. You will probably start by growing vegetables and a few flowers and herbs, and many of these crops can be bought as seedlings from a local
nursery. Starting your own seedlings is a higher skill level that you may not want to try until your second or third year.
If you are an intermediate gardener, you will begin to use more of the tables and charts and to grow some compost crops, grains, and fruit trees. The bibliography (beginning on page 165) is a source of additional information on topics of interest that you may like to pursue as your skill as a mini-farmer grows.
Ten years in the garden will produce a fully experienced food grower. You can now draw on all of the information provided in this book as you work on growing most or all of your family's food at home, plant a mini-orchard in the front yard, begin an economic mini-farm, or teach others the skills you have already mastered.
As you begin to grow grow BioiNTENSiVEly, be sure to grow sustainable soil fertility crops—which we are calling carbon-and-calorie crops (see pages 27-29)—as part of your garden. We need to grow crops that feed the soil as well as ourselves. There are many such soil fertility crops. Examples are corn, millet, wheat, oats, barley, cereal rye, and amaranth. These crops grow a lot of carbonaceous material for the compost pile, which in turn feeds the soil with humus, as well as provides a great deal of nutritious food to eat. Be sure to try a few soil fertility crops in your garden or mini-farm this year. Information about these dual-purpose crops, which provide both dietary calories and compost materials, is included in the Master Charts section beginning on page 87 of this book and in the compost crop sections of Ecology Action's Self-Teaching Mini-Series Booklets 10, 14, 15, 25, and 26.
It is important to grow calorie crops in your garden or minifarm. About 90% of your diet-growing area should eventually be planted in these nutritious crops. There are two kinds— crops that are area-efficient in the production of calories, and crops that are weight-efficient for calories.
Area-efficient crops produce a large number of calories in a given area because of their high yields per unit of area. Examples of these farming-efficient crops are potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, parsnips, burdock, and salsify.
Weight-efficient crops contain a large number of calories per pound of food, but have lower yields per unit of area. Examples of these kitchen-efficient crops are wheat, millet, oats, cereal rye, barley, and corn. Each garden or mini-farm should optimally contain some of both kinds of these calorie crops.
For more information about these concepts, also see One Circle, published by Ecology Action, and The Sustainable Vegetable Garden, published by Ten Speed Press. Important information about calorie crops is included in the Master Charts as well as in Ecology Action's Self-Teaching Mini-Series Booklets 14, 15, 25, 26, and 28.
How to Grow More Vegetables provides you with everything you need to create a garden symphony—from the basic techniques to advanced planning skills for a beautifully planted backyard homestead. But the real excitement is that each of us will never know everything! Alan Chadwick, after he had been gardening for 50 years, said, "I am still learning!" And so are we all. We have a lifetime of growing before us, and the opportunity to continually improve our understanding of the living canvas we are painting.
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