At the beginning of November I attended the 3-day Grow BioIntensive workshop in Willits, CA. It blew my mind. In fact, it took my brain out of my head, turned it inside out and put it back in. What is Grow BioIntensive, you ask? Well, let me attempt to explain it in less than three days:
Grow BioIntensive is a method of gardening/farming that combines French Intensive, which uses hexagonal plant spacing as well as double-digging to condition the soil to a depth of 24 inches, and Bio-Dynamic (planting guidance by the lunar cycle and treating the whole farm/garden as a mini-ecosystem) techniques and helps you get the most out of your gardening space with minimal water, labor and cost. Ecology Action, the company’s outreach component, trains people all over the world, and specializes in helping people in third world countries to grow their own food and raise crops for commerce.
John Jeavons demonstrating soil conditioning on 1/2 of a 100 square foot bed.
Out of all the information I learned over the three day workshop, I would have to say that the main message I gleaned was that we have to grow our own soil. What the heck does that mean?
We’re losing top soil and deserts are expanding. We might think that we can’t do anything about it, but we actually can. If we focus on our garden as a closed looped system (i.e. avoid bringing in new materials for starters), and grow compost crops that will be cut down to feed the compost bin, which in turn will replenish the lost soil from the garden, we can actually reverse the damage that’s being done – at least in our own backyards. Hearing this really got me excited.
When I first found out that in order to grow your own soil, you need to dedicate 60% of your growing space to growing compost crops – that is, wheat, corn, quinoa, vetch, fava beans, oats, rye, etc. – I thought, “there’s no way in hell I’m giving up space for these crops.” By the time they were finished with me, I was so excited about it, I was actually dreaming at night about threshing wheat and other grains.
In the coming weeks, you’ll see more blog entries about the specifics of the workshop, with plenty of pictures. In the meanwhile, we’ve chosen to include a favorite compost crop in the new 2010 Spring / Summer Organic Seed Collection so you, too, can start to rebuild your soil from the ground up.
To be continued…