What Do You Want To Ask John Jeavons?

I have setup a phone interview with John Jeavons – yes, the man behind of amazing Grow Bio-Intensive gardening method – which is the most complete system for individual food self-reliance.  He is also the force behind all the research on family-scale food production over at Ecology Action.  And author of the bible on growing food “How To Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine”.How to Grow More Vegetables book cover_

I told John that I would be collecting your questions for the interview.  What would you like to ask John?  Here are some of the questions I have (and I am working on a long list);

  • In the forward of the 7th edition, Alice Waters mentions a woman in Vancouver, British Colombia that is earning $400/wk growing gourmet vegetables on 1/16th of an acre using the principles of the mini-farm developed by Ecology Action.  That is pretty amazing.  How possible do you think that is for us listening on this call right now?
  • Why didn’t they include animals in the system?  Is it because even small livestock such as chickens or rabbits are often too expensive for many of the parts of the world where the BI system is used?  Or because animals adds a level of complexity to quantifying the research?
  • Can John speak a bit about the concept of “peak soil”?  How does it happen, and where are we today?  Have we crossed a point where the planet can no longer support the population we have?
  • What does John think about home scale aquaponics systems?

Please enter your questions in the comments box below and I will post the interview as soon as it is recorded!

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This post was written by Marjory


  • Maryann says:

    My question to John: I’m concerned with how long after a nuclear fallout would a garden be non-toxic to use. Would washing off existing vegetables be ok and what about the soil for months ahead for future plantings. When would woods foraging be safe afterwards.


  • Meghan says:

    Question: For those who want to begin bio – intensive gardening, what is the easiest & most budget – friendly way to begin? It’s easy to become overwhelmed.

  • Cindy says:

    if information on small animals is added, please include small goats. also consider llamas, although not really a small animal. Thanks.

  • Cindy says:

    if you were to build a home scale aquaponics system, can you only select tilapia, or are there other fish which would also be good candidates? Thanks.

  • Zola Denio says:

    What are the 5 to 10 Best veggie’s to grow for survival
    And also the 5 to 10 ones not to waste Your time on

  • Temuri Budagov says:

    If we ask our neighbors to stop using toxic fertilizers, insecticides, and weed killers on their land, how can we then protect our backyard gardens from crossover contamination? Such as wind or rain runoff etc….

    Best Regards,
    Temuri Budagov

  • Beth Mouser says:

    Do you feel we should ever rest our veggie beds? Steve Solomon in “Intelligent Gardener” recommends letting our garden plots rest and be planted in grasses, legumes, and herbs. He seems to be wanting 4 or 5 years of rest between cultivations and claims this helps tremendously with pest problems and other diseases. How long do you feel garden beds that are continuously in production will stay productive and without pest and disease problems?

  • stephen says:

    what are some vegetables that can be grown “low maintenance” with little watering in wichita falls texas? They are enforcing low water usage in city limits.

    1. Tracy says:

      You might want to first look at wild plants on ForagingTexas.com There is a side bar that has links such as EattheWeeds.com and others. I like what the author did on that site to get to know his neighbors and ask permission for he and his kids to look for wild foods in their yards. They got to know the neighbors, created more community, which in hard times could be needed to share with others what you alone could not do by yourself. I found purslane is a superfood that is high in minerals and vitamins when I checked research online. One article mentioned the omega 3 oil in purslane was the only land based plant omega 3 similar to the ocean fish omega 3. Purslane grows in warmer weather, but I was able to take some of it in and keep it alive inside. It likes to grow in cracks in the sidewalk or roads, so I noticed that rain trickles down these cracks, and plant matter collects in these spaces, so the heat is also met with moist compost conditions in the crack. Another plant I like to grow in heat is a pig weed or amaranth that is put out by Seeds of Change, called Lambsquarter. The variety I like had pink on the leaves. It grows about 8 feet tall and bows over. If you let it go to seed, it will be edible for the leaves on the ends during early growth, grows edible seed bundles as greens, and dry seeds are like amaranth seeds that you can use as a cooked grain or sprouting seeds. Each year these plants reseed themselves so I don’t plow anything in the yard. In going to Prokashi.com I learned the dry woody stalks of the tall plants can be made into charcoal and soaked in fermented leftover vegetables to create soil amendments that retain soil moisture and add beneficial organisms to make the plants grow better, for another hundred years. I haven’t tried making charcoal yet, but is yet another option to not throw grass cuttings and woody debris into a landfill. One more thing I learned on online videos is to look at how to make a refrigerated space with two pots and sand, with a smaller pot fitting inside the other, and sand in between, that is then covered on the top with cloth. Water is put in the sand between the pots to create cooling affect as air goes through the clay pots. The Zeer pot is used to refrigerate foods, but I saw one adaption of it used to grow plants. It is similar to Global Buckets videos that keeps the moisture in the bucket with a cover on it. Another option I noticed was the use of really thick wet cardboard used in a green house with fans to cool the interior space. This has been done in deserts, and one thing they learned was that the cooler climate made the desert floor bloom. Deserts are often created when people deforest them with cutting woods for fire wood. Look up how to make charcoal out of everything from grass cuttings to junk mail, but recognize too the solar ovens. GreenScience has videos you can check out that show how to use common clear plastic table coverings with a wood frame, and put water on top to create heat that could boil water to melt metal. So, it matters on what you make your green house out of. SolarCooking.org is one site you can check out. Maybe we can get our neighbors to have a solar cook off event to learn how to do it, plus learn about our yards as options to share weeds they don’t want by cooking them for dinners at pot lucks. There’s a twist for s lawn service. Water can be sterilized using solar, and cut grass can also yield water from being evaporated. Water can be harvested from fog, with the help of string nets to run the water into collection areas. I noticed one video that a man used a plastic milk jug over a glass of sea water, that evaporated to water his food plant with clean water as it went down the sides of the interior of the jug. A lot of this requires work, so can we barter to help our neighbors and selves to get these works done or invite the cub scouts or the home school kids in the area? One of the hanging pots with edibles did better when growing under a shady plant. We often think a cut yard is better, but I learned that delicate herbs and vegetables grow better in overgrown grass than they do in pristine deserts that used to be a garden. We learned that at a local community garden when the city was to inspect the gardens and someone complained. The weed eater destroyed the melons and the delicate thyme plants wilted under the heat of the sun after being exposed from under their protected ceiling of taller grasses. Cardboard on the ground can kill the grass, but also preserve the moisture for big plants like tomatoes. Sometimes I give up and go to growing sweet potato vines from organic tubers you can buy at a local grocer, which the leaves are edible in salads or steamed. You can grow them in your window in a jar with water, without the toothpicks. The vines can be cut and rooted to create starts for sweet potatoes to grow in a bag of soil or in the ground. I put purslane in the water too to keep them going until I can transplant them to pots. Some ornamental plants are edible that you might want to check on the EattheWeeds.com site. I found one that is almost a succulent, and high in vitamin C to put in salads, but it needs to be cloned to organic use. We may have lots of ornamental plants that are edible and hardy in low moisture conditions and heat that we need to rediscover as a food source.

      1. Wow Tracy, That is quite a comment! Love the info and I’ll check out those sites for weeds.

  • lesley fallin says:

    Hi Marjory! Thank you for this opportunity. Ihave2 questions: firstly concerning moon phases and gardening, and secondly how in the world can I get rid of powdery mildew and fungal gnats.thank you

  • Beth Oquist says:

    What are your thoughts about permaculture. How effective do you think it is compared to biodynamic methods? (I have a cabin in the woods in a northern climate. It is semi-dry, low humidity, lots of spring and early summer rain so far, lots of snow from November to April) Lots of rocks and sandy soil and other than building the cabin the land is uncultivated.

    I read your book 20 years ago and loved it and have applied what you taught on a very small scale. Now I’m looking at permaculture and Hugo Culture because of the land we are developing. (Not sure about name)

  • Aayla Wilder says:

    Hi, margory,good you’re having him on, but his book leavss me without guestions. I do have a suggestion for what NOT to ask.

    “· Why didn’t they include animals in the Grow bio-Intensive system? Is it because even small livestock such as chickens or rabbits are often too expensive for many of the parts of the world where the system is used? Or because animals adds a level of complexity to quantifying the research? “… I don’t think I would ask him the first question, and then ask him two more qustions suggesting that either of them is part of his answer. I’d ask him one question and see what he says, then ask more after his answer. It’s confusing, it asking 3 in 1.

    “Can John speak a bit about the concept of “peak soil”? How does it happen, and where are we today? Have we crossed a point where the planet can no longer support the population we have? ” ….. Suggestion: Again, the second question has him answering 3 in 1. If I were being interviewed, I’s want to keep the questions simple, not have to answer the question, and the answer questions. I think these are two different issues. And with permaculture proving to be what it is, we are turning the corner on healing the earth, and making it productive in a healthful way; Maybe soil is peak somewhere, sometime, but it’s not regulated by the population, but rather the practices of the population. imo, and only suggestions. Thanks for your good work, and keep it up.

  • Alex says:

    I live in a small suburban house with only a small boarder around my yard. I want to pull out most of the bushes and replace them with a vegetable garden. Considering the space, what would be the best vegetables (or fruit) to put there. Keeping in mind sun exposure as the back of the boarder is fencing that tends to block the sun.

    I am a beginner gardener who used to have raised beds in a 4×4 box. Tomatoes where about the only think I could grow consistently.

    Thank you for your feedback.

  • Jim says:

    Question for a phone interview with John Jeavons.
    How does your system compare to the Mittleider system for growing food anywhere at any time of the year?

  • Susan Hilburn says:

    I live in North Texas,the Dallas -ft.Worth area. For 3 years I have tried to raise vegetables in raised beds. We get temps over 100 degrees for weeks here and no matter how much I water my garden dies. What little it does produce-even the tomatoes are not worth eating. What is most likely the problem? The heat or? The soil is well drained and heavy with rabbit and alpaca manure.

  • vicki says:

    Hello I would like to know how you compensate for geoengineering chemtrails and excessively cloudy days which all seem to affect plants.

  • brian says:

    please ask John J. what his recommendations are for treating sandy or clay soil/dry soil, thank you.

  • dale says:

    We are neophyte raised (4×8) bed gardeners. Our focus has been on developing a rich soil bed. Do you have any suggestions for grouping vegetables and optimizing soil and mineral content (including different ph levels) for the different beds. Would this be a problem with regard to the need to alternate crop plantings to minimize disease.
    We have had minimal pest problems, though some crops (brocolli and beans) were not as productive as hoped. Thank you John.

  • Leslie Parsons says:

    Question: Due to geo-engineering, we are getting large amounts of heavy metal contamination dumped on our plants and soil. Many experienced gardeners are noticing a decline in plant health and productivity, along with wild shifts in Ph. There are many reports of the rainwater showing heavy contamination in tests. Has he done any research on remediation of heavy metals and toxins in garden soil?

    1. Sheila says:

      Fantastic Question! I second this one.

      1. Beth says:

        Me, too! I’d love to know about remediation of heavy metals in soils. I’m also curious to know about garden hoses and the possibility that they contain lead or other heavy metals, and if he has any reliable info on this or recommended brands/types of hoses.

        1. Beth, check out the interview that was done with John here

  • Greg Kukulski says:

    I have not read any of Mr. Jeavons works yet, but I hope to grow edibles in about a 20′ x40′ plot in my suburban backyard. There used to be an above ground pool over that area and the land was a vacant “prairie” next to a busy four-lane road about 30 years ago. What would Mr. Jeavons recommend as far as soil testing (for poisons, carcinogens, unsuitable soil conditions, potential remediation) prior to planting edibles?

  • michael john mcbratney says:

    John,do you have any experience using Biochar in the garden? If so, have you noticed any changes? I’m in the process of making my own for the spring planting in my raised beds.

    Thank you

  • Mike says:

    John, what adjustments to your system would you make for someone using a Walipini greenhouse for growing vegetables? I’m in the Colorado mountains with a 3 month growing season between frosts above ground. And what square footage would you recommend for a family of 3 for year-round greens and root vegies?

  • George says:

    What experience/insight does he have with earth sheltered green houses or alternative methods of both heating and cooling green houses for aqua-ponics.

    I’m told adding animals into a hydroponic system adds complexity to managing the variables for both the plants and animals? Is this true and how challenging is it on a home scale production system?

    What size would be the ideal system for producing most of the food for a family of 2, 4, 6, or 12 people?

    What are the capital cost estimates of various production sizes?

    What are the variable costs of various production sizes?

    1. Hi George,

      These are all excelelent aquaponics system questions which I don’t know if John will know about since his method does not use that technology. I am working to find someone who would be good at explaining the aquaponics issue though – I just ordered a home food production system I’ll be installing in the next month or two. I’ll keep you posted.

  • Alex says:

    I’ve read a couple of articles on “vertical gardening”. Can you venture an opinion on its efficacy? I have limited space in my backyard.

  • Please ask Mr. Jeavons how he deals with perennials. We’re permies, and do not like to disturb the soil around perennial plants. Thanks!

    1. Hi Theresa,

      If you check John’s book, yes he does incorporate fruit and nut trees into the garden system. But we will bring it up too.

  • Chrissy says:


    I am very interested in buying your book John however will I be able to apply the information you have here in Queensland/Australia? Rabbits are prohibited here in Queensland as they are considered to be a pest. If you drive 600 kilometres or miles inland you would be in the middle of nowhere, bush and desert, up north in the Kimberleys is croc country and our indigenous people reside there, some places are only reserved for these people. As a nurse I have seen quite a few farmers who live up north in the tropics who deal with soil with their crops and have come into the hospital because they have contracted the Leptospirosis virus, quite scary.

    1. Hi Crissy,

      The Grow bioIntensive method is a vegan dieat – so no worries about rabbits there. Also, the method is used on over 130 countries around the world now – so I am sure you’ll find value for your area.

  • ERNIE KIMBLE says:

    Can a viable aquponics system be done indoors in a confined space?

  • douglas says:

    Hi John, I am currently renovating a 40 acre farm property near Boulder,Co. It is 25% irrigatable-75% dry land farming although I just put in a pump in concrete rings in our irrigation ditch. I would like to create a great soil over time by creating a good size worm farm set up to be used in creating compost T. I would like to grow crops that I can integrate with the worm castings in compost T. I have a thousand gallon sprayer that can distribute the T to the soil. I have clayey soil and would like to make a repeatable mixture to possibly oxygenate the soil and to enrich the soil. Do you do consulting?

  • Chuck Parnell says:

    Recommendations for growing different common vegetables using drip irrigation. Many people/areas live with water restrictions in the West. I am planning on having grow boxes, with drip irrigation, with some protection around plants that will keep drying winds away from above ground growth. Greenhouses are built for cold weather. How about some ideas for hot dry windy conditions?

  • Al Bastinelli says:

    What plants need what kind of soil amendments for organic beds at what time of year. Compost teas – what kind and when..
    Note: if you haven’t ordered your potassium iodide it’s time. I’m using old billboard plastic signs on an area of my ground. Is this safe to use?

  • Melissa Eaton says:

    What is a sure fire way to keep gophers/moles out of a 800 sq. ft. veggie garden (not raised beds or wire mesh underneath the soil). I’ve tried poison, gas bombs, traps, moth balls, dryer softner sheets soaked in bleach, soil grub killer, cat turds, etc. to no avail.

    Moe in Southern Oregon

    1. Melissa,

      I’ll ask John, but I wonder;have you tried castor bean oil or castor beans? Its a natural gopher repellent. I also have a serious gopher issue and found this to help – but I haven’t done enough testing yet to say for certain.

  • Sheila says:

    Actually, I’m here to say, I think it’s Great that your expanding the menus, for better search capability on your site. Now I won’t have to keep saving all of your e-mails, for when I want to find something I want to read again.
    I always read your e-mails right away, go to your site, and then boom, I delete the e-mail from you. ONLY TO REMEMBER something else on the page I wanted to check out.
    This is going to get me back to the right page or section, or at least I can have a hope of finding the post I want.

    I’m excited about your interview, and I have his books too. Can’t wait to hear what he has to say.

    1. Thanks Sheila,

      We are working to make this the most useful site for growing your own food and medicine. It’s a process… I really appreciate everyone’s support while we are still building things out.

  • Scott says:

    OK BIG question about growing food in smaller space. Can I grow all my calories in 1200 square feet instead of 4000 SqFt if I gather leaves from trees both dry and spring new growth instead of growing carbon crops? If so how many cubic feet of leaves would it take to produce compost for 100 SqFt? I have clay subsoil and dry hot texas summers to deal with and growing any grain has pretty much failed to grow thickly, amaranth for example has failed to produce more than two mature plants out of 12000 SqFt. Further, can the fertility come from urine soaked into leaf compost.

    I have been trying for 3 years to do Bio intensive, but I can’t get enough growth for compost. I even purchased yards of commercial compost placed on top and in the double dig.


  • Donna says:

    How do you keep Bermuda grass from growing in the raised square foot garden beds?! I thought that if I gardened this way that fighting Bermuda grass would be manageable. It’s just as nasty as if I was gardening in rows! Bermuda grass is worse than weeds! I actually don’t have a weed problem….the Bermuda grass chokes everything out!

  • mr. verdi says:

    Masta Gardener/Farmer; what application/applications do/would you engage in to attain your NPK naturally and, can you do this without the use of compost?
    Also; what techniques (inclusive of plant types) would you encourage while the intended crops are ongoing?. I am referring to commercial production regarding both/all of my questions.
    Also; how would you protect your intended crops which are on a rotational basis ( with regards again to an commercial or large farm production intention) against the myriad of possible bugs for any given area or crops. For instance; would you consider using/planting large plantings within the rows or would you dedicate rows of say leeks/onions interspersed as rows of their own plantings as a possible deterrent.? I realize the complexity of the question especially with regards to having over head spray(sprinklers) or drip for irrigation.
    What are your convictions towards the use of the mini-hoop covers? Would you consider using them early/late/frost protect/bug deterrent/extra heat early for tomatoes?
    Also; where would one look to connect with people for to lease land for farming? I am interested n growing north of the the G. Gate Bridge and as far north as say Healdsurg? I have most of the equipment with many years of marketing and farming with good resume. I am having a helluva time connecting. The CaFarmLinks have proven ineffective and believe they are under funded, over worked and bogged down as a bureaucracy.
    I would appreciate your responses either here or even a phone conversation if you wish. 415-601-3218

  • Pat Turner says:

    I’ve got a couple of questions. I’m 70+, on my own & on a fixed income, with a bit of arthritis, sublaxed spine and loss of strength in my hands. The pictures of preparing the soil in John’s book were ‘painful’ and overwhelming to think about. How can I manage to set up a system such as John suggests?

    A 2nd question would be: in view of the toxic fallout from the criss-crossed spraying in our skies (chemtrails), is it possible to set up one of those wonderful bio-intensive systems with the protection of some sort of partial greenhouse in order to protect plants from that fallout, yet still make them available to what sun there is? Every year I try to grow plants, it’s a disaster. One year I planted 2 heirloom cherry tomato plants in self-watering tubs, loved over them the entire season to make sure they were royally happy, but they yielded only TWO tomatoes .. and both of those were on ONE of the plants .. the other yielded nothing! Don’t know what I’m doing wrong!

  • Sylvia says:

    How do you maintain moisture in raised beds?

  • k. glenn says:

    I live in a rain forest almost, tomatoes have a very hard time, any suggestions? In house I started a bunch of seeds they were beautiful, put then outside, they all got blight. very sad.

    1. Hi K,

      Yes tomatoes aren’t quite meant for rain forests. But I have seen cherry tomatoes do very well in tropical wet conditions. We will also ask John!

  • Steven Feil says:

    How does this system compare to the Back to Eden and the Square Foot methods?

  • Alice Güntert says:

    Some landscapes you cannot dig into. What can John suggest for a mountain terrain, with a thin layer of humous (15-20 inches at best, followed by lots of gravel filled soil)? We are at 1100m altitude, average year round temperature between 5-10 Centigrade. (Switzerland)

  • Helen Curtis says:

    Has Jon ever used ormus to boost the growth of veg & fruits? If so what concentration over what area & what results did he get? Thank you, kind regards from Helen & Robert Curtis

  • Kendra says:

    This is what wiki says about why no animals:
    “The biointensive method typically concentrates on the vegan diet. This does not mean that biointensive farming must exclude the raising of animals. Animals, while not considered by biointensive practitioners to be sustainable, can be incorporated into biointensive systems, although they increase the amount of land and labor required considerably. The following is excerpted from an article on the topic of integrating animals into a biointensive system from the “Frequently Asked Questions” page on Ecology Action’s website:

    ‘Livestock can fit into a [biointensive] system, but it usually takes a larger area [than growing a vegan diet]. Normally it takes about 40,000 sq ft of grazing land for 1 cow/steer (for milk/meat) or 2 goats (for milk/meat/wool), or 2 sheep (for milk/meat/wool). [In contrast] With [biointensive farming] and maximizing the edible calorie output in your vegan diet design, one person’s complete balanced diet can be grown on about 4,000 sq ft—a much smaller area.

    The challenge [to growing animals for food] is that by 2014, 90% of the world’s people will only have access to about 4,500 sq ft of farmable land per person, if they leave an equal area in a wild state to protect plant and animal genetic diversity and the world’s ecosystems! As you will see from the information that follows on the land requirements for incorporating livestock, this becomes a challenge.'”

    1. Hi Kendra,

      Thanks for that. But rabbits and chickens do not take the space needed for cows or even goats. And these animals can be raised on non-farmable land.

      Well, its a good discussion.

    2. Great Grey says:

      It takes any where from 2.5 acres to 25 acres (maybe more in southwest) to graze a cow/calf pair depending on what part of the country you are in. Which is quite a bit more than the 0.92 acre you quote. Somebody got to raise your replacement milk/meat cow if you don’t.

  • J. Blair says:

    Hello, I have two questions: 1. I am an older senior with already existing raised beds. Is it important to go back and double dig, as that would be terribly hard to do at my age and for so many beds as I understand we need to really be growing enough to support a family. 2. Have a gopher problem that gets worse each year. Any methods that really work to get rid of them? Thanks

  • Dexter says:

    I have been eating horsetail for a few weeks to heal the pit in the chewing surface of a molar, brushing with peelu powder & drinking mostly non-tap water. When can I expect to see/feel results? Thanks!

    1. Hi dexter,

      I’ve sent you and Doug an email with your question. And I’ll post the reply he gives you here for everyone to read.

  • Kymm Dessel says:

    With all of the devastating manmade or by natural disasters in the past years such as nuclear melt downs, chemical spills, run off from fields of animal and or human feces, fertilizes with all of these getting into our rivers and other water supplies? Doesn’t this greatly affect out soil and our ability to grow healthy safe gardens. I know with the aquapontics systems and small container or tered gardens use less soil. Would it be prudent to buy bags of good clean potting soil and store in a place to keep it from getting fungus or other dangers? So that we would still have a planet with healthy soil to grow our food or could gardens become a part of history from destroyed soil?

  • Philbe says:

    We have been growing our garden with the square foot gardening system for 3 years & love it. We are in the middle of “moving’ tghat system to another, smaller property that we have that is debt free. We are also purchasing a small lot across the road that has a creek running through the back of it and it “pools” on one corner which we think it great, one of the main reasons we’re buying it. It’s considered a ‘flood” plain so nobody can build on it etc. We’ll use it for our storage buildings. The community is 2500 which is about a tenth of what we’re at now. We’re pretty well connected because it’s hometown etc. The local library is the “gathering” spot for nearly everybody. Questio/problem? it’s only 2 miles outside of a major military base. For Marjory…do we “lay low” with the base people? Wer’re both retired so buying any other property is not feasible. Any other suggestions?

    1. Hi Philbe,

      I am sure this isn’t a question for John – so I’ll answer.

      Sounds like you’ve got a nice little setup – er, except for the base of course. but that may not be a problem at all either. The vast majority of the military I’ve met sincerely do believe in doing the right thing and are committed to protecting our country. Hmm, is there the group called teh “Oat Keepers” or something like that? And I’ve been amazed at how much more switched on the folks in the military are compared to the average US citizen. A good friend of mine keeps telling me about the website http://www.veteranstoday.com/ which is where people who have been used in service are starting to put together the pieces of whats being done.

      In fact, some people consider a bug plus to be next to a military base. So I would reach out to them too – whatever gatherings, classes, workshops, social events. Invite them. they are part of the community. And a great group to have on your side. Everyone needs good defense…

  • Pamela says:

    Hi John,
    Do you think it would be practical to apply your methods to larger scale commercial organic farming operations?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Pamela,

      I will let John speak for himself, but I do know they have a whole system of mini-farms setup to teach people how to successfully grow on a small commercial scale using the smae principles.

  • Bill Herron says:

    1. Ask John about Summer vs Winter Growing. I am considering a Green House to extend the growing season. The flip side is just grow more in the summer and can/preserve as much as you need to see yourself through the winter.

    2. The Other Question for John I am wondering about is Group Size and Age dispersion. My Grandparents raised themselves and eight children on 40 Acres and did not use all of it. Some of the older kids brought their wives and children to live on the farm during the depression and they got by fine. I am thinking 15 to 20 people, 7 couples with children is about big enough for a group to survive well and be able to provide enough hands to do chores but not over work anyone.

  • Beth says:

    What are the 5 to 10 best crops for short season areas, besides potatoes to which I allergic?

  • Deniece says:

    Please ask how to grow vegetables for a family of six in a small backyard in small town suburb of the eastbay delta area of San Francisco of N. Calif. There is priv owned farm land around around and te soil is good. However my use is small.

  • Lydia Feltman says:

    Hi John and Marjory,
    Thank you for the opportunity to ask questions. I live in Potter Valley, just over the hill from John. My questions have to do with this extreme drought we are having here in California. Are you making any changes in your plans or methods this spring in order to deal with the drought? What would you recommend as to what plants to grow in Mendocino co. or any drought affected area?
    Recently a fellow Mendocino Master Gardener, Louisa, wrote to us the following question: “I think we need to be informed about how to help our gardens in time of severe drought, so we can advise home gardeners. There was an excellent letter to the editor in the UDJ last Weds 1/22 from a former Fetzer garden manager (Maltus???). He recommended NOT pruning this winter, because it will stimulate growth that should not be encouraged, but wait for summer pruning, which will discourage new growth. He also recommended not using heavy mulch at this time, because we want every drop of water to get directly to the plants, not get lost in mulch.” John, would you agree with this advice? I have been mulching more right now in order to conserve the moisture that is already in the soil.
    Another subject: My main problem is with moles. They seem to regard a double-dug bed as though it were a swimming pool with food! I am not good with trapping (recommended by Master Gardeners) and they can not be poisoned (except by great expense). Repellants don’t work very long. What do you use?
    Best wishes, Lydia Feltman, Mendo.Co. Master Gardener
    P.S. I took your 3 day class in ’05. Thank you for all you advise and help.

    1. Donna says:

      Though it was completely unintended, when I got a Jack Russell she made all the wild Jack rabbits feel rather unwelcome. I don’t see them in the yard anymore. It didn’t happen overnight, and they still didn’t leave even though she caught and killed two of them. It wasn’t until she cornered a baby rabbit in the garden, that had managed to squeeze under the garden gate, that the rabbits all seemed to decide to pack up and leave. I chased her off of the baby rabbit and it ran back to the others. It was as if they had a meeting and I didn’t see them anymore. Then, when my very old Chihuahua died, I went out into the yard to look for him. And what I saw was like a scene out of a children’s story book. There were about a half a dozen rabbits standing in a circle around my Chihuahua as if they were paying their respects. It was a very enchanted scene. They haven’t been seen since. The Chihuahua used to go out in the yard and get within a foot of the rabbits and they would sniff at each other. (People always teased me that he was a rodent…maybe he was!). The Jack Russell is a breed that was bred to hunt rabbits and small game, so she has other things in mind for the rabbits, and the rabbits don’t like her. So, if you have a rather tall fence (my Jack jumped to the top of my 6-foot block wall, I had to dig the ground down!), and put bricks along the edge of the gates or the whole fence if it is not block, (Jack’s are rather proficient diggers), AND if you like a high energy pet that likes to play with you a lot (Jack’s are very sociable and smart and like your attention), then this would be a very good, natural way to keep the moles (or rabbits) away. A lot of people are put off by how demanding a Jack Russell can be. It’s like having a spoiled, hyper-active child that follows me everywhere I go……EVERYWHERE I go! But I love mine. She’s eight years old now and is still feisty and full of energy!

      1. Hi Donna, oh thanks for writing in. Yes, I’ve often told people if I only had a small backyard in suburbia, I would still hve a small dog or two to ptoect the food supply.

        I will publicly confess though that I am one of those people who doesn’t like the hyper small dogs. Oh they are cute… And I often wonder how far they would go if I drop kicked them… I haven’t ever done it… just thought about it

        I am really glad it is working out for you. Wild rabbits are a problem for gardens.

  • Pamela Keith says:

    Hello John…Thank you for your time. This is what I read today and it creates problems in our future. Please read on.

    Pollution levels in China have now reached a true crisis… and much of this is drifting over to the USA and settling on crop lands where it contaminates our food:


    How can we protect our plants? Even if we cover them, they will still get the toxins. Please give some advice on how to protect ourselves.

    Our future is at risk and being a Senior, it all concerns me. I use to do organic gardening, but I can’t get down any longer. I’m mid 60’s. Please answer. I would really appreciate it.
    Thank you for your input.

    1. Thank you Pamela. That is definitely a question I’ll bring forward. JOhn is based in California and must be aware…

  • R. Hunter says:

    What do you think of keyhole gardening? I live in an area where we get little rainfall and the last 2 winters have had little rain, especially this year.

    Compost for keyhole: I notice some gardeners use telephone books and newspaper, items that can decompose but I worry about the ink in these items. I’ve heard some newspapers use soy ink, but don’t know about phone books.

  • cikndy says:

    i’m interested in community gardens , co-ops and possibly looking at small parcels of city land that is vacant or to small to build or sell . Can you give me a heads up on these ideas.

  • T. Hartwig says:

    My question relates to soil & soil testing,…. any recommendations for a low cost soil tester & what should i look for (PH/Acidity) when testing soil. I live near Dallas & as another member mentioned above (ref raised bed gardening), the summer heat can be problematic. So, when working with compost, what is an optimal goal (for the non-expert)?

  • Amedee Friestedt says:

    Hi John. I live in the Washington, DC area. Many years ago, I visited the National Arboretum and saw examples of “more efficient” ways to grow vegetables. One example was full size cabbages growing from a cylinder of soil, nutrients, watering system, etc., kind of the same concept as the strawberry pot but a more self-contained system. I don’t remember if the columns were hanging or standing on the ground. Do you recommend this type of vertical growing as sustainable for a small plot farm? Are there drawbacks do you think?

    Thank you in advance for your advice.

  • Hi, Just checking out this comment system tester123

  • Christopher de Vidal says:

    For John: Have you tried your methods in cold and dry locations to see how much less (or more?) productivity you get? That way one could adjust the charts in your book based on location.

  • Eric Viveiros says:

    This looks like fun

  • Dulci says:

    Lots of information included. Looks great.

  • Amanda says:

    I’ve noticed for many years that the bees love my garden, especially the bean and squash blossoms (still wanting to find a way to get rid of squash bugs). What do you think about keeping bees near a garden and what are the plusses and minuses of it. Thank you!

  • Hazel Maunder says:

    Not a blogger. dont have anything for that, but am a prepper on a decent farm. I know our garden area needs to be fertilized, but spring is almost here, what is the best way to help it so that the plants and food will actually grow, they didn’t do anything at all last year.Will be planting in May I hope.

  • Chuck Parr says:

    With four (soon to be five) children, I have learned the important of saving a buck or two when it comes to groceries. And there is no better way than from your own back yard! Great info here!

  • Lloyd Sizemore says:

    I would like to know more about small scale aquaponics, do you know of any good resources?

    1. Justin Arman says:

      Lloyd, Marjory will be out for a few days on a wilderness trip. She’ll be responding to your question when she gets back.

  • Trista says:

    This seems like a great investment, my husband wants to start gardening so we can produce our own food instead of having to purchase it. He will love this. Thanks

  • Jennifer z says:

    I have been wanting to take a master gardener course for a few years. Growing my own food is very important to me.

  • Tammra says:

    How do you keep the stray and wild animals away from your garden?

  • Rd says:

    Some great comments here. Like reading the articles and reading the comments.

  • jamie says:

    can this all be done inside the house.? like in the window?

  • Marc Werschem says:

    In talking about aquaponics, do you know where a person can purchase the fresh water lobsters? The only place I found requires a minimum purchase of 1000.

  • Tracy says:

    Do you have any experience with hydroponics? I hear is can be tough to get started but can be beneficial after some time.

  • Frank says:

    I really enjoy having my own garden to grow my own fruits and vegetables. My question is where I live there has been a drought off and on for several years now. What would be the best way for watering your garden with out installing an expensive sprinkler system?

  • Mary says:

    How do you maintain a garden and keep out the cutter ants?

  • Valerie P says:

    Question: What soil ammendments would you add to the soil for a good garden?

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