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Creating a Veggie Pack

William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 709
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
Hello,
I'm really starting out (for about 2 years now), but next year I'd like to run a pilot program of food cultivation and distribution to people in my area (by bike w/ bike-trailer still to be built). My goal for next year is to find 5 people who I can sell weekly or bi-monthly vegetable packs (half boxes or full boxes). The sum total should be 5 boxes of food per delivery.

My current problem is quantifying how much of each thing I should grow. One strategy would be to just grow a bunch of stuff and see what comes out. But perhaps it's better to think in terms of

1 person = 3 tomato plants.

Obviously, someone might like some veggies and not others, but I'm going toward standardized food boxes, so that's less of a problem. The problem is having enough variety and being able to fill the boxes at appropriate times.

Although things are developing, right now my ideas on what to grow are:
Leafy things (lettuces, basil, parsley, some asian varieties like pak choi, maybe greens of some sort, chard)
Beets
Patty Pan / Ball Zucchini
Summer Squash
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Tomatoes
Peppers
Carrots
Spinach
Peas
Corn (mainly for myself, but if there's any leftovers...)
Beans
Potatoes

Any help developing this idea and getting a handle on how much to grow would be great.
If anyone has any idea of better varieties or anything perennial that I could relatively easily get my hands on, I'm all ears.
Thanks,
William
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
Sounds like an interesting plan to me.

What type of climate do you live in, and will this just be for the warm season?

How are you set up for growing space and do you have any food producing perennials at this point?

A lot of folks really like Eliot Coleman's books:
http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/books/index.html

They aren't really my style (I'm more in to trees and bushes, etc...) but I think they are a good resource for learning to market garden and how to plan quantity per person.

If you have room and can get a propagation bed set up for perennial plants, it becomes very cheap to amplify food plants.  I'd be glad to send some cuttings if I have things that will do well in your area.


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 709
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
K.B. wrote:
What type of climate do you live in, and will this just be for the warm season?

I'm in n. italy, the climate is almost identical to central illinois (where I came from) without the hot/cold extremes. But at least as heat is concerned, we're getting there. Our winters are more rainy than snowy.


How are you set up for growing space and do you have any food producing perennials at this point?


--I have my friend's shady yard which I plan to convert to all leafy things, some beets, 2-3 cherry tomatoes, and herb production. I'd like tons of herbs in that space.
--I also have a very sunny 100 square meters, maybe a little more. Most annual fruiting plants will go there. No irrigation.
--I'm planning to negotiate another space, probably about 50 square meters with the potential for expansion as time goes by. No irrigation.

I've built raised hugelculture beds. I have three now, planning 1 more at first site, then 2-3 at the second site.
http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/9373_0/permaculture/raised-bedhugelkultur-vs-natural-farming



A lot of folks really like Eliot Coleman's books:
http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/books/index.html


My next summer project is to make a hoop house for winter for salads and such. I planned to get that book.


If you have room and can get a propagation bed set up for perennial plants, it becomes very cheap to amplify food plants.  I'd be glad to send some cuttings if I have things that will do well in your area.


Thanks for the offer, but I'm far away and mail is a problem.
As for perennial, I want a lot more herbs that I currently have, and so will expand that. I'd like trees and bushes, but NONE of the properties are mine, so the only way would be in a pot.
I have sunchokes, which not perennial, but almost. I'm probably getting rid of those to put up another bed.
I'm also trying to perennialize all my "annuals" like tomato, pepper, eggplant.

What would be some solid, easy to find, easy to grow perennials that could be a food source?
I'm planning on getting this book too:
http://www.chelseagreen.com/tv/episode/1569423/
4 videos connected to that link, btw.

thanks again.
w
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
You might try asking all your friends and acquaintances what kinds of vegetables they like to eat most.  There are "most popular vegetable" lists on the internet but they seem to mostly be for the US.  

The book "Backyard Market Gardening" by Andy Lee has a lot of marketing and planning advice.  http://www.amazon.com/Backyard-Market-Gardening-Entrepreneurs-Selling/dp/0962464805


Idle dreamer

Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
hmm, with the space and ownership limitations, about the only trees I might suggest would be figs.  they do quite well in containers if they can get 6+ hours of sun.  You could sell rooted cuttings from the pruning as well. 

Other easy to grow perennial plants that work in pots... brambles (blackberry/raspberry), blueberry, gooseberries, currants, strawberries.

Just about any herb does very well in containers, in my experience.  Recycled 5 gallon buckets work fine.

For the main garden, it may be challenging to install a good annual garden without spending more than you will make back in sales.  If the soil is already prepped and of good quality, great, if not scrounging organic material may take a lot of work and time.

I would suggest skipping the corn and potatoes and avoid and vining squash so as to maximize your growing space production. 

The cherry tomatoes are a great idea, I think and 2-3 different plants of different types per customer/family should be more than enough to give you a steady supply.  Same with peppers.  Beets and carrots can give you huge harvests in just a few square feet if you can get the soil the right texture (loose about 12" deep). 

Succession planting so that you have produce each week will probably require a new planting of something each week.  Many gardeners do not do this and miss out on extra yield.
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 709
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
K.B. wrote:
hmm, with the space and ownership limitations, about the only trees I might suggest would be figs.  they do quite well in containers if they can get 6+ hours of sun.  You could sell rooted cuttings from the pruning as well. 

Figs grow really well here. Even around town, you can find fig trees spontaneously. That's a good idea. The other tree that is everywhere here is Black Locust. I have some spontaneous ones in my garden, I could graft some things onto it perhaps.


Other easy to grow perennial plants that work in pots... brambles (blackberry/raspberry), blueberry, gooseberries, currants, strawberries.

Just about any herb does very well in containers, in my experience.  Recycled 5 gallon buckets work fine.

I'm a little weary about potted things, because where they would be most in the sun, there's also no irrigation. Sigh. I could propose bushes, since they can be taken out rather easily. The other option is that the tree grows past the pot and gets it's root into the ground and takes water from that, but I'm not sure how long that would take.


For the main garden, it may be challenging to install a good annual garden without spending more than you will make back in sales.  If the soil is already prepped and of good quality, great, if not scrounging organic material may take a lot of work and time.

Yes. I've found resource acquisition to be one of the major barriers to everything I do. But I have good access to straw and manure, so those are kinda my building blocks.

I would suggest skipping the corn and potatoes and avoid and vining squash so as to maximize your growing space production. 

Really? The corn was mainly for me (we like corn), and I did the 3 sisters this year and was planning on expanding it. The only problem I see is that if the production area is too compact, I won't be able to access the corn. The beans and the squash can just dry out and be harvested late.

The cherry tomatoes are a great idea, I think and 2-3 different plants of different types per customer/family should be more than enough to give you a steady supply.  Same with peppers.  Beets and carrots can give you huge harvests in just a few square feet if you can get the soil the right texture (loose about 12" deep). 

Creating the beds should losen the soil enough for roots, I think. I'm a little worried about the looseness of the soil over time. I'm in heavy soil. Thinking of buying worms at 2.50/20-25 worms.

Succession planting so that you have produce each week will probably require a new planting of something each week.  Many gardeners do not do this and miss out on extra yield.


great idea. Should be mindful around May to cycle in as many plantings as possible.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6596
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
135
Wow!  I cannot believe that nobody has suggested asparagus as a perennial.  It takes a couple years to establish/produce, but once it does, it produces an abundant crop of very nutritious food.  It is in high demand here (USA), and there (Italy).

My two favorite asparagus recipes are Italian:

1)  Lightly coat a baking pan with olive oil, and spread a single layer of asparagus in the pan.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with minced garlic and a generous portion of Parmesan cheese.  Bake/roast until heated throughout.

2)  With young, tender raw shoots, knock off the bigger scales, then smear with cream cheese, and wrap with prosciutto ham.  It will be the first thing to disappear from an appetizer tray.
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 709
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
John Polk wrote:
Wow!  I cannot believe that nobody has suggested asparagus as a perennial. 


Actually, I've dismissed it for two reasons, but you're right, I should look into it.

First, my area is sort of known for asparagus. Everybody grows it and when it's in season in the spring, it's everywhere. So probably it's because asparagus is something I couldn't corner the market in, as I could with american and other 'strange' veggies.

Second, Roving, or Tempaculture
http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=9341.0

I don't know if I'll still be in the same spot in 3 years, so installing asparagus might not be the best of ideas. Can you uproot it and replant it?

thanks,
william
Kelly Ann Reagan


Joined: Sep 26, 2011
Posts: 12
Location: Central Florida
K.B. wrote:
What type of climate do you live in, and will this just be for the warm season?


WOW

exactly my thought process!

First where are you and what do you have to work with? where will you get your supplies? how will you grow your said food items and what will you be able to grow successfully? how will you plan for a insufficient harvest and other issues that might or might not show up?

I am using the plant and hope method this season whilst I work out the intricacies of this site and the soil (sand rather) that I have to work with. I am just growing what I want to grow and carefully documenting what I plant where, how and what the plants are doing to get a good 'grip'/ understanding of what is going on here.

It helps to put it on paper, by this I mean every thought that you have that might affect your project, then use your mental resources to tackle each item on the list with your thoughts and other advice before you begin a time/financially consuming planting project.

Hindsight is 20/20 as they say so you have to have a good grip on what you are planning before you start doing it. Otherwise you might be disappointed. there are all sorts of what ifs and wherefores which you should be aware of before you just start putting things in the ground for sale.



if I paid for these services I would want mainly veggies for salads and them some that I would use in cooked veggies. this can change depending on the eating habits of the people you are selling to. Are they eating raw or cooking. What is affordable for you and the people you are selling to? Its the same thing I said before....

you need to be aware of everything that might pop up. Being aware is half the battle. that way when a problem or situation presents itself you will be better able to deal with it.
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 709
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
healingpixie:
Thanks for responding. And thanks for keeping me aware of the need to be much more methodical. I write down things, usually strategies, and sometimes the results, but nothing structured. My experiments need abstracts and conclusions. Thank you.

To answer your questions:
I'm in n. italy, I have a 100m2 plot and my friend's yard. Planning on getting some more, but have to work out the details. In terms of supplies, I have most of what I need, I think.

I have Tools, Straw, wood/brush, seeds, (need) bike trailer. It's a pretty small objective 5 people, 5 boxes, either weekly or bi-weekly. I'm going for Salads/Leaf things in the shady yard and fruiting plants in the open field.

I'm also using the "plant and hope" method, but I'm doing a lot of work to mediate the soil (heavy clay) problems that have plagued me so far. Want to get the soil soft and crumbly and the humus deep as i can.

I'm pretty confident that I could find the people for a test-flight, and my local organic grower/seller said he's willing to help me out with the sales side, as long as I can grow it.

My summer project next year is an unheated hoop greenhouse to winterize some salady stuff for the winter. That's when people here are usually eating cabbage and fennel. Fresh spinach or other stuff would really be welcome.

Thanks for now,
W
Kelly Ann Reagan


Joined: Sep 26, 2011
Posts: 12
Location: Central Florida
I have experience with heavy clay soil as that is mainly what I have been gardening in for many years.

The best methods I found were just consistently working the soil and adding rich organic matter. It is time consuming and vicious work if you do this by hand. I do everything I can by hand. I feel the soil and have a great inner meditation whilst doing it.

If you want fast results I would recommend working in raised beds whilst you work on introducing as much composted organic matter into the ground as possible. Work large areas that you have a plan for but dont do little sections at a time as this tends to defeat the purpose. As soon as the roots of your plants get to the heavy clay again they will not be very happy if they were growing in rich compost and your plants will show you that.

We tend to plant pigeon peas in Puerto Rico because they enrich the planting site and help to break up the heavy clay. That could help for some areas so you could leave them to do their work whilst you focus on another area but I have no idea how they will grow in your area. If planted at the right time you might have some success with them.

Have you spoken to any older growers in your area? My grandmother taught me HUGE amount about working the clay soil. She is a permaculturist and doesnt even know it. I always find that talking to local growers is always a BIG help. They know lots of the tricks and everywhere I have lived people tend to be pretty nice about giving hints and tips.

I used mainly horse manure from local horses that had been cured in sun and rain for long periods of time. I would basically just break up the clay and mix it in over and over until the consistency is what I wanted. I obtained very good results with this method. You can also add sand I've heard but I never thought that was a good idea.

I am not sure what else I can say. There are many more things you can do to help your soil but I would really recommend starting simple by working in raised beds until you get the remaining planting site ready for cultivation in the ground.

Remember to try to be methodical about everything. I remind you and remind myself. I recently started keeping a diary of the events and of my actions with my plants but it is monumentally hard to have the discipline and time to do this. it does help though when you think hmmmm: how long have these been in the ground? did they come up better in what phase of the moon??

Its not too simple but little by little we all learn and I have learned more from my mess-ups than from my successes. So pay close attention to what you did wrong and then next time you will know; well hopefully.

 
 
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