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Developing a 10-Bed-Unit Design
By Matt Drewno, Victory Gardens for Peace Mini-Farm and Seed Bank Manager

Crops at VGfP

Crops at VGfP

In 2014, John Jeavons approached me with a challenge. He said we needed to develop a diet design in less than 800 sq ft and that doing so would provide a significant source of food security and hope for people around the world. In addition to the area required for diet, I realized there needed to be space for a greenhouse, compost piles and seed crops. So I added an additional two beds to the original proposed 800 sq ft for this purpose. I should add that this diet design does not include area for paths; it is possible to grow this design without paths. However, I would recommend including them in your garden; it just makes life easier. 12–18" paths are comfortable to work. With paths included, the total garden space would be 1,200 sq ft.

When I began designing the diet, I had participated in several Ecology Action workshops and programs and was a certified teacher in the GROW BIOINTENSIVE (GB) method. I had already been working with Booklet #31 and the GB method for several years. I had previously designed several diets using Booklet #31. I share this with you because I didn't arrive at the 10-Bed Design on my first attempt—in fact in the beginning my first diet design was 27 beds! Most often, beginning GB students create designs somewhere between 20 and 40 beds. Many of us find the diet design practice to be fun and exciting!

Over the years of working with diet designs, John noticed a few significant things. First, growing a 65-day maturing potato variety followed by a 90-day flour corn variety will enable one to grow a significant amount of calories and biomass in a single bed during the main growing season. Next, leeks provide a certain quality and quantity of essential amino acids which make it a highly effective crop to grow in a GB system. These three crops formed the basis of the first 10-bed diet design.

Trying to actually grow this design in my cool, maritime climate proved challenging. Flour corn just doesn't do well on the coast; it is difficult to get it to mature before our winter rains arrive. Without forcing the potatoes, they take longer to grow here, the quickest varieties taking 80–90 days. For years we have been running experiments on a 2-bed crop rotation to maximize calories, biomass and nitrogen fixation. Results so far have highlighted quinoa, barley and oats as high potentials for our climate.

My current 10-Bed Design grows the following crops: potatoes, leeks, garlic, kale, onions, carrots, beets, quinoa, barley, fava beans, oats and sunflowers. More information on my crop selection will be available in a forthcoming booklet.

It is important to note that your soils, climate and experience level will influence your crop selection. We are fortunate to be able to learn from the wisdom developed at Ecology Action over 40+ years of research, but without our direct, personal experience designing the diets and cultivating the soil, the information is not fully useful. As we work to fine-tune the 10-bed unit we're discovering that each step along the path of learning the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method is helping us approach this next phase in maximizing yield while minimizing water and inputs.

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