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Archive for the ‘record keeping’ Category

4.1 How Much To Grow - BLOGHow Much to Grow is the title of Chapter 4 in Grow a Sustainable Diet. If your garden is small and whatever you get from it is a welcome addition to your table, you might not be concerned with exactly how many pounds are produced of anything. You are just happy to have homegrown food in your meals. If you want to be able to predict how much your harvest will be so you can plan to have a certain amount for your family to eat, you can put pencil to paper now and do some calculating.

butternut squash

butternut squash

Chapter 4 contains a worksheet (you see part of it here) to help with those calculations. (There is a link in the book that will take you to PDFs of all the worksheets so you can print them out.) Whether you are trying to decide how much to grow for your family or for your CSA, the process is the same. Decide how much you want for each week and how many weeks you will be eating it, or in the case of a CSA, how many weeks you need to put it in the CSA boxes. If you have no idea how many pounds of something you need, go to the grocery store and pick out a reasonable quantity for a meal in the produce department. Weigh it on the scale that is right there. Multiply that weight by how many meals per week that item will supply and you have the pounds needed per week. The number of weeks you want to eat something could be only the weeks it is fresh from the garden, or every week of the year if you are preserving for eating out of season. Rather than the weight, you may need to know the count; how many of something you will have, such as butternut squash. Sometimes you can find that information in the seed catalogs, and sometimes not. From my experience, I know that I can expect about 4 squash per plant. If the catalog doesn’t have that information for the variety you choose, read the description of all the varieties, as well as the specifics for each crop to get an estimate.

Finding out how much is needed is the easy part. You need to know how much you can grow in your area and pounds/100 ft² is a good universal measure to use. How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons has Master Charts that can help you with that. The Master Charts have columns for Biointensive yields and for the US Average for each crop. Use those figures as guidelines. Your yield will depend on many factors, including your soil, climate, and management style. You might already know how much you can harvest in the area planted. If not, this exercise should encourage you to record your harvests this year, at least for the crops you are most interested in.

Mississippi Silver cowpeas

Mississippi Silver cowpeas

Remember the charts are only guidelines. For the Biointensive yield, the Master Charts give three numbers; the beginning yield that you could expect getting at some time, the intermediate yield that could be reached after good soil building, and a high yield that few might reach. The Biointensive yield of winter squash is shown as 50/100/350. There is no US Average shown in the Master Charts, but my research determines that number to be 49.5 pounds/100 ft². The target yield I use for butternut squash is 150 pounds/100 ft². I have reached that yield and sometimes higher in my garden. For cowpeas, the Biointensive yield is 2.4/4/5.9. The US Yield of cowpeas isn’t shown, but through my research I’ve determined it to be 2.6 pounds. I live in a great climate for cowpeas and have found I can use 5 pounds/100 ft² as my target yield. On the other hand, I would love to plan on getting 100 pounds/100 ft² regularly with my potatoes, but the voles keep the yield below that. The Biointensive yield for potatoes is 100/200/780 and the US Average is 84.2. Depending on the variety, I don’t always reach the low Biointensive yield of 100 pounds for tomatoes. The US Average for tomatoes is 67 pounds for fresh and 153.4 pounds for processing tomatoes per 100 ft².

From your garden map you will know how much space you have available. My post Making a Garden Map can help you with that. It becomes a balancing act, deciding how much space to allot for each crop. Having a target yield makes planning easier. Your target yield may need to be adjusted from year to year, but at least you have someplace to start from. Between cover crops and food crops, plan to have your beds full all year. Immediately after your early spring crops are harvested, plant the next crop. Leaving the beds empty is an invitation for Mother Nature to plant her favorites, which we tend to think of as weeds.

The rest of the page of the How Much to Grow worksheet that you don’t see is a space for comments and three columns for the amount of calories, protein, and calcium per pound of food. It is always good to leave space for comments—something about that crop you want to remember. Since I keep records for my certification as a GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Minifarming teacher, I am interested in the amount of calories, protein, and calcium in each crop. There might be other things that you want to record in those additional columns.

Use this information to enhance what you are doing, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Keep track of what you can. As you find you have more questions, add the appropriate recordkeeping to your system. Most importantly—have fun in your garden this year!Homeplace Earth

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your garden book-BLOGThe seed catalogs have arrived and as you recover from the holidays you are getting excited about this year’s garden. I always have the best garden in January—meaning the one I plan in January. Things don’t always go as planned, but that’s to be expected. There are lots of garden books on your bookshelves, the library and the bookstore to guide you, but did you ever wish there was a garden book written just for you? It would be specific to your garden with your own crops, varieties, planting times and records of yields. Although it will take a little work on your part, you can have exactly that.

Fortunately for you, now is the best time to start writing that book. Actually it is a notebook you will be putting together, unless you prefer to put everything on the computer. I prefer pencil and paper myself and a book that I can hold in my hands (while sitting in a comfortable chair, possibly beside the wood stove). I do have some things on the computer, but they are printed off to go into my garden notebook. If you missed the back-to-school sales to stock up on 3-ring binders, paper, dividers, file folders, etc, these things are on sale again as people organize their financial affairs for taxes. The file folders are for your previous years’ records. Store those in your file cabinet or a cardboard file box that you can pick up while you are at the office supply store.

garden records-BLOGIn my garden plan video I show you how to put together a complete garden plan using worksheets that are on the CD that comes with the DVD. On the resource page of my website you will find a list of the sections suggested for your notebook. You might have ideas for additional sections. You will need to make an inventory of the seeds you already have before you order new ones. Put that in the seed section of your notebook. You will need to know what crops you are planting and where, so you will need a garden map. After consulting your seed inventory and garden map, make a list of your crops and what needs to be ordered.  Before you send off your seed order you need to figure how many seeds you need. One of the worksheets on the CD helps you do that.

Knowing when to plant and when to expect a harvest is essential to be efficient at growing your food. The CD has a worksheet to help you determine those dates. Once you have the dates you can record them on the Plant / Harvest Schedule, also a worksheet on the CD and available as a free PDF on my website.  Ideally you will fill out a copy of that schedule as you plan it and an extra copy to fill in as the season goes along. It is always good to know what actually happened. Make notes that will be useful later.

If you are serious about feeding yourself from your garden, you should know how much you are producing. At first it just might be that you know how much you planted and if it was enough or not enough. Make a note of that. If you are canning, freezing, or drying, you could write down how many pints or quarts of everything you put up. Even a notation on your calendar would do. At the end of the season you could total everything up and the calendar provides your beginning and ending harvest dates.

However, I want to encourage everyone to eat as much as they can out of their garden all year long. As good as it is to know how much is coming out of your garden, it’s not fun to count or weigh everything. So don’t. You could only keep more detailed records on the crops that you are studying. Or, just weigh out the harvest on a portion of your crop, and since you know the area you have planted, it is easy to estimate your total harvest.

temperatures 2012precipation 2012You can keep track of the climate in your garden by having temperature and precipitation records for the year. That is really handy to refer to in later years when you remember something doing particularly good (or bad) in a previous year and you think it might have been weather related. There are worksheets for that on the CD, also. In the weather section of my notebook, I like to include news reports of abnormal weather events to remind me of what was going on.

What varieties of each crop you grow could make a difference, so make sure to include that in your notes. If you can bear to cut up your seed catalogs (or better yet, cut up last year’s seed catalogs) you can cut out the information and pictures of the crops you chose and include them in your notebook. Highlight what it was that made you choose those varieties. It is easy to forget. You will, no doubt, see things in magazines or on the internet that you would like to try in your garden or ideas will pop into your head. Put that in your notebook in the Ideas! section.

Take photographs and put them in your garden notebook or an album devoted to your garden. I don’t mean keep them on your phone or in a digital file on your computer—actually have prints made. Remember, you are putting together a book here. Make sure there is a picture of you in there. You will be surprised how fast things change and it is nice to have a visual record. You might even write a summary of your garden experiences for the year and include it with your photos. In the summary include some yield figures of the things you are paying particular attention to, lessons you’ve learned (both good and bad), and anything else that you think is a highlight.

Homeplace EarthIf you do all this you will be well on your way with record keeping. Some of you out there might have your own system. I invite you to share your ideas here.

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