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How to Grow More Vegetables (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land with Less Water Than You Can Imagine

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The world's leading resource on biointensive, sustainable, high-yield organic gardening is thoroughly updated throughout, with new sections on using 12 percent less water and increasing compost power.

Long before it was a trend, How to Grow More Vegetables brought backyard ecosystems to life for the home gardener by demonstrating sustainable growing methods for spectacular organic produce on a small but intensive scale. How to Grow More Vegetables has become the go-to reference for food growers at every level, whether home gardeners dedicated to nurturing backyard edibles with minimal water in maximum harmony with nature's cycles, or a small-scale commercial producer interested in optimizing soil fertility and increasing plant productivity. In the ninth edition, author John Jeavons has revised and updated each chapter, including new sections on using less water and increasing compost power.

250 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1979

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John Jeavons

6 books17 followers

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5 stars
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300 (18%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 159 reviews
242 reviews3 followers
November 15, 2016
This book is for you if:

1) You are planning a trip to Mars and need a self-contained food-producing system.

2) You are prepping for the zombie apocalypse and need to grow every scrap of your own food and compost to maintain soil fertility.

3) You are a nerd who had read too many gardening books that reference Grow Biointensive, and want to know what it actually is (that's me!)

This book isn't for you if:

1) You want to grow more vegetables. Most of the book is about growing grain -- both for eating and because it produces a bunch of stuff you can compost to maintain soil fertility without external inputs.

2) You don't live on a ton of space. The book estimates you need 4000 square feet per person to sustainably grow their food. They suggested devoting only 10% of that to vegetables, or 400 square feet per person. There are six people in my family. We don't have anything like 24,000 square feet of growing space. We'd be doing amazing to hit their 10% estimate (2,400 square feet) and grow all our own veggies.

3) And on the heels of that last one, this book isn't for people with children. None of the charts estimate how much space you need to feed a child. And the claim that you can grow all your own food part-time is nice (IIRC, 14 hours/week), but when I multiply that out (84 hours/week) it's laughable for my family. Given that this is supposed to be a book for feeding generation after generation of people on limited space, it's still weird to me that there's no mention of kids, or how the higher-calorie demands of say, nursing or pregnancy fit into this scheme, either.

4) Following up on the time concerns, the authors talk a good deal about how easy it is to integrate growing all your own food into your daily life, but they don't actually do it: "We still take a neighborly ribbing for racing down to the farmers' markets to buy sweet corn, carrots, and other vegetables and fruits to feed an extended family of staff, apprentices, interns, and friends at our research site. Research priorities often interfere with growing all our vegetables and fruits. It is difficult to research, write, publish, teach, do outreach around the world -- and farm -- all at the same time!"

It seems that growing grains is significantly more time-consuming than the authors claim, especially, I'd think, if you follow their advice to start in flats and transplant the wheat.

5)You don't live in complete isolation. It's kind of a pity that the book talks so much about growing your own compost, but never talks about the free, local resources many people have that could be put to the same end and diverted from landfills (like neighbor's autumn leaves).

6) You like animals. This book is very against livestock of all kinds, citing that cows take up lots of acreage, and then ignores critters like chickens, who take up very little space and eat/compost kitchen scraps and garden pests.

7) You like simple. This...isn't simple. Remember that bit about transplanting wheat?

8) You like history. They mention the Maya a few times, with no citations -- largely to prove that Grow Biointensive is rooted in the past:

"The Mayan culture [sic] in Guatemala survived when other civilizations around them faded. They did this, in part, through neighborhood biologically intensive food-raising. No one knows why this very skilled and intelligent culture eventually disappeared. There are many possibilities, including disease, but one is that the food-raising practices may not have been used with full sustainability."

"Biologically intensive farming dates back to four thousand years ago in China, two thousand years in Greece, and one thousand years ago in Latin America. In fact, the Mayan culture [sic, again] grew food this way at their homes on a neighborhood basis. This is one of the reasons their culture survived when others around them were collapsing."

So...the Maya still exist. I hate that they're here, claiming they "disappeared" when there are still millions of Maya, speaking dozens of Mayan languages. And I have no idea where their claims of how they farmed comes from. Kitchen vegetable gardens are common in many civilizations around the world, but archaeologists are still trying to figure out how the Classic Maya fed their civilizations and even which crops predominated (corn or cassava). I'm not sure what neighboring, contemporary civilizations they're talking about collapsing, either. Given that there aren't any citations, I'm 95% sure they haven't researched it, but tossed in "The Maya used something like this" to try to boost their own credibility.

Okay. That made it sound like I hated the book. I did disagree with a lot of it, and I really don't like their off-handed, no-citations history. Despite that, this was still an interesting read for me because of other books I've read. I can now understand how other authors modified this method, or parts of it, to develop gardening techniques much better suited to their situations. I suppose I now know why everyone references this book, but so few authors advocate actually using it.

Profile Image for Sally.
118 reviews2 followers
April 2, 2016
I want to really like this book because I like the idea of gardening it´s built on, and it´s got lots of rigorous info based on an experimental gardening, and it gives me hope that one day I will be able to harvest some vegetables, but then it starts talking about planting by the phases of the moon because tides, or using crystal patterns to decide what to plant where, and I go ???? and start to wonder if any of it is good science.
Profile Image for Montana.
15 reviews5 followers
May 18, 2016
I found this book too dense for my needs, and overflowing with unnecessary philosophy & anecdotes.

The original release was in the '70s. I attribute most of what I find overwhelming about this book to the fact that books of that era fulfilled a different purpose than books do today. In fact, "How to Grow More Vegetables" reminds me a bit of of the "Whole Earth Catalogue" and Ann Wigmore's "Recipes for Longer Life."

Anyways. If you're looking for a direct step-by-step, this is not it.
Profile Image for Missy Ivey.
524 reviews29 followers
February 16, 2022
Originally published in 1974.
I've read this book 3 times already and have it all marked up and highlighted throughout. It's the perfect reference and organic gardening motivation book. Down to earh and simple to read. Love it!
Profile Image for Maureen.
726 reviews85 followers
August 8, 2008
I am a big, big fan of this book. In my varied career as a gardener, I have tilled soil everywhere from rooftop boxes in Canada, to an herb garden at a historic house in Georgia, to a market garden in West Virginia. I have found this book to be absolutely indispensible. It describes growing using the bio-intensive method, first championed by British gardening genius Alan Chadwick, and further developed in California by John Jeavons and the folks at Ecology Action.

One distinguishing aspect of bio-intensive gardening is soil preparation. The beds are deeply dug, using the "double dug" method. While this method is very labor intensive, preparing garden beds so that the soil is loosened two feet down gives the plant roots room to expand, and the plants to thrive. Another characteristic of bio-intensive gardening is that the plantings are not laid out in straight lines. Instead, the seeds or seedlings are laid out in a pattern where each plant has an amount of space between it and the surrounding plants in a grid pattern. Since the double dug beds are higher than the surrounding land, it is possible to even plant on the sides of the mounded earth. This results in a much more efficient use of the land.

Also included are very comprehensive charts for vegetables and garden crops; grain, protein and vegetable oil crops. and cover, organic matter, and fodder crops. Using the information in this book, anyone can grow a flourishing garden organically. For more information on growing bio-intensively, go to http://www.growbiointensive.org/
Profile Image for Crown Publishing.
51 reviews3,522 followers
May 4, 2012
Decades before the terms “eco-friendly” and “sustainable growing” entered the vernacular, How to Grow More Vegetables demonstrated that small-scale, high-yield, all-organic gardening methods could yield bountiful crops over multiple growing cycles using minimal resources in a suburban environment. The concept that John Jeavons and the team at Ecology Action launched more than 40 years ago has been embraced by the mainstream and continues to gather momentum. Today, How to Grow More Vegetables, now in its fully revised and updated 8th edition, is the go-to reference for food growers at every level: from home gardeners dedicated to nurturing their backyard edibles in maximum harmony with nature’s cycles, to small-scale commercial producers interested in optimizing soil fertility and increasing plant productivity. Whether you hope to harvest your first tomatoes next summer or are planning to grow enough to feed your whole family in years to come, How to Grow More Vegetables is your indispensable sustainable garden guide.
Profile Image for Wayne.
39 reviews12 followers
December 31, 2007
Despite everything Steve Solomon said in Gardening when it counts (and what I said in my review of it), this is a great book. It explains to the beginner from start to finish how to make a great organic garden. Even if you already know everything about plant and ecology, you'll still want this book simply for the charts that have been compiled by Ecology Action. They tell you not just how far apart to plant your seeds or transplants (using the biointensive method), they give estimated yields year-by-year, estimated seed required, etc. And since all the figures are based on the biointensive 100-square-foot raised bed, it makes for easy calculations, even when planning a garden using other methods (with a bit of adjustment). It's an invaluable gardening reference.
39 reviews
April 13, 2016
This was cool. I learned a lot about preparing the soil, transplanting, etc. but I am not advanced enough to take its advice for making a totally sustainable homestead. Neat though and great food for thought. Maybe next year!
279 reviews3 followers
August 5, 2019
I think I know less about gardening after finishing this book than before I started.

There are about three useful chapters in this book: one about compost, one about preparing raised beds, and one about companion planting (and that one is a little weak). The rest of this book is a repetitive advertisement for the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method, which we all need to adopt because the world will be unable to feed itself using traditional methods by 2020. (Naturally, I'm frantic. It's 2019 and I don't even have 4000 square feet per family member, let alone know how to garden it. However, this book was no help, and I'll have to mail away for more GROW BIODIVERSE materials to fully prepare for the coming vegapocolypse.)

I was really hoping to learn more about how to grow stuff together in my tiny 120 square ft garden, but I'll have to find another book to help me with that. According to this book I need to grow wheat and alfalfa for no reason other than to create compost to grow wheat and alfalfa in.

it was also riddled with strange errors. For example, he provides a sample template of a family garden that grows over the course of 5 years, and for four of those years, he grows tomatoes in the exact same spot. Is that not poor crop rotation? Now I'm confused. Was that an error, or can one grow tomatoes in the same spot for 4 years without disease buildup?

Some other fantastic stuff in this book: planting by the phases of the moon. Because the gravity makes roots pop out. How to mash up and crystallize plants to see if they will grow well together. Seriously: I question the entire companion planting science now that I've read this.

a good chunk of this book is dedicated to "master charts" which describe how many calories you can get per square foot if you plant these recommended vegetables. Amazing if you're preparing for the apocalypse, pretty useless for those of us who measure our produce by item count and plant by food ingredient, not caloric density.

If you want to learn how to grow stuff in a small amount of space using an intensive method, I recommend literally any other offering on the market.
Profile Image for Kali.
216 reviews
March 15, 2018
I didn’t really get much out of this book yet. The text-heavy chapters of this book are all over the place, covering history, science, and a lot of trying to convince the reader that organic farming methods are the way to go. I don’t need that convincing, so I didn’t find those sections very useful. I was really looking for practical tips to improve my gardening practices, and I feel like this book hints at them rather than providing clear blueprints. There are tons of charts with information about companion planting, spacing, and more, but they are somewhat hard to decipher. I plan to spend some more time with those to see if I can pull something useful out of this.
Profile Image for C.E. Murphy.
Author 77 books1,739 followers
March 27, 2013
I'm not even a gardener (though I have ambitions), and this book was really just completely fascinating to read. I have no idea if everybody would find it so interesting, but wow, I'd think if you have any impulse toward gardening at all, you want to read this one.
Profile Image for John.
329 reviews4 followers
May 15, 2022
It is impossible to review a book such as this one in a comprehensive manner without putting the information it contains into practice, so I reserve the right to revise my opinions in the future. That having been said, this nearly 50-year work in progress contains a wealth of information which will be increasingly useful as we enter into a post-peak oil world and people everywhere are under pressure to provide for their own needs using increasingly diminished resources. John Jeavons illustrates, as the rather long-winded full title makes clear, that almost anyone almost anywhere with access to a small patch of land can engage in fully organic subsistence farming without relying on artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or inordinate quantities of water or other resources. If enough people put these techniques into practice the results could shake the agriculture industry to its core.

The following quote, found in one of the appendices, neatly summarizes the author's viewpoint: "Chemical agriculture requires ever-increasing amounts of fertilizer at an increasing cost as petroleum supplies dwindle. The use of chemical fertilizers depletes beneficial microbial life, breaks down soil structure, and adds to soil salinity. Impoverished soil makes crops more vulnerable to disease and insect attack and requires increasing amount of pesticides to sustain production. 'A modern agriculture, racing one step ahead of the apocalypse, is not ecologically sane, no matter how productive, efficient, or economically sound it may seem.' Biointensive agriculture can sustain yields because it puts back into the soil those elements needed to sustain fertility. A small-scale personal agriculture recycles the nutrients and humus so important to the microbial life-forms that fix atmospheric nitrogen and produce disease-preventing antibiotics."

This books touch not only on the philosophy and general principles, but gives practical advice for what to plant, when to plant, and how to plant; how to control pests and disease; and even provides plans for how to construct the tools which will help facilitate the work described. A gem of a reference!
Profile Image for DelAnne Frazee.
2,027 reviews18 followers
June 7, 2017
Title: How to Grow More Vegetables, and Fruits, Nuts Berries, Grains and Crops - 9th Editions
Author: John Jeavons
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Published: 7-25-2017
Pages: 264
Genre: Home & Gardening
Sub-Genre: Garden Beds
ISBN: 978-0-997123-93-7
ASIN: B01M5I294G
Reviewed For: Net Galley & the Publisher
Reviewer: DelAnne
Rating: 5 Stars

Small or big. How to make the most of the space you have. Choosing between rows and raised beds. How to prepare the soil and maintain it Whether you are a novice or expert gardener, you will want a copy of How to Grow More Vegetables in your Gardening Library. Abundant information and guides for the gardener to learn from.

My rating is 5 out of 5 stars.

Amazon Links: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M5I294G/...

B&N Link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/how-...

GoodReads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...

The Reading Room Link: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.ph...

Twitter Link: https://twitter.com/DelAnne531/status...
Profile Image for Karen Mahtin.
200 reviews2 followers
March 7, 2018
I've owned 3 editions of this book, and I finally read the new edition on the Kindle. Great information about double digging as a way to prepare garden beds. I learned this technique from a friend who attended one of the workshops that Jeavons and co. offer, and we grew wonderful produce. There are some things in the book that could use updating/translation, like how he calls what's now commonly called a broadfork a "U-bar." What really bothered me here is his tendency to guess at future statistics about carbon increases in the soil, for instance, and then to make charts about these statistics as if they were true facts. More research and actual data are needed. There are some useful charts based on his experience growing vegetables, grains, etc.

The amount of physical labor required, from double-digging to removing all cover crop residue for composting, is daunting and, I'd argue, unrealistic for Americans who are not used to or able to do such heavy labor (I know that I personally was barely able to do it in my twenties but won't even attempt it in my 40's due to arthritis, injuries, etc). Oh, and starting cover crops from seed sounds appealing and effective, except for the labor in transplanting.
Profile Image for Shaun.
10 reviews
May 26, 2017
Great book if you are interested in an intro to some sort of organic gardening! This one got me started, and I still refer to it very regularly. It is very labor intensive, but also doesn't require any mechanization of any sort. He even provides very detailed plans for starting out. The claims on amount of labor are exaggerated, but the other claims such as 66% reduction in watering and 2-4 times yields per unit of area I have found to be very true. He doesn't address the weed management problem in a very realistic manner, just from a bit of idealism and prevention, but I've seen a huge reduction in pests and weeds simply by using the growing patterns, spacing, and companion planting that he suggests. The overall his technique is very refreshing... and it takes the generalized approach of inviting in beneficial biology into your growing areas.

The layout of the book leaves a little to be desired, and the information isn't uniformly presented particularly with the charts. This makes its use as a reference a bit awkward. I wish he had spreadsheets available online with this information.
Profile Image for Beth.
913 reviews21 followers
September 15, 2017
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, provided by the author and/or the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The title of this one is a bit misleading. While ONE of the end-goals of the information presented in this book is to help gardeners and small-scale farmers grow more vegetables in a small space with less water, it's certainly not presented as the main one. The main one would be: building soil health in a natural and sustainable way, to lengthen the longevity of our soils, reduce the need for artificial and harmful fertilizers and pesticides, and then, YES, to increase yields. Don't get me wrong, I found this book to be hugely informative and important. But for novice gardeners who are just getting their green thumbs in the dirt, I think a lot of this book would go over their heads - it's incredibly in-depth, scientific, and dense.

TL;DR: Great, well-researched and hugely important information, but needs a more accurate title.
Profile Image for Aleksandar.
121 reviews3 followers
November 12, 2019
If you ever needed a tried and successful vegetable gardening blueprint to copy - this would be it.

There's plenty of information on growing rich soil, crop rotations, companion planting and many other techniques that have stood the test of decades in the field. Instructions are clear and there's very little room for error, but plenty of room for customization.

Beginner's might seem overwhelmed by the amount of information, but it's possible to implement as much as you feel comfortable at the time. I would say the book is more geared towards Intermediate gardeners, while Advanced gardeners will still find a thing or two to learn from it.

If I was on the lookout for shortcomings, then the (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) part can easily be dropped from the title. The book discusses vegetable growing deeply, and while it is true that most of these techniques can be applied in theory to other crops, there is no practical guidance on how to do it.
Profile Image for Lynndell.
1,473 reviews1 follower
September 1, 2017
Thanks to NetGalley and Ten Speed Press for the opportunity to read and review How to Grow More Vegetables, ninth edition, by John Jeavons. How to Grow More Vegetables should possibly be named How to Grow More Crops. This gardening instructional guide covers soil preparation, creation and upkeep; composting; soil fertilization and nutrition; planting with seeds and/or plants; companion planting; crop rotation; insect control; garden charts, plans and tools. The book is based on the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Method of gardening and is a more complex instructional gardening book than I need, but is still very helpful; 4 stars.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary review consideration.
Profile Image for Patti.
196 reviews
May 18, 2022
The copious pages of reference tables for virtually any food item you want to grow are so useful.

You can read a lot of books these days about how important it is to focus on your soil, and lots of proponents of no-till gardening or agriculture. But for someone like me that gardened for 7 years in amazing soil because of nothing I did and then moved to a house with atrocious clay that would not even grow weeds in many places, the author's methodology makes so much sense to me. He advocates "double digging" or loosening the soil and incorporating compost down to 24 inches *until the soil structure improves* and thereafter cultivating only the top few inches. Because some soil has to be tilled or literally nothing will grow. My last frustrated 3 years are proof of that.
Profile Image for Dee/ bookworm.
1,314 reviews4 followers
May 9, 2017
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

This book, How to Grow More Vegetables, Ninth Edition (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land with Less Water Than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons, was so filled with propaganda that it was hard to read. I sadly read about 10% and most of it was about GROW BIOINTENSIVE. I didn't get to the growing or awesomeness that the book description promised, so I cannot say definitively that it was all it claimed to be. But for me it seemed to be more about their product than actual gardening steps.
Profile Image for Katarina Ross.
Author 1 book5 followers
February 21, 2020
This book has a lot of very useful information, particularly for those wishing to grow intensively on whatever plot of land they own. The double-dig method is key to this methodology, as well as focusing on crop rotation, utilising companion planting and generating your own organic material to reduce dependence on outside inputs.

If you're interested in these elements I highly recommend the book. It is very readable with excellent graphs and insight from years of honing intensive, organic gardening. While my own goal is not to achieve the sorts of high-yields this book is geared toward, I nonetheless will consult its wisdom about the above.
Profile Image for gadabout.
101 reviews
March 27, 2018
The book has confidence in its vision and belief, and sticks to it staunchly through its broad claims and pseudoscience spiels. While the gardening method it employs seems to be viable and well-backed, the title is misleading and the book itself is by no means comprehensive, citing other publications, dead links, and its own website (quite often) for the "further reading" crucial to the method itself.
132 reviews
October 30, 2019
Originally published in 1974 , this is an organic gardening classic. It has been an inspiration to many other gardeners and farmers whose books i find more easier to follow. This book does have some charts that are apparently useful for planning. I am not sure if those charts are available online or not. Also i did not see much advice here on cold climate farming. How do you grow a winter cover crop in the snow?
Profile Image for Emily.
78 reviews4 followers
July 12, 2018
I was very entranced by the title of this book, and I've enjoyed reading it. Nothing is particularly new to me, perhaps since I've read lots of similar books, but perhaps also the ideas have become more common since the book was originally published. The book constantly refers to the "Grow Biointensive" method, but I've had a hard time determining exactly what makes up this method.
293 reviews3 followers
July 24, 2019
A LOT of information, and a lot of technical information. If you want to be self-sustainable and have amazing soil amended by your own home-grown fodder, this is the book for you. For those of us who are more casual gardeners and just want a few more tomatoes from our little raised beds, this is a bit intense. Very useful reference, but not aimed at most of us.
Profile Image for craige.
462 reviews5 followers
January 1, 2021
Some really great tips in here and some parts to skim past. Isn’t that the way with most gardening books tho? Most notably is the idea that soil needs to be tilled. Definitely not a popular opinion anymore.

I found the sections on the science of compost to be one of the best explanations I’ve seen.
Profile Image for Kristy.
452 reviews3 followers
April 1, 2021
There is A LOT of technical information about crop growing. It's a bit more than I need, but if the apocalypse ever happens and we have to return to a total agrarian society, it will be VERY useful. :) The research that has gone into the book is very amazing and I'm glad I have it as a reference.
Profile Image for Stephen  Moore.
7 reviews1 follower
August 1, 2017
Really good advice in places but restrictive in other places.. as if they haven't taken any other well known market garden growing systems into account. Will reference the master charts at a later date but will definitely not be double digging! No-dig only systems for me
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