“GROW MORE FOOD,” the book I wrote with Brad Halm, is for people who are intent on getting as much food as possible from their gardens, whatever the size of their plot. Our knowledge is drawn from a background in small- and large-acreage farming, as well as in backyard gardening.
After years working on a variety of diversified vegetable farms, we launched a home gardening business. Since 2007, we’ve been running this business, Seattle Urban Farm Company, which helps homeowners, restaurants and communities grow their own food. We’ve taken the systems and practices used by professional growers and adapted them for use at the scale of a home garden.
There are many reasons a home gardener might want to implement the strategies described in this book. It might be that you simply want to be more efficient with your time and resources. Or feed your household from the garden year-round. Perhaps you’d like to set up a miniature farm stand by the mailbox for supplemental income, sell a few vegetables at your local farmers market, coordinate a community garden or prepare for the zombie apocalypse.
No matter what your goals are, the strategies and techniques described in our book will help you approach your garden like a small-scale farm, dramatically increasing its productivity. Focusing on production means that your plot will need more careful planning, record keeping and management than a typical backyard vegetable garden.
In our experience, the most successful growers have a decidedly positive way of thinking about their gardens. Although intensive food production is challenging, these growers understand that you are most successful when you find joy in the process itself. They don’t allow the inevitable struggles to tarnish their experience.
There is no doubt that intensive food production is hard work and can be exhausting and frustrating. Crops will fail, seasons will be unexpectedly hot or cold, and more insects than you imagined possible eventually will cross your path. One day you might find yourself screaming obscenities and flapping your arms in the air like a deranged chicken in response to a Colorado potato beetle outbreak. However, it’s essential to seek creative ways of overcoming these challenges and to find joy in the simple pleasure of doing a little better each season. A successful grower recognizes the highs and lows as part of the agreement to work with nature.
To be successful and to improve their growing systems year after year, gardeners must relish the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and from the vagaries of nature. Observation and knowledge are key in this process: Farmers understand that learning how their crops grow and how the plants respond to their care is vital to their livelihood and well-being. It is in embracing this interaction and the give-and-take with nature that makes food production so captivating and rewarding.
Anyone can become an artist in the garden. No matter the size of your plot, you’ll find that as your knowledge and experience grow, so will your yields and your love of food production.