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Grow $700 of Food in 100 Square Feet!

creasyThe author’s pet rooster, 15-year-old Mr. X, checks out the cool veggie garden. Photo by Rosalind Creasy

The total value of the fresh vegetables author Rosalind Creasy grew in her 100-square-foot garden in 2008 was $683.43!

By Rosalind Creasy with Cathy Wilkinson Barash
December 2009/January 2010
Mother Earth News

In 2007, I began to get lots of questions about growing food to help save money. Then, while working on my new book, Edible Landscaping, I had an aha! moment. As I was assembling statistics to show the wastefulness of the American obsession with turf, I wondered what the productivity of just a small part of American lawns would be if they were planted with edibles instead of grass.

I wanted to pull together some figures to share with everyone, but calls to seed companies and online searches didn’t turn up any data for home harvest amounts — only figures for commercial agriculture. From experience, I knew those commercial numbers were much too low compared with what home gardeners can get. For example, home gardeners don’t toss out misshapen cucumbers and sunburned tomatoes. They pick greens by the leaf rather than the head, and harvests aren’t limited to two or three times a season.

For years, I’ve known that my California garden produces a lot. By late summer, my kitchen table overflows with tomatoes, peppers and squash; in spring and fall, it’s broccoli, lettuces and beets. But I’d never thought to quantify it. So I decided to grow a trial garden and tally up the harvests to get a rough idea of what some popular vegetables can produce.

The Objective

I took a 5-by-20-foot section of garden bed by my tiny lawn to see how much I could grow in just that 100 square feet. I wanted to produce a lot of food, and because it was part of my edible landscape, it had to look good, too.

The Plants

I wanted to make this garden simple — something anyone in the United States could grow. I didn’t include fancy vegetable varieties; I chose those available at my local nursery as transplants. I also selected vegetables that are expensive to buy at the supermarket, as well as varieties that my experience has told me produce high yields.

The Big Picture

I started this garden to see what impact millions of organically grown 100-square-foot gardens would have if they replaced the equivalent acreage of lawns in this country.

According to the Garden Writers Association, 84 million U.S. households gardened in 2009. If just half of them (42 million) planted a 100-square-foot garden, that would total 96,419 acres (about 150 square miles) no longer in lawns, and no need for the tremendous resources that go into keeping them manicured. If folks got even one-half of the yields I got, the national savings on groceries would be stupendous: about $14.35 billion! So, a 100-square-foot food garden can be a big win-win for anyone who creates one — and for our planet.

See the rest of this excellent article here plus more photos.

Rosalind Creasy has been growing edibles in her beautiful northern California garden for 40 years. The expanded second edition of her landmark book, Edible Landscaping, will be released in April 2010.

Cathy Wilkinson Barash, author of 13 books, including Edible Flowers: From Garden to Palate, spent parts of the past three years working with Creasy in California . She helped document, harvest and feast from the 100-square-foot garden.