I like to read gardening books, but I must admit that I skim over all of the generic information I’ve read a thousand times. You know, the 20 or 30 or 40 pages taken up with “Understanding Your Zones” or the obvious advice to grow everything in full sun.
At this point, I’m looking for something more from a gardening book. Which isn’t to say that every page has to contain totally unique, never before written word of wisdom. But it really helps if an author has a unique perspective and real-world advice.
So it is with great pleasure that I can recommend The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming by Jean-Martin Fortier (affiliate link). To paraphrase the book’s subtitle, this is a step-by-step guide for folks who want to do organic farming on a small piece of land. The book really is geared to commercial growers, but there is a ton of good advice for those of us planting and harvesting in our backyards.
For example, Fortier speaks extensively about forgoing large machinery that is both expensive and unnecessary on a small plot. And while I don’t think I’ll be purchasing one of the European-made 2-wheeled tractors he recommends, I am intrigued by the thought of a tiller that can be powered by a hand drill. Apparently this is an idea that was first conceived by Eliot Coleman, but has since developed a life of it’s own. I found several Websites with information and products for sale, including Johnny Seeds.
But what I most appreciated about The Market Gardener was the detailed advice on how to grow intensively. The truth is that as a home gardener with a small urban lot I simply don’t have the room for a large garden. So I need to learn ways to get more produce out of every square inch of my small planting area.
High production in a small space is exactly what Jean-Martin Fortier excels at. So I was happy to read about the specifics of his fertilization program. Will I copy it exactly? No. But he gives me enough information to extrapolate measurements for my own needs.
Fortier also provides detailed charts of his crop rotations. And it was a revelation to realize how many of his crops are grown under floating row covers and insect netting. But the information I loved best was the “intensive spacing” advice he gives for each vegetable that he grows. You can bet, that when I do my mesclun bed this year I’ll be using his advice and placing my rows 2 ¼ inches apart, with seeds spaced every ½ inch. I’ll let you know how it works out!