Grow a Complete Diet From a Biointensive Garden

organic garden

I was listening to the Urban Farm Podcast recently, and was introduced to John Jeavons. He is Director of the Non Profit, Ecology Action. He was discussing the topic of Biologically Intensive Gardening and Farming. Here is the link to the episode:

Ecology Action promotes the use of biologically intensive mini farms designed to produce high yields in a tiny space. The concept seeks to address the worldwide need for people to feed themselves in all different types of environments.

It is important to note that this method has been in development since the 1960s and it has been shared and implemented around the world. Please see the history area on the Grow Biointensive website and the about section on John Jeavons Blog.

In the podcast, Mr. Jeavons indicated that through biologically intensive farming a person can grow a complete diet in 4000 square feet. The justification of biologically intensive farming comes from the current knowledge that conventional farming is not sustainable and that crucial resources for growing food are reducing.  Please consider the following points:

  • Agriculture currently uses about 80% of the water available for human use. Because of pollution, industrial uses, and growth of the human population, it is estimated only 25% of the water accessible in 1950 will be available in the year 2050.
  • Due to current conventional farming practices like heavy tillage and use of synthetic fertilizers to name a few, for every pound of food eaten, 6 to 24 pounds of soil are lost because of wind and soil erosion. Soil health claims are also addressed by Scientific American. You can also take a deep dive on this topic with the book, Kiss the Ground: How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body & Ultimately Save Our World.
  • Because of the ideas around mono crops and the creation of hybrid seeds, over 95% of the seeds ever used for agriculture are virtually extinct.
  • In the next 20 years, global warming may cut agriculture yields in half.
  • It is a well known fact that petroleum supplies  are becoming exhausted. As scarcity grows, prices will go up. This will drive our food prices up as well since modern day farmers are so dependent on these resources to work their farms.
  • Farmers are becoming a dying breed. Currently, in the United States only 1% of the population are farmers.

Biointensive farming addresses these concerns. It requires 67 to 88 percent less water, and Jeavons asserts, if you follow the method, it can build the soil while growing food. This is accomplished by planting compost crops in a portion of the garden. He also indicates you can grow a variety of different crops, but that you have to learn which crops grow well next to each other. Because of the small footprint of a biointensive garden, no petroleum products are needed, and the yields are high. It also puts the power of growing food back into the hands of the people who are going to eat it.  

I realize I am not providing much detail here on the “how to” of this process because I am not an expert in this. I have been wanting to grow all of my own vegetables for several years now, but the reality is that I will typically have an abundance of one or two vegetables, and have to go to the farmer’s market for the rest. So when I heard the podcast, I immediately went to the website’s self teaching area and downloaded the handbook:

The handbook is amazing and explains the essentials in depth. However, I am far from growing all of my own food, and I need more detail. So, I took a look at the at the book recommendations on the site as well. One is written by Jeavons called How to Grow More Vegetables. I think this will be my next purchase. Happy urban farming!


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