How to Grow More Vegetables
to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons was an
interesting read, but I suspect it won't be as helpful to many backyard
growers as other gardening guides might be, mostly because How
to Grow More Vegetables is one of those books that
tells the "one true way" to garden. Rather than explaining the
science behind his gardening choices so you can pick bits and pieces to
apply to your own environment, the author assumes you will want to
completely mimic his GROW BIOINTENSIVE method in your garden.
(Yes, the term GROW
BIOINTENSIVE is in all caps throughout the book. Yes, this did
drive me a little nutty. No, I won't be repeating the term in all
caps throughout this post and those that follow.)
John Jeavons' method is
one he and his group, Ecology Action, have been polishing on their
California farm since 1971, when they heard about Alan Chadwick's
biointensive gardening tehcnique and decided to give it a try.
Chadwick had, in turn, compiled his own methodology from two sources:
methods that have inspired others like Eliot Coleman, and Rudolf Steiner's
biodynamic system from the 1920s.
I'll write more about
the Grow Biointensive method (which is the term Jeavons coined for his
own offshoot) in later posts in this lunchtime series, but for now,
it's worth understanding the purpose behind his methodology.
Unlike the average backyard gardener who is primarily interested in
cutting costs and/or feeding her family the most delicious and
nutritious food available, Jeavons' plan is to save the world.
His goal is to reduce the land area, water, and petroleum required to
grow food so that we can fit many more people on the earth without
starvation. As a result, you'll see a lot of focus on calories
per square foot and much less emphasis on taste and nutrition.
My final major peeve with
this book stems from the fact that biodynamic
practitioners and I have a different worldview. Jeavons doesn't write
about gnomes, but he does anthropomorphicize his plants ("Plants...do
like to have human companionship..."), and he includes information that
is dicey at best (such as his assertion that hummingbirds will hang
around to pollinate crops --- I can't think of any major vegetables
pollinated by hummingbirds). You'll find a chapter on planting by
the moon along with lots of unsupported companion-planting data, and
the scientific-minded reader will soon start to doubt the more relevant
parts of Jeavons' method due to their proximity to less scientific
All of that said, the
book is worth a read with a critical eye if you're a serious gardener
and feel able to separate the wheat from the chaff. I'll include
a little of both in later posts this week.
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