Friday, 11 November 2011

CASE 361 - Self sustainability - part 2 (Growing)

For all of human history, people have managed to feed themselves, either by fishing, hunting, gathering and/or subsistence farming. Since just after the medieval ages large-scale food production and agriculture ha been our main source of food, and gardening is often only a hobby for most. But growing one's own food could mean increased security, health, and enjoyment. Depending on your unique location and size of plot you can produce everything you eat.

There are a number of gardening and farming systems that prescribe specific techniques. They tend to be more specific than, and fit within, general organic standards. Biodynamic farming is an approach based on the esoteric teachings of Rudolf Steiner. The Japanese farmer and writer Masanobu Fukuoka invented a no-till system for small-scale grain production that he called Natural Farming. French intensive and biointensive methods and SPIN Farming (Small Plot INtensive) are all small scale gardening techniques. These techniques were brought to the United States by Alan Chadwick in the 1930s. This method has since been promoted by John Jeavons, Director of Ecology Action. A garden is more than just a means of providing food, it is a model of what is possible in a community - everyone could have a garden of some kind (container, growing box, raised bed) and produce healthy, nutritious organic food, a farmers market, a place to pass on gardening experience, and a sharing of bounty, promoting a more sustainable way of living that would encourage their local economy. A simple 4' x 8' (32 square feet) raised bed garden based on the principles of bio-intensive planting and square foot gardening uses fewer nutrients and less water, and could keep a family, or community, supplied with an abundance of healthy, nutritious organic greens, while promoting a more sustainable way of living.
Organic gardening is designed to work with the ecological systems and minimally disturb the Earth’s natural balance. Because of this organic farmers have been interested in reduced-tillage methods. Conventional agriculture uses mechanical tillage, which is plowing or sowing, which is harmful to the environment. The impact of tilling in organic farming is much less of an issue. Ploughing speeds up erosion because the soil remains uncovered for a long period of time and if it has a low content of organic matter the structural stability of the soil decreases. Organic farmers use techniques such as mulching, planting cover crops, and intercropping, to maintain a soil cover throughout most of the year. The use of compost, manure mulch and other organic fertilizers yields a higher organic content of soils on organic farms and helps limit soil degradation and erosion.
Other methods can also be used to supplement an existing garden. Methods such as composting, or vermicomposting. These practices are ways of recycling organic matter into some of the best organic fertilizers and soil conditioner. Vermicompost is especially easy. The byproduct is also an excellent source of nutrients for an organic garden.

CASE 020 - Self sustainability part 1

Garden planning

Design a plan of your garden or growing area with all the vegetables, then for the next year everything should be rotated to give the ground chance to rebuild minerals lost and repeat the year after and the year after, which makes a 4 year rotation plan, below is a basic design of mine

1) If you do plan to grow you're own you need to determine what crops you can raise in your location. Obvious factors include climate, soil, rainfall, and available space. A fast and fun way to learn what grows well in your climate is to visit a nearby farm or garden.

Climate. Some locales only have a brief growing season, such as Northern Europe and Africa. This means growing quick producing plant varieties that can be harvested and stored for the winter. Other areas have year-long warm weather, where fresh vegetables and grain can be harvested on demand.

Soil. Depending on the type you have available, you may expect very high yields from a large area, or meager yields from small areas. The best plan to follow is to plant a food crop which flourishes in your conditions as a staple, and use surplus land to grow "luxury" foods that require more fertilisation and effort.

Rainfall. No plants thrive with minimal rainfall, so most food crops require substantial amounts of water from irrigation or rainfall. Consider the normal rainfall rate for your area, and the availability of irrigation when choosing crops. If you live in a dry area, consider collecting rainwater.

Space. If plenty of space is available, you may be able to grow plenty of food using conventional methods, but where space is limited, you may have to look at other techniques, including hydroponics, container gardening, sharecropping, and vertical gardening.

2) Understand how a growing season plays out. Growing food is more than just planting seeds and waiting for a harvest. Below, in the "Growing" section, is a typical sequence of steps in growing a single crop of one plant. You will need to prepare each different plant crop basically the same way, but when you have prepared the soil for planting, you can plant as many different crops as you like at one time.

3) Become familiar with the different types of food crops. We often think of the vegetables we see in the produce section of a market as the garden vegetables, and in a sense, this is true, but to truly grow your own food, you need to consider your whole diet. This is a general list of the types of food you will want to consider growing.

4) Develop a "farm plan" on the land you intend to use for your food production. You will need to address specific issues in your planning, including wildlife encroachment, which may require fences or other permanent measures, sun exposures, since some plants require more sunlight to successfully produce than others, and topography. I have created a garden plan (above) and list (below) of all th vegetables I use, when to plant them, how much grows, when to harvest and so on. Next summer is my 3rd growing year, my 2 previous growing seasons was in my old house and I was able to grow around 25% of my yearly vegetable consumption which was great because I hadn't a clue about how to grow anything, I went to allotments and spoke to people, went on the internet to find out all I could know about growing food. Next year in my new house I estimate that i can grow upto 50% of my yearly vegatable consumption

5) Determine the benefits of this activity compared to the cost. You will be investing a considerable amount of money in start-up costs if you do not have any materials and equipment available at the beginning, ive worked on projects were lots of people have got things for free or donated, but in my own plot I have had to spend money on various items such as seeds, soil, equipment and others. You will also have a lot of labor invested, which may translate into additional expense if you forgo a regular job to pursue this effort. Before investing a great deal of time and money, research your local growing conditions, available crop selections, and your ability to manage this labor-intensive effort. The benefits will include having food that you can enjoy without the worry of herbicides, pesticides, and other contaminants, except those used at your discretion.

6) Begin your project in stages refuring to number 5, if finances are a problem. If you have abundant land and sufficient equipment, you can start on a fairly large scale, but unless you have sufficient knowledge and experience, you will be gambling that the plants you select are suitable for your soil and climate. Talking to people in your area will often provide you with the best source of specific information on selecting your crops and planting times, but if this is not an option, plant "trial" plantings of new crops the first year to see how well they produce. Begin on a smaller scale, perhaps trying to grow a set percentage of your food requirements to give you an idea of the total yield you can expect, and work your way up to a self-sufficient level.

Tools are very useful, but expensive, try looking on freecycle or in free ad magazines for people giving them away

Homesteading animals such as pigs, chickens, goats or even cows is great for dairy products

Seeds, get storing them now, wether you are able to grow or not, get a little collection going, I use organic seeds only from, but there are many seed companies online

Growing food

1) Break the ground. For cultivated land, this is simply the process of loosening the soil, and "turning under", or covering, the plants or plant residue from a previous crop, myself I have raised all my beds by about half a foot. It may also be referred to as "tilling", and is done with a plow or tiller pulled by a draft animal or tractor, or on a small scale, with a self-propelled machine called a "rototiller". On a small plot of land and due to financial constraints, you may have to revert to the use of pick, folk, shovel and hoe. This can be accomplished collectively. You should clear away any large stones, roots and limbs, heavy accumulation of vegetation, and other debris before tilling.

2) Lay off rows. With modern farm equipment, this process depends on the type of crop being planted, and "no till" planting actually skips this and the previous step. Here, we are considering the general method that would be used by someone who does not have this type of equipment and expertise. Mark out the area you intend to plant, and with a hoe or plow, create a slightly raised bed in the loose soil in a line across the length of the plot. Next, make your furrow (a shallow groove cut in the soil) with your chosen implement.

3) After leaving beds to settle for a day or two place your seeds in the furrow at the depth required for the particular crop you are planting. This may vary according to your choice of plants. As a rule, succulent plants like legumes (beans and peas)and melons, squash, cucumbers are planted between 3/4 and 1 inch (2 - 2.5 cm) deep, where corn and potatoes may be planted 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches (6.3 - 9 cm) deep. After placing the seed in the furrow, cover them and tamp (gently pack down) the soil lightly so the seed bed (the covered furrow) does not dry out as quickly. Continue this process until you have the number of rows you planned on planting.

Alternatively, you can "start" seeds indoors (such as in a greenhouse or incubator) and transplant them later.
4Cultivate your crops when the ground becomes packed by rainfall, or weeds become a problem. Because you are planting this crop in rows, you will be able to walk the center area between rows (the middles) to accomplish this, if you are doing this by hand. You will want to keep the soil around the roots loosened without damaging the roots themselves. You may apply mulch to reduce, if not eliminate "weed"/unwanted growth by undesirable plants.

5) Watch for insects and animals which may damage your plants. If you see leaves which have been eaten, you will have to determine what is causing the damage. Many animals find tender young plants in a garden more appetizing than native growth, so you will have to protect the plants from these, but insects are a much more prevalent problem with growing food. You may find you are able to keep insect damage to a minimum by simply removing and killing them as you find them, but for serious problems, you may have to resort to chemical or biological control ( use of surrounding bug repellent plants ). Water everyday or set up a system where you catch all your roofs rainwater to water all the plants.

6) Harvest.Harvest. You will have to educate yourself to some degree on when to harvest your crop. Many common garden vegetables are harvested as they become ripe, and continue to produce throughout the growing season with proper care. Grains, on the other hand, are most often harvested when they are fully ripened and dry on the plant. Harvesting is a labor intensive operation, and as you become experienced in growing, you will find that you need to reduce the production of some plants so that harvesting can be managed.

7) Preserve. For common vegetables, you have several choices for storing them through the non-growing season. Carrots, turnips and other root vegetables can be stored well into the winter months in the refrigerator or a root cellar. Drying produce is one option for long term preservation of meats, fruits, and vegetables, and for seed type crops like legumes, this will give excellent results. For succulents and fruits, you may want to consider canning or freezing your harvest. A vacuum sealer will give better results in freezing vegetables for long-term use.

My garden (as of November 2011, not much activity)

Herb garden - 14 different types of herbs - Basil, Corriander, Chives, 2 different Lavenders, Lemon balm, Lemon Verbena, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Rocket, Sage, Thyme

Polytunnel - Found metal fence and plastic sheet which made polytunnel, spent 26 pence on 4 types of lettuce leaves, which took 6 weeks to grow 6 months worth of lettuce

Potatoes, easy to grow, you can grow in the ground, box, old tire or plant pot, and you can either grow from seed or by placing a potatoe in ground it will sprout off lots more potatoes

Carrots is easy, you can grow in the ground, box, old tire or plant pot

Growing help, info, dates and pics from B&Q grow your own campaign

(Click image to enlarge)

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