5 kg per Square Meter  or  1 Pound per Square Foot

I collect a lot of data as part of this RED
Gardens Project, I keep track of all of the yields of everything that I harvest, and all
of the time that I put into each of the gardens doing all of the various tasks. I also keep track of a lot of qualitative
information, about how the plants grew, about pest and disease pressures and about the weather. All of this information is very useful to
move around biases and preconceptions, and to challenge the assumptions that I made about
growing vegetables in this climate. It’s in the details of all this information
that I can best tease out the differences between all of the various methods that I
am trialing. But it was in a search for the broader information,
the wide view, that led me to want to develop this project in the first place. I have been fascinated by the questions of
how much food could I grow? Or, how much land do I need to provide all
of our vegetables? Or, how productive can a vegetable garden
really be in this climate. And I began to feel that having realistic
answers to these questions was a key component of making the argument that growing your own
food was an important and really useful thing to do. I’m currently managing seven family scale
gardens, each one about 100 square meters or 1000 square feet, and of these seven, five
of them are broadly comparable, because they’re all growing a range of different vegetables. Four of these are outside and one is under
the cover of a polytunnel. An additional garden is growing a much more
restricted range of vegetables, and another garden is focused more on perennial plants. I harvested a total of 514 kg of vegetables
from the Intensive Garden in the 2017 season. This is a lot of food from a garden that size, and this method of gardening has developed quite well. I did lose some crops to slugs, and rats seemed to have eaten a lot of my peas and beans from this garden. I also could have sown a lot more crops in
the early and late part of the season. So, while this past season has been quite
good, I’m hoping that next year will be even better. In comparison, I was only able to harvest
372 kg of vegetables out of the Extensive Garden in the same season. Some of this reduced yield can be explained
by the different philosophy of trying to produce the highest quality crops rather than the
greatest yield. There was also problems with the squash crop
which didn’t produce, and I had a lot of problems with slugs in my potatoes, and some
of my experiments with intercropping didn’t work out so well. So, while 2017 was a reasonable harvest, I’m hoping to be able to get a lot more out of this garden in 2018. I was only able to harvest 345 kg of vegetables
out of the No-Dig Garden in this past season. This was quite disappointing, and the main
reason was that I was transitioning from one no-dig method to another no-dig method, but
didn’t have enough compost to be able to do the job properly. So, while I did harvest a lot of food, I really
need to get my act together, before I can do any realistic comparison between this gardening
method and any of the other gardens. I was able to harvest 476 kg of vegetables
from the Polyculture Garden in this past season, which is pretty close to the yield of the
Intensive Garden, and I’m quite pleased with that as I’ve struggled with this gardening
method in the past. There’s still some work to do on building
up the soil fertility, and my skills at harvesting and intercropping can definitely be improved,
so I am expecting significantly higher yields in the coming years. The Simple Garden produced 540 kg of vegetables
last year, but it’s not really fair to compare it to the other gardens because I’m only
growing four high yielding crops. Having said that, this is a really new garden,
and the potato crops went in very late, and I haven’t really been able to work on building
up the soil fertility yet. So, I’m intrigued by how much higher the
yields from this Simple Gardening method can get. The Polytunnel Garden produced way more than
the other gardens, with 939 kg of vegetables harvested in a single season. That’s almost double the yield, simply by
growing under a sheet of plastic. I’m still growing a wide range of different
vegetables, but have been able to add in cucumbers and tomatoes that I can’t grow outside. I think it’s possible to get more than 1000
kg out of a garden like this, especially if I grow more overwintering crops, and manage
some of the watering and fertility issues that I’ve experienced over the last few
seasons. I can’t really compare the results of the
Perennial Garden with any of the other gardens, not yet anyways. But it will be interesting to see how they
compare, once the existing plants become more established, and I’m able to focus on diversifying
the range of crops that I’m growing in this garden. Looking at all the gardens again, we can see
that the Intensive Garden, the Polyculture Garden, and the Simple Garden all produced
good yields and are broadly comparable. The Extensive Garden and the No-Dig Garden
were more disappointing, and could definitely be improved, especially the No-Dig Garden. And the Polytunnel Garden is in a league of
its own. But looking at all of the outside gardens,
using a variety of different methods, we see that the average is about 450 kg or close
to 1000 pounds. And if I did my job properly, I could definitely
see this rising to almost 500 kg on average or perhaps even more. This translates to 5 kg/m2 or about a pound
per square foot, and more if you exclude the paths from within the garden. So now when I’m asked how much food can
be grown, I generally say about 5 kg/m2, in this climate at least. So, if you had a bed that was 10 m2 in your
back garden, you could expect to get about 50 kg of mixed vegetables from it in a season,
or 100 lbs from 100 ft2 of bed. You could probably grow a lot more if you
were in a better climate, or had more time to focus in the garden, or grew only higher
yielding crops. And you could probably get a lot less if you
had poor quality soil, or if there was water stresses in your area, or if you didn’t
have enough skills or decided to grow a lot of peas instead. And you could probably double that if you
decided to grow in the shelter of a poytunnel or in a greenhouse. But 5 kg/m2 or 1 lb/ft2 are nice round numbers
that are easy to work with and easy to remember. They’re equivalent to about 50 tonnes per
hectare or 22 tons per acre, which are fairly good yields. Next season, I hope to be able to harvest
6 kg/m2 on average from all of these gardens, but I do need to accept that very rarely do
we get everything right. So, for now, 5 kg/m2 is a useful number, it’s
a good place to start at least. And the reason for collecting all of this
data is not to prove how good of a gardener I can become, but to help other people grow
more of their own food. That’s the purpose of this project, and
that’s the purpose of this YouTube channel. We’ve been experiencing some crazy weather
over the last day or two as I’ve tried to get this video together. There’s a cold blast of arctic air that’s
sweeping over Europe at the moment, and it looks like it’s going to get even worse. This is probably going to delay the start
of the growing season for at least another couple of weeks. But that gives me a chance to get a couple
more videos out, including one where I talk about how much time I spend working on each
of the gardens. So, keep your eye out for that, and if you
like the work that I do, please consider becoming a patron on my Patreon Page. It also really helps if you like, share and
subscribe, but most importantly, thanks for watching.

41 thoughts on “5 kg per Square Meter or 1 Pound per Square Foot

  1. fascinating, that is quite a bit more than what I've read about before. I used to read that you needed almost an acre per person to achieve sustainability. but this sounds like 100M^2 (10×10 garden) could support a person (especially if grown in a PolyTunnel) (Not ideally of course, but do-able in a pinch)

    *note, I'm assuming a person can survive off 1kg of food a day, any extra is bonus

  2. Hi, I'm Kevin from New Leaf Urban Farmers in Ballyneety, County Limerick. We operate a no-dig market garden on one acre. I like what you are doing there. If you're interested in sharing ideas or methods please give me a shout. I can you send you my details. We're always willing to share ideas and methods based on our local climate and soil.

  3. It would be interesting to compare and contrast with Charles Dowding's numbers on his experimental plots: https://www.charlesdowding.co.uk/no-dig-growing/homeacres/.

  4. Well done with the quality of information that you are passing on. I live in New Zealand and have a 100 square metre No Dig vegetable garden on the 5th year. I run it very intensively and have been getting very good yields with next to no weeding. I encourage you on the no dig garden it was from the 3rd year we had very little work and top results. You are doing a quality job I'm sure there is a lot of us apreciating your efforts.

  5. What if you used chickens for processing your organic waste instead of you doing it yourself? And you get eggs.

  6. A raised bed 5 x 25 it is said to produce 400 lbs. I have been close hoping top reach that amount in 2018. Hoping you the best.

  7. The idea that you don’t have ducks with all those slugs is just crazy to me. Either way, I enjoy your videos a lot.

  8. Hi Bruce, could you calculate the produced food energy per area (kJ/m^2 or kcal/m^2) for your gardens? That would be interesting!
    Greetings from Germany!

  9. Really cool video Bruce. I'm tempted to ask more about how you collect and compile harvest data. Perhaps you can do a video explaining the step by step process?

  10. Hallo Bruce, thank you for another interesting video. If your polytunnel brings a much higher yield, it probably is because of the longer growing season, more crops, but how much does the warmer climate contibute to it too, you think? It would be interesting to experiment with a crop sown outside and one within a controlled climate. Carrots, leek, cabbage?

  11. It sounds like you're switching to the no dig method that I use and is championed by Charles Dowding. I'm lucky in that I make huge amounts of compost and get Maria's from whomever I can whenever I can. I'm a builder so often get materials from customers.

    Edit* you can increase yields even higher if you multi sow leeks, onions, beetroot and several other things. Last year I grew 4 rows of beetroot but multi sown, I grew 4 normal single beetroot rows the year before, and I would estimate I managed to grow on average 5 times more beetroot in the same space. I even grew them in the same place in the same bed.

  12. Great video! I would be very interested to see the time put in for the each area, to see if putting in more time equals an increase in produce. I'm not sure if I'm explaining it right. Say for example you put in 100 hours into the no dig garden produces x-kg of food, compared to 100 hours in the extensive garden produces y-kg

  13. If you swapped out the context of discussing gardening with some technical science. It would sound like you are giving a TedTalk. I really enjoy your passion and energy for what you do. Thank you

  14. Great video as always can I ask what veriety of Leeks did you grow in the intensive garden they looked really big in the video

  15. My method of No Dig is with potatoes I use Pea straw on the rest of the beds I use 2 cubic metres of compost I grow a lot of Comfrey and at the start of season I use my grass clippings. In the past I have used hedge that has been chipped . This year I am adding green crop on areas that I have decided to not to replant in . I will do the chop and drop method.
    In the past I did one season where we did a price comparison of kgs taken out of garden and compared it to the supermarket. The savings was awesome, so we now put that money away and go on holiday each year. I look forward to watching and learning from your project.

  16. I'm fascinated with all the numbers you're getting. I would definitely be interested in seeing how many hours each garden took.

  17. Thanks for the amazingly detailed information! Do you have any sense of what the yields could be in a zone11 place like southern India? I live in Bangalore, where the climate is year-round perfect, and soil conditions are pretty good as well, with about 1000mm of annual rainfall. am just beginning my journey in this field, and there isnt anyone around here who has put out the kind of material that you are doing

  18. Hello from Portugal. I am starting a 50 square meters garden and I like to watch your videos to feel inspired. I think my main issue will be the pests because the climate here is warm and humid. But I hope I will be able to manage that.

  19. I haven't watched all of your videos, perhaps you've addressed this. Why did you chose to do a project like this in Ireland, rather than Canada. I think you've had great results, harvests look great, never mind the potatoes. 🙂

  20. Just subscribed, thank you, the videos are awesome. I really appreciate the scientific and objective approach you take with your endeavors and explanations.

  21. If you added a Brix meter to your arsenal and could see the differences in nutrient density between the different gardens that would be really interesting.. I know they are pricy and there are lots of things that you would probably spend the money on but maybe a university or someone in your area could loan you one? Just an idea.. I’m binge watching your videos and loving them all . I’m sharing them on my local fb groups here in the Vancouver area as I’m sure we have a similar climate here. 👍🏻👍🏻

  22. Hi, love your channel thanks for doing these experiments and sharing it with us. Any thoughts on comparing the nutritional content of your different gardens?

  23. are you. In Ireland? It’s wonderful how people from different countries can help us more than our next door neighbors, even if they garden also and know you’re struggling with the garden or different issues, Thank you for giving your information freely! God Bless You and your family and may He Bless your efforts in gardening

  24. Hey, just wondering if you ran the numbers to work out Kg per sq meter for different plants? I'm growing pumpkins right now and they are taking up so much space for so few pumpkins. I can't help but wonder if potatoes would be more productive.

  25. I'm a bit confused. Surely the polytunnel itself insn't 100m2?! Probably more like 40m2?! And yet it produced almost double the yield of your other 100m2 gardens? Thats pretty amazing!

  26. Your leeks look amazing, is there a secret to it? Mine grew like really big onions but not huge like yours did. The soil was OK, watering ok but not as much as I would've liked and the lighting was a bit less than ideal. It was planted in the mid summer and I think the heat stunned it.

  27. great video, sure will do something similar on my garden, just that my scale its just a few feets! have you done anything similar for 2018?

  28. In my allotment garden I did a variation of no-dig. What I found is that yes the yields were relatively low. But I was satisfied with the method because it was very little work for me. As a woman with little time or strength or even taste for gardening, it was wonderful for me to be able to harvest anything at all after having done little more than sheet mulch (with straw, no cardboard or paper), dropping seeds in the ground, and pretty much ignoring things until it was time to harvest. The ground was plowed in the spring prior to my beginning the garden, but I never dug or watered. The most work I did was to string a bit of trellis for tomatoes to climb.
    I checked the garden about once a week, just to observe progress and guide the tomatoes up their string, which took less than ten minutes. I grew tomatoes, potatoes, peas, corn, and leafy greens. I think my garden would have produced much more if it hadn't been so shaded by a nearby giant oak tree, but that was the allotment I got. I was pleased with my progress compared to other gardeners because my soil stayed moist and much softer than neighbors whose exposed soil became so dry and hard you couldn't stick a shovel into it, much less a finger. I had abundant earthworms, and they did not. Our soil was somewhat heavy with clay.

    My point is only that "highest yield possible" is not always the only value. I needed "highest yield possible while basically not working at it". The fact that we ate anything, let alone so many tasty meals, out of such little effort is wonderful to me, and I would be happy to do it again someday. I was always surprised to hear my neighbors dissing my garden, though, as being unsightly or pathetic compared to theirs. But I thought them foolish for expending so many hours of exhausting work or expensive gadgets to achieve a mere double what I did.

    Today I wouldn't diss anyone who wanted to work hard to have a productive garden. I only like to remind people that productivity per square foot isn't the only metric. Productivity per calorie of effort matters too. As does productivity per dollar spent.

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