Episode 262. Self Reliance ~ How much garden?

This is The ChangeUnderground for the 28th of June 2021.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

I begin this week with a big shout out to Tara and Kendall. They took advantage of the “Buy Me a Coffee” facility on the website to, not surprisingly, buy me some coffees. I am deeply appreciative of their decision to chip in to help keep this [podcast on the air. If this idea appeals to you there’s a link in the show notes and on worldorganicnews.com. Thanks again Tara and Kendall.

So just how much garden do we need to feed ourselves? This will vary with climate, soil, aspect and so on to the point where the following exercise is almost pointless but not quite.

I’m assuming a relatively temperate climate with the ability to have plants in the ground for most if not all of the year. I am also assuming an integration of plants and animals. At this stage I’m focusing on a suburban backyard type situation. This is useful for larger sites too. It could represent the first year’s garden on new smallholding to get food happening while the other systems are being set up. Keeping that in mind I will be referring to the backyard throughout this episode. I will be quoting areas in square metres. To convert to square feet for those working in the Imperium one square metre is just under 11 square feet. If you work on ten to one, the maths are easier and the result will be close enough.

Case Study

A Suburban Backyard: 600m2 less house, garage and garden/play area for the kiddies leaves 200m2 for a ChangeUnderground garden system.

Alternatively, a tiny house on say 250 m2 would allow an individual/couple to live reasonably well and have surpluses to sell.

But back to suburbia!

Aim of the exercise: To feed a family of four, some surplus to swap or sell.     

Animals: Earthworms and Hens.    

Plants: Maize, Rye Corn, vegetables, herbs, raspberries, apples, apricots, plums.    

Assuming 400m2  for the house, garage and children’s play area leaves 200m2 for food production. If we allow 10% for paths etc, this gives us 180m2 for rabbits, chickens, worms and veggies. Soft fruit and espaliered fruit trees can be placed along fences. This may seem a small area but worked intensively and with thought, it can be very productive.

The garden beds themselves are 15m x 0.9m with beds back to back and a 20cm walkway between these.

I’d see room for 1 chicken unit on 1 worm bed, and 12 garden beds.

The chicken unit would be either a chook tractor moved along a bed planted out with parrot mix or a long run covering the bed. The parrot mix will provide a variety of feed for the hens, maintain soil life and add variety to the system. 

The chicken unit provides 2 dozen eggs per week.    

The chicken tractor maintains the 12 garden beds. There are in total 13 beds with the chickens feeding on one of these rotating across the other 12 over time.

Now to those 12 garden beds. 12 in use at any one time amounts to 24 production cycles. 12 summer crops, 12 winter. As a general rule of thumb, planting are made on the Spring and Autumn equinoxes. In practice, seedlings are placed into the beds as each bed is harvested. Everything not eaten by humans is fed to the chickens and worms.    

Garden Bed Patterns

Bed    Summer        Used By              Winter              Used By    

1    Sweet Corn    Humans/Stock    Broad Beans    Humans/Stock    

2    Sweet Corn    Humans/Stock    Broad Beans    Humans/Stock    

3    Tomato              Humans              Rye Corn              Humans/Stock    

4    Tomato              Humans              Rye Corn              Humans/Stock    

5    Zucchini              Humans/Stock    Peas              Humans/Stock    

6    Squash              Humans/Stock    Peas              Humans/Stock    

7    Beans              Humans/Stock    Carrots              Humans/Stock    

8    Herbs              Humans/Stock    Carrots              Humans/Stock    

9    Rye Corn       Humans/Stock    Vetch              Stock    

10    Rye Corn       Humans/Stock    Vetch              Stock    

11    Potato              Humans/Stock    Kale              Humans/Stock    

12    Potato           Humans/Stock    Kale              Humans/Stock    


You could reasonably replace the sweet corn with flour corn for pancakes and cornbread and so on. This might mean a change of diet but that might not be such a bad thing. The Rye Corn would mean black bread or you could use it for chook feed or replace it with wheat. Swings and roundabouts.

Possible variations:

Of the 13 beds, if say 7 were rabbit tractors you could keep about 105 angoras giving 105 kilos a year @ $100 a kilo plus sales of veggies or fruit could give a modest income of around $20,000. With clever marketing and some value adding the angora rabbits could return closer to $400 a kilo. Such value adding would include spinning and knitting/felting/weaving.

You could opt to house the rabbits in the shed and use all 13 beds for crops. The rabbit hutches could be placed over worm bins and the vermicompost used to top dress the beds. This would mean more use of the wheelbarrow but that would be your choice. 

With the application of a little thought, 200 m2 can be brought into productivity and maybe even to create an income. At the very least, you can replace 90% of your food bill on this small piece of land. No-dig methods would lead to improved productivity over time as you grow soil over the years.

If you’d like to start your gardening adventure and life time of astonishing insights go to the website: https://worldorganicnews.com/freeebook/ and you can obtain a free copy of the eBook outlining The ChangeUnderground No-Dig Gardening System.

If you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions, I opened a Facebook group. I’ve called it, imaginatively, ChangeUnderground Podcast Group. You can search on the Book of Faces or there’s a link in the show notes and in the transcript over at WorldOrganicNews.com/episode262. 

Following the crash a month or so ago, I’m slowly adding the transcripts for the back catalog so thank you for your patience.

Decarbonise the air and Recarbonise the soil.

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.




The ChangeUnderground Academy No-Dig Gardening Course:


FREE eBook: https://worldorganicnews.com/freeebook/

email: jon@worldorganicnews.com


Bubugo Conservation Trust


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