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Winter Garden Workshop – Growing More Crops in Less Space

  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church 27 Pleasant St. Brunswick, Maine 04011 (map)

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Winter Garden Workshop

Growing More Crops in Less Space

~ 2018 Garden Fundraiser ~

Author, “Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening” and Director, Scatterseed Project

Even if you have unlimited space, why waste fertility, water, labor and other inputs on a large area when you can get as much or more from a smaller space? Will Bonsall discusses greater use of the third dimension (with tall crops, trellises, etc.), plus wide beds, companion planting, living mulches, season extending, nursery plots, and more to help you produce more on the  same garden footprint.

Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening will be available for purchase at this event.

From Mother Earth News:

Longtime Maine farmer and homesteader Will Bonsall possesses a unique clarity of vision that extends all the way from the finer points of soil fertility and seed saving to exploring how we can transform civilization and make our world a better, more resilient place.

In Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening, Bonsall maintains that to achieve real wealth we first need to understand the economy of the land, to realize that things that might make sense economically don’t always make sense ecologically, and vice versa. The marketplace distorts our values, and our modern dependence on petroleum in particular presents a serious barrier to creating a truly sustainable agriculture.

For him the solution is, first and foremost, greater self-reliance, especially in the areas of food and energy. By avoiding any off-farm inputs (fertilizers, minerals and animal manures), Bonsall has learned how to practice a purely veganic, or plant-based, agriculture—not from a strictly moralistic or philosophical perspective, but because it makes good business sense: spend less instead of making more.

What this means in practical terms is that Bonsall draws upon the fertility of on-farm plant materials: compost, green manures, perennial grasses, and forest products like leaves and ramial wood chips. And he grows and harvests a diversity of crops from both cultivated and perennial plants: vegetables, grains, pulses, oilseeds, fruits and nuts—even uncommon but useful permaculture plants like groundnut (Apios).

In a friendly, almost conversational way, Bonsall imparts a wealth of knowledge drawn from his more than 40 years of farming experience. “My goal,” he writes, “is not to feed the world, but to feed myself and let others feed themselves. If we all did that, it might be a good beginning.”

After graduating from the University of Maine in 1971, Waterville native Will Bonsall moved to a piece of run-out farmland in the hills of Industry Maine, where he began growing much of his own food. He soon expanded into producing his own fertilizer and crop seed. After discovering the wealth of traditional, or “heirloom” varieties found in his community and around the region, he started the Scatterseed Project to collect, propagate, maintain, and distribute seeds of various crop plants, particularly those which are endangered, or which are hard to obtain through usual commercial sources and those crops which are especially suitable for self-reliant lifestyles. 

He was the largest single lister in the Seed Savers’ Exchange from its beginning 30+ years ago until a few years ago when he and a number of others left that organization and founded the Grassroots Seed Network, a democratically-run network of seed savers.

Over the past four decades he has maintained over 5000 plant varieties, supplying tens of thousands of samples to gardeners, farmers, USDA collections, university breeding programs, missionaries and Peace Corps and AID workers. Many of his offerings have found their way into commercial seed catalogs as far away as Tasmania.

Will Bonsall, director of the Scatterseed Project, is best known for his work in preserving crop diversity. His past occupations are as varied as his seed collection and includes draftsman, prospector, hobo, gravedigger, logger, musician, language teacher, and artist, among others. In addition to farming and seed saving, Bonsall is the author of the futuristic eco-novel, “Through the Eyes of a Stranger,” and a book on sustainable gardening and farming, recently released by Chelsea Green Publishers, called “Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening”, which will be available at the event for anyone wishing to purchase a signed copy.

This event is one of the Land Trust’s Winter Gardening Workshops, a part of our Tom Settlemire Community Garden. The Workshops are a wonderful opportunity each winter to learn from master gardeners through practical lectures and hands-on training. Gardeners of all levels can improve their skills.

The workshops focus on organic gardening methods and provide information about topics such as choosing plant varieties, starting seedlings, permaculture, the  use of native plants, soil enrichment and mulching, gardening in small spaces, and controlling common pests and disease.