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November 2008: Basic Garden Tips

Newsletter Home



  • 10 Good Reasons to Grow Your Own
  • 10 Steps to the Best Mini-Farm


  1. FRESHER FOOD. Imagine dinner at your doorstep. Fresh corn on the cob, savory vegetable quiche, flavorful herbs and delectable tomatoes are ample reward.

  2. BETTER FLAVOR. Produce in the market is bred for toughness and lasting storage. You can choose varieties for flavor and harvest them at their peak.

  3. NO PESTICIDE RESIDUES. You can control how your food is grown.

  4. MONEY. A 50-square foot garden can produce 100-200 lb. of vegetables in 5 to 15 minutes a day. Your time can be worth about $13 an hour. Fight inflation at home.

  5. REDUCE AIR POLLUTION by saving trips to the grocery store and reducing the amount of food that is trucked across the country and shipped across the oceans.

  6. REDUCE GARBAGE. Eliminate the wasted cans, bottles, boxes, and plastic bags that package our food. Compost vegetable waste.

  7. SAVE WATER. 80% of our water nationwide is used to produce food, and water is fast becoming a critical resource with underground reserves being depleted in most agricultural areas. GROW BIOINTENSIVE techniques use 1/3 to 1/16 the water.

  8. RENEW THE SOIL. Most agricultural systems eventually deplete the soil. Tests by University of California soil scientists show that the Biointensive method may be one of the few approaches to actually build soil with great potential for reclaiming desertified areas.

  9. CREATE A MULTIPLE-USE HOMESTEAD. Fruit-and nut-producing trees can shade your house, block cold winds, and provide wood and food.

  10. MORE-NUTRITIOUS FOOD. Fresh-picked produce is higher in vitamins and adds color, flavor and texture to meals. Plus children love vegetables when they help grow them.


Ecology Action continues to publish materials helping people to grow their own food in ways that are economical, sustainable and satisfying. For more good reasons to grow your own, check out our current publications.


  1. START SMALL. 50 square feet of garden can yield 100-200 pounds of vegetables using GROW BIOINTENSIVE techniques.

  2. GO TO BEDS. Eliminate unproductive path space and create growing areas that stay untrampled for the healthiest plant growth.

  3. COMPOST. Leaves, weeds, grass clippings and kitchen waste assure lasting fertility. The rules are simple: keep it moist, allow for air circulation, and cover “juicy” layers with soil to keep flies out. Compost in an old garbage can if space is limited.

  4. CAREFUL SOIL PREPARATION is the single most important key. To make the job easy, water deeply several days before digging, then let the soil dry just to the point where it does not stick to the spade. Take your time. Rototillers destroy the soil structure in the top six inches and within a month or two the soil settles down tighter around tender plant roots, so prepare yours by hand.

  5. KEEP SOIL MOIST before, during and after preparation and planting. Plants that get to the “wilting” stage will recover but never be quite as healthy.

  6. CLOSE SPACING. Why grow weeds? Prepare ¼ the area well and plant closer. The mini-greenhouse effect of plants shades the soil, reduces evaporation and weed growth.

  7. START WITH SALAD VEGETABLES for the highest yields. In one square foot you can grow 25 carrots, 13 garlic, 25 scallions or 58 radishes. Two of the best space savers are torpedo onions and cylindra beets; the elongated shapes give you even more yield.

  8. USE SEEDLINGS for instant growth. Lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower and cucumbers will do better if set out as young starts. Use onion sets to cut growing time in half.

  9. EARLIEST CROPS FOR BEGINNERS are green beans, squash, zucchini, lettuce, chard, tomatoes, sunflowers, kale, collards, cucumbers, radishes and sugar snap peas.

  10. BEAUTIFY WITH FLOWERS. Nasturtiums surround a salad bed prettily and the flowers are quite tasty. Sprinkle cosmos and zinnias in the spring/summer garden, stocks and calendulas in the fall/winter garden.

For more details check out our publications!





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