6 Vegetable Gardens

6 Vegetable Gardens

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What is the best method of growing food? This was the question that originally prompted
the development of a substantial portion of the RED Garden Project that I have been working
on for the last few years. It consists of a series of six individual
gardens, individual vegetable gardens, each one about 100 square meters, and each one
growing the full compliment of vegetables that is appropriate for this climate. Each garden follows a particular integrated
methodology, a different way of gardening, usually characterised and detailed by a particular
author who’s written a couple of books about the topic I’ve given each garden a nickname, a handle
to help identify them. I call them the Extensive, Intensive, No-Dig,
Polycrop, Perennial, and Polytunnel. The main focus of the Extensive garden is
to produce really good quality vegetables, with the highest nutritional density. But this is balanced with using techniques
that save time, are easier, and increase the resilience of the plants. This method was developed by Steve Solomon,
who wrote about it in a couple of books including Gardening When it Counts and the Intelligent
Gardener. To achieve this Steve Solomon recommends a
careful mineral balancing of the soil, using soil tests Then providing enough compost to feed the
soil. But in order to feed the plants, he recommends
using a Complete Organic Fertiliser, or what he calls a COF. This is a mix of imported materials that is
easy to use, easy to mix, and generally consists of seed meals, limes, rock dusts and other imported materials to provide that complete diet for the plants. This garden looks a lot like a traditional allotment, with straight, long, easy to manage rows of vegetables. There’s quite a bit of space between each
plant, allowing them to become larger and reduces the risk of moisture and nutrient
stress, by allowing each plant to colonise a larger portion of the soil with its roots. Wherever possible, the seeds are sown directly
into the garden, avoiding the use of transplants, and enabling the plants to establish a strong
root system very quickly, which would not be possible through the use of transplants. Prioritising quality over quantity is an interesting
approach, but essentially I think this garden would be more appropriate for people who have
lots of space and perhaps less time. The Intensive Garden, on the other hand, focusses
on increasing yield, using a lot of work, effort and resources to maximise the amount
of food that can be produced in the smallest space, thereby leaving more space for others. This bio-intensive method of growing was developed by John Jeavons in his book How to Grow More Vegetables, and has become quite popular throughout
the world. This method involves the double digging of
fixed beds, and incorporating huge amounts of compost, to create loose, deep, highly
nutritious soil. A lot of compost is needed, which requires
importing manure or other forms of fertility from outside, or having a much larger garden
and growing a substantial amount of biomass crops specifically for composting. In order to maximise yield, the plants in
this garden are spaced quite close together, but this has the added advantage of reducing
the amount of weed pressure, and the amount of water that is lost from the soil. This garden focusses on the use of transplants
in order to get multiple crops in a given space in each year. All of this double-digging, incorporating
lots of fertility, managing transplants, is a lot of work, but the extra yield is seen
to be worth it, especially if you have a smaller garden. The main focus of the No-Dig Garden is to
improve soil biology by mimicking certain aspects of natural ecosystems and reducing
the damage caused by cultivation. It partially follows the advice of Toby Hemenway
in his book Gaia’s Garden, which uses a deep mulch of organic matter. This is quite common in the Permaculture movement,
but I wonder how appropriate it is in Ireland. The other option is to follow the advice of
Charles Dowding in his book No-Dig Gardening, which uses a deep mulch of manure or compost, but this is a lot of resource that is not always available. I’m working at trying to find a balance
between these two approaches that is appropriate for this context. This method feeds the soil from above, allowing
the decomposition of organic matter to take place directly on the garden, potentially
reducing or eliminating the need for a compost pile. Whatever method is used, the soil remains
largely undisturbed, allowing the worms and other soil biology, and the roots of the plants
to do all the work of cultivating. Selecting a particular no-dig method is largely
dependent on resources available, but factors of soil temperature and slugs are also issues. The main aspect of the Polycrop Garden is
growing multiple crops in the same space, mimicking certain aspects of natural ecosystems
and avoiding mono cropping. It is designed to increase the potential beneficial
interactions between plants while reducing excessive competition. This is the least developed of the six methods
that I’m using, and there are not a lot of examples of how to use this method within
this climate. The best example I have come across is the
polycultures developed by Ianto Evans, although the Permaculture movement has a lot of possibilities,
as does companion planting, but the specifics of being able to use these approaches within
an annual vegetable garden are fairly rare. The key task is selecting a range of vegetables
that work well together. This can involve the use of broadcast sowing,
carefully thinning, and harvesting plants to create spaces where other crops can be
planted. It’s going to take a bit of work to really
refine this method, particularly on how to manage weeds, and how to reduce the amount
of work that is needed in this garden. I’ve only just started the work of developing
the Perennial Garden, which has a permanent planting of fruit and vegetables, with annual
vegetables being sown into the mix. It has a fair amount in common with the Polycrop
Garden, and although there’s a lot of knowledge about how to grow the individual species,
integrated examples of using this method in this climate are relatively rare. One interesting aspect of this garden is that
I am using hugelkultur, which is essentially the burying of large pieces of wood in the
soil in order to establish a more fungal based soil ecosystem. Unfortunately there are not a lot of perennial
vegetables that are appropriate for this climate, and this garden is going to take a longer
time to become really productive, and it’s going to take a while to really be able to
evolve and modify this methodology. The main aspect of the Polytunnel Garden is to cover the entire space with a piece of plastic. This creates a more beneficial microclimate,
increasing the amount of heat, and reducing the wind Many people have been using polytunnels, but
I have been following the work of Elliot Coleman in his book the Four-Season Harvest, which
focusses on getting a substantial harvest out of the garden all year round. This is an intensive approach, and by far
the most productive garden, with 3 and sometimes 4 crops in any given space in a year. This requires a lot of inputs, a lot of compost,
additional fertility amendments, and a lot of watering. This garden requires a lot of management,
and there are issues of maintaining adequate ventilation, dealing with some of the pests
and diseases that can dominate in a polytunnel, but the amount of food that can be produced
is really worth it. Beyond the work that it takes to establish
and maintain these gardens, the main task really involves me skilling-up, to develop
the knowledge and abilities to properly and adequately manage each of these gardens, each
of these different methodologies, and to adapt them to this context, to this environment. To get them to the point that they can be adequately compared, so that I can begin to answer the question ‘What is the best method
of growing food?’ In a few seasons from now, when the gardens
are fully developed, and I’ve evolved the skills necessary to properly manage each of
them, I look forward to being able to plant the same carrot seeds in all six gardens and
to harvest them at the same time. And to be able to compare the yield, the appearance,
the health, but also the taste and potentially mineral content of those carrots from each
of the different gardens, and provide some answers to the question of what is the best
way to grow food. Because, perhaps, one garden will consistently
produce better carrots. I look forward to figuring out a lot of a
lot of answers, but no doubt I will come up with a lot of questions too. I think it’s going to be a really interesting
journey over the next couple of years. I do hope you continue to follow the progress
on YouTube. But for now, thanks for watching.

64 thoughts on “6 Vegetable Gardens

  • Erik-Jan van Oosten Post author

    Great video bruce! I shared it with the summerschool participants. Looking forward to see more on your channel!

  • GrownToCook Post author

    Very interesting! I have mostly been growing following the no-dig method and mulching a lot, with great results. If you're interested, i have developed 2 annual polycultures and written articles about these in the Permaculture Magazine: https://www.permaculture.co.uk/issue/summer-2015 https://www.permaculture.co.uk/issue/summer-2015
    To make things simpler, I sow all the different vegetables at the same time, but through the choice of species and varieties the harvest is spread over many months. The other polyculture consists of non-hardy vegetables and is planted in May, to be harvested from June till the frost hits.
     I have also been experimenting with small scale edible forests since about 2002 and developing fruit-tree guilds apropriate for my soil and climate. There's a video on this on my other channel but it is in Dutch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsRjFGXkK1A

  • nery colon 1 Post author

    Those are some beautiful plants. With your videos I learn a lot since I'm new and learning. Thanks for showing us.

  • john giles Post author

    Very interesting.Curious regarding your own back story ie how you came to gardening ete.Ta

  • Mike Hurdiss Post author

    I'll be watching with great interest. It's quite a challenge you've set yourself. I've had a traditional alotment for the last three years. What started as one has become four plots. I'm building no dig beds on my new plot and have also been considering the Hugel kultur approach although the latter takes time to establish as you point out.
    I'm learning as I go and my time is limited because I work full time. I do want to continue growing throughout the year and need to make progress to this end. One thing I don't have is a poly tunnel…but maybe this will be plot 5.

    I look forward to future uploads. Many thanks

  • Mike Hurdiss Post author

    I'll be watching with great interest. It's quite a challenge you've set yourself. I've had a traditional alotment for the last three years. What started as one has become four plots. I'm building no dig beds on my new plot and have also been considering the Hugel kultur approach although the latter takes time to establish as you point out.
    I'm learning as I go and my time is limited because I work full time. I do want to continue growing throughout the year and need to make progress to this end. One thing I don't have is a poly tunnel…but maybe this will be plot 5.

    I look forward to future uploads. Many thanks

  • floot Post author

    What a beautifully provocative video. Many years ago on a permaculture site I wrote a piece on 'how to compost cats'…Well, that kicked off a firestorm and I was warned 'never mention the C word again!!] Composting anything is a matter of time, not a recipe. Your 4 methods, all tried and true, attempt at gardening is ingenious. Well done, look forward to more. cheers floot

  • Ezequiel Dallacosta Post author


  • sikamikan Post author

    Great video, thanks for sharing!

  • Russell Ballestrini is going to teach you something Post author

    Wow you are doing some crazy science over there, I commend your research! You will for sure have your own method and book shortly and I will be sure to read it!

  • Biboucha Post author

    Hi, thanks for the thought-provoking project! I kinda wish you were a couple years down the road and already had the answers… Keep the videos coming so we can enjoy the journey with you.

  • Lowcountry Malts Post author

    Awesome. Just Awesome.

  • Frank Kopke Post author

    LOVE! The hanging baskets of crop and am installing shade houses (shade is more important in a subtropical climate than heat and the shade cloth helps keep frost away…) My shade houses will have inbuilt strength to allow for vertical gardening, creating more crop from less ground space… This is looking great in your videos and I look forward to trying it out for myself…
    Construction starts May, 2017 allowing for day time temperatures cool enough to work rather than over 32 degree C.

  • Jesus Taveras Post author

    I've seen a lot of gardening videos I think you're by far ahead of the crowd by incorporating every aspect in other words a comprehensive teaching teaching while you're learning. very interesting. thanks for taking the time to share

  • Across The Pond Post author

    This is outstanding!
    All of the pros and cons of the various gardening methods all in one location.

  • Bram B Post author

    I like it! Personally I will pursue the no-dig method with pre-made compost myself in the future. Just because It seems to require the least amount of effort.

  • Eric Puro Post author

    Great work! I hope your analysis also includes the ecological impact each various method of growing food has.

  • moJoe Post author

    If only the world had more people like you in it. Keep it up!

  • Alrachid Post author

    I appreciate you sharing your knowledge but I just have to make the comment. The way you speak makes me feel like you're trolling me. Sound like Yoda+J.R.R. Tolkien. But I love your garden talk, it's all love.

  • Václav Čermák Post author

    Bummer we can't fast-forward a few years to see how each garden is doing.

  • Sylvia Ramos Post author

    What about "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew? The first version of the book sold 2 million copies back in the 80's. I just heard about it recently. Seems very popular!

  • Life Learner Post author

    Thanks for sharing the book titles and authors.

  • Vaughn Malecki Post author

    The greatest project of our generation!

  • siddharth seran Post author

    I've decided to watch your videos in chronological order. And finally I see a couple of dislikes on this one. I'm of the belief that this could be a result of you shaving your beard.? Cos the content is just awesome. I can't think of another reaosn.

  • peter kooolwijk Post author

    Good stuff! Surely interested and will find more of your videos. Thank you for making them.

  • Hjgghbb Vhhgghj Post author

    I like your approach to your channel. I look forward to following your work. Great job!

  • London Worms & Garden Post author

    Really interesting gardening approaches. We've recently acquired a small 30ft x 30ft plot and we're hoping to be able to develop it as a no dig plot eventually once we've dug out all the rubble! It's been neglected for years and seems to have been used as a dumping ground at some point in the past.

  • Shreshth Mohan Post author

    Thanks for all this hard work. Very informative content.

  • Rami James Post author

    I hugely look forward to your videos. Thanks for sharing your detailed knowledge.

  • Rami James Post author

    If you can add links to the books that would be great for us and a revenue source for you.

  • RonnygoBOOM Post author

    I love your scientific approach. I’m excited to keep learning about what you find

  • Robert M Post author

    Where did you find that companion planting chart?

  • Healthy Roots & Strong Wings Post author

    Great content and valuable info! Gardens look happy 🙂

  • pardotkynes1 Post author

    I have a new favorite gardening channel.

  • salem aljaber Post author

    أستاذ وصاحب فكر كبير
    ليث المجتمع يتعلم منك ليستفيد
    شكرا السيد رد

  • Laura K Post author

    Great video,very informative,thank you for it

  • Anna at the Farm Post author

    New subscriber .. Great video's.

  • Smokeydabee Charles Coleman Post author

    Is it difficult to keep in form/Technique (to maintain integrity of the particular gardening style) when moving from garden to garden ? If so, maybe a video covering those similar situations is in order. Great channel. I like the question, "What is the best method of growing food? ". I think that a more complete question is being answered here already though. What is the best method for ME… to grow food. Me being anyone watching this channel. Thank you again.

  • alaskarose37 Post author

    My God you are not the only garden video can you talk less and get to the damn point

  • J Merritt Post author

    poly culture is and always will be primo, I have experience for sure.

  • Liam Hathaway Post author

    Such an amazing project. This is a true test to see what works best in different situations. I've always felt so confused after reading from different gardening authors.

  • Freedom Woodgas and not homesteading right now Post author

    Hey, thanks for the info on Coleman's book. thats one gardening book that I will purchase

  • Miranda F Post author

    Wow! What you are doing is so fantastic!!! Love how you are experimenting with different methods,. Thank you for sharing what you are learning.

  • Edwin Karani Post author

    Thanks for sharing important information.

  • Doubledig Post author

    Great videos Bruce, and well done for all the work and research you do. If you had the space and time I'd like to see the results/comparisons of a Biodynamic garden.

  • mgt74 Post author

    Such a great project. Just ran across this. Keen to see the results in the next few vids.

  • debra c Post author

    what a Guy. south east coast USA

  • Laurence Gomez Post author

    Very informative, thank you.

  • Bobbi West Post author

    Informative, thank you. Beautiful gardens. Healthy looking crops. I prefer the tunnel. Less weathered crops.

  • john johnson Post author

    Man with the plan:)

  • taruna idsan Post author

    really love your video. love from Indonesia sir.

  • Joseph Larsen Post author

    i like the idea of doing no dig with chickens like paul gautschi does in his back to eden garden (which is just a no dig garden). Might make it work better in your environment

  • Radu Adrian Post author

    9:30 I think I saw a rat or a small cat running outside the tunnel.

  • Poly Organza Post author

    Where do you get all this time? What do you do for a living?

  • Eleanor Williams Post author

    It's really helpful that you are being clear about which methods require the most resources to set up and maintain. One of the main barriers for me, and probably many other people, is the moolah to buy enough compost/mulch/improvers to start some of the types of garden you are researching. I'm setting up a hot compost pile to deal with the mounds of weeds I'm getting from clearing my garden. It makes sense to me to put composting at the front of my own journey, alongside clearing. That way by the time I've settled on what or which methods I want to try out – I'll hopefully have a little free (and weed seed free) compost available to me. I'm hearing that homemade 'teas' like nettle tea are good as plant feeds, so I will leave some nettles and other weeds in the ground. Would you be kind enough to make a 'tea' video at some point in the future? Best, Ellie 🙂

  • Bonnie Doon Homestead Post author

    Ambitious endeavor, I am enjoying your videos although I have to chuckle anytime you try to tell me that socialist squirrel green BS. For example, fossil fuels, gas, etc fear mongering is hilarious. There is this strategy of fermentation that will allow engines to keep running even if the chicken littles pushing their books filled with others innovations they "repackaged" will the oil wells to stop pumping the black gold. However, the only time that happens is when socialism is implemented…go figure. That being said I like your ambitious project. It is a noble quest to test these approaches but I think your missing the point of all these gardening approaches. Think of these approaches to grow food as tools in your tool belt. Each approach has pro's and cons but I applaud you for trying it in your landscape. You will find this to be true over time, but I think you will find faster success if you think of these as tools for you the gardener instead of growing religions that can only have one devoted loyal servant. As the good tender of the Vineyard, you have the freedom to fail and prosper but always learn with each rising and setting sun. You got this, don't over think it, just grow it.

  • Jarid Gaming Post author

    Whenever I listen to your videos I have to turn my volume all the way up to hear you. In editing can you raise the volume just slightly? (In future Videos)

  • TN Gardener Post author

    I’m going through the process of finding the best way for my location so this video is perfect. Thank You!

  • Mark Colbert Post author

    Great channel Bruce. Always a mine of information

  • Michael Gabriel Post author


  • Christian Hipp Post author

    Could anyone explain the concept of growing a crop just for biomass? I don’t quite understand how you could increase the amount of nutrients in soil by using plants that have grown, taking nutrients from that same soil.

  • jeffstarrunner1 Post author

    Double digging, in the polycarp, with mulch like no till. idk, I'mjust imagining the perfect one would take the best from each.

  • Lucas Cirne Pires Post author

    This one is truly the most scientific gardening channel nowadays

  • Johnny Green Farmer Post author

    Thanks … I find myself wanting to watch more of your videos.

  • David Vavra Post author

    I like that we are in similar climates.
    What works in Ireland, should work here, SW of Seattle.

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