Q & A

Q & A – Hatching Eggs

Q. Just wondering how you can tell that an egg is fertiile? Does it look different from an unfertilized egg? I was also wondering how many eggs you can hatch in an incubator at one time and how long it takes them to hatch?

A. Regarding fertile eggs, you first need a male – duck or chicken (or purchase fertile eggs online). The next step to determine if an egg is fertile, incubate it for a few days and then candle it to see if cell division has begun.  How to Candle Eggs » There are many different sized incubators on the market – you can hatch 4 to 200 eggs depending on the size and amount of money you want to spend. The still air model that we have can hatch about two dozen eggs. Chickens take about 21 days to hatch and ducks about 28. How to Hatch Eggs» 

Q&A – Growing Methods

Q. I was browsing your site and found your “At a Glance” page. Under Growing Methods, would you please describe Dervaes Sr.’s Jungle Style and Dervaes Jr.’s Max-out Method?

A. Dervaes Sr’s method was all about fitting as many plants on one property. The plantings were so dense it looked like a jungle and was a real traffic stopper. Living in Tampa near the Bay, conditions were ripe to plant all sorts of beautiful tropicals underneath the towering and graceful oaks and thick layers of mulch. (Dervaes Sr loved mulch – so much so that he’d collect bags of oak leaves from the sides of the road.)
Read a little more aboutthe late Dervaes Sr’s gardening practices.

Taking Dervaes Sr’s “forest/jungle” method of growing, Dervaes Jr brought many of the patterns to edible landscaping. “Maxing” out and squeezing as much as he can in small spaces. “Fancy” more modern terms which readers would be familiar with would be: “forest garden” or “polyculture” or “permaculture.”

Q. I was curious about the per crop yields you’ve had each year. If I’m remembering correctly from the pamphlet that came with our oven, you grew a lot more corn in the early years, and more onions later (or something like that).I was wondering if those changes were intentional (one can only eat so much corn! or maybe other crops make more economic sense than corn, for example) or due to climate or pest problems… or…?

A. Good question. As with any living thing our garden is ever changing.  During the past seven years our garden/yard has undergone revision after revision as we struggle with finding what works and what doesn’t.   Without extra plots or land to experiment with, it’s tough to grow so many crops in such a little space. Some years we hit it right and some we don’t – either because of weather conditions or being busy with other sustainable projects. We stick with growing what comes easy and can produce the most pounds per bed. Since we started keeping records, you are correct to note that our corn amounts have decreased. Though we dearly love corn (see usyoungins amongst the giant corn we grew on our 10 acres in Florida), we downsized the raised beds and focused more on crops that are “cut and come again.” Another factor that has to do with our not planting so much corn is our neighbor’s monstrous pecan tree. This tree is affecting the dynamics of our garden and the amount of sun it receives.

With “one time harvest” vegetables like corn, carrots, onions one needs space to truly have successful succession plantings. We do it on a much smaller scale and every year is a learning experience.

Q. I have a question about your gardening because we have an even smaller space and eat only raw/living foods. I have a family of 5 and we eat a LOT of veggies and fruits so I wondered if you could explain or direct me to a link to the “square inch gardening”.I’ve heard of square foot but not inch.

A. “Square inch gardening” is a term we coined to describe our method of growing many plants packed closely together, emulating how plants grow in nature. So if you have a small space for gardening, growing plants more closely together than recommended by seed packets may be beneficial. We sow our seeds very close together; in nature seeds don’t measure distances in inches as is recommended on backs of seed packages. Spacing plants closer together acts like a “living mulch” – preventing evaporation from the soil and savingwatering costs. We also plant multiple-layers. For instance, bigger vegetables like broccoli or peppers are planted with a carpet of greens – lettuce, arugula, etc., underneath. With this type of technique the green carpet acts like a living mulch, preventing weeds and keeping the soil moist.

This method of growing requires one to experiment since each garden’s growing conditions are different. But you’ll be rewarded with increased yields!

Q. Would it be worthwhile to do some four season harvest techniques as back up for situations like this? Though I’m guessing you’d want a solar powered fan too to keep plants from overheating on the more common warm days. I was thinking that you could also use the paths in a four season greenhouse as an emergency place to park earthbox type planters on frost nights.

A. Such “four season methods” would have been something to consider had we known such a year was in store. This weird cold snap was so unexpected, and with our being spoiled living in such a mild climate with generally mild weather, we were so unprepared.

Why spend money when one really doesn’t have the need for cold frames, fans or even greenhouses? Normally we can get by with plastic coverings and hosing down the plants in the morning. But the intense cold that lasted 6 consecutive nights was too much.  Now if such weather flukes become the norm because of global warming effects, then we folks in mild climates may have to start taking lessons from gardeners out East.

It’s a setback, but we are truly blessed since things could have been worse and are worse in other parts of the country.

Q&A – Bucket Greywater

Q. I’d love to hear how you use the bucket in the shower … do you just catch the water, soap and all before it goes down the drain?

A. Our old house doesn’t have a shower facility – instead have an old claw foot tub. However, if you do have a shower you can use a five gallon bucket to collect the water before it goes down the drain.   Of course make sure you use biodegradable soap. For ouroutdoor shower we let the water drain off into the surrounding edible landscape.
We use bucket drain methods for collecting water from our bathroom sink and the produce washing facility sink in our garage. Instead of connecting the drain to the sewer pipe, we just disconnected it allowing the used water to fall into a five gallon bucket underneath. This greywater is used to irrigate fruit trees and edible shrubs or, as with our bucket drain in the bathroom, can be used to flush the toilet.


  1. Stephanie Griffith says:

    That tribute to your grandfather was beautiful.