Review by Katherine Willow ND

Every time I flip through this book, the resulting enthusiasm is almost overwhelming.  It’s one of those books I want to give to everyone, even those people who wouldn’t go near a garden.   The garden at CREWC aspires to be modelled after this system; we sell the book in the clinic and we hope to eventually host workshops on the subject.

The book is called: How to Grow More Vegetables*
*than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine
by John Jeavons (now solidly one of my heroes)

It is a large paperback so packed with information that it would take most people several years to even begin to make use of it.  And the introduction is so educational and inspiring that it makes me want to do just that.

Did you know that worldwide we only have 42 to 84 years’ worth of topsoil left?  That current agricultural practices destroy approximately 6 pounds of soil for each pound of food produced?  That even organic agriculture depletes the soil 17 to 70 times faster than nature builds it?  That we use more oil to produce and distribute our food than many other activities?

John Jeavons proposes solutions to these challenges that all of us can support–not only by being aware of how to garden sustainably (sustaining topsoil, that is, as well as reducing carbon use), but by what we choose to buy and eat!

Here are the benefits of this method, called BIOINTENSIVE gardening, and developed through 30 years of dedicated research, experimentation and careful analysis of the results:

*67 to 88% reduction in water consumption
*50%+ reduction in amount of purchased fertilizer
*94 to 99% reduction in the amount of energy used
*100%+ increase in soil fertility, while productivity increases and resource use decreases
*200 to 400% increase in caloric producion per unit of area
*100%+ increase in income per unit of area

The book shows the average family with an average sized lawn how to provide for most of their fruit and vegetable needs in a relatively small space.  If anyone was feeling anxious about the vulnerability of our imported food supply, this is the perfect solution, even if you live in the suburbs.  You can convert your lawn to a biointensive garden!

Granted, it’s a lot of work at the beginning.  Like many worthwhile things: relationships, our health, finances. . .  But then it gets easier and extremely satisfying.

Of course, I should confess that I’m one of the worst gardeners, a theoretical gardener (I like to think about it).  I keep hoping that someone without a full-time profession and family life (although the latter could be integrated), will take me up on my offer of being in charge of our Centre garden and make a business out of it.  The book tells you exactly how.  I know, I’m an idealist. . . .

Another aspect that I thoroughly admire about John Jeavons is that he has taken his method to 130 other countries, especially those that are poor and struggling with their food supply.  In one anecdote, he describes a woman in India growing 15 times more vegetables than her organically growing neighbours–in the middle of a drought!

Let me end with a “timely” quote:  “Population will increase rapidly, more rapidly than in former times, and before long the most valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil.”  ~ Abraham Lincoln

Having posted this, I’d be remiss not to mention our volunteer garden parties.  Come once or come regularly, all are welcome.  If you would like to be on the volunteer notification list, please contact Carla Brown at: or 613-839-5764