In The High Frontier Gerard O’Neil states that to feed one person we need 65 square meters of agricultural land. Also he argues in the same book that people need 45 square meters of living space per person to live comfortably. These numbers are important for designing space settlements and here we will assume these numbers to be true. Continue reading Some numbers
In Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of Tomorrow (1902), we can read his proposal to surround a 1,000-acre town of 30,000 residents with 5,000 acres of farm land. Since in space industry and agriculture will mainly be located outside space settlements, we could look for alternative uses for this land.
Howard pays little attention to recreation in his book. Though his design includes a central park, his garden city plan does not reserve land for sports such as field hockey and ultimate. Because sport does positively affect human wellbeing, we propose to reserve some of the land originally reserved for farms to sport fields.
In chapter 10 of his book The High Frontier (1976) O’Neill suggests that space settlements are ideal locations for gardening. Our suggestion would to combine “O’Neill” and “Howard” by reserving a substantial portion of the “farm” land for allotment gardens. These are gardens assigned for individual, non-commercial gardening.
O’Neill also advocate the concept of polyculture in his book. Polyculture is the practice of growing of multiple types of crop in the same plot of land. It’s the opposite of monoculture, which dominates modern agriculture. Scientific studies have shown that polyculture is preferable to monoculture.
There are several types of polyculture, one particular interesting concept are forest gardens. The practice of forest gardening is an ancient one, but Robert Hart has formalized it in his seven-layer outline. The first layer consists of mature fruit and nut trees, which (of course) will provide fruit and nuts. The second layer consists of smaller trees, while the third layer contains fruit bushes (currants and berries). Then the fourth layer are perennial vegetables and herbs. The fifth layer are root vegetables, the sixth are edible plants which grow horizontally. The final layer consists of vines and climbing plants.
Forest gardens is considered as a low maintenance type of gardening, and hence suitable for allotment gardens. Most people with allotment gardens, work there in their spare time. An additional benefit is that forest gardens contribute to food security by providing a wide variety of food. Potentially forest gardens could be established on rooftops.
Forest gardening is a type of agroforesty, the combination of agriculture and forestry in one system. Agroforestry does not need to limited to non-commercial allotment gardens, the utilization of non-timber forest products in forest farms can make forests management commercially interesting. We propose that forest farms should be leased to private parties, on the condition that these forests will be open to the public (see also our post on Allemansrätten).