Food growing & time
From: Sharon Gordon (
Date: Wed, 9 Oct 1996 08:35:59 -0500
When you are growing biointensively, if you had two people who
could do 20 hours a week during the growing season, you could
grow an incredible amount of food.  Based on CSAs that I am familiar
with, you could probably feed 30-50 families.

Here's where there could be some concerns.  The double digging for
the bed preparation is labor intensive.  So if you started now
or when you first get land and start the bed preparation or
have a digging party, this could be done on a regular basis and
be ready for the next planting season.  People in warmer regions
could dig thru a lot of the winter on a steady basis.  People
who live where the ground freezes would have less time.

Also during the off season, it would be good to put that time toward
designing the garden and making decisions about what seed to
order.  The first time around would take the most time if you
look for vegetables that are adapted to your local region, are
open polinated, bred for taste, and ripen over a varied period.
The second year it would be a matter of changing a few things
that didn't do as expected and choosing some new things to try
for the joy of it.  Also if you are planting for other people,
it helps to survey them to find out what they like to eat.
Then it's good to maximize this along with offering people a
smattering of interesting and novel items in small quantities
(often with recipes).

Another thing is that the preparation is not an all or nothing
thing unless people are trying to develop a CSA and completely
support themselves on it simultaneously.  You can plant as much
as you get ready.  Then dig more beds and plant them as they
are ready.  As the soil gets better, you will also get more in
the same space.

To speed up planting, it would probably help to put Jeavons data
and related info into a spread sheet.  The Duhon info and similar
info collected from USDA nutritional guides in a spread sheet
would be a tremendous help too, though it's probably possible to
get a really detailed professional nutritionist's database at this
point which would contain the detailed nutritional info.  The
popular databases that I have seen often contain a subset of
the nutrients that most people are interested in.

Will the coho community have a green house for starting seeds to
get a jump on the season?  Theat would help spread out some of
the work.

Also there are usually crunches where labor intensive picking
hits suddenly. Somethings don't hold well on the plant and
need to be kept up with.  Two of these where the main growers
often need extra help for instance are strawberries and green

With the biointensive gardening, the amount of weeding is usually
low as the plants shade out the weeds.  I usually weed a
4 by 25 foot bed in less than 5 minutes once a week in the spring.
In the summer and fall I weed once every three weeks.  The
only situation where this has not worked is in a bed halfway
down a hill in a suburban area where the multiple neigbors
above on the hill threw out copious amounts of grass seed
(repeatedly) and it washed through the garden during every spring
rain.  It was happy there and grew with the joy of alfalfa sprouts.
What I said above might not be clear.  I usually weed a bed
every day (at least) but rotate around to each one about every
three weeks.

Will each house have a compost bin?  Will there also be a compost
bin for the common green where perhaps the leaves are carried to
the group garden compost bin?

If a common grower and harvester person is used, will the harvester
take the harvested items to the common building and divide them
into boxes/baskets for each household to pick up?

Can you landscape as much as possible with edible items?  Fruit
trees make nice shade, though fruit falling on sidewalks can
be a hazzard.  Strawberries are a pretty ground cover.  Grapes
are beautiful on a fence or arbor.  Lots of flowers are edible
and there are a number of new flower cookbooks out now.  Though
personally I'd like to save some flowers to look at :-).

If you have your own hives way out on the edge of the garden away
from where the children play, you can increase your polination
rate.  Honey could then be harvested.  Right now though the bees
are very sick and being decimated by a mite, so this would be
a trickier proposition than usual.

Would you like to also grow grains and purchase a common grain
mill for all to use?

Lots of CSA type situations have 2-5 main workers and require
each family to put in x amount of hours over the season.
Some have an option of helping or paying more so someone can
be hired during the crunch.

Children can learn to be good gardeners, too.  Everywhere I've
lived the neigborhood children like to help.  So far the only
mishap I've had is with a seven year old who toppled over
backwards when the 14 inch daikon radish that she was trying to
pullup broke off.  It didn't phase her and she got right up and
went for the next thing.  Even two year olds like to pick
though they need constant supervision so they don't pick and
eat some inedible/toxic part of a plant.  And if you have
plots where children can plant anything they like however
they choose, so much the better.  A 3 foot wide bed is easier
for children to reach across.

Probably the best source of info in a area would be someone
who has a CSA and gardens biointensively or at least in wide
rows.  They could give you an idea of when the biggest work
and time crunches are for your area.

gordonse [at]

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