Sustain Yourself by Growing Your Own Food

How to Grow More Vegetables, by John Jeavons

How to Grow More Vegetables, by John Jeavons

Writing about how to feel safe while facing an uncertain future, a Wall Street Journal columnist recently passed along this advice from a veteran investor: “Try to own a house, no matter how big or small, but it has to have some land, on which you should learn how to grow things.” The columnist has a friend who “looks for small farms in distressed rural areas.”
Is it possible that we will soon become farmers and go back to the land? According to John Jeavons, a grow-your-own-food advocate, the 800 to 1,000 square feet that comprise a typical Valley frontyard lawn could provide more than enough vegetables, fruits and grains for a family of four. In addition to lower food bills, water bills would be reduced, since lawns require far more irrigation for their upkeep than intensively cultivated vegetable plots, vining grapes and berries, and fruit trees.
Making a farm out of the land around your house would take away the need to commute to work since everything you need to sustain yourself would be growing within a few feet of your front door.
Nationwide, sales of vegetable seeds are booming and seed suppliers such as Burpee ( are thriving. For $10, you can purchase a “Money Garden” that contains packets of tomato, bean, red pepper, carrot, snap pea and lettuce seeds.
George Ball, the president of Burpee, calls seeds “God’s microchips” and boasts that, with proper care, $650 worth of vegetables can be grown from his company’s $10 sample of seeds.
John Jeavons and Eliot Coleman are America’s wise men of vegetable growing. Jeavons is the author of “How to Grow More Vegetables” while Coleman’s titles are “The New Organic Grower” and “Four-Season Harvest.” All three volumes are readily available through on-line booksellers.
For Coleman, successful vegetable growing is a matter of skillful crop rotation, including non-edible, soil-enriching cover crops such as pink clover. For example, in a four-year rotation for spring/summer crops, you could plant tomatoes in year one, corn in year two, beans in year three and zucchini in year four. You could grow all four crops every year as long as you divided your vegetable garden into four sections, making sure to annually rotate the crops in each section.
To enhance soil fertility, plant legumes such as red or pink clover after your squash and corn have established themselves in the garden. You can broadcast the clover seed in between the developing crops or even underneath them. After you have harvested your edibles, allow the clover to continue growing as your next crop. Three weeks before planting your fall or winter vegetable garden, cut the clover plants at ground level and work them into the earth. Clover provides nutrients, soil aeration and helps to keep pathogenic soil fungi at bay.
Often I hear gardeners complain that they cannot grow tomatoes anymore or that their pansies or impatiens simply will not flower like they once did. The reason for such failures is repetitive planting of the same species in the same spot, year after year. Where such monoculture exists, there is a proliferation of soil-borne fungi that are harmful to the repetitively planted species. In addition, monoculture robs the soil of plant nutrient reserves since each crop has a tendency to extract particular minerals from the earth.

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