Learning how to grow your own food is becoming more essential for financial and climate reasons. First of all, consider the price of food that keeps on increasing it seems with each passing day. Next we have the climate change condition, which dumps heavy rainfalls producing floods, and other upcoming disasters like droughts and other weather extremes, which not only affects the price, but the quantity of food available. The day may come when we go to the store and not be able to find the foods we would like, or that we need.
This is where learning how to grow your own food comes in handy, and, according to a Garden Writers Association (GWA) survey, and found that 7 out of 10 respondents reported having a lawn or garden and that it is now becoming ‘trendy’.
We have always been hunters and gatherers, but in today’s modern society we have shifted away from our natural instincts and become consumers. There are many benefits of having your own vegetable garden, such as the reduced cost of food, increased security, health benefits, and a great hobby! We are talking substantial savings in food costs here, but it is also a somewhat labor intensive task. We have included a substantial set of instructions here for how to grow your own garden, and we hope that it helps you in your journey back to our roots!
How to Grow Your Own Food
Determine what vegetables are best to grow in your location:
How to Grow Your Own Food Vegetables Chart
Obvious factors in learning how to grow your own food include climate, soil, rainfall, and space. A fast and fun way to learn what grows well in your climate is to visit a nearby farm or neighbors garden. Here are some relevant questions to ask experienced growers about or investigate yourself:
Some locales only have a brief growing season, such as Northern Europe and Africa. This means growing quick producing plant varieties that can be harvested and stored for the winter. Other areas have year-long warm weather, where fresh vegetables and grain can be harvested on demand.
Depending on the type of soil in your region or that you have available, you may expect very high yields from a large area, or meager yields from small areas. The best plan to follow is to plant crops that will flourish in your conditions such as native foods for a staple, and use surplus land to grow “luxury” foods that require more fertilization and effort.
No one can expect plants to thrive with minimal rainfall, so most food crops require substantial amounts of water from irrigation or rainfall. Consider the normal rainfall rate for your area, and the availability of irrigation when choosing crops. If you live in a dry area, consider collecting rainwater for your garden.
If plenty of space is available, you may be able to grow plenty of food using conventional methods, but where space is limited, you may have to look at other techniques, including hydroponics, container gardening, sharecropping, and vertical gardening.
How to Grow Your own Food Preparation
Learning How to Grow Your Own Food and Growing Seasons:
Learning how to grow your own food is more than just planting seeds and sitting back waiting to eat them. Below, in the “Growing” section of How to Grow Your own Food is a common collection of steps you should consider in growing a single crop of one type. You will need to prepare each different vegetable you intend to grow in basically the same way, but when you have prepared the soil for planting, you can plant as many different crops as you like at one time.
How to Grow Your own Food Different Crop Options
Become familiar with the different types of food crops.
We often think of the vegetables we see in the produce section of a market as the garden vegetables, and in a sense, this is true, but to truly grow your own food, you need to consider your whole diet. This is a general list of the types of food you will want to consider growing in learning how to grow your own food.
How to Grow Your own Food Vegetables:
This includes legumes, leaf vegetables, root vegetables, corn (a grain, looked at more closely later), and vine vegetables like squash, cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins. These provide many essential nutrients and vitamins, including:
Proteins. Legumes are a good source of proteins.
Carbohydrates. Potatoes and beets are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, as well as minerals.
Vitamins and minerals. Leaf vegetables, like cabbage and lettuce, as well as vine vegetables like cucumbers and squash, are a good source of many essential vitamins and minerals.
How to Grow Your own Food Fruits:
Most people understand that fruits are a great source of vitamin C, but they also contribute many other vitamins and minerals to your diet, as well as offering a broader variety of taste to enjoy. Fruits also can often be preserved by drying or canning, so refrigeration is not required to store your surplus.
How to Grow Your own Food Grains:
Growing grains is not what most people envision when they think of growing their own food, but grains are a staple in most diets. They are filled with carbohydrates and fiber, and can be stored easily for long periods of time. In many early civilizations, and in some countries today, grain is the primary foodstuff for the population. This category of food crops includes:
Often eaten as a vegetable with meals, corn is also a versatile grain that can be stored whole, un-shucked, shelled (removed from the cob, with whole kernels), or ground into meal for use in making breads or mush dishes like grits. Corn is probably the easiest grain to grow for the home subsistence farmer. Freezing corn is the easiest way to preserve it for winter use.
Most people are familiar with wheat, from which we get most of our flour for baking everything from breads to cakes and pastries. Wheat stores well after harvest, but harvesting itself is more laborious than it is for corn, since the whole plant is usually cut down, sheaved (placed in piles), gathered and threshed (beaten to free the seeds), and ground into fine powder (flour).
Another grain, oats for human consumption are processed more than wheat or corn, and the labor involved in harvest is equal to wheat. Still, it may be considered an option in some areas where it is easily grown.
For wet areas, areas subject to flooding, or which can be flooded, rice is the obvious choice. Rice is commonly grown in shallowly submerged soil, and is harvested much as wheat is.
How to Grow Your own Food Selecting Region Friendly Crops
Vegetable garden layout
This is where the instructions in this article cannot suffice to give comprehensive and accurate information specific to you. Instead, we will look at basic growing requirements for different plants according to standard growing regions, as set forth by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) on their plant hardiness map which you may be able to use by comparing climates in terms of latitude and elevation to your particular region.
Beans, peas, and other legumes. These are planted after the threat of frost, and require 75 to 90 days to produce fruit, which can continue producing as long as the plants are cared for until autumn frost.
Gourds. This group of plants includes squash, melons, and pumpkins, and is planted after the last expected frost, and takes between 45 days (cucumbers) to 130 days for pumpkins, to produce harvest-able fruit.
Tomatoes. This fruit (usually grouped with vegetables) can be planted in containers if kept warm, and transplanted into soil after the threat of frost, and will produce season-long as well.
Grains. There is a great difference in growing seasons with grains, as well as summer and winter varieties of many of these. Generally speaking, summer grains, such as corn and summer wheat, are planted near the end of winter when freezing temperatures are not expected to continue for more than a few weeks, and they take about 110 days to mature, then another 30-60 days to dry sufficiently to harvest for storing as seed.
Orchard fruits. Apples, pears, plums, and peaches are regarded as orchard fruits in most places, and do not require annual planting. The trees that bear these fruits require pruning and maintenance and usually take 2-3 years before producing their first, modest crop. When the trees begin producing fruit, the yield should increase yearly, and after they become mature and established, a single tree can produce bushels of fruit each year.
Develop a “farm plan” on the land you intend to use for your food production.
You will need to address specific issues in your planning, including wildlife encroachment, which may require fences or other permanent measures, sun exposures, since some plants require more sunlight to successfully produce than others, and topography, since tilling very steep ground is wrought with problems.
How to Grow Your own Food Crop Selection
Small vegetable garden plan
When you are learning how to grow your own food, you want to make a list all of the possible crops that you want to grow on your land. You should try to have as diverse a selection as possible to meet nutrition requirements mentioned earlier. You may be able to estimate a total yield per crop item by researching the growing success of others in your area, or by using information from the source you purchase your seed from. Using the list, and the planting plan you began earlier, you will need to calculate the amount of seeds you will need to plant. If you have lots of room, plant an excess to allow for poor performance until you have a firm grasp of what you are doing.
Plan to use your land as effectively as possible if you are limited in space. Except in very cold regions, you may expect to be able to grow and harvest summer, fall, winter, and spring crops. This will allow you to enjoy some fresh produce year around. Beets, carrots, cauliflower, snow peas, cabbage, onions, turnips, collards, mustard greens, and many other vegetables actually prefer growing in cold weather if the ground does not freeze. Winter crops are also much less subject to insect problems. If you are very tight on space, consider your alternatives like indoors or vertical gardening or even rooftop.
How to Grow Your own Food Storage
Plan on your storage method.
If you are going to grow grains, you will need barns which will keep your stored harvest dry and safe from insects and vermin. It is likely that if you intend to produce all of the food you consume for yourself, you will find that a combination of storage and preservation methods will be useful. The above steps mention several of these methods, but as a recap, the usual methods for storing foods are:
Dehydration is a useful method for storing fruits and some vegetables. It can be done without high-tech gadgets in most fairly dry, warm climates, and has been done for centuries and centuries.
Canning. This requires containers (which are reusable with the exception of lids, which may deteriorate over time) but does require proper preparation, cooking equipment, and skill. Pickling is considered in this article as a “canning” process, although it does not have to be so.
Freezing. This, again, requires some cooking preparation, as well as a freezer and proper containers.
Bedding. This is a method for storing your underground root crops such as potatoes, rutabagas, beets, carrots, ect. It is accomplished by layering the product in a dry, cool, location in a bed of straw.
In Ground Storage: Many root crops and cole crops can be overwintered in the garden. In most cases it is important to prevent the ground from freezing. Milder winter climates may only need a frost blanket. But colder climates may need mulch of up to a foot and a plastic covering. This type of storage is an effective way to save space and keep your produce fresh for longer periods of time.
Determine the cost benefits ratio of learning how to grow your own food.
Medium size vegetable garden plan
You may be investing a considerable amount of money in start-up costs if you do not have any materials and equipment available at the beginning. You will also wind up with plenty of labor invested, which may translate into additional expense if you forgo a regular job to pursue this effort. Before investing a great deal of time and money, research your local growing conditions, available crop selections, and your ability to manage this labor-intensive effort. The benefits of learning how to grow your own food will include having food that you can enjoy without the worry of herbicides, pesticides, and other contaminants, except those used at your discretion. Some of the labor and costs will vary, for instance once your have dug up and initially prepared your garden, that is it. After that phase, all you need to do is maintenance like planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting! The same holds true for financial investments, as after you have initially completed the garden, the only things you will need to purchase would be seeds and maybe some storage materials!
Begin your project in stages.
If you have abundant land and sufficient equipment, you can start on a fairly large scale, but unless you have sufficient knowledge and experience, you will be gambling that the plants you select are suitable for your soil and climate. Talking to people in your area will often provide you with the best source of specific information on selecting your crops and planting times, but if this is not an option, plant “trial” plantings of new crops the first year to see how well they produce. Begin on a smaller scale when learning how to grow your own food, perhaps trying to grow a set percentage of your food requirements to give you an idea of the total yield you can expect, and work your way up to a self-sufficient level. If you start out small, you won’t get overwhelmed by the scope of the project and want to quit altogether. That way as you gain experience and confidence you can expand and take your new hobby to new levels without risking being overwhelmed.
How to Grow Your own Food Planting and Growing
Breaking the ground.
Small backyard vegetable garden
When we are learning how to grow our own food, there is some terminology we also must learn like breaking the ground among others. For cultivated land, this is simply the process of loosening the soil, and “turning under”, or covering, the plants or plant residue from a previous crop. It may also be referred to as “tilling”, and is done with a plow or tiller pulled by a draft animal or tractor, or on a small scale, with a self-propelled machine called a “rototiller”. On a small plot of land and due to financial constraints, you may have to revert to the use of pick, shovel and hoe. This can be accomplished collectively. You should clear away any large stones, roots and limbs, heavy accumulation of vegetation, and other debris before tilling. For some of you when learning how to grow your own food, it may also mean marking off an area and digging up your lawn. A shovel can work for this too. Just get 4 tall wooden stakes and some rope and mark off the new section you wish to designate as your new ‘garden’!
Lay off rows.
With modern farm equipment, this process depends on the type of crop being planted, and “no till” planting actually skips this and the previous step. Here, we are considering the general method that would be used by someone who does not have this type of equipment and expertise. Mark out the area you intend to plant using stakes and rope, and with a hoe or plow, create a slightly raised bed in the loose soil in a line across the length of the plot. Next, make your furrow (a shallow groove cut in the soil) with your gardening tools.
Above ground vegetable garden
Place your seeds in the furrow at the depth required for the particular crop you are planting.
This may vary according to your choice of plants when learning how to grow your own food. As a rule, succulent plants like legumes (beans and peas)and melons, squash, cucumbers are planted between 3/4 and 1 inch (2 – 2.5 cm) deep, where corn and potatoes may be planted 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches (6.3 – 9 cm) deep. After placing the seed in the furrow, cover them and tamp (gently pack down) the soil lightly so the seed bed (the covered furrow) does not dry out as quickly. Continue this process until you have the number of rows you planned on planting.
Alternatively, you can “start” seeds indoors (such as in a greenhouse) and transplant them later.
Because you are planting this crop in rows, you will be able to walk the center area between rows (the middles) to accomplish this, if you are doing this by hand. You will want to keep the soil around the roots loosened without damaging the roots themselves. You may apply mulch to reduce, if not eliminate “weed”/unwanted growth by undesirable plants.
Watch for insects and animals which may damage your plants.
If you see leaves which have been eaten, you will have to determine what is causing the damage. Many animals find tender young plants in a garden more appetizing than native growth, so you will have to protect the plants from these, but insects are a much more prevalent problem with growing food. You may find you are able to keep insect damage to a minimum by simply removing and killing them as you find them, but for serious problems, you may have to resort to chemical or biological control ( use of surrounding bug repellent plants ).
How to Grow Your Own Food Harvesting & Storage
You will have to educate yourself to some degree on when to harvest your crop. Many common garden vegetables are harvested as they become ripe, and continue to produce throughout the growing season with proper care. Grains, on the other hand, are most often harvested when they are fully ripened and dry on the plant. Harvesting is a labor intensive operation, and as you become experienced in growing, you will find that you need to reduce the production of some plants so that harvesting can be managed.
For common vegetables, you have several choices for storing them through the non-growing season. Carrots, turnips and other root vegetables can be stored well into the winter months in the refrigerator or a root cellar. Drying produce is one option for long term preservation of meats, fruits, and vegetables, and for seed type crops like legumes, this will give excellent results. For succulents and fruits, you may want to consider canning or freezing your harvest. A vacuum sealer will give better results in freezing vegetables for long-term use.
Stop applying all pesticides, fungicides, weed killers and sprays in and around your entire garden. No exceptions.
Start small, 25 square feet for example. Find the spot that ideally has sun all year in your yard. If it’s shaded part of the year, that’s OK too. Avoid the area next to buildings or fences because of possible contamination of the soil by paint, heavy metals or chemicals.
Remove whatever debris is covering the soil including rocks larger than a fingernail. If plants already grow there that you want somewhere else, dig them out with the shovel and plant them in the new location.
Cover your gardening area with organic material such as leaves, dried grass and fine plant material from your own or other non-pesticide sprayed gardens.
Get a bucketful of good compost from someone else’s garden or crumbly black sweet-smelling soil from under forest trees. Spread this thinly all over your garden. You will be inoculating your soil with all manner of soil organisms, little bugs, worms and other beneficial life forms that are going to do most of the work for you in improving your soil.
Use the pick or shovel to mix the top 3 inches of soil and organic material. Burying the organic material any deeper just kills the critters and wastes your energy because there may not be enough oxygen for them further down.
Keep the soil damp like a wrung out sponge, not soggy. Once again, you need air in the soil for a successful garden.
Never walk on your soil. Make a kneeling board out of a small piece of scrap plywood to avoid compacting the soil and use an old cushion to help reduce the stress on your knees. Create paths of a minimum width to enable you to reach across a four foot wide bed from both sides.
You can use seeds when learning how to grow your own food and either start them indoors or just plant them outdoors, or you can obtain vegetables in 4″ square pots, a common size, or get some plants from friends or neighbors. Dig a hole slightly larger than the rootball, squeeze the sides of the pot to unstick the plant, moisten the rootball, fluff it’s roots sideways and plant it. Mulch around it on the surface with organic material like leaves or straw to keep the soil moist underneath it. Water the root ball with a slow drip such as a bucket with a nail hole to allow air to be pulled down after the water.
Start your own compost heap in a corner of the garden. Skip the gimmicks, tumblers, boxes and devices. Just heap up all the clean organic material that you can get and mix it up occasionally, keeping it as moist as a wrung out sponge. Apply the compost periodically to the soil around your plants as a light dusting or use it to start your own seeds in a 50/50 mix of native soil and compost.
Courtesy Green Planet Ethics