March 30, 2010

World Food Production

"World food production must increase by 70% by 2050 to meet world population growth"

While driving home tonight from work I heard an expert talking about food. He stated that while the rate of food production is increasing,  the human population is increasing at an even faster rate. His solution was to increase industrial agriculture output. It got me thinking.

The developed world's population is actually decreasing, 1.2 kids per family will do that to a population, but this is where the bulk of the worlds food is produced. The population of developing and third world nations is increasing rapidly, and this is where the food demand is going to come from.

My thought was that the solution would not be in industrial agriculture, but rather in small scale urban 'farms'. People growing their own food, or at least part of it. Community gardens, balcony gardens, rooftop gardens would all allow people to be slightly self sufficient. Much like the agricultural campaigns during the second world war in Canada and Great Britain, we should be encouraging all nations to "Dig for Victory" in their back yards!

March 21, 2010


Here are the books that I currently own on gardening. I recently expanded my collection by a substantial number.

I bought most of the books through which is a world-wide collection of used book sellers. Amazing, you can find just about anything on the site. I have been really impressed at the quantity of books, especially rare ones, and the prices are very, very reasonable.

1) Square Foot Gardening - by Mel Bartholomew

Im the kind of person that needs explicit step by step instructions on how to do things, otherwise I feel that Im going to do something wrong. Mel does just that, his instructions were down to the little details. He is also very practical and flexible in the materals he recommends for the raised gardens. My 2009 garden was a 4x4 raised bed (which incidentally was photographed by the google maps street view) and worked very well. His recommendations for how many of a certain plant can be put per square foot is invaluable and Im sure I will be using that for years to come. You can find most of the information on his website for free.

2) The Vegetable Gardeners Bible -

This is another great book. He also uses a more compact style gardening method, but he has a lot more space to work with. Again, I like it because he goes through gardening in excruciating detail. For example he dedicates two entire pages on breaking down the seed package, yes the package. You would be surprised how much info is on there. Actually planting the plants in the garden isn't discussed until about 1/2 way through the book!  Nice big color pictures make this book a joy to go through.

3) Grow Organic - A simple guide to Nova Scotia vegetable gardening - Elizabeth Peirce

Hot off the press! Hurrah, a region specific gardening guide. Excellent book with great pictures. I learned about compost teas and she has one of the ONLY references I can find about using seaweed garden beds.
4) Garden Way Bulletin A-4 -Potatoes, Sweet and Irish
No picture for this one. I found this at a used bookstore in Sidney, BC last month. Written in 1974 it gives you the ins and out of potato growing. Very helpful. Its only a small pamphlet. Im not sure where you would find this now, I did a quick google search and didn't come up with anything.

5) Make your Garden Feed You
This is an interesting book. Again, a total fluke find in a book store in Sidney,BC. Written in the 1940's during WWII to encourage people to become more self sufficient to help the war effort. A great deal of info on gardening in small spaces. He even talks about chickens and how to build appropriate coops! I like history, so this book was a must have for me.
6) Organic Gardening in Cold Climates -

I haven't had the chance to go through this in detail, but it seems like it might hold a few pearls of wisdom.

7) Cold Climate Gardening -
Another book I have yet to sit down with. Its on the shelf, looks like it might be relevant. Will get to it at some point.

Inspirational Books
1) Animal, Vegetable Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver

If you enjoy eating, and you haven't read this book, stop what you are doing, order this book online and choose expedited shipping (I know it costs more, but you need to read this book now). I have read this book 3 times, and I am gradually going through the audio books (read by the author!).

This book was my inspiration for starting a garden. She has a way of writing that allows you to smell the garlic and onions cooking on the stove, or experience the taste of fresh home made bread.

Barbara writes about her families experience living and eating locally for one year in rural Virginia. Its more than that though, she talks about food culture, raising children and about being a good neighbour.

2) Farm City - Novella Carpenter
Novella wrote a book about starting an urban farm in the ghetto, in california. She doesn't just grow tomatoes though, she has chickens, ducks, BEES, goats, pigs and rabbits. This book definitely had more of a meat slant to it than any other book I have read on this topic. She maintains a blog which you can find in my blog list. The only thing missing from her book was a few pictures of her urban farm, luckily I found them online!

3) 100 Mile Diet- Alisa Smith & JB MacKinnon

One of the earliest books in this genre. A quick enjoyable read. A bit artificial but still interesting. I don't feel sorry for people in California or British Columbia, what with their 11 month growing season..:)
4) In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
A serious look at industrial agriculture. I think this was an attempt to boil down the Omnivores Dilemma. Michael Pollan is a well known journalist on this topic, he is loaded with information and factiods. He has certainly done his research, but I find his books tough reads. He has a tendency to ramble and spew out fact after fact. If you can get by that he makes some really good points.
5) Omnivores Dilemma - Michael Pollan

One of the first books on the subject by author Michael Pollan. I really enjoyed reading this book, although I haven't quite finished it yet. I borrowed it from the Library and, of course, they wanted it back! This book focusses on Corn and Beef. Amazing. Until you start looking into these things, you would have never thought things could be so bad. Unlike the Food Inc movie, this book, which that movie is basically based on, is quite uplifting and he makes you realise that you can be the difference.

That is my reading list. If anyone is reading this as knows of other books that might fit into these categories I would love to hear about them!

Baby Basil

We bought a basil window kit for our little 3 year old to start and watch grow. So far she is enjoying it. She checks on it every day. I taught her to rotate the little pot so that the plants don't always lean to one side. We sowed them a little thick, but I will thin them out later. My plan is to transfer them to individual pots at some point and eat lots of pesto..yum.

March 15, 2010

The actual Tabla Rasa

Here is my blank slate. Not much to work with, but it is a space at least and it gets unobstructed sun from 10am until dusk for the entire growing season.
You might be a non-believer, but I have confidence in this little space of ours.
Next steps:
Building mega-box
Start seeds!

Tabla Rasa

Spring is nearly here and the anticipation for the growing season is mounting. I am in my third year of growing vegetables and I hope to have the most successful season yet. I live in the suburbs, surrounded by driveways, cars and small rectangular pieces of lawn. In this mix I will add in a 4'x24' raised bed of vegetables to include: tomatoes, pepeprs, watermelon, pole beans, cucumber, beets, radishes, carrots, onions, BASIL and another 3x6 raised bed of potatoes grown in seaweed.

My gardening experience is minimal. It all started with Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal Vegetable Miracle which I recommend to everyone that even has a remote interest in food and food culture. This motivated me to start my own garden.

My first year of gardening I bought a few packs of tomato and pepper seeds at a local garden store, not realising that for my needs I only really needed one seed package, and proceeded to start from seed a large number of these plants. I was really jumping in with both feet. I bought a grow light, seed trays and had a nice little seedling growing area. My first problem was that I started too early and my second problem was that I kept the light too high. This resulted in tall, lanky plants. The problem? Well the first time I left them outdoors I lost about 50% to a mild wind. I had even realised my mistake and tried to transplant them to a deeper pot.

We had planned on moving that year so I knew I needed to have a mobile garden. What I didn't realise was that because there was less soil, they really needed to be watered quite often. I neglected to do that so at the end of the season I had a fairly small crop. But It was a learning experience and I had fun in the process.

The second year I received a book called "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. Its a simple, no nonsense book that is perfect for the home gardener. It shows how to maximize your crop with minimal wasted space. I wanted to take things a little more carefully that year so I only did a 4x4 raised bed and a few planter boxes. I also bought ALL transplants. I bought the tomato plants at the local farmers market and the rest at a local garden centre. Overall the harvest was a massive success. I was still hoping for a larger bounty though, enough to make a few meals with! We did get lots of tomatoes and made some delicious pesto with the three basil plants we had.

So now here we are at year three of my vegetable garden. I bought a significant number of gardening books this winter season. I will post pictures of a synopsis of what I took from some of the books at some point. I read "Farm City" by Novella Carpenter and "One Hundred Mile Diet" this winter. Both worth a read.

Im planning to post pictures of Before and After the creation of my mega-box (4'x24'). Lets hope it fits on my tiny plot.

This year my plan is to have a mix of plants that I start from seed and transplants. I bought my Seeds from 3 places so far:
1) - Annapolis heritage seeds.
2) - A well known garden place in PEI
3) - A local garden centre

My transplants will come from
1) The local farmers market and
2) Sea Change Naturals (seachangenaturals AT gmail DOT com)

The potatoes are another story. I will be trying to grow potatoes using the "lazy bed" method. People have often done this using a cover of hey, but I have heard people having loads of success with seaweed (no dirt, no bugs) and since we're by the ocean, I will try it that way. I will make sure to log my progress.