Thank you for listening to our local NPR station, WLRN, 91.3 FM. On Oct. 20, 2009, I was a guest on Topical Currents. Other guest was Sam van Leer of www.urban-paradise.org. Please see below and explore the rest of our website. If you have questions, or would like me to post more info, please click on "Contact Us" under "Navigation" on the left of this page.
I mentioned 2 books highlighting methods for closer planting distances to grow more food in a small space:
Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew: Makes planting easy, especially good for beginners. Fringe benefits include teaching real world math skills to kids. A Simple system that adapts to all levels of experience, physical ability, and geographical location.Grow all you want and need in only 20% of the space of a conventional row garden.
Save time, water, work and money!
How to Grow more Vegetables* by John Jeavons: Great system, especially made for helping people feed themselves. Bonus: available in many languages. In my house, we have native speakers of 2 languages, so this is something we can share. GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming approach is low-cost and non-polluting. It maximizes agricultural yields, builds soil fertility, and minimizes inputs of water, energy, and nutrients in organic fertilizer form. Ecology Action has demonstrated results in helping communities in the U.S. and worldwide to grow plentiful and nutritious food without depleting precious natural resources, and by using sophisticated, yet low-technology approaches to farming and marketing. Ecology Action’s work is centered at its Common Ground Research and Demonstration Garden/Mini-Farm located in Willits in northern California. The site was chosen due to its difficult growing conditions, including poor soil quality and hilly terrain, to best demonstrate the effectiveness of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE approach and its adaptability to diverse climates and cultures. The garden serves as one of the oldest, long-term sustainable agriculture research projects in the world.
Both are good, I use both. Click on the links above to go to their websites to order books and get lots of free info as well. Just remember that the rules are different here in South Florida. Our climate is unique, our "soil" is often rock or sand. Don't try to grow asparagus, walnuts, or other trees or perennials which are not suited to our climate. DO grow annual vegetables, nearly all do well here from October through April. DO grow tropical fruits and perennials suited to Zone 10. Visit this page for South Florida specific info.
About what kinds of soil to use in your garden:
There a many ways of doing things, experiment, adapt, find what works best for you. Soil or planting media options:
http://www.fairchildgarden.org/livingcollections/gardeningandhorticulture/soilsandmedia/ Look under "media components" at bottom of page.
http://www.squarefootgardening.com/index.php/General/is-commercial-premixed-soil-just-as-good.html (uses vemiculite, we think perlite is better)
http://www.squarefootgardening.com/index.php/General/proportions-for-making-mels-mix.html (uses vemiculite, we think perlite is better)
http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/master_gardener/Raised%20Bed%20Garden%20Book.pdf (Page 9 of this .pdf book addresses soil.)
On WLRN, I mentioned using "Organic Compost" as a soil or planting medium in your raised-bed vegetable garden. This is sold in approximately 40-lb. bags at garden and home store retailers. (Like the big orange one.) Because I think it is better for people to start now than to wait for perfection, I recommend this easily purchased option, which retails for around $1.50 per bag. NOTE: We have just discovered that some bags of this compost are not fully finished, which mean that the compost will utilize any nitrogen in the mix to continue breaking down. This will cause a nitrogen deficiency (yellow older leaves and poor growth) in some plants. Solution: mix in some slow-release, high nitrogen fertilizer. This comes in organic form as blood meal, cottonseed meal, grass clippings, alfalfa pellets (bunny food). If you decide to use commercial fertilizer, make sure it is in "slow release" form, like Osmocote, Dynamite, or others. Never use water-soluble powders like the blue Miracle Gro solution. This leaches out of the soil immediately, and into the water table. Not good.
A few words about compost: Ideally, you would make your own compost, and I hope you are doing that. I make my own, but I use it for a soil amendment because I just can't make enough of it! Some municipalities have free compost, like the City of Miami, and if it is available (check first, they do run out), and you can get a truck to go get it, and have shovels to put it in your vehicle, by all means use it. (Art puts a tarp down in the back of a RAV 4 and shovels it in.)
I called the company that makes the "Organic Compost" mentioned above, and asked where it comes from. They said it is composted cow manure from small to medium-sized farms in Georgia. Yes, it has a carbon footprint, but a not-so-big one. It also does not come from 20,000 animal CAFOs in the Midwest, which have more problems than a large carbon footprint.