Of all food producing systems the annual vegetable garden has the greatest potential to supply daily food (Permaculture College Australia)

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Harvesting the Suburbs and Small-space Gardens

Micro-Eden Series #2

Micro Eden Series: Making the most of small spaces to reduce food miles to meters with Robyn Francis

Anyone can have a garden. “Small is beautiful” and the discovery of small space sufficiency can yield surprising results, not only as produce for the table, but as a place of beauty and the great sense of satisfaction that comes from watching a seed grow and eating food you’ve grown yourself.

We can bring nature and the farm back into the city. We can homestead in our backyard, sideyard, frontyard and transform the streetscape into an oasis of beauty and abundance and create a micro-eden.  Robyn Francis explores the productive potential of small gardens to reduce our food miles to meters, and ways permaculture design can yield more than just a good feed.

The concept of “square foot” (or metrically speaking, “square meter”) gardening can inspire new perspectives on the use of space. One square foot can be used in many ways – it can produce one cabbage, or a dozen carrots, or a tomato plant, or grow a grape vine that will produce tonnes of delicious fruit over its life span – and you get nine square feet in a square meter! Continue reading “Of all food producing systems the annual vegetable garden has the greatest potential to supply daily food (Permaculture College Australia)”

Involving young people in food production in arid regions (Willem)

During the last 20 years, we have booked a lot of successes with involving girls and boys in food production in arid and semi-arid regions. No one denies that children are very keen on participating in gardening activities.  Many initiatives are focusing on “Kids Gardening“.

Have a look at some of the many examples :






Today I was reading a publication, confirming how interesting it is to involve kids in food production :


Pangasinan pupils to learn ‘pinakbet’ gardening


URDANETA CITY – Schools in Pangasinan are set become venues for food production by elementary students. Through Gulayan at Maisan sa Eskwelahan or GAMES, students are going to be encouraged to engage themselves in vegetable gardening, said Abono Partylist Representative Rosendo So.

The project aims to encourage instill to pupils, at their young age, the value of nutrition, good health, as well as productivity and love for work. It further aims to establish schools as small-scale food production sites which would help ease shortage of food, So added. Students would be taught how to plant “pinakbet vegetables” such as string beans, squash, okra, tomato and bitter gourd, together with high-value crops like yellow corn. Seeds and fertilizers would be given free. Aside from enjoying the fruits of their labor, students and schools with winning gardens would reportedly be awarded a new school building.

The creation of family “kitchen” gardens and school gardens can indeed play a very important role “as small-scale food production sites which would help ease shortage of food“.  Striking examples of the positive contribution of such small gardens can be seen in the refugee camps of the Saharawis people in the Sahara desert (Tindouf region, S.W. Algeria).  One can find a number of pictures of these gardens on this very blog.

Combating desertification, preventing food insecurity and even hunger or famine, even alleviating poverty by installing small-scale kitchen gardens for families and schools should be considered by any international organization concerned, by any governmental and non-governmental organization.

It does not suffice to “speak” about best practices and success stories, we should apply them at the largest scale possible.  Probably one has to adapt these best practices and success stories to the local conditions?  Probably one has to combine these with traditional methods and technologies?  Why not?  But it should be done, and as soon as possible.

We can even make all the kids of this world in crisis happier by offering them a chance to contribute to finding a nice solution for food shortages and poverty.  Let’s give them this chance by helping them to their own family garden, even in the cities (see possibilities to start with allotment gardens, vertical gardens, indoor container gardening,).  Why would people start guerilla gardening, if there weren’t reasons enough to produce food on every available “square foot”?

Farming or gardening with old tyres instead of containers (Comment Dev Raj Paudel)

A new comment on the post #251 “Great ideas for container gardening” :http://containergardening.wordpress.com/great-ideas-for-container-gardening/

Author : Dev Raj Paudel
E-mail : merodev@gmail.comComment:
Has anyone heard about farming on old tyres instead of containers on rooftops? If yes, please kindly send me details at

MY REPLY (Willem)

Farming or gardening with old tyres

I don’t have any information on the use of old tyres instead of containers on rooftops, but it seems to be an excellent idea, taking into account that ways should be developed to canalize the percolating drainage water on the rooftop floor. Maybe some clever “developers” will come up with interesting solutions to recycle the leaching water.

Neighbours of mine use old tyres in their garden to construct “special accents” or “attraction spots” with particular colourful flowering species. They even paint the tyres in corresponding colours.

The tyres are simply laid down on the garden soil and filled with potting soil, which is in direct contact with the local garden soil, offering earthworms a possibility to penetrate inside the “tyre bed“.  The inner side of the tyre (its cavity) is also filled with potting soil. Thereby, a certain part of the irrigation water is also running inside the tyre cavity, where less evaporation occurs. Thus, the overall mass of potting soil retains irrigation water much longer. Its water retention capacity is even higher when mixing a water absorbent soil conditioner with the potting soil. It has thereby been shown that less irrigation water is needed to keep the potting soil inside the tyres moistened over a longer period. This can be an interesting aspect for gardening in the drylands, on rooftops or in containers.

For sure, half tyres or quarter tyres could be used to produce hanging baskets. It suffices to fill the inner side of these parts of tyres with potting soil and to perforate the lower part of the tyre to enable drainage.

Moreover, I strongly believe that old tyres will be very cost-effective materials to create “raised beds” or “small-space gardens“. Instead of using wood for the outer limits of a raised bed, or instead of installing “earthboxes” (see former postings), an old tyre could certainly do the job.

My neighbours use tyres to create circular raised beds or circular “square foot gardens (a meaningful contradictio in terminis !). In fact, why not recycle the old tyres to make our environment greener. The tyres are getting almost invisible when planting pendent (hanging) species at the outer edge. Cutting the tyres diametrically, half tyres can be used as crescents on slopes to limit soil erosion.  They are positioned horizontally at the contour lines of the slope.

Why should people not use an old tyre to construct a small herb garden ?

Supposing that one gets a set of identical tyres (same dimensions), it would even be possible to create a table garden by superposing e.g. 4-5 tyres, of which the outer side can be painted in a green colour. The inside cylinder of the 4-5 towering tyres has to be filled with potting soil, so that the surface to be planted comes at table height. Probably, this “cylinder gardening” will be a nice idea for elderly or handicaped gardeners.

Believing that it could also be a constructive idea for school gardens, I like to recommend teachers setting up trials to show youngsters how to recycle the tyres, taking care of their environment, while growing vegetables, fruit trees and the like in otherwise landscape-polluting tyres. Let me also recommend to offer to every boy or girl working in the school garden one single tyre to cultivate. It would be “their” own little garden for which they are personally kept responsible. School gardens in developing countries could consist of a high number of such circular beds (the tyres), one per pupil, on which vegetables can be produced for the school cantina or for the pupil’s family. Once the pupils are trained at school to “garden with tyres“, they would also have the capacity to transfer these ideas to their own house and invite their family to apply the same method. Knowing that less irrigation water would be needed to produce more food, this “tyre system” could possibly contribute to ensure food security for the rural families in the drylands.

Wherever old tyres are used for farming or gardening, the system seems easier to sustain than practicing it in the field or an open garden space. Tyres seem to be an ideal material for sustainable gardening, in particular for urban gardening. From time to time a small part of the potting soil can be replaced with fresh compost to enhance the organic content of the rooting zone.These are but some simple ideas about possible uses of old tyres. I hope many visitors of my blog will react upon this posting and come up with good examples, preferably with pictures, to show what one can do with those tyres. Looking forward to your contributions.

Wide Row Raised Bed Gardening (Dave’s Garden)

Read at : Dave’s Garden Weekly Newsletter


Wide Row Raised Bed Gardening-The perfect plan for the lazy gardener

By Catherine Smith (doccat5)Rather than plant single straight rows in your garden, try planting wide rows. Several advantages are listed below along with some general instructions for creating wide rows. You’ll get more yield in less space, and your garden will require less maintenance.

This method is very similar to using Square Foot Gardening, except the area is larger and the planting not so particularly spaced.

Wide Row Gardening

Rather than plant single straight rows in your garden, try planting wide rows. Several advantages are listed below along with some general instructions for creating wide rows. You’ll get more yield in less space, and your garden will require less maintenance. You can make your rows as long as you need and have the space.

The advantages of using wide rows vs single row planting:

More space in your garden can and will be used to grow plants. You will see an increased production per square foot. You are creating and controlling a micro climate. You can add amendments selectively if necessary. If you are gardening in limited space this method allows you to get much more production per square foot than many other methods.

You save time because you have fewer weeds and properly monitored, less watering is necessary. You only need to mulch heavily between the rows. The shade provided by the growing plants eliminates the need for heavy mulching in the rows.
Harvesting is much easier, you will be able to pick more produce from a single location. You can control the height of your beds making picking much easier on your back. Many of the cool weather crops will produce longer with less bolt if inter planted among taller plants.

Companion planting is much easier. By inter planting root crops such as carrots, beets and radishes with other plants, you cultivate and aerate the remaining plants as you harvest the root crops.
Your plants stay cleaner and healthier. Heavy rain is less likely to splash mud on your growing vegetables.
Continue reading “Wide Row Raised Bed Gardening (Dave’s Garden)”

Bottlerack gardening: the greatest idea in agriculture ? (Willem / MMC)

Bottlerack gardening: the greatest idea in agriculture ?

On May 12, 2007, I published a message on my ideas about “Gardening in a bottlerack“.

MMC has been adding very interesting comments to it :

(1) Feb 11, 8:47 AM : MMC | libertyson11@yahoo.com |

Regarding the bottles on a wall as planters, this is just simply excellent, out of the box thinking. There is a series of books on “square foot gardening”. You could write “square inch gardening” . Or I kind of like “Upright Gardening by the Square Inch

It has so many benefits, such as not having to stoop, being able to label plants, their key dates, etc. Seriously, if you flesh out the many possibilities, this could be a major best seller, you could sell the hooks and things as a set.

A lot of people have wrote gardening books and go wealthy without the inventive genius in this system. Do you hear the thunderous applause echoing in the ethers?

(2) Feb 11, 10:16 PM : MMC | libertyson11@yahoo.com |

I don’t think its a prob. Few have heard of bottle gardens (BG).

It occurs to me:

-BG is far more effective than Square foot gardening

-The bottles on a wall is ultra-”raised bed” gardening”.

(3) Feb 13, 7:56 AM : MMC | libertyson11@yahoo.com |

I am going to try the bottle rack this season. Here are my ideas:
-First, use a peg board instead of a solid board. With a pegboard one can actually use both sides. A pegboard can be hung with several circles of fishing string or twine from above.

With these methods, the old idea that a family needed one acre to subsist may be quite passé. It would be an interesting experiment to see how much food could be grown in the smallest space.

Hill potatoes- 50 lbs in 3 foot triangle
Doyle blackberry- 10+ gallons per plant

4 foot square with peg boards on 2 sides and one in the middle making an H shape. Plant in the ground and on both sides of each peg board.

With five foot high peg boards, that is 91 square feet of planting area, as opposed to just 16 if you use simple square foot gardening.

One could keep chickens or goats for milk with the tremendous amount of greens produceable.

I just think this is the greatest idea in agriculture.”


Thanks, MMC, for the appreciation and please inform us on the results of your trial with the peg board system, an excellent idea !

For clarification, here are the essentials on my “bottlerack gardening“-idea : Continue reading “Bottlerack gardening: the greatest idea in agriculture ? (Willem / MMC)”

Square Foot Gardening With Children (Google Alert / White Plate Harvest)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening


Square Foot Gardening With Children (and Kid’s Tools!)


I started putting in a 100 sq ft kitchen garden for myself last summer. I’m still nowhere close to being done installing beds and I’m still learning as I go along when it comes to growing edibles. But I’ve really gotten to love spending time with my preschooler puttering around in the yard. I’ve watched her make mud pies, catch anoles, plant marigolds, find caterpillers, harvest herbs, and draw endless pictures of little squares with dots inside them representing seeds.

It’s high time she had a 4×4 ft raised bed of her own.

For those who want to give it a whirl, I’ll be writing a series of mini articles about organic square foot gardening with small children that explains how to copy our efforts at your own homes. Most of our January weekends are going to be spent setting one up so she and her friends can do a homeschool gardening unit in February.

The budget for a 4 x 4 ft bed is between $100-$150 depending on where you source your supplies. Continue reading “Square Foot Gardening With Children (Google Alert / White Plate Harvest)”

Square Foot Gardening (Google Alert / Howdididoit)

Read at : Google Alert / gardening


Square foot gardening

Square Foot Gardening is a technique that was developed by Mel Bartholomew, back in the 70’s. Mel Bartholomew is a retired engineer, who instituted a system of intensive planting in a book entitled Square Foot Gardening. He describes his technique as a “system of laying out planting and maintaining a productive, attractive garden in just about any amount of space. The square foot garden is based on grids, of one foot by one foot squares, with plants or single seeds planted in carefully marked off spaces, permitting you to make the most of the water, the soil, the fertilizers and everything else that is necessary and produce the greatest amount of food or herbs that you can produce in that small space. Continue reading “Square Foot Gardening (Google Alert / Howdididoit)”

Microfranchising and squarefoot gardening (Google Alert / Microfranchising)

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Google Alert – gardening



Squarefoot Gardening goes micro

I was at a presentation last Friday where the founder of the concept of Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholemew, presented his company’s newest product: a prepackaged, no-tool-required, easy-assembled squarefoot garden designed to be distributed through humanitarian efforts. In the lecture he said they intended to “give” them away which made me immediately hesitant thinking about problems created by other free handouts bednets, clothing, etc. I would instead see squarefoot gardening as an excellent business opportunity that microentrepreneurs should be anxious to adopt. I would feel more comfortable selling them the package, one could subsidize it in some manner or offer a flexible payment schedule, but having them invest in it would give them a sense of ownership and stewardship that would lead to greater success and dignity than a free handout. That’s where I weigh in on that debate. Continue reading “Microfranchising and squarefoot gardening (Google Alert / Microfranchising)”

Mel, the expert on Square Foot Gardening (Google Alert / Deseret Morning News)

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Google Alert for gardening

Deseret Morning News


Expert to teach small-space gardening

He’ll talk on basics, preparing soil and seasonal planting

Published: Aug. 16, 2007


PROVO — Traditional row gardening wastes space, grows weeds and is inefficient, says a gardening expert who’ll be teaching at Campus Education Week at Brigham Young University. Mel Bartholomew, gardening book author and former host of a Public Broadcasting System television show on gardening, claims square-foot gardening is the better way. Continue reading “Mel, the expert on Square Foot Gardening (Google Alert / Deseret Morning News)”

Interested in square-foot gardening (Google Alert / Huntsville Times)

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Google Alert for Gardening

The Huntsville Times


Square-foot gardening produces tasty veggies, brings out neighbors


Saturday, August 11, 2007By FRANK BROWN

Times Features Editor frank.brown@htimes.com

When it’s time to prepare dinner, Shannon McBride sometimes strolls into her front yard to see what looks good. It’s all there for the taking: okra, lima beans, a variety of green beans, carrots, beets and bell peppers. She might even have time to visit with a neighbor or two along Bonita Circle. Shannon and Lee McBride are part of a movement that is growing nationally – putting vegetable gardens in front yards. Some are doing it for agricultural reasons, others for political and environmental reasons. For the McBrides, their narrow 50-by-150-foot lot is the motivation. “Mainly it was just for the utilization of space,” said Lee, 47, and former owner of Wilson’s Tree and Lawn Service. “There’s not a lot of room in the backyard and shade was a factor, too.” It started two years ago when the McBrides became interested in square-foot gardening, the process of blocking off 4-square-foot sections for planting. Continue reading “Interested in square-foot gardening (Google Alert / Huntsville Times)”

500 million youths in poverty (Google Alert / Maltastar)

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Google Alert for Poverty



In brief

500 million youths in poverty


The Labour Youth Forum expressed its concern over the millions of youth who are suffering poverty around the world. On Sunday the world commemorates World Youth Day.


“We urge international leader to keep their promises and prioritize the fight against poverty. It is estimated that 200 million youths around the world live on less than 1 US dollar a day, while over 500 million youths live on less than 2 US dollars a day,” said the Labour Youths.  The LYF said that all labour policies around the world should aim at creating jobs, better quality jobs. They urged the government to promote the fight against poverty and push forward the agenda when discussing international fora. The Labour Youths will be pushing forward the issue during the Socialist Youths International Congress to be held in the next few days.




In order to fight poverty and hunger after World War II, my country Belgium (and certainly many more countries) offered small spaces to poor people, where they could create their own little garden.  These were called  “The People’s Gardens” and it was a huge success, alleviating both hunger and poverty.


We all know how difficult it is nowadays to create quality jobs for youngsters in these modern times.  Therefore, it seems almost impossible to even hope that “all labour policies around the world should aim at creating jobs, better quality jobs“.


Why not setting up a worldwide program of creating “The Youngsters’ Gardens“, offering a small space and some simple tools and seeds to every jobless young girl or boy, where to can start to grow vegetables and other cash crops?  I am thinking particularly at all these poor youngsters in the drylands of the developing countries, sometimes exposed to hunger and even famine.


Let us apply the strategy of Prof. YUNUS, the Nobel Prize winner, and give  them a small garden as a loan, not in cash, but in real space, equipment and seeds.  It would be a sort of Grameen Bank for gardens, not for shops or jobs.  For sure, it would take care of the problem of food security and annual income per head.


Too nice an idea for World Youth Day ?  Just give it a try and see !  The poor youngsters would live it !


Successful square foot gardening (Google Alert / Vivacious Vegan)

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Google Alert for Gardening

Vivavious Vegan


Square Foot Gardening


A while back, FatFreeVegan posted about her garden over flowing with tomatoes and the how she found a use for them. I also remember seeing Vegan Ruthie’s post about her community garden and her micro garden. All the fresh, growing produce looked so beautiful and delicious to me but I thought gardening (especially with all the weeding) was way too much work. Until I read a post on Gaia’s blog about her Square Foot Garden. Longing for my own abundance of tomatoes and lettuce I decided to check out Square Foot Gardening. It seemed simple enough (and fool proof) so I decided to give it a try. I opted to start with some deck boxes because we never use it, it gets great sunlight, and it’s convenient to the kitchen. Continue reading “Successful square foot gardening (Google Alert / Vivacious Vegan)”

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