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How to Grow a Sustainable Garden:
Sustainable Gardening
Principles and Practices

Is sustainable gardening the same as organic gardening? Why or not? Is it really possible to grow food your family likes to eat economically and productively in a small space without harming the environment? How can sustainable gardening help your family become self sufficient in meeting its food needs through proper gardening of just a small fraction of an acre?

Jim Kennard, Master Gardener and President of the Food For Everyone Foundation, gives us an overview of the principles and practices of sustainable gardening in the article below:

Growing and Maintaining
a Sustainable Garden

Copyright (c) 2005 Jim Kennard
Food For Everyone Foundation

Having a sustainable garden means very different things to different people. Some folks are led to believe that a sustainable garden must use only organic materials, because someday the commercially- available mineral nutrients may not be available. To me this sounds somewhat like the suggestion that we should all ride bicycles because someday gasoline may not be available.

I suggest that a sustainable garden means one that can be used productively over an extended period of time, and would necessarily involve several elements, including the following:

  • Growing food you want to eat, so you are motivated to continue growing,
  • Growing economically, so that it is worthwhile doing, and
  • Taking care of health and environmental issues, so that we are fed well, and the ground will continue to support growing healthy crops.

Growing Food You Want to Eat

The plants to be grown should be chosen primarily on what your family wants to eat, and what will grow in your locale. After that, consideration might be given to using heirloom seed rather than hybrid, if you are very concerned about losing the ability to replace seed each year from commercial sources.

An easy and inexpensive alternative to trying to harvest your own seeds is to buy the Garden-In-A-Can, which is triple-sealed heirloom seed, from a source like Mountain Valley Seeds (, and store it in a cool dry place. This will maintain a high germination percentage for up to ten years.

Growing Productively and Economically

Using the best-known growing practices will assure you the greatest yield of healthy vegetables from the smallest space, and with the least amount of labor and financial inputs per unit of production. By doing this a family can be self sufficient in their food requirements from proper gardening of a small fraction of an acre.

There's lots of evidence of success in achieving a sustainable garden. You'll find excellent examples of high-yield gardening methods that have been proven effective worldwide at Pictures of successful gardens using these methods can be seen below and at the free "Mittleider Method" gardening group.

Caring for health and the environment

Gardening should always be done without injuring the land, but rather should improve the land, so that it will continue to support healthy plants indefinitely. Therefore, pesticides and herbicides should be used very judiciously, and only in extreme need.

Wherever possible these issues should be handled by cultural practices, such as those taught by Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider at as follows:

  1. Eliminate all weeds from the garden area before planting and during the growing season.

  2. Prepare the growing area for ideal plant growth, but inhospitable to bugs and diseases.

  3. Water only the plants' root zone.

  4. Begin plants in a protected environment for a fast, healthy and strong start.

  5. Feed plants balanced natural mineral nutrients to assure fast and healthy growth.

  6. Harvest all plants at maturity to avoid allowing pests and diseases to multiply.

  7. Discard any bug or disease infested plant parts away from the garden, and incorporate healthy plant parts into the soil to improve soil structure.

Following these sustainable gardening principles and practices will assure your family a great yield of healthy vegetables, and give tremendous satisfaction, and even pleasure, for many years to come.

Jim Kennard is President of the Food For Everyone Foundation, a non-profit organization with the mission of "Teaching the world to grow food one family at a time". You'll find many free vegetable gardening resources, including a gardening ebook, greenhouse plans, automated watering plans, and a free chapter from each of the great gardening books and software CD's Jim offers, at the website:

Tomatoes grown vertically using a T-Frame

Tomatoes can be grown vertically to save space using a T-Frame

A 'Grow Box' sustainable garden in a parking lot

You can even grow a sustainable garden in a parking lot!

A soon-to-be 'Master Mittleider Gardener!'

This could be you - meet the next Mittleider Master Gardener!

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