Micro Environment Subsistence System (M.E.S.S.)

As a retired "Coastie", during my time on ships the mess-deck (dining facility for land-lubbers) is the "town square" where off-duty crew hangs out. When I was operating my lean-to greenhouse-nursery, the wife and daughter typically declined to visit me there, because to them it was such a mess. I was looking for an acronym other than NASA’s CELSS, so I figured why not.

(Ok, so I tend toward corny names.) The purpose of this appendix is to look at the limits on closing the loop for the safe recycling of human effluents to a growing medium which is a micro-environment optimized for growth of food.

Our present population of 6+ billion is dependent on the present global socio-economic-industrial infrastructure not only for economic purposes, but also for "life support" such as food. That infrastructure is itself dependent on cheap, abundant fossil fuels, in particular oil. It is becoming clear that we are approaching the peak of oil production. Prior to the point where oil ceases to be cheap, or abundant, we need alternatives. Organisms live in many different kind of habitats, which MUST contain a minimum of every life support limiting factor for each species. As the eagle’s habitat is more that a nest, including both land and air, so the habitat for a human is not just a house, it is the rest of the local ecosystem that provides the overall life support for not just the present generation of humans, but for the indefinite future.

The human food chain is the simple progression from plants that absorb sunlight, to the human table. A downward example of a food chain is: The human eats the dog, the dog ate several cats, the cats ate lots of mice, the mice ate fields of grass which grew by absorbing the sunlight. After the table though, all waste must somehow, eventually, become “food” for something else and be recycled. Small organisms such as insects, bacteria, mold, & mushrooms fill a vital niche in an ecology in that they eat dead biological materials and make the atoms and molecules again available as nutrients to grow plants. This takes us to the food web, which is the blend of the overlapping food chains in an ecosystem. A food web is from one celled organisms to bugs, to humans, and everything in-between.

Scientifically a community is all of the population that lives together in the same place and interacts. In reality a minimal human food production area is a specialized niche, requiring some particular mix of organisms and physical factors. What are the minimums for such?

If overall loss is minimized, a community of organisms, interacting with each other and the nonliving things in the environment can provide a long term localized ecosystem. A limiting factor is any living or nonliving part of an ecosystem that effects the survival of an organism, such as heat, light, particular atoms or molecules, and water.


As far as the physical atoms incorporated into living organizations are concerned, the Earth is essentially a closed system, with the energy of sunlight as the only input and the power source for essentially all life on the surface of the Earth. Much of this document is "generic", based on the theory that once the major nutrient loops are closed further augmentation should not be required. However, my personal focus is "high desert", in Arizona, USA, where water is a significant limiting factor. Every area will have it's on local limiting factor, potentially for most locations the limiting factor may be sunlight and growing season. I've also got to deal with the natural heat, and very low typical humidity.

The optimal human centered ecosystem is physically different from, and essentially incompatible with, any "natural" environment, and must be kept separate. This document combines personal theory, web research into programs such as NASA's CELESS, the Biosphere II project, the work of Ecology Action, and other closed loop food systems, as well as research on optimal food growing methods (hydroponics, aquaponics & aeroponics) and recycling of human effluent, and personal container garden experiments.The area needed to grow food for a fully grown human to survive should, logically, match the area which can be fertilized by human effluents (solid, liquid & gas). Urine, feces, and eventually our physical bodies can all be readily returned to the growing medium.

It is vital to ensure optimal growing conditions for crops, to include exclusion of plant pathogens, as well as those that may infect humans. The growing area will receive both gray water and black water, which must be handled in a safe manner.

Absent a sealed environment, we lose water vapor, CO2, and other gases. It is obvious that when we grow a crop of which humans eat only a portion, the rest of the plant must be recycled by animals or microorganisms before the nutrients are again available for plant growth. Think of the kernels eaten on an ear of corn, vs the total mass of the plant. This makes crop selection a critical element.

With a typical "first world" diet the upper fertilizing limit for humanure looks to be around 1600 ft. sq. and a potential "minimum" area of 600 ft. sq. as touched on below. Of course, our diets are horrible. If we ate food with greater vitamin content, we would excrete a greater concentration, which would fertilize a larger area. I solicit feedback on vitamin / nutrition standards and what the upper limit is for safe human consumption of various minerals if they are in high concentration in plants.

Every square yard (9 sq. ft.) on the earth's surface with direct, perpendicular un-shaded exposure to the sun receives energy at the rate of around 1kwh (3412 BTU or 859,845 heat calories). The value of a food calorie is 1,000 heat calories, so at 100% conversion each square yard could generate 859 "food" calories per hour. An "average" person needs 2,000 food calories per day. Therefore, if humans were directly solar powered with 100% efficiency, each of us would only need around 22 sq. ft. /hours per day of solar exposure. But of course, we are not directly solar powered, nor are our plants 100% efficient.

If limited to fertilizing 1600 ft. sq., and 6 hour/day of light, the garden must have an overall average efficiency of something just over .225%. But crops for nutrition rather than mere calories do not approach this level of efficiency.

Various health guides indicate humans should "aim" for having our daily calorie intake fulfilled by 40% carbohydrates (1 g = 4 calorie), 30% protein (1 g = 4 calorie), and 30% fats (1 g = 9 calorie).


The basic needs of plants are nutrients (certain atoms in certain forms), water, and light. On the scale of the Earth, our entire ecosystem is an essentially sealed environment.


Plants need three primary gases from air.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which is used in their leaves in the photosynthesis process to combine hydrogen from water with carbon from CO2 to produce carbohydrates (sugars), with the oxygen being released. In normal seal level air, CO2 is at 350 parts per million (ppm), or .035%. Even this tiny amount is enough to support plant growth. Studies seem to show that the upper concentration limit for CO2 for plants is around 4%, which requires that all other growing conditions be optimized. But, plants cannot tolerate the 4% level unless there is sunlight present for photosynthesis. WARNING: In general, humans cannot breathe where the CO2 concentration approaches 3%.

Water will absorb it's own volume of CO2, and when evaporated will release the CO2. This seems nicely in tune with nighttime water condensation absorbing CO2, with daytime evaporation releasing the gas.

Oxygen for their roots. Roots can suffocate or drown without enough O2. Conversely, as aeroponics shows given access to nutrients and kept moist, roots and the plant will thrive when given lots of air. Aeroponics is cited as perhaps the most productive means of providing crops necessary nutrients. Aeroponics has plants suspended in holding material, in an air gap, which is kept in a spray of the liquid nutrient. The falling liquid also gains air which provides O2 for the roots in the liquid below. I continue experiments on a static means to approximate this. I’ve had modest success with containers set up with a bottom wick kept moist by an upturned bottle of water, several inches of perlite over the wick, then a tower of perlite up the center with compost around the tower. A WARNING: You may have heard that more houseplants are killed by overwatering than by underwatering." The problem with overwatering is not that the roots do not like to stay moist, but that if heavily watered, water fills most of the spaces ordinarily filled by air in dry soil. Plant roots require oxygen, but not all portions of a plant's roots require the same amount of oxygen. Plants can form what he calls oxygen (O) roots and water/nutrient (W/N) roots. Roots exposed to air specialize in taking up oxygen; those immersed in water specialize in taking up water and nutrients. When the water level drops in a plants growing medium, the W/N roots change into O roots, a process taking only 2-4 days. However, this is not reversible. If water returns to the original depth the plants wilt within a few hours and do not recover. You need to create a medium with such large air spaces that no matter how much water is around, the roots will still find plenty of air, but dense enough that water can move up by capillary action and keep the medium moist.

Nitrogen (79% of the air) to produce complex molecules. Most plants cannot absorb nitrogen directly from the air on their own, but must obtain it via their roots from a substance which embodies the gas atom.

The bulk of commercial nitrogen fertilizer is made using un-sustainable high energy chemical processes.

There are various methods to "fix" the gas into the soil, for example special bacteria, that can live in symbiosis with some plants:

Clover, alfalfa, select legumes, and select trees such as Neem and Russian Olive. Research what grows well in your area. It is the bacteria that make nitrogen available for absorption by plant roots. Fixing nitrogen takes energy. Every gram of nitrogen fixed requires 10 gram of glucose, with the plant feeding the bacteria growing on it's roots.

Blue-green algae can also absorb nitrogen and incorporate it into their cells, with the advantage it can be used as an animal (or human) food, or as fertilizer.

Lightning splits the N2 molecule, which can then combine with oxygen into a nitrogen oxide which can dissolve in rainwater, which was something that Tesla referenced in several of his papers.

In a free online pamphlet, Bill Mollison presents his "third world endless nitrogen fertilizer supply system." You will need a sand box, with a trickle-in system of water, and a couple of subsurface barriers to make the water dodge about. Fill the box with white sand and about a quarter ounce of titanium oxide (a common paint pigment). He indicates that in the presence of sunlight, titanium oxide catalyzes atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, endlessly. You don't use up any sand or titanium oxide in this catalyic reaction. Ammonia is highly water soluble. You run this ammonia solution off and cork the system up again. You don't run it continuously, because you don't want an algae buildup in the sand. You just flush out the system with water. Water your garden with it. Endless nitrogen fertilizer. If you have a situation where you want to plant in sand dunes, use a pound or two of titanium oxide. You will quickly establish plants in the sand, because nitrogen is continually produced after a rain. This solution is carried down into the sand. If you are going to lay down a clover patch on a sand dune, this is how you do it.

Apart from the legumes and actinorhizal plants, there are a number of other systems involving nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria, notably of the bacterial genera Azotobacter, Anabaena, and Nostoc. These systems involve the following:

1. Gunnera-Nostoc. Probably all Gunnera species display a localised infection of the stem by Nostoc bacteria.

2. Azolla-Anabaena. The aquatic plants of the Azolla family form a symbiosis with Anabaena bacteria.

3. Liverwort-Nostoc. The liverwort genera Anthoceros, Blasia and Cavirularia all form associations with Nostoc bacteria.

4. Lichen associations. About 7% of lichen species are not of the traditional fungi-algae symbiosis, but are instead formed of a fungi-cyanobacteria symbiosis. Nostoc in the bacteria genus is usually involved. The lichen genera Collema, Lobaria, Peltigera, Leptogium and Stereocaulon form this type of symbiosis. They are particularly important as nitrogen-sources in Arctic and desert ecosystems, where fixation rates may reach 10-20 Kg/ha/year.

5. Leaf surfaces (the phyllosphere). There is increasing evidence that free-living N-fixing species of bacteria are abundant on wet and damp leaves in predominantly moist climates.

6. Root zone (Rhizosphere). Free-living bacteria, for example Azotobacter species, may be more abundant in the areas immediately adjacent to plant roots and aid plant nitrogen nutrition.

7. Free-living. N-fixing bacteria thrive where the Carbon:Nitrogen ratio is high and there is sufficient moisture, for example on rotting wood, in leaf litter, the lower parts of straw and chipping mulches etc.


1. Temperature. Depends on the bacteria species and the host plants, for example 4-6 deg C is adequate in Vicia faba, whereas 18 deg C or more is necessary for most sub-tropical and tropical species.

2. Seasonality. For most species, fixation rates rise rapidly in Spring from zero, to a maximum by late spring/early summer which is sustained until late summer, then decline back down to zero by late autumn. In evergreen species, N-fixation occurs throughout the winter provided the soil temperatures do not fall too low.

3. Soil pH. The legumes are generally less tolerant of soil acidity than actinorhizal plants. which is reflected by Rhizobium species being less acid-tolerant than Frankia species. Of the actinorhizal plants, Alders (Alnus spp) and Bayberries (Myrica spp) are most acid tolerant. Of Rhizobium species, acid-tolerance declines in the following order: cowpea group (most acid tolerant) - Soya bean group - Bean & Pea groups - Clover group - Alfalfa group (least acid tolerant).

In poor soils which are low in Nitrogen, the introduction of N-fixing plants usually leads to considerable acidification (e.g., a fall in pH of up to 2.0 in 20 years for a solid stand), which itself will in time start to affect nodulation efficiency.

4. Availability of Nitrogen in the soil. If Nitrogen is abundant and freely available, N-fixation is usually much reduced, sometimes to only 10% of the total which the N-fixing plants use. In trials with Alders, at low soil N levels (under 0.1% total soil nitrogen), the majority of N used by the alder comes from N fixed from the air; when total soil nitrogen is as high as 0.5%, only 20% of the N used came from fixed N from the air.

5. Moisture stress. In droughts, bacterial numbers decline; they generally recover quickly, though, when moisture becomes available again. Some species (usually actinorhizal), for example Alnus glutinosa and Myrica gale, are adapted to perform well in waterlogged conditions.

6. Light availability. Nitrogen fixation is powered via sunlight and thus will be reduced in shady conditions. For most N-fixing plants, which are shade sensitive, N-fixation rates decline in direct proportion to shading, i.e. 50% shading leads to 50% of the N-fixed. The relationship for N-fixing species which are not so shade-sensitive is not so clear: they may well continue to fix significant amounts of nitrogen in shade.


Plants use water in the photosynthesis process, combining carbon from the air with the hydrogen from the water molecule, and releasing the oxygen from the water molecule. They also use water in their circulation system and to cool themselves when the temperature gets too high.

The relative humidity has a large effect on plants evaporation of water, with plant water use varying 5x over a humidity range of 5% to 95%.

A "ballpark" figure for plant transpiration is roughly 30g/hr/plant of H 2O. A specific example is sorghum, which "consumes" water at the rate of 200:1 (water weight to dry weight sorghum) In addition to the water loss thru the plants, your soil/growing medium will have losses. Aeroponics have virtually no evaporative loss, but poor growth for some plants. In conditions of 50-75% relative humidity and average temperature of 75 F- good plant conditions, an open water surface may evaporate at a rate of 3.2 mm/day. Soil may start at around 4 mm/day until the top soil area is dry, around five days or less, with an eventual drop to around 1.5 mm/day.

If you are using well water, city water, etc. rather than rain water, you are probably adding dissolved salts to your plant growing medium. A general guide is to leach - flood the plant and medium to wash out the salts, every 4 to 6 months. In example, a typical 6 inch pot will hold 10 cups of water, so 20 cups of water are used to leach a plant in such a pot. Keep the water running in a flow to wash out the salts. If the top of the soil has a salt crust, remove it before starting the rinse.

The Arizona Master Gardeners Manual suggests as a watering rate, "…During dry periods, one thorough watering each week of 1 to 2 inches of moisture (65 to 130 gallons per 100 square feet) is usually enough for most soils. Soil should be wetted to a depth of 12 inches each time you water and not watered again until the top few inches begin to dry out. Average garden soil will store about 2 to 4 inches of water per foot of depth." (52 to 104 inches per year). Applied at this same rate year long to a 1,000 square foot garden would require a reliable supply of 33,800 to 67,600 gallons. At 12" annual rainfall and 100% collection rate, the collection area per person needs to be 4,300 to 8,600 square feet.

As long as your home waste water does not contain toxic materials, and is sterlized if containing disease organisms, your garden water supply can include the runoff from your home gray water. Examine the commercial product "Infiltrators". Consider in reverse something like home drain gutters, filled with rock or sand, and buried to route water to the garden areas. "SOLID" NUTRIENTS Compared to the demand for CO2 and water, the need for other factors is "small", but nevertheless essential.

Plants don't have teeth. Plant roots do not crush substances and eat them. 98% of the nutrients plants absorb with their roots must first be dissolved in the soil water. For nutrients "locked up" in dead plant or animal matter, the cell walls must somehow be ruptured, so the inner nutrients can be reached by the roots. In commercial processing of the algae Chlorella, flash heating is used. In making leaf concentrate, it's a simple blender or grinder. (Blended food scraps anyone?)

Rock dust, or cement kiln dust (before burning) can be applied as a valuable multi-nutrient fertilizer. Logic seems to say that all of the atoms taken from the soil to build the plant end up as either part of my body, or excreted. We're bound to lose some other atoms in our... body gas... perhaps sulfur, but I don't believe it's a lot...

Average pounds produced per person per year. Source: Future Fertility

                    Nitrogen     Phosphorus         Potassium          Calcium

Urine 7.5 1.6 1.6 2.3 Manure 2.8 1.9 0.8 2.0 Total 10.3 3.5 2.4 4.3

Range required per 100 ft. sq. of garden

Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium Calcium

0.1 - 0.5     0.2 - 0.6              0.15 - 0.50         0.2 - 0.8

Range one human's effluent can fertilize each year in ft. sq.

Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium Calcium

Urine 1500 - 7500 266 - 800 320 - 1067 287 - 1150

Manure 560 - 2800 316 - 950 160 - 533 250 - 1000

Total 2060 - 10300 582 - 1750 480 - 1600 537 - 2150

Expect each person to produce around 1 gallon of manure per month, which should be applied to no less than 50 ft. sq. monthly, otherwise you're adding too much nitrogen to the growing medium. Layer manure, then 2" soil, seeds, and sprinkle soil. Move on to next 50 ft. sq., cycle back annually for 3 years, then shift to another set of beds.

Urine must be diluted with water from 5 to 10 to 1.


The "big three" plants need in their soil are nitrogen (N) phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). NPK are the three numbers you will typically find prominent on fertilizer packages, which refer to the percentage by weight of each. In a 20 pound bag of 21-7-14 it therefore means the bag contains 4.2 pounds nitrogen, 1.4 pounds phosphorus, and 2.8 pounds potassium. Also needed in the soil in relatively large amounts by plants are sulfur, magnesium, and calcium. Green manures add back nitrogen and carbon to the growing medium, but unless you grow them elsewhere and add them to the medium, they can't add any other non-gas element that is not already in the medium, or in the water or fertilizer applied. The remaining macronutrients, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen plants get from air and water.

Nitrogen is a major component of proteins, hormones, chlorophyll, vitamins and enzymes essential for plant life. Nitrogen metabolism is a major factor in stem and leaf growth (vegetative growth). Too much can delay flowering and fruiting. Deficiencies can reduce yields, cause yellowing of the leaves and stunt growth.

Phosphorus is necessary for seed germination, photosynthesis, protein formation and almost all aspects of growth and metabolism in plants. It is essential for flower and fruit formation. Low pH (<4) results in phosphate being chemically locked up in organic soils. Deficiency symptoms are purple stems and leaves; maturity and growth are retarded. Yields of fruit and flowers are poor. Premature drop of fruits and flowers may often occur. Phosphorus must be applied close to the plant's roots in order for the plant to utilize it. Large applications of phosphorus without adequate levels of zinc can cause a zinc deficiency.

Potassium is necessary for formation of sugars, starches, carbohydrates, protein synthesis and cell division in roots and other parts of the plant. It helps to adjust water balance, improves stem rigidity and cold hardiness, enhances flavor and color on fruit and vegetable crops, increases the oil content of fruits and is important for leafy crops. Deficiencies result in low yields, mottled, spotted or curled leaves, scorched or burned look to leaves.

Sulfur is a structural component of amino acids, proteins, vitamins and enzymes and is essential to produce chlorophyll. It imparts flavor to many vegetables. Deficiencies show as light green leaves. Sulfur is readily lost by leaching from soils and should be applied with a nutrient formula. Some water supplies may contain Sulfur.

Magnesium is a critical structural component of the chlorophyll molecule and is necessary for functioning of plant enzymes to produce carbohydrates, sugars and fats. It is used for fruit and nut formation and essential for germination of seeds. Deficient plants appear chlorotic, show yellowing between veins of older leaves; leaves may droop. Magnesium is leached by watering and must be supplied when feeding. It can be applied as a foliar spray to correct deficiencies.

Calcium activates enzymes, is a structural component of cell walls, influences water movement in cells and is necessary for cell growth and division. Some plants must have calcium to take up nitrogen and other minerals. Calcium is easily leached. Calcium, once deposited in plant tissue, is immobile (non-translocatable) so there must be a constant supply for growth. Deficiency causes stunting of new growth in stems, flowers and roots. Symptoms range from distorted new growth to black spots on leaves and fruit. Yellow leaf margins may also appear.


There are other elements that while used in much smaller amounts, must nevertheless be present in some "significant" quantity. Essential trace elements include boron (B), chlorine (Cl), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), sodium (Na), zinc (Zn), molybdenum (Mo), and nickel (Ni). Beneficial mineral elements include silicon (Si) and cobalt (Co), which have not been deemed essential for all plants but may be essential for some. Eliminate any one of these elements, and plants will display abnormalities of growth, deficiency symptoms, or may not reproduce normally.

Iron is necessary for many enzyme functions and as a catalyst for the synthesis of chlorophyll. It is essential for the young growing parts of plants. Deficiencies are pale leaf color of young leaves followed by yellowing of leaves and large veins. Iron is lost by leaching and is held in the lower portions of the soil structure. Under conditions of high pH (alkaline) iron is rendered unavailable to plants. When soils are alkaline, iron may be abundant but unavailable. Applications of an acid nutrient formula containing iron chelates, held in soluble form, should correct the problem.

Manganese is involved in enzyme activity for photosynthesis, respiration, and nitrogen metabolism. Deficiency in young leaves may show a network of green veins on a light green background similar to an iron deficiency. In the advanced stages the light green parts become white, and leaves are shed. Brownish, black, or grayish spots may appear next to the veins. In neutral or alkaline soils plants often show deficiency symptoms. In highly acid soils, manganese may be available to the extent that it results in toxicity.

Boron is necessary for cell wall formation, membrane integrity, calcium uptake and may aid in the translocation of sugars. Boron affects at least 16 functions in plants. These functions include flowering, pollen germination, fruiting, cell division, water relationships and the movement of hormones. Boron must be available throughout the life of the plant.It is not translocated and is easily leached from soils. Deficiencies kill terminal buds leaving a rosette effect on the plant. Leaves are thick, curled and brittle. Fruits, tubers and roots are discolored, cracked and flecked with brown spots.

Zinc is a component of enzymes or a functional cofactor of a large number of enzymes including auxins (plant growth hormones). It is essential tocarbohydrate metabolism, protein synthesis and internodal elongation (stem growth). Deficient plants have mottled leaves with irregular chlorotic areas. Zinc deficiency leads to iron deficiency causing similar symptoms. Deficiency occurs on eroded soils and is least available at a pH range of 5.5 - 7.0. Lowering the pH can render zinc more available to the point of toxicity.

Copper is concentrated in roots of plants and plays a part in nitrogen metabolism. It is a component of several enzymes and may be part of the enzyme systems that use carbohydrates and proteins. Deficiencies cause die back of the shoot tips, and terminal leaves develop brown spots. Copper is bound tightly in organic matter and may be deficient in highly organic soils. It is not readily lost from soil but may often be unavailable. Too much copper can cause toxicity.

Molybdenum is a structural component of the enzyme that reduces nitrates to ammonia. Without it, the synthesis of proteins is blocked and plant growth ceases. Root nodule (nitrogen fixing) bacteria also require it. Seeds may not form completely, and nitrogen deficiency may occur if plants are lacking molybdenum. Deficiency signs are pale green leaves with rolled or cupped margins.

Chlorine is involved in osmosis (movement of water or solutes in cells), the ionic balance necessary for plants to take up mineral elements and in photosynthesis. Deficiency symptoms include wilting, stubby roots, chlorosis (yellowing) and bronzing. Odors in some plants may be decreased. Chloride, the ionic form of chlorine used by plants, is usually found in soluble forms and is lost by leaching. Some plants may show signs of toxicity if levels are too high.

Nickel has just recently won the status as an essential trace element for plants according to the Agricultural Research Service Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory in Ithaca, NY. It is required for the enzyme urease to break down urea to liberate the nitrogen into a usable form for plants. Nickel is required for iron absorption. Seeds need nickel in order to germinate. Plants grown without additional nickel will gradually reach a deficient level at about the time they mature and begin reproductive growth. If nickel is deficient plants may fail to produce viable seeds.

Sodium is involved in osmotic (water movement) and ionic balance in plants.

Cobalt is required for nitrogen fixation in legumes and in root nodules of nonlegumes. The demand for cobalt is much higher for nitrogen fixation than for ammonium nutrition. Deficient levels could result in nitrogen deficiency symptoms.

Silicon is found as a component of cell walls. Plants with supplies of soluble silicon produce stronger, tougher cell walls making them a mechanical barrier to piercing and sucking insects. This significantly enhances plant heat and drought tolerance. Foliar sprays of silicon have also shown benefits reducing populations of aphids on field crops. Tests have also found that silicon can be deposited by the plants at the site of infection by fungus to combat the penetration of the cell walls by the attacking fungus. Improved leaf erectness, stem strength and prevention or depression of iron and manganese toxicity have all been noted as effects from silicon. Silicon has not been determined essential for all plants but may be beneficial for many.

Micronutrients presence may be difficult to determine. Deliberate initial medium saturation to a pre-determined maximum "safe" level appears a reasonable consideration. In plants, and animals, there are aspects where a single atom of a particular element is essential to the creation or operation of a molecule, and therefore a particular function. No atom, no molecule, no function, no life. Absent high-tech chemistry, any particular missing micronutrient may be difficult to determine. A non-technology approach by observation of the effects on selected plants with known reactions . Rock dust, perhaps preferably dolomitic limestone, but even concrete dust, may contain enough atoms to help.

Whatever you take out of the growing medium, must be replaced. In growing to adulthood, a human will accumulate a collection of elements such as this:

Element Mass of element Element would Mass of element comprise a cube Kilograms this long on a side: oxygen 43 33.5 cm carbon 16 19.2 cm hydrogen 7 46.2 cm nitrogen 1.8 12.7 cm calcium 1 8.64 cm phosphorus 0.78 7.54 cm potassium 0.14 5.46 cm sulfur 0.14 4.07 cm sodium 0.1 4.69 cm chlorine 0.095 3.98 cm magnesium 0.019 2.22 cm iron 0.0042 8.1 mm fluorine 0.0026 1.20 cm zinc 0.0023 6.9 mm silicon 0.001 7.5 mm rubidium 0.00068 7.6 mm strontium 0.00032 5.0 mm bromine 0.00026 4.0 mm lead 0.00012 2.2 mm copper 0.00000072 2.0 mm aluminum 0.00000006 2.8 mm cadmium 0.00000005 1.8 mm cerium 0.00000004 1.7 mm barium 0.000000022 1.8 mm iodine 0.00000002 1.6 mm tin 0.00000002 1.5 mm titanium 0.00000002 1.6 mm boron 0.000000018 2.0 mm nickel 0.000000015 1.2 mm selenium 0.000000015 1.5 mm chromium 0.000000014 1.3 mm manganese 0.000000012 1.2 mm arsenic 0.000000007 1.1 mm lithium 0.000000007 2.4 mm cesium 0.000000006 1.5 mm mercury 0.000000006 0.8 mm germanium 0.000000005 1.0 mm molybdenum 0.000000005 0.8 mm cobalt 0.000000003 0.7 mm antimony 0.000000002 0.7 mm silver 0.000000002 0.6 mm niobium 1.5E-09 0.6 mm zirconium 0.000000001 0.54 mm lanthanium 8E-10 0.51 mm gallium 7E-10 0.49 mm tellurium 7E-10 0.48 mm yttrium 6E-10 0.51 mm bismuth 5E-10 0.37 mm thallium 5E-10 0.35 mm indium 4E-10 0.38 mm gold 2E-10 0.22 mm scandium 2E-10 0.41 mm tantalum 2E-10 0.23 mm vanadium 1.1E-10 0.26 mm thorium 1E-10 0.20 mm uranium 1E-10 0.17 mm samarium 5E-14 0.19 mm beryllium 3.6E-14 0.27 mm tungsten 2E-14 0.10 mm

If it’s not in the growing medium, it won’t be in the plant, or in you. Take “Popeye’s” favorite, spinach and the iron that is to make him strong. Organic grown / virgin soil spinach has around 1584 PPM iron. From commercial farms, it’s 19 PPM. About 1% of nature.


Most plants cannot use the entire spectrum or intensity of light received on Earth. Limiting the light intensity and frequency to that at which each type of plant best grows reduces the heat load. Plants may also have specific lighting duration periods. Periods shorter than daylight can easily be simulated by shutters. Plants needing longer light periods than available daylight can often be "tricked" into continued processing though by low intensity artificial light, well below normal growing levels. In low light areas more useful light for the plants is gained where the growing area is mirrored, or reflecting in the right frequencies. Most plants need light in wavelengths of 400 to 700 nm, which I read is 45% of incoming light. They apparently do best in red and blue light. When growing vegetative matter, plants use primarily blue-violet light. When flowering they need red-orange end of the spectrum. As an aside, human eyes see green best, a color little used by plants, which reflect it and therefore they appear green to us. Terms often used to describe light are Lumen, Foot-Candle, Watt, and Lumens per Watt. Lumen is a particular amount of light energy. Envision a ton of feathers, it doesn't matter whether they fill a room, or are compressed into a brick, it's still a ton. Foot Candle measures light intensity. It is one lumen of light shining on one square foot. Watt is an electrical term. As we see with the difference in incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, watts of electricity IN, does not necessarily mean the same light OUT. It is a convenient means of comparison though of power in sunlight, in p/v panel conversion, and bulb conversion. Lumens per Watt is the efficiency of a bulb in converting electricity to useful light.

In some situations, such as climates with extreme exterior temperature challenges, it may be necessary to consider use of p/v panels to generate electricity, for lighting and plant growth in remote, strictly environmentally controlled chambers. (Of course, you need a lot of money to set this up.) Perpendicular direct daylight is around 10,000 lumens per square foot, for ease of estimating call it 100 watts if perfectly converted to electricity. In modest cloud cover, light intensity can drop to 1/10 or less. My reading shows that this may be the minimum power level for most photosynthesis. (Compare though to the Columbia University folks - Vertical Farm - who estimated a general value of 25 watt per meter square (2.32 watt foot square) for plant lighting. Plants convert certain frequencies of light into simple sugars. Too little light, and photosynthesis will not take place.

The "open" blue sky provides around 16% of useful light to plants of the intensity of direct sun. Too much light, and the plant overheats, transpires greatly increased water flow, and photosynthesis may not only shut down, but the plant may start to burn the sugars.

Sunlight is basically 10% U/V, 45% visible, 45% infrared (near/heat, and far/useable by plants). Most vegetables can use only make use of captured light up to a maximum of 2,500 - 5000 footcandles, and need this intensity for a period of about 6 hours daily, or about 15,000 to 30,000 foot candle hours of light. (Some vegetables, such as parsley, lettuce, chives, radishes and cabbage can do well with 4 hours.) (Intensity will vary depending on your latitude, time of year, atmospheric conditions, etc.)

Depending on your local conditions, you may be able to grow some plants in partial shadow, or your plants may benefit from some artificial reduction in light intensity. If read that for most plants, the "ideal" wavelength of light is red, with the plant maintained at an optimum temperature of 77 degrees F (25 C). If you intend to use artificial lighting to drive, or aid, your growing area, then bulb light production efficiency is a major issue.

A regular 100 watt household light bulb produces only around 400 lumens, or about 4 lumens per watt. If you used mirrors and focused it all on one square foot, it would be around 4% of open sunlight. Halogen bulbs produce about 20 lumens per watt, 100 watts being 20% of open sunlight.

Fluorescent bulbs, say high output, full-spectrum bulbs produce 68 lumens per watt, 100 watts being 60% of open sunlight.

Metal Halide Lamps are often used in hydroponic labs, they produce 80-120 lumens per watt, 100 watts being essentially the power of open sunlight. High Pressure Sodium lamps produce somewhere between 90 to 150 lumens per watt, or again the power of open sunlight. At these efficiency levels, perhaps frequency becomes more important. (See discussion of frequency applicable for the plants stage of life.) Electrical conversion is not the only consideration. In long-term sustainability, the lifespan of a product, and ability to replace it, becomes far more important than energy conversion efficiency. Another factor is AVOIDING loss of useful light frequency. Mentioned elsewhere, light absorbed and re-emitted comes out in a longer, often less useful frequency. Line your growing chamber with foil, or mirrors. Cited on the web for reflective efficiency is Foylon, (see also Aluma-Glo) at 97% reflectivity. LET THERE BE (A SELECTED SPECTRUM) OF SUNLIGHT A brief digression into a science summary, if you will bear with me. Visible light is just one small portion of the wavelength spectrum for electromagnetic energy. Below visible light is ultraviolet light, then X-rays. Above visible light is infrared (heat) then "radio" waves. From low to high (400 to 700) the colors go something like violet, blue, blue-green, green, yellow-green, yellow, orange, red. The longer the wavelength of light, the longer it takes for the photon’s energy to be imparted on whatever it strikes.

Think a quick punch (short wavelength & duration of impact) vs a slow push from the same arm (long wavelength long duration of impact). less "energy" a given photon has. If a particle absorbs a photon, it is either absorbed as heat, triggers a chemical reaction (causes an electron to move) or is re-emitted as a longer wavelength.

Chlorophyll A plants prefer blue 430 nm & red 66 nm Chlorophyll B plants prefer blue 460 nm & orange 640 nm Carotene prefers 400 nm to 500 nm.

High tech selective surfaces can provide a means to eliminate the unwanted frequencies. These items though tend to be expensive, fragile, and derived from finite fossil fuels. Consider a more “robust” and local hardware store approach.

I'm working at a latitude of around 32 degrees north - recalculate all angles for your latitude, with a goal of blocking direct summer heat, yet passing the maximum level of blue and red light. In winter my noon sun is 34.5 degrees up from true South, and 81.5 degrees in summer.

Envision thin strips of shiny red on the top, mirrored on the bottom. Have the slats runs true East / West, each tilted up 30 degrees. Set the North / South space between slats such that direct sunlight from 60 degrees or higher cannot pass.

The following two photographs are of the same "ceiling", located in Phoenix, Arizona. The first is looking at the ceiling toward the direction of summer morning sun, the slats blocking most summer noon sun. Shading in the picture disguises the true angles of the slats, which show better perhaps in the lower photo, which is looking toward the winter pre-noon position.

My proposal is a set of slats similar to this, but instead of all white, a combination of bright red and mirror.

In the winter most of the sun either directly passes or strikes the mirror and is reflected to the growing area. In the summer almost all direct sun strikes the red, which is then reflected down by the mirror. Around a 60 degree swath of diffuse blue sky is always available to the plants directly, or reflected down.

The below photo is essentially looking due east.

A simpler approach than the welded overlapping metal used at the Phoenix location would be two separate layers of slats, which could also allow them to be made adjustable if desired. Simpler yet is recognition that the east-west running slats are the priority. Simple short lifespan slats can be bright cloth and mylar held by a pattern of ropes.

If desired at the lower edge of the red side of the (fixed) slats a transparent substance (glass, plastic, ?) could be attached and extended perpendicular to the slat, making contact with the parallel mirror surface, or not, as desired. It would block most air flow thru the slats, and catch & channel most rain that fell on this roof.


Plants use light to rearrange molecules to store solar energy as chemical energy in the form of starch and glucose (sugar). The present globally photosynthetic atmospheric processing limit appears to be 2 x 1017 grams of carbon (200 billion tons) per year, which is about 10% of the atmospheric content. This carbon is being used by organisms and returned by respiration. We humans with our increasing numbers, burning ancient stored carbon, and depletion of plant mass are raising carbon levels. In plant cells water and carbon dioxide enter the cells, and impacted by the right frequency and intensity of light, sugar and oxygen leave the leaf. The chemical equation for this process is:

6CO2 + 12H2O + 48 photons light → C6H12O6 + 6O2 + 6H2O

6 molecules of carbon dioxide (6CO2) and 12 molecules of water (12H2O) are consumed in the process, while glucose (C6H12O6), six molecules of oxygen (6O2), and six molecules of water (6H2O) are produced.

Plants have limits on their rate of converting light to stored energy. Remember that plant biological processes continue at night, and that this uses up some of the energy accumulated in the presence of light. I've read that the overall theoretical efficiency of photosynthesis may be 4.5%. At 6 hour exposure, and if you could eat the entire plant, this would be an area 9 feet on a side. I've no idea what the crop would be, but you would probably be able to watch it grow…

If this "perfect" rate were potatoes, production would be (86 mt dry or 346 mt fresh) / ha). The real-world yield is (12 mt dry or 29 mt fresh) /ha, less then 1/10 of theoretical.

In various sources I find that overall photosynthesis efficiency in open nature and for typical food crops (corn,wheat,rice) is .1% to .2%. For 1/10% efficiency, each of us requires 21,600 sq. ft. /hours per day. With an average of 6 hours solar exposure per day this requires a fully productive food crop area of 3,600 sq. ft., 1,800 for 2/10% This is an area much less than the 1/4 acre per person typically available for manual farming (see information on farming in Cuba post-USSR), yet higher than the 1,000 sq. ft. information from Ecology Action. More (concentrated) sun is not the answer. C3 crops (wheat, barley rice, sugar beet, potatoes) all have FALLING conversion efficiency rates as light intensity goes above 20% of full sunlight.

Potato efficiency goes up to .4%, so with 6 hours exposure you need a minimum of 900 sq. ft. In various places, I've read the most "efficient" crop is claimed to be spirulina, with production of between 5 and 15 gram per sq. yd. per day. If each gram is around 5 calories, we get somewhere between 243 ft. sq. to 720 ft. sq. per person. At the upper level of production, is we're still assuming an average of 6 hours good sun exposure, we're looking at just under 2% efficiency on converting sunlight to food energy.

While I do not really expect to find a more efficient crop than algae, perhaps hydroponic or aeroponic methods can bring up the efficiency of more traditional foods. For those with a sweet tooth, Sugar cane (a C4 crop) comes in at a yearly average of 1%, requiring 360 sq. ft. with 6 hours sunlight, and with crops such as corn and sorghum can utilize higher sun intensity.


Studies in Israel show increased growth of young citrus trees under reduced mid day light in a semi-arid climate, using up to 60% shade cloth. With too much light, some plants shut down photosynthesis, and physically "wilt" their leaves to minimize light exposure. Shade particularly benefits plants grown for their leaves.

The photosynthesis rate increase tracks increased intensity of direct light only from 0 to 50 watt per meter sq., then increased production tapers slightly up to 100 watt, and for many plants goes almost flat at 200 watt per meter sq.

I also read of plants benefiting from flickering light, vs constant. Perhaps a means to disperse sunlight as momentary sparkles would allow a greater growing area than the available solar window (welcome back the disco ball?).

Consider methods that rather than block a portion of the light, rather split the light into 2 or more separate beams. Route each beam via mirrors, lenses, fiber optic, etc, to separate, perhaps stacked growing areas, then diffuse each beam so that it illuminates an area of plants equal in area to the original light collection area. Do we accomplish the reduced sun that many plants need, while doubling or more the growing area?

At a minimum, line the growing area with reflective material, and perhaps you can "recycle" some of the light that otherwise would escape back to the sky, or just go to heat the surrounding area. A reflective northern wall may add as much as 12.5% "extra" light.


Plants that genetically need specific lighting periods and be "tricked" in to acting as though there is a longer or shorter photo tropical period. Shorter is easy, you just need an opaque cover. The "trick" is making their genes think that daylight is longer. At the mid-darkness period, provide artificial light of 10 to 30 foot candle for times such as 3 minutes in every 30 minutes, 6 seconds in every minute.

A 40 watt florescent tube power is:

Inch Distance Ft. Candle

1                               1000
2                                950
3                                750
4                                650
5                                560
6                                400
7                                430
8                                370
9                                360

10 350

Estimated Light Requirements Per Square Foot Plant Watt/Ft.Sq. Tomato 8.3 Eggplant 2.32 Peppers 2.32 Soybeans 2.32 Green Peas 2.32 Spinach 2.32 Carrots 2.32 Cucumbers 15.77 Wheat 2.32 Lettuce 2.5 Strawberries 7.06


Earth berming or burying a contained growing area would minimize the effect of external temperature variations, and provide greater pest protection. Earth sheltering combined with insulation should, if the intrusion of heat is avoided, provide for appropriate year round temperatures. Unless intended / used as human shelter for a CBR threat, the structure does not need to be airtight or constantly overpressured.

Root temperature in general should not exceed 82 degrees F, above which growth processes drop off, with 68 to 77 preferred. A root zone temperature of 105 degrees F is probably fatal to most plants. Leaves usually prefer 61 to 68 F.


Readily available information suggests that 1,000 sq. ft. minimum of growing area is needed per person. With a typical modern diet, the upper fertilizing limit for humanure looks to be around 1600 ft. sq., with the limiting nutrient being potassium, and a potential "minimum" area of 600 ft. sq. based on a nitrogen concentration limit.

In the interest of pest control, I would not suggest a single large facility for a family. Instead, a number of separate units would permit growing a wider variety of plants, in differing conditions, concentrated with other plants needing similar conditions. It may also be simpler and cheaper to make a series of smaller units even per person, rather than a single 600 to 1,600 sq. ft. "greenhouse" for each person.

The commercially available concept and products that blend well with the MESS concept are those intended for "roof gardens", and their design factors. A bottom water proof membrane and roof penetration protection, a layer of drainage and aeration, a means to prevent soil penetrating the drainage, and compost above. Protect the top of the soil with another aeration barrier, then wind barrier above, which has penetrations for plantings. Weight is a major consideration in a roof garden or say gardening in containers on raised benches.

If your gardening media is enclosed and suspended above ground, then consider if you can walk under the garden. How far can you lean and reach if you are tending the garden? If you can walk under, and come up thru san a square 2’ on a side to tend by leaning, then you eliminate a lot of waster path space. If you can reach 3 foot (or a hair more) then think in terms of each 8’ x 8’ growing area having a 2’ x 2’ hole in the middle. Each 64 sq.ft. of surface area has 60 sq.ft. of growing space. If you “fudge” the math a bit (remember, the growing area can be from 1,000 to 1,600 sq. ft), you could have these units in a grid either 4 or 5 on a side. This is a A square with sides between 32’ and 40’. (Is there a commercially available bubble 8’ x 8’?) If a single test facility for your area is to have just plants on benches without walk-under capability, the above therefore would put a single test unit at around 8’ x 12”.

The bulk of my container tinkering was in "Wal-Mart" plastic tubs setting on cheap steel shelves. (Which of course rusted-out in a few short years.) "Rubbermaid" heavy duty shelving costs more, but in the 4th year of outdoor use shows no signs of decay.

The growing level. A mix of composted biomass and inert water holding substances. The depth will vary depending on the crop. The medium must hold surface tension water, yet drain well and allow air into the "pores" between particles.

Next down is a drain / filter level, I use fiberglass garden cloth, some of which has been in use for 5+ years (2007). Under this is 1 to 3 inches of "volcanic" rock, light but it holds the filter above the water and provides air space.

Under the rock I've been having success with another layer of fiberglass cloth as a wick, and keeping an upside down bottle, down thru a sleeve to keep the wick wet.

The greater the control & isolation from external influences, the better. But, your facility can be anything from a hedge rimmed garden to a miniature version of the Biosphere II facility, or the NASA CELESS. It's up to you and your resources. If you want to exclude excess heat (my situation most of the year) the only light to reach the garden should be that intensity and frequency needed by the plant, all else is waste heat. Insulate and protect the growing medium from light and moving air.


At the moment, short of a sealed greenhouse and running mechanical HVAC, I'm unclear on a method. (See Appropriate Technology - Dew Collection) I've read of fans blowing air from above the plants thru buried porous pipes, with the lower ground temperature leading to condensation, then the water draining from the pipes.

If the greenhouse IS sealed, then the largest challenge is getting heat OUT of the plant growing structure. Consider a bottle top up filled with water inside the greenhouse, another empty one outside top down, and the mouths of the bottles connected by hose. If the bottles and hose are solid enough, the temperature of evaporation can be “set” by controlled imposition of a vacuum on the unit. When the temperature of the inside bottle is greater than that of the outside bottle, water will evaporate, the vapor flow then condense, and the liquid water run back .

WATSON WICK WARNING CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL HEALTH OFFICIALS A method of recycling human effluent rather directly to the growing medium is the Aerobic Pumice Wick presented by TOM WATSON. Black water drains thru a filter tank to hold solids for aerobic composting, allowing the liquid to drain to a bed/tank. In this container you want a lot of wicking material, with a lot of air. Mr. Watson suggests an 18" bed of pumice in a waterproof base, with a cover of around 6" of soil. The bottom 1/2" to 1" needs to be water-tight. Absent pumice, consider coarse sand. Without a watertight membrane, use the old approach of a layer of straw and manure to help anaerobic bacteria create a water impermeable "clogging" layer. The intent is to create an area to convert the smelly end product of human digestion, which scientifically can be seen as 0.16 g/l dissolved solids, 0.23 g/l suspended solids, 0.007 g/l phosphate, and 0.51 g/l nitrogen, into a nutrient righ garden bed. Plant roots access the bed use the nutrients and transpire the water. In the case of too much liquid, the wick acts as a filter and filtered water drains out of the exit pipe. Please ensure liquid does not rise to the compost level.

Perennial plants are best used because of their permanent roots. Lawns, shade trees, fruit trees, berries, grape arbors etc. are all suitable as there are no disease vectors transmitted via the roots. WARNING CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL HEALTH OFFICIALS AIR STORAGE

If used as a CBR shelter, air storage is needed to avoid drastic swings in air composition. Consider the earth, with plant and animal activity taking place on the surface or in the first 100 feet or so, yet with miles of effective storage overhead. A potential methods to combine the garden with a large sealed volume of air is a rooftop garden over your sealed home.


Companion planting . Some plants grow better together, or immediately following each other, while some plants cannot tolerate each other or growing in a medium just after other particular plants. Nitrogen Replenishment. Nitrogen fixation may be accomplished by symbiotic organisms of legumes, or other plants which harbor the correct microbial population. Plants can not fix nitrogen gas but legumes have evolved a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria of the genus Rhizobium, which grow in special nodules in those plants. The plant provides the bacteria with the nutrients they need for growth and in return obtain nitrogen which the bacteria convert from N2 into NH4+. These nitrogen fixing crops should preceed heaving nitrogen feeding crops. Nutrient Concentrations. The life cycle of plants, animal intervention, earthworm or microbe systems may cause temporary concentrations (therefore also temporary areas of shortages). Overages or shortages can be tested in a non-technology manner by selected plantings and ovservation of the plant reactions. Crop cycling. In addition to companion planting, keeping a growing range from seed to mature plants, based on the needs of he plants and your consumption rate. For example, if you use a head of lettuce every week, you need to plant lettuce weekly. For every plant completely harvested you should have it's replacement already growing and ready to set out. Cycle planting also includes considering that there are plants which cannot tolerate being in the growing medium immediately after certain other plants. Seed Crops. You'll want to keep seeds of the "best" plants for your next generation.

Cloning. Many plants can be cloned from cuttings, or with the right technology from far smaller portions than would happen in nature. A large enough genetic base, in the form of stored seeds, needs to be maintained to prevent deleterious mutations being concentrated due to inbreeding or cloning of the "defective" plant.

A "Grocery Store" recipe for cloning "difficult" plants is 1/8 cup sugar, 1 cup water (or coconut milk), 1/2 cup pre-mixed water and fertilizer, 1/2 inositol (125mg) vitamin tablet, 1/4 vitamin tablet with thiamin, 2 tablespoon agar flakes (or corn starch, jello, etc.)

The growth promoting substance in plant shoot tips will, if the tips are crushed, diffuse into surrounding substances, and therefore be collectible in substances, such as galatin.

Plants being rooted may not be able to manufacture their own "food. They may be helped along by sugar water, coconut milk, fruit juices, etc.


Algae grows quite well naturally in most ponds and ditches, taking its carbon dioxide from the water plus utilizing what minerals are in the water. Logically if you harvested a portion each day and minerals were added, the crop would be much larger than it is naturally. Potentially three foot wide, 20 feet long, one foot deep plastic-lined troughs filled with the water could supply all the algae wanted.

For animal feed, the harvested algae could be mixed with the dead flies, dried and pelletized or broken up. As chicken feed it would supply all the protiens, vitamins and minerals required, even by chicks. For human consumption, Spirulina is sold as a health food. While I'm not enthused by the taste, I had Spirulina growing for several years from a starting of commercially available supply. As part of it's nutrient source, I pour water thru local sand, and potting soil.

Spirulina, a one-celled form of algae, perhaps a "link" between plants and animals, thrives in slightly saline "fresh" water, 8 to 11 pH, of 85 to 112 degrees F, up to 140 degrees F. The conditions are such that most other microorganisms cannot survive. It is perhaps the most "efficient" means to grow a nutritious food, which is over 65% complete protein, that is all essential amino acids in balance. It is 8 to 10 percent efficient in use of light, and is one of the few plant sources of vitamin B12, usually found only in animal tissues. A teaspoon of Spirulina supplies 250% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin B12 and contains over twice the amount of this vitamin found in an equivalent serving of liver. It also provides high concentrations of many other nutrients - amino acids, chelated minerals, pigmentations, rhamnose sugars (complex natural plant sugars), trace elements, enzymes - that are in an easily assimilable form.

Certain desert-adapted species will survive when their pond habitats evaporate in the intense sun, drying to a dormant state on rocks as hot as 70 degrees Centigrade (160 degrees F). In this dormant condition, the naturally blue-green algae turns a frosted white and develops a sweet flavor as its 71 percent protein structure is transformed into polysaccharide sugars by the heat.

The blue-green algae, and Spirulina in particular, have a primitive structure with few starch storage cells and cell membrane proliferation, but rich amounts of ribosomes, the cellular bodies that manufacture protein. This particular arrangement of cellular components allows for rapid photosynthesis and formation of proteins. The lack of hard cellular walls assures that Spirulina protein is rapidly and easily assimilated by consuming organisms.

Any water-tight, open container can be used to grow spirulina, provided it will resist corrosion. Its depth is usually 16 inches (twice the depth of the culture itself). Temperature is the most important climatic factor influencing the rate of growth of spirulina. Below 68°F growth is practically nil. The optimum temperature is 99°F, but above 108°F it is in danger. Growth takes place in light (photosynthesis), but illumination 24 hours a day is not recommended. It cannot stand a strong light when below 68°F. It preferes 1/3 of full sun, with cells destroyed by prolonged strong light.

The water used should be clean or filtered, but consider it's natural conditions.

When in good condition harvesting is an easy operation, but when it gets "sticky" harvesting may become a mess. Harvesting in early morning for the cool temperature, more sunshine hours to dry the product, and the % proteins in the spirulina is highest in the morning. Harvest by a filter of a fine weave cloth.

The nutrients extracted from the culture medium by the harvested biomass must be replaced. The major nutrients can be supplied in various ways, preferrably in a soluble form, but even insoluble materials will slowly be disolved as the corresponding ions are consumed by the spirulina in the medium. Urea is an excellent nutrient for spirulina but its concentration in the medium must be kept low (below about 100 mg/liter). If sugar or other easily oxidizable organic materials are used as a source of carbon, nitrates cannot be fed in large concentration either, as they may be reduced to ammonia that is toxic above 150 mg/liter. Excess urea can be converted either to nitrates or to ammonia in the medium. A faint smell of ammonia is a sign that there is an excess of nitrogen, not necessarily harmful ; a strong odour however indicates an overdose. Balance salinity at 15 grams per liter and alkalinity at 0.1 N

Per liter based on chemicals: NaHCO - 8 gram (sodium bircarbonate) Sea Salt - 5.0 NaNO3 or KNO3 2.0 or Urea - 0.07 NH4H3PO4 - 0.1 K2SO4 - 0.1 MgSO4*7H2) - 0.1 FeSO4 - 0.001

Natural approach: Use ashes from wood fires rich in potassium, sea salt, urine, and iron such as from old nails with vinegar and lemon juice. Blood also is a good source of iron. In case of necessity ("survival" type situations), all major nutrients and micronutrients except iron can be supplied by urine (from persons or animals in good health, not consuming drugs) at a dose of about 15 to 20 liters/ kg spirulina. Iron can be supplied by a saturated solution of iron in vinegar (use about 100 ml/kg).

Freshly harvested and eaten is best, it will not keep more than a few days in the refrigerator, and no more than a few hours at room temperature. Adding 10 % salt is a good way to extend these keeping times up to several months, but the appearance and taste of the product change : the blue pigment (phycocyanin) is liberated, the product becomes fluid and the taste is somewhat like anchovy's paste. Freezing is a very convenient way to keep fresh spirulina for a long time. It also liberates the blue pigment, but it does not alter the taste. Drying is the only commercial way to keep spirulina. If suitably packaged and stored, dry spirulina is considered good for consumption up to five years. But drying is an expensive process and it very generally gives the product a different and possibly unpleasant taste and odour. Dried spirulina is also not so easy to use.

Direct sun drying must be very quick, otherwise the chlorophyll will be destroyed and the dry product will appear blueish. Whatever the source of heat, the biomass to be dried must be thin enough to dry before it starts fermenting. Drying temperature should be limited to 158°F, and drying time to 5 hours.


Fish present a means to "process" bugs, worms, etc. into a pleasing protein source. Tilapia do well in small captive tanks, and in fact may breed too well, with an exploding population of a LOT of small fish with few bigger (and more eatable) fish. Think of them as producing liquid fertilizer.

Tilapia have been successfully grown in a 725 gallon tank, catfish in 55 gallon drums. In such crowded conditions, 10% or more by volume must be siphoned out monthly from the bottom sludge.

Tilapia is a hearty freshwater fish native to the Middle East and Africa which grows rapidly within a range of environments, with a high tolerance for bad conditions including relatively low oxygen and high silt, with a diet that can include algae, agricultural "waste", or bugs (see notes elsewhere on fly-farming). The growing fish must be fed roughly one and one-half times their average daily body weight throughout the course of their lives. They have 19.7 g protein and 2 g fat per 3.5 oz (100 g) serving. Tilapia need warm-water from 82° to 86°F. They need minimum dissolved oxygen level of 3 parts per million, requiring some pumping system in a crowded tank. Tilapia grow best in water with a pH of 7; as nitrogenous wastes (urea, uric acids) build up and make the water acidic, neutral pH is maintained by added buffers such as KOH or (Ca(OH)2), added daily or every other day. Iron is supplied through the addition of an iron chelate once every three weeks and the recommended amount is 2ppm.

Each individual fish (harvested at .45 kg or 450 grams), would consume 2.5 times that amount, or 1,125g, of which 40% becomes increased body mass, 20-30% is used for energy and maintaining body functions, and 30-40% is waste. Our 10 person homestead tank would require fish feed of 1,125 kg, in order to reach the target weight.

Fish waste products of urea and solid excrement accumulate in the tanks, which must be removed and recycled to the growing plant crops, including algae as fish food.

The Columbia study shows one tank 8’ in diameter by 4’ deep (1,250 gallons) can be stocked with 800 30g male tilapia fingerlings grown for 6 months before harvest, even with a high mortality of 25%, fish harvested at 450 grams, edible filets of 40% of live weight. With 600 surviving fish at 450 g per fish, one tank harvest should provide .45kg x 600 = 2700kgs x .40 = 108 kg edible fish. This is an average of around 600 gram of fish flesh per day. (To feed six people) Our target per family size is 10 people, so we need a tank that is 160% larger in volume, and twice again the area to provide for a full year. Their example tank is around 200 cubic feet. Each homestead needs about 640 cubic feet (4166 gallon), which weighs around 33.332 pounds (don't put it on the roof with a LOT of reinforcement). If we keep the same depth as the Columbia example, then the diameter must increase to around 10 feet. The size of each of the two tanks is still not much more than an above ground kid pool.


In repeated texts hydroponics is reported to be cheaper and more efficient than soil gardening. It provides a means to provide optimum root conditions and avoid soil pathogens. Without root resources limits plants can grow to their optimum given heat, light, and CO2 limits. Hydroponics via aquaculture is the simplest to set up. The author has not done experiments in hydroponics to determine if it requires less or more water than a soil-based garden. In general there must be some means to support the roots. In general the solution must be pumped to/from the plants and the source of the nutrients, whether the fish tank, the black water tank, or ???? Typically there must be some medium for the roots to adhere to that holds enough moisture between nutrient floodings. Mediums that may work for you are gravel, smooth river rock, sand, marbles, etc., looking for something that holds moisture on its surface, while providing adequate air-space for the roots.

Check your library for books with further details on physical materials and layout.

As mentioned elsewhere regarding worm castings, to extract the nutrients from a compost for use in a nutrient solution think of a tea bag. Fill a sack with compost and put it in warm water for about a week, put your compost in a watertight can, etc. The nutrients seep out into the water. Filter (i.e. thru more soil, sand, etc.) to leave the solids behind for use elsewhere. NOTE: Many trace elements essential for plants may not dissolve in the water from natural sources. The needs to obtain and “insert” these elements in a more artificial “chelated” form is an inherent “problem” of hydroponics, vs soil where natural organisms handle all the balancing.


Think in terms of a "rooftop garden", which then of course can be located on virtually any surface exposed to sunlight. A lightweight, controlled environment where the growing conditions for plants are optimized.

For your growing area, envision you use planting beds 4' x 8', with 16” wide paths all around for ease of access. Using this method, for every 32 ft. sq. planted, your garden will cover about 5' x 10', therefore 1,000 ft. sq. of planting area would require nearly 1,600 ft. sq. of surface. Framing the area allows extra topsoil or compost to be added in to create a thicker growing area, raises the growing surface above night chilled air, and reduces the need to bend. Consider each 4' x 8' bed as a large self-watering planter.


Maintain some absolute minimum bottom moisture, avoiding enough to "drown" roots, with excess draining to storage / reprocessing. Maintain a reservoir by such method as you can to keep this bottom moisture in place. A small number of W/N roots can exist in the water, but depth should be no further than 15 cm due to the limited amount of dissolved oxygen. When the water level drops in a plants growing medium where roots are growing in the water, these water tolerant roots change into O roots, a process taking only 2-4 days. However, this is not reversible. If water returns to the original depth such that the changed roots are now flooded, the plants wilt within a few hours and do not recover. You need to create a medium with such large air spaces that no matter how much water is around, the roots will still find plenty of air, but dense enough that water can move up by capillary action and keep the medium moist.


A durable, non-toxic, non-rotting material capable of wicking water up, 2" to 3" thick, which also serves as an air-gap.

Expanded volcanic rock, Perlite (Danger to worms), it's principal value is aeration, as it does not hold water & nutrients as well as vermiculite. It has a pH of 7.0 to 7.5. It can cause fluoride burn on the tips of some foliage plants.

Vermiculate is expanded mica. (Danger to worms) It will hold large quantities of air, water, and nutrients, with a pH of 6.5 to 7.2. It comes in four particle sizes, use larger sizes, at least 2 or 3. Fiberglass w/rock. (Danger to worms)


For high-tech fiberglass screen or woven mat. Low tech sticks, twigs, stems (needs to be monitored/replaced). This holds growing medium above wick/air gap.


Whether vapor-tight canvas, adobe, stainless steel, or concrete, walls are necessary to exclude hungry critters, and avoid drying or damaging winds. A typical greenhouse has transparent walls to allow in more light. Is the engineering challenge and expense of walls of glass worth it, or even warranted? Consider you put into an otherwise open field your 1,000 sq. ft. garden. Your plants have access to all of the direct and indirect light from all angles that might fall on that 1,000 sq. ft.

Put an eight foot high solid opaque wall around your garden, and you plants are in shade at the bottom of a well. Line your wall though with highly reflective material and you plants are essentially back to receiving all of the light that would otherwise fall on their footprint. Place at the top of the structure a light selective surface (discussed earlier) and you could if desired have a virtually air-tight structure.


Soil is the loose mineral and organic material which provides nutrients, moisture, and anchorage for land plants. The mineral aspect starts as rock, which is physically broken in to smaller particles by mechanical weathering, wind, water, freeze/thaw, and life once it is established. Particles size ranges are:

Sand - 0.05 to 2.00 mm Silt - 0.002 to 0.05 mm Clay - < 0.002 mm


The smaller the particles, the greater the surface area for any given mass. Clay size particles have so much additional surface area that the permanent negative electrical charge of the surface electrons becomes a significant consideration, and they readily attach to molecules other than the parent rock. This electrical charge difference is referred to as the Cation Exchange Capacity (CAC). The higher the CAC, the more easily these particles make nutrients available to roots and soil life, including water. Zeolite means the stone that boils. I've read that a zeolite crystal the size of a pinhead, when devoid of water, will have an internal surface area equivalent to a bedspread. This porous structure provides significant cation exchange capacities when added to the growing medium.

CEC of Soil Textures, showing the relative amount of nutrients the soil can hold in a useful manner.

Sand 3 to 5 Sandy loam 10 to 20 Loam 15 to 20 Silt loam 15 to 25 Clay loam 20 to 50 Organic soil 50 to 100

Soil organic matter (90% carbohydrate), as it decomposes, makes the nutrients available to the crops. It increases water holding capacity, aeration, and buffers soil pH.


Soil pH is a chemical term "potential of Hydrogen" which is a measure of acidity (lower) or alkalinity (higher) of a solution or substance, numerically a reading of 7 is a neutral solution. As you move in either direction away from 7, the scale is logarithmic, that is a pH reading of 8.5 is ten times more alkaline than a reading of 7.5.

Any atom with a number of electrons that do not "match" the protons in the nucleus is an "ion". The "pH" of a solution is a count of the number of ions. In a glass of water there is generally one hydrogen ion in every 10 million water molecules. The pH of water is set at 7 (7 zeros in the count). Stomach acid has one hydrogen ion for every one hundred molecules, or a pH of about 2. (two zeros) The ions work to tear apart the molecules of food.

Soil pH depends of course on the elemental and molecular composition of the basic soil. Most of Arizona for example contains high amounts of the mineral calcium carbonate (free lime), which keeps the soil pH at around 7.5 to 8. Nearly all ofthe carclim carbonate would have to be neutralized with a strong acid to begin to drop the pH appreciably.

Remember, 98% of plant nutrition absorption is from minerals dissolved in soil water. The effect of soil pH varies with the mineral, presence of other minerals, and soil type.

In alkaline conditions micronutrients such as iron, zinc, copper and manganese become chemically bound and may precipitate out of solution. In acid conditions calcium, phosphorous and magnesium may become chemically bound and precipitate, while manganese and aluminum can dissolve to toxic levels.


Of water applied to a soil of primarily one size of particles, the water held will generally be around: Fine sand - 2.0% Sandy loam - 8.5 % Silt loam - 10.9% Clay - 13.5% Soil physically typically consists of:

45% - Mineral material (sand, silt, clay) 1 - 5% - Organic matter (plant & animal remains) 2 - 3% - Micro-ogranisms 25% - Soil atmosphere 25% - Soil moisture


Exchange of water molecules into the air occurs only if there is a vapor pressure difference between the evaporating surface and the air, i.e. evaporation is nil when the relative humidity of the air is 100%. A change of state from liquid to vapor, and therefore necessitates a source of latent heat. To evaporate 1 gram of water requires 540 calorie of heat at 100 degree Celsius and 600 calorie at 0 degree Celsius.

Evaporation rate is affected by wind speed, 1 mm of the water surface the upward movement of vapor is by individual molecules -- "molecular diffusion", but above this surface boundary layer turbulent air motion -- "eddy diffusion" is responsible.

It is reported that even three or four stones around a tree in the desert make a difference between survival and non-survival. If you put a pile of stones in the desert, it is often moist below them.

Salinity depresses the evaporation rate. Sea water has 2-3% less evaporation rate than fresh water.

Evapotranspiration is a combination of evaporation from the free water surface such as oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds; and transpiration from plants, vegetation, soil and grounds.

Transpiration -- water loss from plants takes place when the vapor pressure in the air is less than that in the leaf cells. 95% of the daily water loss occurs during the daytime, water vapors transpired through small pores, or "stomato", in the leaves, which open in response to stimulation by light. The internal (stomatol) resistance of a single leaf to diffusion is an important control on transpiration, and it is dependant on the size and distribution of the stomato. External resistance of the air to molecular diffusion arises through frictional drag of air over the leaf (larger leaves have lower transpiration rates) and the interference between diffusing molecules of water vapor.

What factors control the net loss of water (or net evaporation) in the atmosphere:

Temperature: increase the temperature, increase the activity of water molecules and loss the water molecules, therefore, affect the net rate of evaporation. Temperature of the water, and the temperature of the evaporating surface. It takes great amount of input energy to change from liquid to gas. Temperature (evaporation) is a function of latitude, season, time of day, and cloudiness.

Relative humidity of the air: hot air can hold great deal more water vapor than cold air. Measure the water vapor content in the atmosphere expressed in percentage. What % of the water vapor has been saturated in the air. The higher the relative humidity, the slower the evaporation rate. Sometimes, this refers to the vapor pressure deficit - which is the difference in vapor pressure between the water surface and the atmosphere.

Wind velocity: The higher the wind velocity, the more the mix of the air, and the better the chance for evaporation rate. Stability of the air or the stillness of the air is also affect evaporation rate.

Above all, the temperature of surface is the most important factor affecting evaporation. The warm surface area gets largest evaporation. Arctic and Antarctic, or mid-latitude in the winter, evaporation gets very low. Sea has open water surface, tropical and subtropical areas, evaporation is high.

Availability of moisture: The moisture supply in the soil is limited, plants have difficulty in extracting water, and AE rate falls short of PE (Potential Evaporation) which is the moisture transfer from a vegetated surface is referred to as PE, and when the moisture supply in the soil is unlimited. The evaporation equivalent of the available net radiation.

To contemplate a perhaps complex approach to preserving your garden water, enclose the garden in essentially a water vapor tight structure. (For starters, think greenhouse.)

Although greenhouse glazing often gets credit-blame for interior heating by preventing radiation of the infrared from the heated greenhouse contents, tests show that even when the glazing is made of materials transparent to infrared, the greenhouse still warms. Even in greenhouses with infrared blocking glazing, night sky radiation still cools.

It appears that the glazing, whatever the material, provides a great deal more toward warming merely by preventing convection currents than does blocking ground level infrared radiation.

If the larger factor is convection currents and physical transfer of heat, then in areas such as the author's, where the purpose is avoiding water loss to open air flow, look to gmize entry of un-desired light frequency, and avoid within the greenouse dark colored heavy mass objects, that would create a miniature "heat island" within the greenhouse.

Use night-sky radiation to cool a thermal storage area, perhaps a large container of phase-change material. Use the atmospheric condensers discussed in the Appropriate Technology appendix to dry garden air, then re-heat it before exhausting it. OPTIMIZED GROWING MEDIUM A shallow bed of compost, worm castings, etc. 3" to 6". If you are taking a rooftop approach, weight can be critical. Weight estimates from ECHO for a 4' x 8' bed are:

DEPTH WEIGHT COMPOST WEIGHT SOIL 3" 598 lb. 947 lb. 8" 1,595 lb. 2,552 lb.

ECHO tells us a garden can be planted in fresh organic material if one does not have compost, grass clippings, food scraps, etc. as an example. Whenever possible, cover new such beds with an inch or more of compost before planting. So far compost appears to be the ideal medium. Transplanting holes may be filled with manure, and consider watering with manure tea. Transplanting from sprouting trays helps keep growing medium "in use".

Shallow rooftop type beds may require annual reworking, or after each crop, as the depth of the bed drops as the material turns to compost, but the trade-off is the quality of the medium, which is essentially pure compost, a near "ideal" medium. To rework the bed, temporarily remove the compost and put the new organic material in the empty bed, then put the compost remains back on top.

There is an element of artistry involved in creating a medium that hold sufficient air and water. In my containers I've been using a column of perile surrounded by the compost, with the perlite extending to the water mat, but the compost held away by rocks and a fiberglass mat. A key in all being at least 3 inches of soil above the water level.

Whether commercial mats of capillary material, fiberglass or other non-biological materials, or biodegradable items, the purpose is to provide a means of wicking water in a bed.

Compost tea, worm casting tea, even the runoff from water thru (first solar pasterurized) humanure can serve as an organic "hydroponic" solution. One approach involves is construction of a "wall" from cut and stacked tires, filled with inert material such as gravel. The professor's article is written around graywater, but I see no physical impediment to use of these other solutions.

In a "solid" growing medium, plant roots may only make contact with 1/10% to 3/10% of the particles in the soil. (Still, with our present open-loop system, how many crops does it take for most of the nutrients to be taken away?)


Your particular crop selection obviously effects the details of your food production facility. In open field conditions, plant feeder root depths will typically be: Alfalfa 3 to 6 feet Beans 2 feet Beets 2 to 3 feet Berries (cane) 3 feet Cabbage 1-1/2 to 3 feet Carrots 1 1/2" to 2 feet Corn 2 1/2 feet Cotton 4 feet Cucumbers 1-1/2 feet Grain 2 to 2-1/2 feet Grain, SOrghum 2-1/2 feet Grapes 3 to 6 feet Lettuce 1 foot Melons 3-1/2 to 3 feet Nuts 3 to 6 feet Onions 1-1/2 feet Orchard 3 to 5 feet Pasture (Grass) 1-1/2 feet Pasture (w/clover) 2 feet Peanuts 2 feet Peas 2-1/2 feet Potatoes 2 feet Soybeans 2 feet Strawberries 1 to 1-1/2 feet Sweet Potatoes 3 feet Tobacco 2-1/2 feet Tomatoes 3 to 4 feet


Breakdown of complex biological materials. Non-edibile crop residue, food scraps, humanure, etc., need to be broken down into simplier substances for plants to easily access the needed components. This can be done in a variety of ways. Composting in containers that maintain appropriate humidity & temperature for the decay organisms. The finer the items are shred, the greater the surface area and the easier the organisms can proceed. These organisms, while breaking own you scraps, also use them for food.

Rotten Odor - Probbly excess moisture (anaerobic conditions). Turn the pile, or add dry, porous material, such as sawdust, wood chips, or straw. It could also be compaction (again anaerobic conditions)

Ammonia Odor - Excess moisture or perhaps too much nitrogen (lack of carbon). Turn the pile, add high carbon material, such as sawdust, wood chips, or straw.

Low Pile Temperature -  Pile too small, make pile bigger or insulate sides.  Insufficient moisture, add water while turning pile.  Poor aeration, turn pile.  Lack of nitrogen, mix in nitrogen sources such as grass clippings or manure.  Cold weather, increase pile size, or insulate pile with an extra layer of material such as straw.
High Pile Temperature (greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit) - Pile too large, reduce pile size.  Insufficient ventilation, turn pile.  Pests, rats, raccoons, insects, presence of meat scraps or fatty food waste, remove meat and fatty foods from pile, or cover with a layer of soil or sawdust, or build an animal-proof compost bin, or turn the pile to increase temperature   Among the larger "helpers" are earthworms.  Be sure to select the type which best tolerates your conditions.  Most worm composting books I've read recommend  Lumbricus rubellus, or red wiggler.  It can't take my heat though as well as Eudrilus eugeniae, the African night crawler, which is a surface feeder. 

Earthworms prefer a soil with a neutral pH, or slightly alkaline. They need to stay moist, and out of sunlight. They CAN NOT live in rock wool, vermiculite or perlite as on the scale of the worm the products are like shards of broken glass. All earthworms thrive on manure, and consume their body weight in food every day. In the wild earthworms may be malnurished. In your compost bin you may find up to 100,000 earthworms per cubic meter (3,000 earthworms/cubic foot) as commercial growers report. If each worm weighs around a gram, and produces casts of around it's body weight daily, one such bin could produce 100 kg of compost daily.

Earthworms can absorb and carry disease. If you have any doubt as to safety of anything to be added to your compost pile, consider solar sterilization of the item first. You may lose some nutrients, but you avoid contaminating your pile and worms. Earthworm casts are not only considered a fertilizer, but you may find they are so rich in nutrients (see table 1) that hydroponics solutions can be made from soaking their casts. (DeKorne, 1978; Hydro Greenhouse Corp, 1983). Like most animals earthworms accumulate toxins in their bodies, which would be concentrated in any creature fed the worms. Perhaps therefore early generations should be recycled to outside of your food web.

Table 1. Properties of earthworm casts and of soil from cultivated fields. Compound Casts 0-6" Soil Depth 8-16" Soil Depth Total Nitrogen 0.0353 0.246 0.081 Organic carbon (%) 5.17 3.35 1.11 Carbon : Nitrogen ratio 14.7 13.8 13.8 Nitrate nitrogen (ppm) 21.9 4.7 1.7 Available phosphorus (ppm) 150.0 20.8 8.3 Exchangeable calcium (ppm) 2,793.0 1,993.0 418.0 " magnesium (ppm) 492.0 162.0 69.0 " potassium (ppm) 358.0 32.0 27.0 Total calcium (%) 1.19 0.88 0.91 Total magnesium (%) 0.545 0.511 0.548 Percent saturation 92.9 71.1 55.5 pH 7.0 6.36 6.05 Moisture equivalent (%) 31.4 27.4 21.1 Source: Lunt, H. A. and G. M. Jacobson, The Chemical Composition of Earthworm Casts. Soaking earthworm casts is a means to produce an "organic" hydroponic solution. Soak an equal volume of earthworm casts and water. You may need additional nitrogen. Earthworms are your miniature engineers, opening the soil to allow air and water to flow.


A perhaps strange sounding approach from THE SURVIVOR Vol. 1. Do you include chickens, fish, etc. in your food plans? Do you need a high protein food source for them? Capture a few flies, and odds are one or more of them will be a female. Envision them in a screened in, escape proof container, with rotting food, sterilized sewage, etc. The SURVIVOR suggests four inch deep plastic trays, in the bottom part of each tray a hole with a patch of rubber with a slit in it through which a nozzle would be inserted. The same kind of slit rubber patch would be over holes in the screen adjacent to each tray. As the maggots ate they would rise to the top to pupate. Pump the new slurry in from the bottom. At one end hang electrified wires to zap the flies, who fall into a removable drawer below, or onto your fish tank or chicken food bin.


These can be bacteria or fungi that "infect" the host plant root. As implied by the word symbiont, instead of a debiliating infection there is a two-way benefit. The plant sugar flow to its roots feeds the infecting organism, while the symbiont aids the plant in uptake of water or nutrients from the soil, or in some cases the "fixing" of nitrogen from the air. There are three types of organisms that may form this valuable symbiosis.

Mycorrhiza are a fungus that can essentially provide an extended root system for the plant, and protection for the plant. The fungai extend their threads into a large volume of soil where they explore and extract nutrients from the soil beyond the reach of the plant roots. Some fungi produce hormones that stimulate greater root development.

Rhizobia bacteria may cause some leguminosae (think bean) plant roots to form nitrogen-fixing root nodules. The bacteria/plant relationship can be very type-specific, where the legume will form nodules only when infected with a specific rhizobium. Others will form nodules with a range of rhizobia. For your intended crops, and potential surrounding "native" transplant donor sites, pre-research relationships. Rhizobium nodules for transplant should be collected from young roots. The interior of a healthy N2-fixing rhizobium nodules is usually pink, red or brown.

Frankia bacteria also perform nitrogen fixation. These bacteria form their own web, similar to fungus, and independent nitrogen fixing vesicles. And as with rhizobia, can be either broad of plant specific. The interior of a healthy frankia nodules is usually whitish or yellowish.

If you are starting with a sterile medium, you may be able to "transplant" microsymbionts from previous planting sites, or sites in nature where similar plants are doing particularly well. Either approach has risks of course of also transplanting pathogens. The danger can be reduced by collecting only desired "infected" roots and nodules.

The difference between with/without a symbioant, or the right one, can be significant. Wood production in selected trees inoculated with a superior strain can be more than 100% above the naturally inoculated control.


Companion planting. There are combinations of plants that grow better (and worse) next to each other than they do next to a plant the same type. There are numerous materials on the subject. This approach also allows use of a wider range of soil depth, as roots from the different plants seek different nutrients, at different times, and different depths.

Vegies Beneficial Antagonistic Asparagus parsley, tomato, basil onions, potato Basil Most plants Rue Beans Beet, borage, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, corn, marigold, squash, strawberry, tomato

  • Reduces the number of corn armyworms
  • Nitrogen-fixing chives, fennel, garlic

leek Beet cabbage, kohlrabi,dwarf beans,onions, Runner Beans ... Broad Beans Potato, lettuce Fennel Broccoli bean, celery, chamomile, dill, mint, nasturtium, onion, potato, sage, rosemary

  • Reduces striped cucumber beetles lettuce, strawberry,

tomato Brussels Sprout bean, celery, dill, hyssop, mint nasturtium, potato, sage, , thyme rosemary, strawberry

Cabbage bean, beet, chamomile, dill, hyssop, mint, nasturtium, onion potato, sage, rosemary

  • Surround cabbages with white-flowering plants to prevent cabbage moth damage. grape,strawberry,

tomato, thyme Carrot bean, chives, leek, onion, pea, lettuce sage, scorzonera, tomato, wormwood

  • Deters onion flies dill, rosemary, radish

Cauliflower bean, beet, celery, chamomile, dill, hyssop, mint, onion oregano, sage, radish potato Celeriac bean, cabbage, leek, onion, tomato ... Celery bean, cabbage, leek, onion, tomato

  • Deters cabbage butterflies parsnip, potato

Corn Artichoke, parsnip,bean, cabbage, cucumber, early potato, lupin, melon, pea, pumpkin, squash ... Cucumber bean, broccoli,carrots, celery, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, pea, radish, tomato rue, sage Eggplant beans,potatopea, tarragon, thyme ... Horseradish potato ... Kohlrabi beet, onion bean, cucumber, pepper, tomato Leeks carrots, celeriac, celery

  • Deters carrot flies, strawberries broad bean, broccoli

Lettuce beet, cabbage, carrots clover, pea, radish, strawberry Beet, beans, parsley, parsnip Melon corn, peanut, sunflower ... Onion beet, cabbage, carrot, chamomile, corn, lettuce, potato, strawberry,, tomato

  • Deters Colorado beetle and carrot flies bean, pea, cucumber, dill, tomato, pumpkin, squash

Pea carrot, corn, cucumber eggplant, lettuce, radish, spinach, tomato, turnip onions, garlic, shallots Pepper basil, carrot, lovage, marjoram, onion, oregano fennel, kohlrabi Potato Broad bean, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, lettuce, onions, peas, petunia, marigold, radish

  • Deters Mexican bean beetle
  • Indian hemp helps protect against late blight - this plant is illegal in some countries - check local regulations apple, pumpkin,

tomato, sunflowers Pumpkin bean, corn, mint, nasturtium, radish, marjoram potato Radish bean, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, melon, parsley, tomato

  • Deters many cucmber beetle,root flies,vine borers, and many other pests grape, hyssop, squash,

Spinach cabbage, celery, eggplant, onion pea, strawberry, fruit trees ... Squash bean, corn, mint, nasturtium radish ... Summer Squash bean, corn,, mint, nasturtium radish potato Tomato asparagus, basil, beans, cabbage,, onion, parsley, pea, sage

  • Deters loopers, flea beetles, and whiteflies on cabbage carrot, cauliflower, chives, fennel, potato

Turnip pea ... Zucchini bean, corn, marjoram, mint, nasturtium, radish potato

Flowers as Companions Alyssum Reseeds frequently, gradually breaks up & adds to the organic level of the soil (*esp. white alyssum) Amaranth Pigweed *Attracts ground beetles Alfalfa lucerne reduces corn wireworms Chrysanthemum reduces nematodes Coneflower Rudbeckia Castor Bean controls mosquitoes and nematodes Lupins Good companion for roses

  • Nitrogen fixer

Marigolds Calendula*Deters asparagus beetes, tomato hornworms

Marigolds Tagetes

  • reduce the number of nematodes in soil
  • attract hoverflies (aphid predators)
  • Deters Mexican bean beetles
  • Reduces cabbage pests
  • Good companion for roses

Poppies Suppress weeds (and every other plant) Petunias Repel a number of pests, including Mexican bean beetle, potato bug, and squash bug Wallflower Aids growth of orchard plants

Herbs Anise bean, coriander Deters aphids, fleas, reduces cabbage worms Basil bean, cabbage, tomato

  • Controls a variety of pests

Borage strawberry, tomato

  • Attracts bees, reduces Japanese beetles on potatoes, and deters tomato hornworms Caraway pea

Catnip *Deters ants, aphids, Colardo beetles, darkling beetles, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, weevils. Chamomile cucumber, mint, radish, roses

Chervil carrot, radish Chive *Cures blackspot on roses, deters Japanese beetles, discourages insects from climbing fruit trees, inhibits growth of apple scab Clover deters cabbage root flies Coriander deters Colorado beetles Dandelion Repels Colorado beetles Dead nettle Good companion for fruit trees; Deters potato bud Dill Repels aphids and spider mites Elderberry General insect repellant Eucalyptus general insect repellant Fennel deters aphids Garlic Good companion for fruit trees; general insect repellant, deters Japanese beetles, aphids Horseradish Good companion for fruit trees; deters Colorado beetles Hyssop Good companion for grapes; repels white-cabbage butterfly, flea beetles, insect larvae Lavender cotton Santolinadeters corn wireworms Lemon Balm Attracts bees and helps pollination Milkweed Deters aphids Mustard reduces aphids Nasturtium Give off ethylene gas which helps in early ripening of fruit (though too many may inhibit growth) Reduces aphids, cabbage worms, Colorado beetles; deters wooly aphids, squash bugs and whiteflies. Keep away from broccoli, brussel sprouts, potato, radish, squash. Parsley roses, asparagus

Ragweed Reduces flea beetles Rue Deters beetles and fleas Rosemary Deters bean beetles, white cabbage moths, carrot flies, and many other insects Sage Deters cabbage worms, white cabbage moths, and root maggots Savory Deters Mexican bean beetles Southernwood Deters cabbage moths, carrot flies, aphids Tansy Deters many insects including ants, aphids, cabbage worms, Colorado beetles, Japanese beetles, squash bugs Planted in a ring around fruit trees, helps repel fruit fly Thyme Deters cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, whiteflies Wormwood General insecticide; deters mice and other rodents, slugs & snails. Repels carrot fly "Nature is often hidden; sometimes overcome; seldom extinguished."


Determine the facts, and plan. Determine the true orientation of your property, and the available light exposure positions of the sun throughout the year. Are you planning a roof top garden, or one with light collection / reflection at a height above ground level? Calculate and plan for the appropriate level.


Plan your garden on paper. Calculate quantity of crops, needed area, light exposure, etc. Remember to group plants according to their nutrient needs. Heavy feeders. Asparagus, beet, broccoli *, brussels sprouts, cabbage *, cantaloupe *, cauliflower, celery, colard, corn-sweek *, eggplant *, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, okra, parsely, pepper, potato, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, spinach, squash-summer *, strawberry, sunflower, tomato *, watermelon *. Plan for subsequent crops in rotation, minimizing re-planting of the same or related crops in the same family in the same spot Place perennial crops where they are minimally disturbed. Put tall and trellised crops on the north side to avoid shading shorter plants. (* indicates fertilize at least twice)

Light feeders. Carrot, garlic, leek, mustard greens, onion, parsnip, rutabaga, shallot, sweet potato, swiss chard, alfalfa, be4ans, clover, peas, peanut, soybean. Easily survive transplant. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, lettuce, chinese cabbage, sweet potato slips, onion, tomatoes, pepper. Require care in transplant. Beets, carrots, celery, chard, melon (2 true leaves), squash (2 true leaves) NOT usually transplantable. Beans, corn, cucumbers, peas, okra. CROP SELECTION.

Worldwide, around twenty plants constitute the bulk of plants grown for human food. There are however over 20,000 species of edible plants in the world. Look at your lawn. While you can't readily digest mature grass, you can process it into leaf protein, or eat young leaves and shoots.

But there are better options for food crops than a lawn, which would take far too large of an area to obtain sufficient calories and nutrition for a person, as compared to the area which could be fertilized by the effluent of that person. CALORIE CROPS COMPARISON Corn: Growing constantly it would take 4000 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 25 ears per day.

Rice: Growing constantly it would take 1350 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 1.2 lbs. per day.

Potatoes: Growing constantly it would take 900 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 5.9 lbs. per day. For optimal yields, an equal amount of sunlight and darkness/day is necessary. Potatoes typically have 50% more waste than edible yield produced.

Sweet Potatoes: Growing constantly it would take 400 sq. ft. to feed a person, and in that it has edible tubers and leaves, the person would eat 0.5 lb. of cooked leaves and 2.6 lb. of tubers per day. For optimal yields, an equal amount of sunlight and darkness/day is necessary.

Amaranthus: From data on the web, growing constantlyt is appears that yield per 100 sq. ft would be around 50 lbs, over a 40 day growing period, or 1.25 lb. per day, which appears to match the daily food calorie needs of a person, who would have to eat 1.17 lbs. per day. Thrives in hot dry weather. Determine Crop Nutrition Efficiency. Calorie and vitamin concentration per unit weight of food, and the yield of a given crop or crop combination per area must be worked out. As mentioned earlier, one of the most efficient crops is sweet potatoes. The edible vs not proportion of a sweet potato plant is far more efficient than the same comparison for corn, where the large stalk, roots, and cobs must be composted before the nutrients "locked up" there are once again available to nourish crops. There are many crops with high calorie yield, high nutrition, and/or multiple edible parts.


The garden crops must be something you and your family will eat, and can eat. Consider the volume and weight of food you can consume. I read in ONE CIRCLE that between 4 and 6 pounds per day is the range for most people. That reference works with a list of the following 14 crops. Their book makes a valuable reference. Collards (leaf and stem) Filberts (seed) Garlic (bulb) Leeks (bulb) Onions (bulb) Parsley (stem & leaf) Parsnips (root) Potatoes (tuber) Peanuts (seed) Soybeans (seed) Sunflower (seed) Sweet potatoes (tuber) Turnips (root & leaf) Wheat (seed)

Annual vs Perennial.

Annual crops require significant input, a lot of which is used to grow the unused plant portions. These must then be reduced by composting organisms (themselves using up energy) before further crops can be grown. Perennial crops such as trees put much less "effort" into maintaining their support system. Envision perennial corn fields, with permanently standing stalks. The potential is waiting for the right bio-engineer in the form of Zea diploperennis, a multi year relative of corn.

Annual. Perennial.

Trees. The quintessential perennial crop. Honey Locust. A mesquite, bearing edible “bean” pods, when mature a tree 55’ in diameter may provide 66 lb. of pods, containing 30% (19.8lb.) sugar, 22% (14.5lb. protein), and good quantities of potassium. While this tree DOES NOT fix nitrogen, it is a good “miner” of deep soil nutrients for later use by surface gardens. The pods can be used to make coffee. In a 100 ft. sq. comparison it provides 2.77 lb. of pods, with .83 lb. sugar and .61 lb. protein. Citrus. Citrus is a global favorite. Of the citrus crops, lemon, grapefruit, and orange trees can produce fruit without pollination, where in effect, the fruit is a genetic copy of the mother plant. The provide a better crop growing on rootstock that is not their own, but fortunately are readily "spliced". Varieties are available that produce in the heat of Yuma Arizona to areas with snow.

Moringa Olefara. a small tropical tree that grows to about 25 feet (8 meters). It has edible tuberous roots, fern-like leaves, and seed pods resembling musician drumsticks. The pungent horseradish essence is in all parts of the plant, with the roots used as flavoring and in poultices.

The bark yields substances including moringine and moringinine, the earlier acts as a cardiac stimulant, produes rise of blood pressure, acts on sympathetic nerve endings as well as smooth muscles all over the body, and depresses the sympathetic motor fibers of vessels when eaten in large doses.

Native to northern India it is mentioned as a medicinal plant in ancient Sanskit texts. It is fast growing and possibly the most nutritious of all leaf crops, the leaves are 7% protein and have extremely high levels of folates, vitamin C, carotenes, calcium, iron, and niacin. The seeds yield an edible and high quality oil (ben oil) earlier used to lubricate fine mechanical swiss watches. Very tolerate of drought. Very attractive yard tree when allowed to grow to its full size.


Man does not live by bread, or calorie crops alone. The following are estimates of plants per person, intensive planting spacing, and amount of square feet to be planted for a little more variety in "American" crops. As I add up the space, for each person you are planting around 338 square feet.

Asparagus, inches spacing for intensive planting: 15 - number of square feet to be planted: 31.50 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 10 - 15 plants 10 - 15 plants Beans, Lima, inches spacing for intensive planting: 4 - number of square feet to be planted: 3.30 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 15 - 16 plants 45 - 60 plants

Beans, Pole, inches spacing for intensive planting:  6 - number of square feet to be planted:  6.50 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of:   10 - 12 plants 16 - 20 plants Beans, Bush, inches spacing for intensive planting:  4 - number of square feet to be planted:  8.25 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of:   30 - 45 plants 45 - 60 plants 

Beets, inches spacing for intensive planting: 2 - number of square feet to be planted: 2.70 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 30 - 60 plants 60 - 120 plants Broccoli, inches spacing for intensive planting: 12 - number of square feet to be planted: 8.00 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 3 - 5 plants 5 - 6 plants Brussels Sprouts, in. spacing for intensive planting: 15 - number of square feet to be planted: 10.90 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 2 - 5 plants 5 - 8 plants Cabbage, inches spacing for intensive planting: 15 - number of square feet to be planted: 12.50 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 3 - 4 plants 5 - 10 plants Cabbage, Chinese, inches spacing for intensive planting: 10 - number of square feet to be planted: 5.50 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 4 - 12 plants 4 - 12 plants Carrots, inches spacing for intensive planting: 2 - number of square feet to be planted: 2.70 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 30 - 60 plants 60 - 90 plants Cauliflower, inches spacing for intensive planting: 15 - number of square feet to be planted: 17.20 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 3 - 5 plants 8 - 12 plants Chard, Swiss, inches spacing for intensive planting: 6 - number of square feet to be planted: 2.75 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 3 - 5 plants 8 - 12 plants Collards & Kale, in. spacing for intensive planting: 12 - number of square feet to be planted: 10.00 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 5 - 10 plants 5 - 10 plants Eggplant, inches spacing for intensive planting: 18, seeds sprout at 80 F. - number of square feet to be planted: 9.00 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 2 - 3 plants 2 - 3 plants Lettuce, Head, in. spacing for intensive planting: 10 - number of square feet to be planted: 16.80 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 12 plants 12 plants Lettuce, Leaf, in. spacing for intensive planting: 4 - number of square feet to be planted: 6.60 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 30 plants 30 plants Muskmelon, inches spacing for intensive planting: 18 - number of square feet to be planted: 6.75 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 3 - 5 plants ------------ Mustard, inches spacing for intensive planting: 6 - number of square feet to be planted: 7.50 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 10 - 20 plants 20 - 30 plants Okra, inches spacing for intensive planting: 12 - number of square feet to be planted: 10.00 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 4 - 6 plants 6 - 10 plants Onions (plants/sets), inches spacing for intensive planting: 2 - number of square feet to be planted: 5.90 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 18 - 30 plants 180 - 300 plants Peas, inches spacing for intensive planting: 2 - number of square feet to be planted: 9.90 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 90 - 120 plants 240 - 360 plants Peppers, inches spacing for intensive planting: 12 - number of square feet to be planted: 6.00 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 3 - 5 plants 3 - 5 plants Potatoes, Irish, in spacing for intensive planting: 10 - number of square feet to be planted: 82.80 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 60 - 120 plants 60 - 120 plants Pumpkins, inches spacing for intensive planting: 24 - number of square feet to be planted: 8.00 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 1 - 2 hills 1 - 2 hills Radishes, inches spacing for intensive planting: 2 - number of square feet to be planted: 0.54 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 18 - 30 plants ------------ Spinach, nutritional reputation lies in its high oxalic acid content inches spacing for intensive planting: 4 - number of square feet to be planted: 4.95 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 15 - 30 plants 30 - 45 plants Squash, Summer, in spacing for intensive planting: 18 - number of square feet to be planted: 9.00 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 2 - 3 hills 2 - 3 hills Squash, Winter, in spacing for intensive planting: 24 - number of square feet to be planted: 8.00 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 1 - 3 hills 1 - 3 hills Tomato stems will sprout roots if buried, so clone the best. Spacing for intensive planting: 18 - number of square feet to be planted: 18.00 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 3 - 5 plants 5 - 10 plants Turnip, inches spacing for intensive planting: 4 - number of square feet to be planted: 3.30 - to achieve a crop of fresh and storage respectively of: 15 - 30 plants 15 - 30 plants


Malunggay - Moringa Olefara. (Horseradish tree) Leaves especially high in sulphur compounds (amino acids methionine & cystine) often in short supply, and missing from yam vines.

Per lb. pods 118 cal, 11 protein, 16.8 carb Yield per 100 sq. ft. yearly production 200 lbs. or .55 lb. per day, Growing constantly it would take 3100 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 17 lb. per day.

Per lb. leaves 418 cal, 30 protein, 61 carb Yield per 100 sq. ft. yearly production 245lbs. or .67 lb. per day, Growing constantly it would take 715 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 4.8 lb. per day. Sensitive to waterlogging & termintes. M.Ptergosperma has larger leaveas. M.Stenopetala from India easily damaged by cold. Ampalya - Bitter Melon Per lb. melons 91.6 cal, 4 protein, 18.3 g carb. Yield per 100 sq. ft. 40.88 lb. over a 90 day period, or .45 lb per day. Growing constantly it would take 4,800 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 22 lb. per day. Per lb. leaves (TBD) Banana - Contains natural sugars sucrose, fructose and glucose, & fiber, and a good source of potassium, preferring a range of 27 to 30 degrees C. Reported to do well with roots immersed in black water hydroponic conditions. Edible blossums, fruit, and banana waste is reported to be used to make paper - 300X stronger than pulp paper. Chayote Per lb. melons 103 cal, 3.44 protein, 24.1 carb. Yield per 100 sq. ft. 68.67 lb. over a 30 day period, or 2.29 lb. per day. Growing constantly it would take 850 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 19.5 lb. per day. Per lb. leaves (TBD) Roots are reported to be 20% carbs. Kamote - (Impomea Batatas) Sweet potato, edible tuber, stems and leaves. Tuber Per lb: 640 cal, 9.5 protein, 149 carb Tuber Yield per 100 sq. ft. 82 lbs. over a 119 day growing period, or .68 lb. per day. Growing constantly it would take 450 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 3.12 lb.+ per day. Vine Per lb: 558 cal, 12.2 protein, ___ carb. Vine Yield per 100 sq. ft. 14.68 lbs over the same 119 day period, or .12 lb. per day. Growing constantly it would take 3000 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 3.6 lb. per day. Can be grown in the same location for up to 6 years. VERY cold sensitive. Leaf and root MUST be cooked. Related to kang kong, which has no tubers. Collards, edible greens raw in salad or cooked. Heat tolerant. Prefer acidic soil. Tree collards are perennial. Plant on 12" centers. Per lb: 182 cal, 16.3 g. protein, 32.7 g carb Yield per 100 sq. ft. 300 lb. over a 52 day growing period, or 5.75 lb. per day. Growing constantly it would take 200 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 10+ lbs. per day. Onions. Prefer a somewhat sandy soil. Per lb: 173 cal, 6.8 protein, 39.5 carb. Yield per 100 sq. ft. 400 lbs. 119 day growing period, or 3.36 lb. per day. Growing constantly it would take 350 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 11.5+ lbs. per day. Helps fight infections, heart disease, etc. Harvest the old leaves w/o killing the plant. Sensitive to salt and overwatering. Leeks Prefer a somewhat sandy soil. Per lb: 236 cal, 10.0 protein, 50.8 carb Yield per 100 sq. ft.240 lbs. over a 133 day growing period, or 1.8 lb. per day. Growing constantly it would take 500 sq. f. to feed a person, who would have to eat 8.47+ lb. per day. Garlic. Prefer a somewhat sandy soil. Per lb: 622 cal, 28.1 protein, 140 carb Yield per 100 sq. ft.120 lbs. over a 168 day growing period, or .71 lb. per day. Growing constantly it would take 450 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 3.22 lb. per day. Rice. Seed rate of 1/4 lb. per bed. Per lb: 1686 cal, 30.9 protein, 371 carb. Yield per 100 sq. ft. 13.7 lb. over a 145 day growing period, or .09 lb. per day. Growing constantly it would take 1350 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 1.2 lbs. per day. Beans. Edible pods and leaves. Leaves are extremely high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron, calcium and protein. Per lb:Yield Pechay - Bok Choy. Per lb. 80 cal, 25 protein, 51 carb. Yield per 100 sq. ft. 8.5 lb. over a 60 day growing period, or .14 lb . per day. Growing constantly it would take 17,850 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 24 lbs. per day. This is however a valuable vitamin crop.

Kang Kong - (Ipomoea aquatics) Swamp cabbage. Related to sweet potato, but with no large underground tuber. Practically the entire plant is edible, with younger parts preferred. It will grow in soil, or in water. CANNOT tolerate cold weather. Per lb. 131 cal, 13.6 protein, 18 carb. Yield per 100 sq. ft. 2.03 lb over a 30 day growing period, or .068 lb. per day. Growing constantly it would take 22,450 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 15.25 lb. per day. This is however a valuable vitamin crop. Sigarilyas - Wing Bean. Edible pods and leaves. Leaves are 5 - 7% protein, with a yield per 100 sq. ft. 40 lbs over a 60 day growing period, or .67 lb per day. Pods yield similar weight per area and growing period. (Data To Be Developed) Labanos - white radish. Singkamas - Jicama Sitaw - string bens Talong - egg plant Toge - bean sprouts Ube - purple yam Upo - winter mellow Puso ng Saging - banana blossoms Labong - bamboo shoots. Gabi - Taro.

Alogbati (Malabar spinach) Dahon ng sili - Chili pepper leaves.

Kabute - fungus Kamoteng Kahoy - cassava

Munggo - mung beans. Atis - sweetsop (Sugar apple)

Bayabas - guava

Balimbing - Carambola Cacao

Chico - sapodilla

Mangga - mango

Papaya Saging

Sampalok - tamarind

Tubo - sugar cane

Atsuete - annatto

Kinchay - asian celerey

Luya - fresh ginger

Murang sibuyas - spring onions

Sili - chile peppers Tanglad - lemon grass


Chipilin. 5' bean bush, leaves strip like moringa, not considered a "staple", but a very nutritious addition with a 6 year lifespan. Cassava (Tapioca) Sheds leaves & goes dormant in drought, can take acidit soil. Avoid leaves, or grind & dry to evaporate toxics. Chaya (Tree Spinach) Leaves are poison when raw, boil 1 minute. Grows 6 - 9 feet tall, use in "damp" areas. Swiss Chard. Helps normalize cholesteral & blood pressure, outer leaves can be harvested at 60 days, then once per week thereafter. Malabar Spinach (Tetragonia expansa) New Zealand spinach. Low plant, thrives on hot weather. Alfalfa. Adapted to hot dry conditions. Roots may grow to 30' deep. Nitrogen accumulator, perennial, but replant every 6 - 8 years. Wheat (Triticum) as a leaf crop, most nutritious just BEFORE seed formation. Dry and grind as a food additive. West Indian Pea Tree. (Sesbania grandifolia) Edible pods and leaves (as with beans). Grown throughout the tropics and tolerates heat and drought well. Egyptian Thorn (Acacia nilotica) Very drought resistent, edible leaves and pods. Orach (Mountain spinach) VERY drought and salt tolerant. Quinoa (Andes plant) Okra (abelmoschus esculeatusr) Edible leaves, flowers, seed pods, mature seeds. VERY heat tolerant, somewhat acid, dry to store. Ivy Gourd (Coccinia grandis) Edible leaves & fruit, so prolific often considered an invasive species.

Cow Pea. Annual plant, leaves have a mild flavor, does well growing with banana plants.

Corn. Per ear, around 600 kernels, 80 calories, 3 g protein, 18 g carb. Yield per 100 sq. ft. around 50 ears over an average 80 day growing period, or around 50 calories per day. Growing constantly it would take 4000 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 25 ears per day.

Sunflower. Per lb: 2542 cal, 109 protein, 90.3 carb Yield per 100 sq. ft. 5 lb. over a 84 day growing period, or .06 lb. per day. Growing constantly it would take 1,300 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat .78 lb. per day. Parsley while low in calories is concentrated in vitamins and minerals. The plant odor may help in insect control. Per lb: 198 cal, 16.3 protein, 38.6 carb Yield per 100 sq. ft. 35 over a 77 day growing period, or .45 lb. per day. Growing constantly it would take 2250 sq. ft. to feed a person, who would have to eat 10+ lbs. per day. Pumpkin. Fruits and leaves. Dandelion. There are probably commercial varieties that are less bitter than wild relatives.


The are two types of propagation, sexual and asexual. Sexual reproduction is genetically similar to how it functions in animals, involving the floral plant parts to achieve the union of pollen and egg. It is a mix of the genes of two parents to create a new, third individual.


In "heirloom" plants, whether bred by nature or by humans, the plant "children" can in general be expected to resemble the parent. For essentially the history of agriculture, farmers, or scientists, bred plants for this long term stability characteristic. However, in plants the "child" may not be genetically stable, which is what we see with "hybrid" plants. A specialized type of seed may grow a highly productive plant, but the the seeds of that plant may grow new individuals that have little in common with the desired results. Perhaps with adequate attention, the desired traits could be stabilized. But the hybrid throwback trait has kept farmers returning to the seed companies every year. Annual reliance on unstable hybrid seed from companies places each annual crop at the risk of catastrophe loss. Focus on heirloom / stable varieties, or if your inclined, see if you can develop a new stable variety. To store you seed, keep it in a tightly closed low humidity container, at around 40 degrees F if possible. The higher the temperature and humidity, the faster the little "life" in the seed processes to eventual un-viability. Every 5 degree C drop in temperature, STAYING ABOVE FREEZING, will double seed life. Seed "lifetime" also doubles with every 1% decrease in water content. Seed moisture will match surrounding air, so use a product such as silica in a closed container to dry the seed, remove the desiccant, and seal the seeds.


Seeds need at a minimum water, oxygen, light and heat. The specific requirements of your selected seeds can vary greatly, and you may need to research. In general, to keep your growing medium in the most efficient and effective production, expect to sprout and maintain seedlings in an independent "nursery" area.

Some seeds may be determined to remain in their dormant state. Again, seed specific research is suggested. Some seeds need to have their hard outer coat scratched or otherwise penetrated or softened to allow water to pass. Some benefit from soaking in hot water (170 to 212 degrees F). Some seed requires a particular period of chill, even freezing. There are even seed which will only spout after being eaten and passed thru the digestive system of an ape. Your seed starting medium needs to be fine textured, relatively uniform, well aerated, loose, yet capable of holding water by capillary action. It should be free of insects, disease organisms, weed seed, etc. A renewable mixture could be something like 1/3 sterilized soil (pasteurize at 180 F for 30 min), 1/3 sand size particles, and 1/3 peat moss. No special pots are required, any approach that holds the seedling medium together works. Note: I discovered that sterilizing soil in the kitchen oven may not be the "best" method, as the heated soil may release some distinctly unpleasant odors, that in my case required a follow up scrubbing of the oven, airing out the house, and dinner for the family at the restaurant...

The time to start your seedlings depends upon their growth rate, and when you intend to transplant them. A suitable planting depth is usually about 2X the diameter of the seed.

You can even pre-germinate seeds before putting them in their initial soil. This reduces germination time, and increases the germination percentage. As with the entire theme of this appendix, and the parent document, the goal is to achieve optimum environmental factors to minimize resource use, and in particular waste. Lay seeds in the folds of a cotton cloth or on a layer of vermiculite in a shallow pan, keeping either moist.

When roots begin to show place the sprout in the container, or the garden. Obviously while working with these, exercise great caution to not injure the plant. Provide indirect light for the first day or so, then new seedlings need bright light, but don't "cook" them.

In open-field gardening, container started plants may need to be "hardened off", which is gradually changing their environment from the perfection of your nursery, to the conditions of the open field. This process can be two weeks.


If you're got a great plant variety, but find it's an unstable, perhaps unrepeatable hybrid, asexual propagation may be necessary. The Bartlett pear (1770) and the Delicious apple (1870) are two examples of clones that have been asexually propagated for many years. Some plants naturally clone.


"Plants from Test Tubes" provides detailed guidance for those who want to set up a scientific, yet home-scale cloning operation. The starting material can be meristems, shoot tips, macerated stem pieces, nodes, buds, flowers, peduncle (flower stalk), rhizone tips, root pieces, and in theory a single cell. The cited text is strongly recommended.


A simplified home procedure can get you started on your set of wonders. Home made medium: 1/8 cup sugar 1 teaspoon all-purpose soluble fertilizer, absent such chemicals substitute _____________ 1/3 tsp of 35% soluble nitrogen fertilizer 1 tablet (100 mg) inositol (myo-inositol) 1/4 pulverized vitamin tablet which has 1 to 2 mg thiamine, or substitute ___________ 4 tablespoons coconut milk (cytokinin source), also available in _______________ 3 to 4 grains (1/400 teaspoon) of commercial rooting compound which has 1/10 active ingredient IBA, or substitute ___________________ Fill a sterile 1 quart jar with pure water and the ingredients, shake well & ensure all materials have dissolved. The medium can then be poured into previously prepared sterile culture jars, say small baby food jars with cotton or paper support material. Pour until the support material is just above the solution. Put the baby food jar lids on loosely and sterilize, such as in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes or oven (solar!) at 320 degrees F for 4 hours. Also prepare sterile water, tweezers, and razor knife. Select small actively growing plant parts, such as 1/2 to 1 inch of the shoot tip. Remove leaves. Sterilize the cutting in 10% bleach (90% water) for 8 to 10 minutes, then rinse in sterile water. Remove any bleach damaged plant part with a sterile raxor. (Note continued concern for only sterile tools touching the cutting) Put the cutting on the support material in the culture jars, and recap quickly. (All of this should be done in as sterile environment as possible.) Place in a warm, well-lit (NOT direct sunlight) to encourage growth. Contamination will be obvious in 3 to 4 days, if so, remove, discard, and sterilize. When successful plantlets are large enough, remove and carefully & thoroughly rinse off all medium (otherwise expect a lot of fungus) then plant into soil. Water thoroughly and cover with vapor-tight transparent (plastic bag), removing for brief (1 hour) period, gradually increasing the open time over a two-week period until the plants are strong enough to stand the open air.


Many types of plants can be propagated by a cutting from a vegetative plant part. Take cuttings with a sharp knife to reduce injury to the parent plant. Clean the cutting in alcohol, peroxide, etc., to avoid transmitting diseases (you hope there are none). Looks for modes (bumps on the stem - see reference material for your particular choice of plants). At least one node must be in the rooting medium. Preferred is two up, two down. In general, take cuttings from one year old or less wood, just before, or after (preferred) the spring flush of growth.

Remove flowers and buds to allow the cutting to focus its stored carbohydrates on root and shoot formation rather than fruit or seed production. Rooting can be improved by application of a rooting hormone, with a fungicide if possible. A commercial hormone product is indole-3-butyric acid, 1/10%. (NAA)

If you do not have access to a commercial product hormone, consider cutting and mashing the growing tip of any other plant.

Insert cuttings into a rooting medium like coarse sand, which is sterile, well drained, yet constantly moist. Find a way to keep the container sealed. Put stem and leaf cuttings in bright, indirect light. Put root cuttings in the dark until new shoots appear. Expect the process to take 4 to 6 weeks, or for the cuttings to rot.

Mist propagation involves suspending the cuttings, with as MUCH leaf as possible, in a mist chamber with relatively intense light, to the level of potential heat damage. The mist keeps the cells moist while providing the maximum drive for the leaves to produce food and hormones to prompt rooting.

Layering is a cloning method where stems that are still attached to the parent plant is encouraged to form roots where the stem touches a rooting medium. Expect this to have much greater success than cuttings.

"Air Layering" is just a matter of cutting wounds in a living stem, (generally a 1/2 to 3/4 inch branch, but larger works) and surrounding it with most airy mass, (say damp moss) surrounded by a semi-permeable membrane (saran) to encourage root growth. Once the moss has visible roots, but the new plant free just below the roots, and plant.


No, not theft, but a means of joining different plants so they grow together as one plant. The part to be propagated is called the scion. There is a great deal you can study about grafting, but some simple techniques and basic reference material, along with experiments, can take you a long way.

The rootstock, or stock provides the plant's root system and perhaps the lower part of the stem.  The scion and rootstock must be compatible, each must be at the proper physiological stgage, the cambial layers of the scion and stock must meet, and the graft union must be kept moist until the would closes.

Perhaps the easiest and smallest graft involves cutting one bud from the scion twig, inserted into a slice in the bark of the host tree.


Fruit & nut trees, can be trimmed and trained to an arbor or espalier system. Trees trained in this fashion should be grafted onto dwarfing rootstock or roots grown in a container.

An example would be two tree whips planted six feet apart, against a grid 12 feet apart, 8 feet high, with vertical wires/braces at heights of 18, 36, 54, and 72 inches. Season one spring, cut the whip just below crossing the lowest wire. Retain the uppermost shoot as the central leader, tie two side shoots onto the wire, remove all other growth. Let the ends of the horizontal leaders point up though, otherwise horizontal growth will stop. At the end of season one the central leader should have grown above the second wire. Repeat in the spring of each year until the top wire is reached, then instead of cutting the top off train it to the very top wire.

By the end of the fourth season, the trees should be in heavy production. All pruning is done during the spring and summer months. After new growth is the spring is about 2", cut it off, also remove 1/4 of the previous season's growth. Don't cut terminals at the scaffold. Early August, or when new growth is 10 to 12 inches long, cut it back to two or three buds. Repeat about a month later. This encourages fruit bud formation and prevents vigorous growth.


Grapes for example must be trained to a definite system, and pruned severely, to be most productive. Something similar to the above espalier works. Set 5 foot posts 15 to 20 feet apart, with wires at 2 1/2 foot high and post top. Vines are trained on the wires. During annual winter pruning, one cane is saved from those that grew from near the base of each arm. This cane is cut back to about ten buds, on which fruit is borne the next season from shoots developing from those buds. Select another cane from each arm that grew near the trunk and cut it back to a short stub having two buds. Again, similar procedures apply to blackberries and raspberries.


Most people associate insects with disease and crop loss, but in reality less than 3% are considered pests. Most insects are either actually overall beneficial or at least harmless.

For persistent pests, note the parts of the Neem tree (Azedarachta indica) are said to work like malathion, but be harmless to people.

The primary pollinator of our crops is insects... are you ready to use a cotton "Q-Tip" and climb around your tree to pollinate for your fruit?


Present synthetic pesticides are largely oil based, and will probably become very costly to produce. Even if you have available chemical insecticides, they may not be the "best" solution. Insecticides can do more harm than good, in particular if you destroy the natural enemy and/or competitor of the pest.

Experience in Arizona has shown some sprays are more likely to kill "other" ants, leaving an open playing field for fire ants.

Conduct research for the likely pests in your area, and for their appropriate natural predators. Plan, if appropriate, for subsistence of your tiny allies. Healthy plants are less likely to attract pests, and better able to withstand pest attacks. Also in your research look for plant varieties that are naturally resistant, or perhaps a "companion" plant that either lures insects away from your desired crop, or drives them away.


All vertebrate animals, from mice to man, have potential to become pests. Your particular pest depends on your local situation. Can you add the rabbits, or deer, to your table?

Often the presence of an animal pest will, like with insects, be evidenced by damage to crops, before you actually see the culprit. The first line of defense is your fence or wall, with minimal size openings. If you're in to high-tech, ultra-sound has been somewhat successful on some species, in particular rats. This and other "frightening" animal control methods tend to quickly become in-effective when the intruder leans that nothing harmful happens.


All that "bugs" you, will not necessarily be insects. Technically, a plant disease is any alteration of a plant that interferes with its normal structure or function, or renders it unfit for its normal use. Problems can be caused by living or non-living influences.

A famous plant disease was the potato blight in Ireland in 1845 - 1846. There virtually the entire crop of the staple food for the nation had the same genetic susceptibility to a particular "pest", wiping out the crop figuratively "overnight".

For disease to occur, there must be a susceptible host, note that plants tend to be limited as to what can effect them, in a stage of development susceptible to infection by the disease.

There must of course be a pathogen present, otherwise there cannot be a disease. DON'T BRING IN FOREIGN MATERIALS OR PLANTS.

The environment must be suitable to the pathogen.


Bacteria and fungi generally cause spotting and rotting of leaves, fruit, stems, and roots. Virus type agents cause distorted growth. Nematodes, microscopic worms that eat plant roots generally show up as stunted growth and distorted roots.

Plants can be "invaded" by other plants, such as mistletoe, that taps into the victims circulatory system.

While probably not exactly a disease, plants can appear "ill" due to physical damage, nutrient deficiencies, water or temperature stress.


Most pathogens need to be carried to their new "home". DON'T BRING IN FOREIGN MATERIALS OR PLANTS. Keep you working surfaces free of outside contamination.

Penetration is the process of getting inside the plant, whether thru an existing opening or thru an active assault such as use of an enzyme to dissolve plant cells. Keep your plants safe from injury. If you find a diseased plant, you may be able to cut off the diseased, or your best action may simply be to remove the plant.

If your plant is under attack by insects, you may be able to physically eliminate them. If visible, trying picking them off, or washing them off with soapy water. Soap is one example of a product that can serve to coat the insects spiracles (breathing holes).


Unavailability of nutrients, even some microscopic quantify, can dramatically effect plant growth, as can a surplus, or contamination with toxic chemicals.


Presented in terms of a typical woody plant stem structure, the visible stem is the bark, which is the aged remains of the phloem. Working inward, the phloem layer can be considered as the arteries that transports the sugars and enzymes from the leaves down to the roots. If these arteries are severed, the supply of new energy to the roots can be dramatically reduced, or severed, effecting root growth. In this case, although the plant may continue to visibly grow, it's health is in jeopardy, or doomed.

The next inward layer is meristem tissue, which is tissue which has not yet become "locked" into developing into any particular part of the plant. It may develop into phloem, or into xylem. If the plant is wounded exposing the meristemic tissue, and the would is kept moist and dark, root tissue will grow. Meristemic tissue is also typically located in root or young shoot growing tips, and in dormant buds.

The next inner xylem layer can be considered like veins, carrying water and "raw" nutrients up to the leaves for processing.


Plants in general, and in particular bushes and trees, do not heal themselves as we and other animals. In an animal, the blood clots and stops loss, internal antibodies circulate to fight infection, the wound heals over, and in general damaged tissue is removed.

In a woody plant, is essence everything below the meristem tissue, phloem and xylem, is already "dead". If the living tissue is damaged, chemical signals in the plant quickly tell the cells to shut off flow in/out of the damaged area, and the plant then attempts to grow new tissue to surround the damaged area. The internal blockages and new growth takes place faster than that on the exterior, which in the case of a large wound may never close.


You cut a rather large branch, several inches or more from the intersection of the branch with the main trunk. The tree isolates the branch, which cannot then seal-off the wound. The trunk attempts to cut-off the branch completely, starting from inside the trunk where the original "bud" from which the branch grew. This leaves a large "wound" in the trunk, susceptible to invasion, infection, rot. Had the same branch been cut close to the trunk, the tree would have a chance of growing bark over the wound.


Chickens can reach maturity in around 10 weeks, with a death rate from 3-18%. Raised for meat 2 kg of feed becomes 1 kg of live weight. The Leghorn has egg production up to 300 eggs per year but not meat. Varieties such as Dominique and Australorp for meat and eggs produce up to 170 eggs per year.

One egg provides 74 calories, 6.29 grams of protein, and 4.97 grams of fat. One 3 ounce serving of chicken provides 183 calories, 15 grams of protein, and 13 grams of fat. Assume each person eats two eggs per day and a 3-ounce servings of chicken meat per day. Maintained for eggs, Dominique requires around 4 layers per person, or 43 chickens for each of the 10 person homesteads in this plan. To slaughter one per week you need 10 more growing, or in total taking into account the worst mortality rate around 65 birds.

Assume six square feet of space per bird, your chicken run is around 390 square feet, let's say 20 foot on a side if all one level (it can of course be multi-level). You are going to want good ventilation to avoid a concentration of ammonia from the manure. Your chickens are NOT going to be trained to use a composting toilet, so you need a mesh floor where the manure drops onto appropriate absorption compost material. One chicken layer generates an estimated 40 lbs of waste annually, primarily phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. Something to immediately capture and divert chicken waste would be useful. (Thoughts anyone?) Ammonia is a colorless irritant gas produced by the microbial breakdown of nitrogen, is prominent in poultry manure. We're looking at a chicken run potentially being on every urban family lot. Chickens need three times more air volume than humans per kilogram of body weight to meet their specific oxygen requirements.

Expect to need at least 2.5 gallons of water per day, examine the Lubing 2 Nipple Aqua to provide constant water, avoiding the spills and disease of bowls and troughs. The chickens will have greater growth if low level light is maintained, aim for 16 hours of lighting per day. The optimal temperature for high productivity and best health for laying hens is between 15 and 30 ° C (59-86° F), humidity to keep dust down and provide cooling can come from a misting system, for high-tech see the Top Climate System.