Puttering In The Potager – Week 5 of 2010
(Week 5 is Feb 1 to the 7th)
On of the best gardeners in the country and certainly one of the most talented and prolific garden writers is our good friend Ros Creasy. Her book “Edible Landscaping,” published in 1982 is, in my modest opinion, one of the 10 best garden books ever written. Well, it is about time for her to update that magnificent reference and it comes out in April (Sierra Club, $39.95).
Over the years, Ros had always wondered how much food someone could produce on just 100 square feet; that is a plot 4 feet wide and 25 feet long. So in 2008 and in 2009 she tried the experiment. Ros lives in northern California, so the growing season is almost all year and they can grow things we just dream about in Michigan. Nevertheless, she tried to keep the project simple, doing a spring and summer garden. In 2008 she planted only those vegetables for which she could buy seedlings at the local garden center — no seed starting for her in this project. We need to remember that she is an expert gardener and the soil in her yard is as good as it can get, definitely two advantages over us yardeners.
She planted two tomato plants (I would have used three or four), six bell peppers (I would have planted three), four zucchini squash (I would have only had two), four sweet basil (I would do two), and 18 lettuce plants (a good number). As you can see right off the bat, all folks have different favorites in the veggie department. But let’s stick with Ros and see what happened.
She got 77 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, 15 1/2 pounds of bell peppers, 126 pounds of zucchini (I suspect her neighbors ate a lot of zucchini), 2 1/2 pounds of basil, and 14 1/3 pounds of lettuce for a total of 238 pounds of food from just 100 square feet. Ros could have used any number of sophisticated techniques to increase her productivity. However, she played the game as if she was an average gardener with super soil.
What Ros really did was prove that a small vegetable garden (100 to 200 square feet) can produce enough fresh organic food with not a major investment in time. You can manage a 100 square feet with one or two hours a week. The average lawn in this country is about 5,000 square feet. Taking 200 square feet out of that area is not very monumental.
So if you yardeners are sitting there with cabin fever starting to build and have any thought about maybe having a vegetable garden, think small to get started — you can only eat so much lettuce.
Nancy and I have a veggie patch we call our “potager” that uses 150 square feet. This week on our blog we have listed the plans for 2010.