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Biointensive mini-farming: grow more food in less space

With just one-tenth of an acre of space, it’s possible to grow your entire diet, claims a Northern California gardening research group. Back in the 1970s, Ecology Action and group founder John Jeavons developed a concentrated gardening system called Grow Biointensive.

Biointensive agriculture isn’t a new way to garden, but instead it relies on principles used by ancient Greek, Roman and Chinese. It focuses on teaching individuals- not large-scale farmers- to enrich their soil so that they can grow their own food close to population centers.

Outlined in Jeavon’s book “How to Grow More Vegetables: Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine”, Grow Biointensive uses 8 principles: compost application, deep soil preparation, intensive plant spacing, companion planting, carbon farming, calorie farming, open-pollinated seeds, and farming as a whole system.

Biointensive mini-farming techniques, according to those at Ecology Action, make it possible to “produce 2 to 6 times more food, build the soil up to 60 times faster than in nature, if properly used reduce by half or more the amount of land needed.”

In this video, we visited the a Grow Biointensive demonstration garden in Palo Alto (run by the organic garden center Common Ground) where Robin Mankey shows us strategies for calorie farming like double digging and planting 60% carbon, or compost, crops to maintain soil fertility and talks about how if we want to grow our own, we’ll likely have to change our palate (think amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat and sorghum).