Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Book: All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Batholomew
Not so much a permaculture book, but for a non-gardener like me Square Foot Gardening (SFG) makes the idea of growing things approachable. Mel's system is a space-efficient (and resource-efficient) method for raising annuals that requires very little starting knowledge and a minimal amount of manual labor.
His initial soil building is from scratch - ignoring the inputs of your own land unless you've already got some good compost (and even then it is only part of the mix). The peat moss and vermiculite that are added to your compost are deplete-able resources; however this is a one-time setup for each bed, and then the soil is refreshed with compost after each (incremental) harvest. Since you are now eating lots from your own garden, then the compost is a byproduct of your own waste stream.
The composting is the least appealing part of the process (to me, right now, sitting in an apartment) - from Mel's descriptions it can be back-breaking manual labor to get enough mass together and to turn it: perfect size 3x3x3 to 4x4x4 - that's 1-3 cubic yards to deal with. I prefer the general permacultural approach of composting-in-place out in the polyculture so I don't expect to have great piles of decaying matter sitting about, but SFG doesn't need a lot of compost - a small vermicomposting rig feels like it would do the trick and keep the labor down.
Is it permaculture? Nope.
Do I care? Nope.
It is a tool in the toolbox - high efficiency, low effort, rapid return - sounds like a great way to provide reliable food while getting through the first few years of low productivity from the food forest.
If you are new to gardening like me, then this is a great way to start.