Man in Overalls Grows 390lbs of Food in Small Garden

For Immediate Release
Monday, January 23, 2012
Nathan Ballentine

Man in Overalls Grows 150lbs of Food in Small Winter Garden
The yield was harvested in only three months during the height of winter.

(Update: Upon moving away just 9 months after we installed and planted our 80-square-foot, front-yard food garden, my wife and I had harvested (and meticulously recorded) 390lbs of fruit, veggies, and herbs, an estimated produce value of over $1600.)

How much money has your front yard grown this winter? Gardeners in one Frenchtown household harvested over 150 pounds of food--a $600 value--in the past three months. In three raised beds with a total area of 80 square feet--the size of a very small bedroom--Nathan Ballentine, aka the Man in Overalls and Mary Elizabeth Grant-Dooley grew broccoli, collards, cabbage, carrots, herbs, and a host of other plants to eat, sell, and donate.
"It's way easier to grow food than folks tend to think," explains Nathan, who has been gardening since he was eight years old. "There's this idea that you have to have several acres and toil for hours in order to grow food for dinner. People also always think the only time to grow food is springtime. None of that is true." People can grow food anywhere there's at least four hours of direct sunlight; a garden can be a single container with one tomato plant, a compost-filled raised bed, or a large plot of land divided into rows. A garden the size of the one in Ballentine's front yard only required about 15 minutes a week of active gardening--watering, weeding, and harvesting--once the initial planting had been done.
For $30 spent on plants and seeds, they grew far more than enough vegetables to feed themselves through the winter. Interested to see just how much their small garden could produce, the pair systematically weighed and recorded everything they harvested. The final breakdown included 4 pounds of broccoli, 18 pounds of cabbage, 10 pounds of root vegetables (turnips, carrots, and beets), 27 pounds of salad greens, and 90 pounds of cooking greens (collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, and kale).  They ate 75lbs, gave away 60lbs, sold 10lbs, and only about 5lbs were stolen. At Tallahassee prices for local, organic produce, this is approximately $600 worth of fresh, healthy food.
The spring planting season--the best time to grow tomatoes, peppers, green beans, cucumbers, and many other favorites--is right around the corner. Nathan Ballentine is known around town as Man in Overalls, which is a business that builds and plants raised-bed food gardens for people hoping to grow their own vegetables. He maintains a blog with gardening resources and stories; it can be found at