Sunday, 11 November 2007

Growing your food in containers - how much for your self-sufficiency?

Suppose you have a 10m wide balcony
You grow your vegetables for your house-needs and ask:
How much is possible for your self-sufficiency?

1) First, our story (after our first year of harvests, a small-scale container experiment) growing food on your balcony
In 2007 we grew:
4 tomato plants (one per container), several containers of lettuce in spring and now in autumn, as well as radish, turnips, endive and rucula; 1 container with two peppers (few ones), 1 of potatoes (only for a week), 2 containers with peas, 2 with chickpeas, 2 with lentils (which were enough for 2 meals each, the usual for a week); only one container with strawberries which gave a very small but tasty crop, 4 brocculi, 2 eggplants which gave very small yields, some leeks and this was my humble first year experience. Some things had plenty of success and nice yields, other not so much but we were also not putting many expectations. This is more of a hobby and a soulful artistic activity for me.

2) Our plans for a realistic 1month self-sufficiency in a balcony (1 year growing) Edible container gardening
Clearly it depends on how much food you use, and on your diet
But we suppose a good uninterreupted harvest of veggies over a entire month, for a good supply (maybe lets say aprox more than half of your food comes from the garden)
I will try a small experience this year.
Grow in my 10x1m balcony vegetables for a month self-sufficiency (indeed the experiment is already running and greens coming to our meals!)
Unfortunely my lovely soul-mate and companion love is living abroad and will only follow this at distance ...
Helder I hope you fell also inspired by this!
And the same applies to many of you dear readers you come here for observing my funny nature-dedicated hobby!

I plan for the following:
6 containers of tomatoes, 2 with eggplants (half-month), 2 containers with peppers, 1 with a courgette and 1 bigger with potatoes, 2-3 containers with peas, 3 with lentils, 2 with broculli or cauliflower, 3 containers with turnips, 4 with lettuce and a few others with other salad greens, 2 with leeks, 2 with dozens of garlics, 2 full of radish, 3 of strawberries, 1 with kohi rabi and maybe adquire a few more berries (i am falling in love with their diversity)

... and maybe i am being overly optimistic!
But I remembered from the book conversations with god this important idea: Serve nature and Life, and you're serving the purpose of your life, and of yourself and all other beings

and this way we also aim at a more natural and soulfull way of living...

3) Lastly:

How many containers to grow for a one year self-sufficiency?
How many plants for true self-sufficiency? (Of course lets assume a continuous sowing and growing for a continuous supply over a year, which in some cases is not very easy, since some plants do not grow in cold weather such as tomatoes, and would need greenhouses. The key is clearly vegetable storage, which will spoken of on another day)

The total of containers for a year in underlined:
Tomatoes (sun facing walls, rich soil): 6 plants for summer epoch, meditteranean climates (and 18 others, for spring, autumn and winter, in greehouse or indoors), 24 in total, 1 plant per container
Eggplant (lots of heat and sun, rich soil): 4 plants for a epoch (16 in a year), 1 plant per container
Peppers (lots of heat and sun, rich soil): 24 containers of two plants, 2 per every month
Courgette (1-2 per big container): 12 big containers for a year?
Potatoes (2-3 plants per big container): 12 big containers for a year?
Fruit trees: not suitable for containers, try berries instead (3 containers with different berrie bushes should supply you with a good crop already)
Strawberries: at least 4 flat containers with some plants, for solely a spring-summer harvest
Garlics: 12 containers, each containing a dozen bulbs, should be enough
Leeks: 24 containers, each with a few plants, should be enough
Peas: 18 containers, sow 3 containers (4plants each) every two months
Lentils: lets assume, could be 6 containers (4plants each) for 2 months, that is a total of 18 for a year
Brocculi: these you can grow 2 plants per container for half month, grow 2 containers for month, 24 in total?
Cauliflower: never tried, but assume also 24 in total
Cabbages: does not grow well in containers, try 24 big containers for a year supply ?
Radish: sow 2 containers full of them every month, 24 in total
Lettuce: sow a dozen plants (4 containers), every month, 48 in total
Turnips: sow 3 containers every month, 36 in total (some for greens, some for bulbs)
Endive: 1 per month, 12 in total
Rucula: 1 per month, 12 in total, and as a note grow also some other very tasty less-known greens
Spinach: 2 per month, or 24 in total or maybe more
Beans, chick peas: not much experience with these; grow in big containers about 2 plants, and assume 5 containers are ok for a month, so some 50-60 containers should be ok!
Carrots: like parsnips (which even require more depth of soil), carrot is hard one for containers, try in deep containers (otherwise you will have only baby carrots, which nevertheless are very tasty), two containers is probably enough for a month, so assume 24 in total
Cereals: we have just harvest one container and gave the seeds to birds, lets assume 5 containers give not more than 2 week supply, 120 containers for a year? (lol)
Rice: ehehe, we tried but with no success!, but assume 50 drown containers and probably more for a year
Herbs (medicinal or aromatic): one container of proper size per each species is more than enough - these are the easiest to grow

Not counting with herbs or cereals, assume nearly 450 containers for your self-sufficiency! This should not disencounrage you, since this is equivalent to the space found on a small yard and is about only about 100 containers per epoch which perfectly fits on my 10m balcony.
Extrapolating, a small yard could in fact easily sustain true self-sufficiency for a person over a year, and possibly for a family, provide that soil was deeply cared and compost added every epoch. A row of 20-30 cereals should provide a supply for a year, but how am I to know about that since I have never attempted.

But as far as Permaculture is regarded, we should try the hardest we can to keep cooperation with nature, a equilibrium in the soil and with wild life and never commit the big mistake of our ancestors of over-explotation of soils and lands!

Love for all, Paulo

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