Foodroom Gardening: No Rows, No Woes


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From GENE LOGSDON

As I battle mud and mosquitoes in this wet year, in the wallow that used to be our garden, I think faraway, crazy thoughts. I keep trying to imagine a future time when all human beings would be responsible for their basic food necessities just as they are responsible for their own bodily cleanliness and cooking meals. Could every home have a sort of foodroom adjoining the bathroom, where the basic yearly food could be produced? Ideally there would be a composting bin or two,  plus a cistern or rain barrel to catch water, all geared to take no more time than a daily shower, shave, teeth brushing, and hair combing.

The first thing that would have to disappear to save space would be garden rows. Have you ever thought about how stupid rows are? Rows came into existence to accommodate machine and human traffic. Without them, a garden can  produce twice the amount of plants or more. My imaginary foodroom would be elevated even more than raised beds, walled up so I could sit or stand next to it on either side and accomplish all planting and weeding comfortably by hand. Weeding would be done with a trowel from a standing or sitting position. Gone would be all the primitive backbreaking bending over that makes gardening by hand so tiresome. Once a plant produces its food, it could be pulled out and another started in its place. Elderly people could go on gardening until they were a hundred years old and never once have to get down and crawl along like I do now. Kids would be more easily cajoled into the work because you could describe it to them as merely playing in the dirt, like a sandbox. Adults who like office work would see the garden bed was just another desk.

The foodroom would be a version of today’s hoophouse, covered with a translucent roof than slides down easily to open  the chamber to good mother nature and close it when good mother turns bitchy. Year-round production would be possible without deer, coons, groundhogs, whining, bloodthirsty insects, hail, windstorm, out of season frost, berry-eating boys or birds. In winter the closed roof would let in warmth to help heat the building along with the warmth from composting wastes.

Since plants would be constantly maturing and replaced by new plants or seeds very close together, about the only tillage that would be needed would be accomplished by the gardener’s hands at work. Since the soil would always be in top granular condition, stirring it could as easy as stirring applesauce. If the gardener didn’t want to soil his or her fingers, a hand-held food mixer would suffice as a tiller. I can see sensational discoveries on their way, like finding out that plants grow better with classical music rather than hip hop. Or that lettuce grows faster when accompanied by the William Tell Overture rather than Sleepy Time Gal.

For those who think a pastime is only fun when you can spend a lot of money on it, computer sensors could be installed to register moisture and nutrient content of the soil to tell when to add more. Sensors could also whistle when root crops got big enough to harvest and when peas were at their optimum taste.  Monsanto could turn its genius to breeding cornstalks that produce 12 ears or more so we could grow a right smart amount of sweet corn in a very small space. Or maybe strawberries as big as watermelons.

Just think what would happen when the furniture business got wind of the new foodrooms. They would outdo themselves over who could make the most comfortable bar stool to glide alongside the plants to make eye level weeding and harvesting even more convenient.  And over the mantel of the typical American fireplace would not be a muzzle loader, but a hoe.
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17 Comments

One of the mythbuster episodes explored which music would grow peas better. They compared just talking to the peas and different music styles and they had a control. Hard rock did the best. LOL
And yes they did it pretty scientifically weighing everything and all that. If I ever raise peas,
by gosh I will play them a lot of hard rock. Perhaps sweet corn likes classical? Beets might like jazz better. who knows until you actually try.

Love your blog! Just found it. Raise those beds. Saw this done using pallets as the base. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1llKeOOXZo Planning on taking mine a bit higher.
It all begins with a dream. Living mine with 5 chickens and one very wonderful husband.

I read your piece over at Resilience and enjoyed it, so I thought I’d come over and tell you so. I did wonder how you’d organise rotational planting, nevermind harvesting potatoes in such beds, but then, I’m from the (very) wet West of Scotland where potatoes are important! I suspect our ages aren’t so different, either. We do have our strawberries in palette planters, which is helpful, but I confess I would dearly love to find myself with a polytunnel or a large greenhouse which would withstand our winter gales. If it was attached to the house, so much the better. Hey, ho!

My beds are “raised” about ten inches off the ground. That’s not enough. At sixty-two gardening is as hard as it’s ever been but still just as rewarding. I was hoping to raise my garden beds waist high over the next few years. That would help enormously, but I surely like the sounds of a growing room. I wouldn’t even mind sharing the laundry room if I could get rid of enough junk. It all sounds like a lot of work….ahhh….but there’s nothing like a fresh tomato….

As far as gardening beds raised to such a level that one can tend them standing. . . my friend has five of these outside and I have two. When guests come, they are intrigued by such tall raise beds and we stand around them and talk. Then I continue drinking wine while they begin weeding almost automatically. I find a way to extend the conversation until they have finished the entire raised bed.

There is no doubt the future will hold some variation of this. Most likely for the rich and famous that can put in all the fancy equipment and have someone else do the work for them.
People that could use this kind of thing in public housing would never be allowed to have a “grow” room.

Unfortunately the issue of hunger in the world is a problem of money not food. People in any country that have money eat well. People that don’t have money starve.

Great writing!! Enjoyed it very much.

OK, so we get our seeds or cuttings or cell-cultures inserted into 3-D printed synthi-soil in automated hydroponic chambers illuminated by timed banks of color-corrected LED’s at the optimal wavelengths for growth or fruiting stages, with gaseous mixtures calibrated to add CO2 as needed, trellised, pollinated, and harvested at peak ripeness by robot “farmers” …..I hope I will go out with my muddy boots on, I think.

I love the vision of a hoe hanging over the mantle. I may have to put that one into practice. Swords into plow-shares, right? Thanks for that, Gene!

Although you’re very much tongue in cheek, Gene, I think you’re on to something. I’ve been using a variation of Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser’s no till/transplant/harvest crop/spread fresh compost/replant immediately with transplants method in my kitchen garden (about 500 square feet of bed space). The Kaisers get five to seven crops a year per acre with their method. The caveat is they have to buy 2/3 of their compost for the three acres they farm. I’d rather not buy stuff, so I’m content with three crops. So far it’s pretty successful. As far as crops that save space, have you ever run across Six Shooter sweet corn? It puts out six ears on a 5-6 foot stalk. Very old variety, supposedly, although I’ve never been able to find any history on it, and I think RH Shumway is the only place you can still get seed.

Sounds great as long as we don’t immobilize our bodies too much, I’d hate to develop ‘roids from too much bar stool. Part of the balance would be providing enough movement to avoid a gym membership.

Wouldn’t need weeding after the last weed seeds in the soil germinated.

Gene, I love your sense of creativity and fun!

Have you ever heard of the earth-sheltered homes called Earthships, originated by architect Michael Reynolds in Taos, NM? His basic design incorporates interior food-producing planter beds watered by the inhabitants’ graywater.

See more: http://earthship.com/Systems/organic-food-production. I’ve toured a couple of these homes — they’re quite inviting and peaceful to spend time in.

    Beth, I immediately wondered if you live locally. I’m in Arroyo Seco NM. As to Gene’s idea. It is extremely practical and I would love to be able to do it. For many years my husband and I gardened organically and called about every fruit and vegetable we used. It was a grand, and tasty life. Now we’re 66 and 70 and our bodies are pretty well crippled from Rheumatoid and Osteo artiritis. And, frankly, the local Farmers’ Market has lots of good things but not such good prices for us low-income people. So this indoor gardening idea would serve the practicality of growing food and the joy of gardening. This is a great idea. Of course, it comes from Gene Logsdon

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