sgian at planetc.com
Sun Dec 5 10:44:50 EST 2004
I have been among those for some time now who advocate that to be vegetable
(and perhaps fruit and grain) self-sufficient, you don't really need a big
farm nor even a big garden. This past year I combined that idea with the
idea of going out of my way to make the garden diverse. What that means is
that unlike most past gardens where I planted very large beds of one crop,
this time I rather planted very small plots of things all over the garden --
just as much garden and just as many plants, only they were scattered out.
For one thing it is a hedge against doing something stupid or having really
bad luck and having a total crop failure on say 100' of bed of cabbage. All
the beds in this garden are 4' wide and I planted the cabbages in 3' or 4'
of bed all over the garden. Likewise most crops. This way if one plot
fails, the odds are the others won't. The other advantages are that it
really confuses pests all the way from fungus to deer. And I only have a
little of something maturing at once.
I often leave potatoes in the ground all winter under mulch and dig a few
pounds at a time. Yesterday I noticed that the deer had been into a plot of
Irish Cobbler potatoes, a plot 4' x 7'. They had pawed up a 1' x 4' strip
on one side and some sizeable potatoes were lying on the ground. Curious, I
though, why didn't they eat them? Experience says that the deer will be
back until the entire plot is gone so I dug them all up.
This plot was planted in a method I've been playing with for years where I
put seed pieces right on the weeds and haulms of the poorest plot I have and
then cover it with whatever I have - compost, manure, old hay, grass
clippings, rotted sawdust, leaves, etc. The first covering is about 20", a
sort of in-situ compost pile, and it soon decays down to about 6". More and
more is added until the blossoms fall from the potato plants, it seems no
more tubers are set after that. Weeds don't grow on this heap of organic
material so that's it for the season until the tops die. If the tops die
early, and many do, the plot may be planted with beans or squash or
cucumbers or such.
The deer marauded plot was just such on of these. When I dug it up, I
solved the mystery. They HAD eaten some potatoes, but they had probably
gotten full and left. From the 4' x 7' plot I got 42 lbs of potatoes, about
1 1/2 pounds of potatoes per square foot. Even for our large family that
many potatoes cooks a lot of meals.
I didn't get that many potatoes from every plot, but my odds are increasing
as I pay attention to how potatoes in organic mulch in broad beds don't grow
the same way they do in rows with chemical fertilizer.
The intriguing thing about this is that crunching the numbers on the yields
from SMALL intensive plots from the past few years, the *ideal* garden that
is extrapolated from those yields to support most of the food needs of a
person is quite modest. With the price of decent food on the climb, small
plots for market promise to augment one's cash far more than they did in the
This winter everyone is claiming there are no tomatoes. Last time this
happened the price of tomatoes didn't go down for three years (from gouging,
I think). That made me think twice as passed the 16' x 16' pig pen. When
the pigs are gone here in a few weeks, I have hallucinated about making it
into a tomato garden for market to pay for the cost of next year's pigs.
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