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Market Gardening on a Dime | Volunteer Gardener

November 30, 2019

– I love a unique garden idea, and when Mike Stevenson emailed me and asked me to come and see his garden, he promised me that it was one of the most unique setups I’ve ever seen. He has a vegetable garden
that you just won’t believe. The uniqueness starts right here. Mike, thanks so much
for having us out today, and I wanna start right here with the way that you’ve sort of mulched your paths. – [Mike] Yeah, I’ve–
– [Troy] Carpet. – [Mike] I have, I’m going for
basically complete sterile, sterileness of all weeds. If you start with no weeds, you end up with no weeds, and you can actually just water your garden, and not just your weeds. – [Troy] So tell me
what you’ve got going on here along the side of the house. – [Mike] I’ve got a
myriad of various things. I’ve got a butternut squash here, lettuce, lettuce, that’s all kale, – [Troy] Uh huh, so kinda cool-season crops in here right now. – [Mike] Yeah, cool season, but the kale will actually hold out. I actually had kale from last year that made it all the way
through the freeze of this year. – [Troy] You do kind of crop rotate. – [Mike] Oh yeah. – [Troy] And once the
cool season stuff is done, you’ll be able to bring
some warm season in and get double duty out of these beds. – [Mike] Yep, it’ll produce
all year long for me. – [Troy] Obviously, they’re raised beds, and you’ve got ’em covered with landscape fabric, erosion fabric. – [Mike] Erosion control fabric, it helps in plant designation for whenever you’re starting from actual seed. You can mark it, you have just your isolated little spots to water out of, the soil doesn’t erode away, the rain doesn’t come down
and actually impact the soil, which, so you have better root expansion. – [Troy] You’ve mentioned
water a couple of times. You have a pretty unique setup for your, catching your rainwater and all that. Talk to me a little bit about
what you’ve got going on here. – [Mike] I’ve got a little
rain barrel setup going, to where this actually
collects this whole side. I had it to where I can
do it completely off grid. I really like to do off-grid gardening. But I mean, this is just gravity fed, and I have enough hose to water
this entire back yard here. Water costs me absolutely nothing, ’cause it would actually
be cost prohibitive to spend a bunch of money on water, and then you end up just… I mean we’re doing this
thing to actually save money. – [Troy] Right. – [Mike] Grow produce, grow something, and just do it for as
cheap as you possibly can, and yield as much as you possibly can. – [Troy] And speaking of saving money, you actually start all or
your own plants from seed, and you have a really unique way that you do that, that I wanna go look at. – [Mike] Okay, perfect. – [Troy] So, even your tree house is built of found and collected materials, and you have a really unique
grow light set up in here. – I’ve got a couple different
types of grow lights. These are actually Agro floral bulbs, and I’ve got some LED bulbs as well, but as you can see on the
south, east and west sides, I’ve got blown out, double-stack windows, so I get to start everything in here mid-February, around
like February 14th, 15th, I’ll start everything,
then it’ll kinda go in here for about a month, maybe five weeks, and then I can transition
to the outdoor greenhouse. – To the other greenhouse. And, nothing here is fancy
or complicated, it’s just– – No, it’s all free, actually
all these plastic grates and actually, these bread racks
I pulled out of a dumpster. – Okay. – No shame in the game, when you’re just scavenging building. – [ Troy] Right, what about
your light fixtures and things? – [Mike] These lights actually came out of some Pepsi signs that were thrown away. I harvested the lights out of those. – [Troy] So, on the one
side that has no windows, then you reflect the light
back with the mirrors. – [Mike] Correct, so
there’s no light lost, and it’s all just gonna come right back, and I can actually, last
year, I started 720 plants, which I found to be too many. It was actually hard to
get rid of that many, but I had this entire thing blown out to where I had every light engaged, but it definitely refracts light back off, and once again, they were free mirrors, so I figured they needed to go in my free tree house
with the free mirrors. I start everything in these trays of 72. And so, once they get just a
little bit bigger than that, you can actually transition
to the red Solo cups. The Solo cups I’m using for a
number of different reasons. One, I first started and
they were just a bunch of cups layin’ around, and so they were one, that free thing, starting over, but then it started at, you can just drill couple little holes in
the bottom of the cup. So, I Iove the cups,
they’re recyclable, one, they’re really cheap, they
do have the conical shape to where you can just pull it out, it comes out nice and easy,
the cups are reusable, and– – [Troy] And as long as
they don’t crack or break, you can just keep on– – [Mike] Yeah, and when they do, you just throw ’em in the recycle bin, and – [Troy] and away they go.
– [Steve] and away they go. – [Troy] So, now we’re over here in your tomato patch, essentially. – [Steve] Correct. – [Troy] How many varieties? – [Mike] Doin’ ten different
types of varieties: orange, yellow, red, black, blue, tomatillo, and also a kind of like a neon green. I do this quad cage setup to where, I don’t want
to have to go buy cages, ’cause it’s all just found
material that I have, – [Troy] Okay, so all your metal stakes, and all of this wiring and
everything is just found– – All free off, free off Craigslist. – Okay. (laughs) – The beauty of Craigslist here. – The beauty of Craigslist. – But, these quad cages, I actually started this
kind of design last year, ’cause I didn’t have any cages, and needed to come up with something, but last year I tried to do, I actually over-planted it, so in each cluster, each
plant has three or four– – [Troy] Seedlings? – [Mike] Seedlings in each
position, so each cage– – [Troy] So, it’s not just one plant in each hole, it’s several. – [Mike] You basically
wanna grow enough that if the bugs are gonna get
it, ants are gonna get it, which it’s gonna happen, and ’cause I’m not using
any sort of pesticides. – [Troy] Okay. – [Mike] You just have to grow enough that even when you lose something– – [Troy] Part of it, you’ve
got enough left for yourself. – [Mike] You still have enough left to go, but last year, I actually overgrew it, to where I’d done five in each one, and the center one kinda grew up, and it ended up choking
out everything else. – [Troy] Uh huh. – [Mike] So, I’ve gone to a
“less is more” sort of approach with this thing, and so
now, I can actually yield this entire thing and
these cages will just be completely blown out, you can service it from any way, and I’ll actually, it’s all stacked stone underneath. – [Troy] A little bit of a path in between so that you
can get in to harvest. – [Mike] You’ve got your
little service path, you can kind of do whatever you want. You can reach it from every angle, and so you’re not gonna
impact any of the soil, but each one of these is just gonna be a beautiful myriad of color, so I’ve gone to where I’ve got the cilantro, Emily basil, Thai basil, Blue Spice basil, parsley, elephant dill. – [Troy] So, you’re really growing everything here, from fruits and berries, to vegetables and herbs. – [Mike] I’m willing to try anything. – [Troy] So, all of your
seeds that you start come from, basically one source. – [Mike] Yes, it’s, it’s Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. It’s all certified organic, non-GMO, all heirloom, so I can collect my seeds, I can re-harvest for next year, but this is the fourth year I’ve bought from Baker Creek, really,
really been pleased with the turnout all in all. I’d say I have about a 100% success rate from germination to actually growing. – [Troy] So, you obviously compost you grass clippings and what else? – I bag and collect the entire yard, so I’ve got one acre here, you can see this is a good mix of brown and green, which is the, really the important part of composting. – Sure. – And it’s all about just makin’ sure that your microbes stay nice and happy. Your aerobic and anaerobic microbes. Aerobic meaning with air, anaerobic meaning without air. But, as well as that, I take all the dropped plants at the end of the year, end up comin’ in here, generally– – Sure, now, are these dug out? This is not a very big compost pile for as much garden as you have. – Yeah, it’s about three
feet deep right here, and this thing’ll end up being
stacked up five, six feet. But, throughout the year,
I will look on Craigslist, once again on the free section, and I’ll go get truckloads of sand. – Okay. – Sand is a great additive for this, and then I, between just stuff
comin’ out of the garden, stuff being collected out of the yard, sand, and then what other matter I find. – All goes in your compost pile. – I’ll also use all of my burnings out of my big fire pit, ’cause that’s, I mean it’s pure carbon
going right back in it. – [Troy] So, anything
that is organic matter– – [Mike] Organic matter
that’s non-protein– – [Troy] Right, that’s non-protein. – [Mike] I just mowed a couple days ago, and we might be able to
dig up a little bit of steam comin’ off it, you can definitely start to smell it a little bit, but. – [Troy] Yeah. – [Mike] Yeah, there is a
little bit of steam that’s– – [Troy] Just a little. – [Steve] That’s startin’ to happen. – [Troy] So, now we’re looking at your 27-foot swimming pool, that, of course, you got for free, but it’s not really a swimming pool. – [Mike] It’s an above-ground pond. – [Troy] An above-ground pond, which is a very important
part of the garden. – [Mike] Yes, and I
also started my garden, and it really wasn’t doing well, ’cause city water isn’t
that great for my plants, so I ended up starting a
water catchment system, as you can off this house
and off my other house and my other building,
collecting all my rainwater, and to where, I can
actually, in the course of about 12 hours, I can collect about 8,000 gallons of water, which, in this pool, comes
out to about 20 inches. – Okay. – So, in order to have water in here, and not have it be a mosquito cesspool, I had to put fish in there, and in order to have fish in there, you had to have water flowing. And then, as part of the
whole thing of purification, I built this four-tier
biomechanical filter. – [Troy] Right, so this has plants in it, iris and cattails, and– – [Mike] It’s got cattails
and iris, and it’s got four different types of lilies, and I put it in here, and I started off by putting 87 fish in here, and the way I surmised that was on the Tennessee Wildlife
Resource Association website, they said for a one square acre, you’re supposed to put in, they would put in 2,000 fish
if they were stockin’ it. Well, this is .029386 acres, and so by the
cross-multiplication on that, turns out that I had
to put 87 fish in here. – Okay. – I put the 87 fish in here, and the varieties of bass, bluegill, sunfish, catfish and crappie, and I actually had to
put the boat in here. As a result, I needed an
adjustable level planter, and so in order for the plants to maintain the proper depth, what they need. – [Troy] Right. – [Mike] Be it like the
6, 12, and 18 inches. – [Troy] Yeah. – [Mike] I actually buried them in, I put them in the swimming pool, and I cut big holes inside of the pool, so it not only acts as
an adjustable planter, but it also acts as
like a propagation thing for the small fish, so
they have a place to hide, so the bigger fish just aren’t
gonna eat the small ones. And, it’s made this whole ecosystem that I don’t have to do anything to, it completely replenishes itself, it’s all gravity fed back into here with all the rainwater,
and it just sits here, and this is my aquaponic nutrient setup for the garden, ’cause I don’t use any other fertilizer
other than my compost, and this is the rest of it. – [Troy] Right, so, in addition to your rain barrels
that you can water with, then this is, this has hoses hooked to it, and you irrigate the garden
with this nutrient-rich water that, because of the
fish and the plant life, acts almost as a liquid compost. – You have to have the turnover, and so this green hose
here goes to the bottom, which is pullin’ all the
super nitrogen-rich water, and I can actually just stick this hose right here in the top,
it starts to siphon. – [Troy] How much water do
you really capture here? – [Mike] In one night, I can actually collect about 8,000 gallons. – [Troy] That’s amazing. – [Mike] My total capacity
is just over 25,000 gallons. – [Troy] Including the pool,
a couple of catch tanks, and then your barrels that
you collect off the house? – [Mike] Right. – [Troy] So, if we equate that to city water prices, we’re
probably talking about four or five thousand dollar water bill– – Astronomical. – If you were to use all of
that, all of that garden. – Peak of the season, if I, once I get to July, August, I run through
250, 300 gallons a day, so that’s about 9,000 gallons a month is what I’d be using– – That’s amazing. – Four or five hundred dollars a month, alone in water, which in itself would be completely cost prohibitive for me to be able to do any of this, and I wouldn’t if it
weren’t all for nothing. – So, in addition to all
your herbs and vegetables, and everything else that
that water supports, you also have a small fruit orchard, a little bed, that you, kind
of a small fruit orchard, and including these little cherries that are actually set in here. – [Mike] This little cherry
tree, believe it or not, will probably crank out two, three hundred cherries this year. – [Troy] Right. And it’s only five or
six feet tall right now. – [Mike] It’s the second
year that I’ve had it. – [Troy] Well, as I said,
this setup is certainly one of the most unique I’ve ever seen, and we really appreciate you having us out and giving this fantastic
tour of your garden. – [Mike] Well, I appreciate it. – [Troy] Thank you. – [Mike] Thank you much.


  • Reply MR GARDEN PROJECTS July 17, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I love this video. I always love watching your videos. Another great video VolunteerGardener. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply havfaith S. July 17, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    Put wood chips down not old chemical ridden carpet.

  • Reply Mike Stevenson July 18, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    I've had the carpet down for 6 years now and after having the soil tested several times there is zero evidence of any chemicals leaching into the ground as people like to say. If you are buying wood chips you are spending too much money and they will not serve the purpose of weed prevention like carpet will. Wood chips turn into soil. Carpet doesn't.

  • Reply ReVoLuTiOnElleBC July 25, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    All that carpet leaching toxins I to the soil and attracting roaches to eat the glue. No thanks! #sheetmulch

  • Reply The Main Sarah Jane July 28, 2015 at 7:58 am

    What an amazing and frugal garden! And it's so clever to use an old above ground pool as a pond and water storage.

  • Reply florie Brown August 22, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Thank you for sharing your brilliant ideas

  • Reply GoodGreen August 23, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    tank u very god totorial on gardenning i learn very fast
    lokk on my chanel i upload video on gardenning thanlk

  • Reply Zach Watkins March 28, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    I really liked this video. I also buy a lot of seed from Baker Creek!

  • Reply Paula Beattie April 1, 2016 at 3:23 am

    Awesome! Where is this located?

  • Reply angela sheppard April 20, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Too cool! what di you run the pump on for the water circulation? interested in seeing how you do it the free or almost free way. Thanks

  • Reply jeffer April 23, 2016 at 6:09 am

    anyone here from tf2

  • Reply Neil S April 28, 2016 at 3:18 am

    wow super inspirational…

  • Reply alex jungeee April 28, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    this guy is a lot smarter than he looks

  • Reply FlowerGrower Smith May 5, 2016 at 3:08 am

    Yep – mirrors are the greatest most useful things in gardening. With them in place, you can grow things in permanent shade, they make your garden look bigger, etc etc.. Brilliant garden by this guy – well done.

  • Reply Jefferdaughter May 11, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Standard soil tests will not show the presence of synthetic chemicals of the type  present in carpets, landscape fabric or erosion control fabric – and the hose, and even the plastic water barrels.  Unless someone is using wool carpeting, carpets are~ made of~ synthetic chemicals.  Then treat4ed with even more toxic chemicals to prevent stains.   Even 'food grade' plastics transfer synthetic chemicals to the water, and garden hoses are super toxic ( potable water hoses are better).Many garden weeds, on the other hand, are not only edible – but every bit as delicious and often more nutritious than the garden plants.  Sure, we need to make sure they don't overwhelm the plants we are trying to grow, but many will form symbiotic relationships with the soil food web ~and~ the garden veggie plants; which can help all to thrive.   This is forgotten knowledge that does not fit with the industrial, high-tech market-driven society we live in…   Purslane, amaranth, lambsquarters, burdock, plantain, etc – these are among the vegetables that grow without our effort, so we choose to call them 'weeds'. Aside from wood chips, there are many plant materials that make excellent mulches – to suppress (if not totally eliminate) weeds, and feed the soil food web (Google for more info) which feeds the plants!  Wood chips may be better for paths than directly around plants – and if they are fresh, you can grow mushrooms in them!  Mulches  also protect the soil from heavy rain impact, allow the soil to breathe better than carpet or fabric, and provide insulation from temperature extremes (far better than carpet or thin fabric).It all comes down to a matter of mindset.  Us battling Nature – or working with it.

  • Reply jofon May 31, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    what soldier loadout should i use

  • Reply ILBackyardFarm July 15, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    nice set up with the pond and all!

  • Reply jgolenko February 25, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    Mike, just wanted to say great job from a fellow gardener in Texas! What a great way to grow great vegetables and save money simultaneously. Keep up the great work!

  • Reply mika March 12, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    Mike, can you explain how your above ground pond- syphoning system works? You mentioned your purification system was all gravity fed , but the video makes it appear that the end of the hose is above the pool. Thanks!

  • Reply andrew kennett July 4, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    I hope there is not tar shingles on his roof.

  • Reply Cat Bird July 12, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    GREAT video. Thanks for the tour. I love unconventional gardens like this garden.
    I'm planting a vegetable garden in my yard next year and I'm in the process of looking for inexpensive ideas and raising my beds now, which isn't very inexpensive, but it's a good investment. In my PA rock and clay yard, l'm looking to harvest veggies and fruits with anti-inflammatory benefits.

  • Reply Zach Wilkinson February 16, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    Is that a lawnmower in the pool ??

  • Reply Sansom’s Pressure Cleaning & Pool Service February 19, 2018 at 3:17 am

    Thank you so much for sharing where is his property located at?

  • Reply Cam HowElse March 26, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    I think he meant animal products not protein lol

  • Reply Jennifer Caldwell April 29, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    Endless possibilities and such great inspiration. So cool!!

  • Reply Nunya Biznis May 20, 2018 at 4:08 am

    That garden and most of the plants look like shit in every way possible.

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