Grow Biointensive Videos

I’ve often threatened that our next book would adapt the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders into a vegetable gardening guide. Obsessive/compulsive? Here’s how you plant radishes . . .

Wherever I fall in the diagnostic manual, the vegetable gardening method I’ve used for the past few years has been based on John Jeavon’s “Biointensive” method as described in his book How to Grow More Vegetables. This past weekend I made the pilgrimage to Jeavon’s Willits, California headquarters to drink the Kool-Aid at the foot of the master and take a three day Biointensive workshop.

The Biointensive method involves growing compost crops, double digging and tight spacing. Jeavons aims to produce a complete diet in as little space as possible while maintaining soil fertility with few outside inputs. Unlike most garden gurus Jeavons backs up his ideas with meticulous research which draws on his background in workplace efficiency.

He’s also generous and “open source” with his techniques. The workshop was reasonably priced for three full days of instruction. Should you not be able to get to Willits, Jeavon’s non-profit Ecology Action has produced a well made series of instructional videos that you can view online here. I’ve created a playlist of the complete set of these videos below:

Now, I’m so fired up from the workshop I’ve got to get away from this computer and out into the garden!

Leave a comment


  1. That first photo reminds me of planting potatoes in Atlanta. I came to despise double digging – that dirt was hard, full of rocks and other interesting artifacts like pipes, bottles, and bricks. I am an anthropologist, but I didn’t know I would take up archaeology as a side project!

  2. Thank you Erik, for posting the videos- I learned SO much! I’ve had Jeavons’s book for awhile and have used the spacing method, but shied away from the double digging because of my awful clay. Also because I use planter boxes with imported soil. But at some point, I’m going to have to address double digging the rest of the yard.

    The compost section was also really helpful, because I learned a lot there as well. For instance, I didn’t realize that it’s better to make the pile in a cube, and to have it spread evenly across the pile. When I next go to fix the pile, I’ll be addressing that issue as well.

    I was also really excited to see the information on grain raising, which I’ve wanted to do ever since checking out the first edition of Small Scale Grain Raising by Gene Lodgson from the library years ago. It’s been out of print, but fortunately, the second edition was printed recently, so I ran out and bought that. The method of stringing up the grain is a great idea; my concern was that I would have serious lodging problems because my soil fertility is not what it should be. But now I have a better idea of how to deal with all that, so I think I’ll try raising some grain this year.

    This was really good information- thanks again for posting it!

  3. @Jess:

    Jeavons is wonderfully open sourced. Beyond the videos, Erik also came home from the workshop with ton of handouts–a whole workbook–and Jeavons is fine with us copying those handouts. So now we’re using some of them in a class we’re teaching. (We’re also rec’ing the students buy his book, so it all comes back around) This information needs to be spread, it’s critical for us all. Jeavons knows that.

  4. I just got Jeavons’ book and tore through it. It’s helped me a lot. My plot has terrible soil in it. It’s pretty much all clay with no organics in it at all. How to grow more vegetables has helped me repair the soil and plant more in the space I have. The first double dig is tough though. I gets easier after that.

    I have high hopes for this season. One day my fiancee and I will get up to Willits for a three day. Only thing is now I have to figure out what I’m going to plant now that I have all this new found room to grow things.

  5. @Mrs. Homegrown: That is great to know. Your class (and Jeavons’ class) sounds fantastic. I agree that we all need to work toward being more open source and sharing information about what works. Once I do something that works, I’d rather help other people do it than try to make a buck off it. Jeavons book is amazing, although a little intimidating to me. Thanks for spreading the good word!

  6. @Jess: Yes, the book is a little intimidating–all those charts! In the seminar you learn to read the charts. Erik has become very organized about the gardening since coming back 🙂

  7. Thanks for these videos, and I’m loving your site. What do you think about double-digging, though? I thought the newer thinking is that it is a better idea to not dig up the community of soil microbes, which all specialize in different layers of soil.

  8. Kate,

    Yes, it’s not good to dig up that community of soil microbes/fungi. However, if your soil is heavily compacted double digging or, alternatively, using a broadfork, may be necessary to get air and water to the roots of your veggies. Tilling (turning the soil upside down with a roto-tiller or shovel) is, in my opinion, never a good idea. Hopefully you’ll only have to double dig or use a broadfork once to get a good soil texture established. The regular addition of compost will help keep the soil loose thereafter. I’ve had to double dig at our place in a few times, but it’s not something I do regularly.

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