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close this book Intensive vegetable gardening for profit and self-sufficiency
close this folder Chapter four: Garden planning
View the document Garden location
View the document The garden plan
View the document Planning to plant
View the document Succession planting
View the document Companion planting
View the document A garden notebook
Open this folder and view contents The garden account: production, costs, and income

Chapter four: Garden planning



Garden location

Many factors must be considered in planning a garden. First of all garden location is very important. The garden site should be located near the home so it can be easily protected and cultivated. The soil should be well drained, deep, and rich. If the area is subject to heavy winds, location of the garden in a protected area is helpful. It could be behind a tree line that acts as a windbreak, or fast growing shrubs or plants can be planted to serve as a windbreak.

The garden should not be near any large trees that would shade, or whose roots would rob nutrients and moisture from the crops.

The farmer should become a keen observer of the climate and seasonal changes in his area. Temperature, rainfall, and wind all affect the types of crops and the times of planting. For instance certain crops prefer cool weather. The skilled farmer/gardener will know when the coolest season of the year occurs, and plant the cool season crops such as cabbage, lettuce or red peas, so they can take advantage of the cool temperatures.

The farmer should also take note of all local resources for building, mulching and composting. A well tended bamboo grove will provide the gardener with much material for building fences, huts, and trellises for vine crops. It also provides leaves for mulch and compost.


The garden plan

The next step to planning the garden is actually drawing up the plan. Having a plan to follow will save the farmer/gardener much time and worry. By properly planning the garden or farm the farmer/gardener can expect maximum production and minimum maintenance

The best way to draw a plan is to use large sheets of paper and draw out rough lines of the farm or garden. Permanent parts should be drawn in first, such as huts, pathways, trees, and composting areas. North and south should also be marked on the plan. Then the placement of each crop, in order of their importance, should be drawn in, considering the time and space that can be devoted to each. (ref. to figures 4.3,4.4)

Figure 4.1 PLANNING


When considering which crops to be grown the farmer/gardener should note the market value and demand for certain cash crops and their adaptability to his land and climate. The nutritional value of crops should also be given due consideration. By growing a major portion of his family's food, as well as a cash crop, a farmer can save much money and at the same time provide more and better nutritious food for his family. The farmer should seek the local agriculture officer's advice when choosing varieties of crops best adapted to the area.


Planning to plant

With the help of tables 1 and 2 the farmer should be able to determine how much seed will be needed. Table No. 1 gives the farmer the number of seeds per ounce for each vegetable crop with the germination rate for each crop. Table No. 2 gives spacings for intensive planting, and the number planting centres per 100 square feet of intensive bed. If the farmer wants to plant 200 square feet of the intensive bed in bush beans, he looks on the spacing chart and sees that bush beans are planted on 4 inch centres. From the same chart he can see that there are 900, 4 inch centres per 100 square feet. That would be 1800 planting centres for 200 square feet. On the seed per ounce chart he sees that bush beans are planted two seeds to the centre. That would mean he needs 3,600 seeds (2 seeds per centre x 1800 planting centres). The chart also tells the farmer that there are 100 bush bean seeds to the ounce. So the farmer would need 36 ounces or 2 1/4 pounds of bush bean seed. By mastering the use of these charts the farmer will be able to estimate yields. For example from the charts the farmer can determine that there are 56 cabbage plants per 100 square foot bed if they are planted On 15 inch centers. If each cabbage produces a one-pound head the yield would be 56 pounds per 100 square foot bed.


Succession planting

By careful planning the farmer/gardener can know when one crop will be finished and a next crop can be planted in its place. This is called succession planting, and can increase the productivity of the garden greatly. We have included three succession planting charts. By knowing the time that it takes for a crop to mature the farmer can plan a crop to follow. This will keep the garden producing the year round. (see Succession Planting charts 7.1, 7.2, 7.3)

Figure 4.3 1/4 Acre demonstration garden

Figure 4.4 Intensive Garden Plan


Companion planting

When planning the garden, remember the companion planting chart. (Table 3) Plan the planting scheme so that plants that helps each other grow and resist insects will be near. Keeping a garden plan will gardener to remember his crop rotation cycles.


A garden notebook

The serious gardener will always keep a garden notebook. In this notebook he will note crops and varieties which did best and which did poorly. He will also note the dates when certain insects appeared, the dates of planting and reaping, and all other relevant information and observations. This notebook will help the farmer improve his garden and crops every year. It will, for example, help him be prepared to fight insects and remind him of areas of soil that need special attention.


The garden account: production, costs, and income

Small-scale market gardening can be a very profitable business if it is approached by the farmer/gardener as a long term profession rather than a way to make a little money. Planning ahead pays.

The most important thing professional market-gardeners must do is produce good quality fruits and vegetables. This is an important key. If the small grower can't maintain quality, retail customers and buyers won't take the time and trouble to deal with a small producer regularly. If he is truly professional and aware, he will be able to find and use free resources such as, manure bagasse, grass for mulch, bat manure and any other organic materials that can help build the soil fertility for better yields and quality.

When planning the market garden the farmer should keep an account of all his expenses and incomes, so he will be able to better manage his business. Selecting crops best suited to small scale market growing depends on the soil, the climate and the farmer's skill. We have listed some figures of cost and profits for tomatoes grown on a small scale.

Tomatoes on 1 acre

Tomatoes require a large amount of labour: about 650 to 800 hours per acre spread over the whole season. In a small scale operation, the family could handle the labour without having to hire labour; this would increase profit.



Cost per acre





Pest Control


Machinery operating cost


Machinery fixed cost


Truck haulage and marketing


Stakes, ties, other expenses




Yield: 16,000 pounds per acre


@ .20 per pound income




Return to land, labour and management


Although the figures and yields are for the United States, they should not vary that greatly, because the value of fresh vegetables is usually higher in Jamaica.

In the following charts we have given the cost and profits of onions and cabbage grown with the intensive method. These are based on Jamaican costs and prices, using intensive raised beds that have been intensively fertilized and texturized with cow manure and chemical fertilizers, and have been "doubledug" and prepared by hand labour.

One-tenth acre of onions

We have chosen 1/10th acre as the plot size to demonstrate the benefits of small scale intensive market gardening.



Cost per 1/10th acre (4,000 sq. ft.)


Onions are grown in seed beds and transplanted to growing beds planted on four, inch centres in the growing beds 900 plants needed to plant 100 square feet. 36,000 plants needed to plant 1/10th acre(4000 sq. ft.) Approximate cost for seeds and growing the seedlings would be



one square yard texturizer such as cow manure or compost per 100 square feet, depending on the soil. 1/10th acre would require 40 square yards. The major cost involved in this is haulage



5 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet.


1/10th acre would require 200 lbs.




$40 total cost $200

Labour - Hand Labour

6 hours are required to prepare and Plant a bed 5 feet by

20 feet = 100 square feet. Bed preparation includes forking and weeding, adding and mixing in texturizers, double digging in manure or compost, shaping the raised bed with a rake, and sifting in top soil fertilizers (5-10-10, chicken manure) 210 man hours or 30 man days required for bed preparation.

The labour required for bed preparation can probably be cut in half by the use of a power hand tractor.

2 to 4 hours per day are required for care and maintenance (cultivation, weeding, watering, etc.)

120 days to maturity

360 hours or 40 man days for mairtenance for 1/10th acre

Total labour requirement

70 man days @ $5.30 per day valued at $371


36,000 plants at 1/8 pound per plant

4000 lbs. per 1/10th


acre valued at 50c


per pound


gross income




$ 200


returns to land, labour and management




$ 371


net profit

$1429 from 1/10th acre

A small family could easily handle the labour requirements for this size plot and could probably care for more crops cultivated less intensively such as pumpkin, corn, or sweet potatoes. As mentioned before, with the help of a power hand tractor the family could probably double or triple the amount of land under intensive cultivation as well as that land planted to less intensive field crops.

It might be of some interest to the small farmer to note that from the above figures the farmer's time is worth $3 dollars an hour. ($1800 return to land, labour and management for 600 hours labour)

A bed of cabbage to help the food budget

The following chart, Chart 4.3, illustrates the advantages to the family of having their own small intensive vegetable garden as a source of their own food supply. Instead of having to buy vegetables and pulses, the family can produce large quantities of important food crops on very small areas of land with the intensive gardening methods discussed in this manual.

The example given below is for a single plot of cabbage. With the one small plot, the family could easily raise their total supply of cabbage. A small family could supply all the labour for the single bed required to produce this amount of cabbage during their spare times. Gardens are also excellent family projects for learning to live, work and produce together.

The savings for the family budget from this single small plot are quite significant. If the family bought 200 pounds of cabbage in the market at $.60 per pound, it would cost them about $120 for the same amount of cabbage. The production of the single vegetable bed thus represents a savings of $107 for the family food budget. It is likely that a small family of four or five persons could easily cultivate three or four intensive vegetable beds of this size. This would result in substantial savings in normal food purchases, ensure a ready supply of fresh produce, and improve the family diet.

Kitchen Garden Cabbage Bed



Cost per 100 square feet bed. This is a very small area 5 feet x 20 feet that could fit into nearly any small yard. We have chosen this small area to present the advantages of the intensive method for kitchen gardens. Even small gardens can be profitable.



(seed is grown in seed bed and transplanted to growing bed) 100 plants are required to plant the bed. Plants spaced on 12 inch centres 2 packs of seeds



2 cubic yards of cow manure or compost



2 - 4 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer



or 5-10 pound chicken manure combined with 5 pounds wood ashes






each plant yields approximately 2 pounds 100 plants yield 200 pounds



Income: 25c /lb farm gate price. crop value

$ 50.00


Return to land labour and management



6 - hours required to prepare, fertilize and plant the bed. 10 minutes per day maintenance and care


Total 20 hours, labour value

$1.87 per hour

Profits from one acre for a skillful farmer

The next chart, Chart 4.4, illustrates the profits which the skillful farmer or gardener can make from a single acre which is planted with a variety of vegetables and pulses. Some of these would be produced in the raised beds through intensive gardening as discussed above. Others, such as sweet potatoes and melons, would not require raised beds so the labour and land requirements are less intensive for these crops.

The projected profits from a single acre planted with these crops is very conservative. It is likely to be much lower than the skillful farmer could actually achieve. The costs used in these calculations are slightly below those normally received by Jamaican producers. The production levels used in the estimates are also below that which is normally expected with intensive gardening. The example shows, however, the minimum production and income levels which can be easily obtained through skillful farm and garden management. Special attention to the improvement and maintenance of soil fertility is most important to successful farms and gardens. Every farmer should immediately develop a sound soil management program for the sake of himself

Small Scale Market Garden CHART 4.4

Return to land labour and management for various selected crops.


Return per acre

sweet potatoes

$514 produce sold at


$.08 per lb.

snap beans

$1000 " " " "


$.20-per lb.


$1800 produce sold at


$.10 - $.12 per lb.


$900 produce sold at


$.06 per lb.

It is best to work with not more that 1/2 acre in any one crop. For example, a good plan for a one acre is; 1/4 acre sweet corn, 1/4 acre tomatoes, acre sweet potatoes, 1/2 acre in watermelons and bush beans.

In a small scale operation the farmer and his family should be able to supply the land, labour and management, without any extra expenses. This is a major advantage of the small-scale market-gardener.

Returns on a one acre market garden (return to land, labour and management)

acre tomatoes


acre sweet potatoes


1/8 acre melons


1/8 acre bush beans


acre cabbage




Returns based on row crop method of cultivation, which is less intensive.

Figure 4.5 Growing foods to feed your needs