For those of us who grew up in cities and relied on supermarket offerings for nourishment the majority of our lives, the dream of food self-sufficiency may seem too wild to comprehend. Rest assured that it is not at all complicated. With careful planning and perseverance, you can grow enough food to reduce your grocery bill and feed your family more delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Growing Your Own Food in Limited Space
You don’t need to own a country estate to be able to start a self-sufficient garden. In fact, vegetables, fruits, herbs, grains, and specialty crops that can provide nourishment for a family of four can be started even if you only have a few yards of garden or a small backyard. Extremely small spaces can seem larger through container gardening or vertical gardening. If there is enough room, build a small greenhouse from recyclable materials and produce crops in any season. Add a little more space and you can even raise a few chickens. If you live out in the country, find an extra acre and you can raise a cow for beef, milk, cheese, and butter. Even a small, well-planned garden can provide fresh, nutritious food for your family year-round.
Planning a Self Sufficient Garden
Now, where to start?
The road to homestead food self-sufficiency takes forethought, a lot of research, hard work, and dedication. Follow these steps to setting up your self-sufficient garden.
Map out your goals
It might help to start slow, with two or three vegetables you regularly consume, and then grow more kinds the following year. Consider how much you need, how you plan on consuming what you harvest, how much space you have, which gardening methods will work, what crops grow best in your locale, and how much maintenance your garden will need.
Determine how much you need to/can grow
This will depend on how much space your plants will require and on how many servings of specific crops your family will eat in a year.
Choose what to grow
What does your family eat on a daily basis? This will depend on personal preference, but for starters, you might like to plant onions, herbs, potatoes, carrots, beets, and parsnips. All of these are kitchen staples that are easy to grow and have long shelf lives. Consider growing summer vegetables like cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes, which can be canned for use in winter. Berries and fruit can be turned into jams, jellies, and fruit leather.
Think about how you will preserve the food from your harvests
Preserve fresh vegetables and fruits so you can enjoy them throughout winter. Learn how to can, ferment, dehydrate, pickle, freeze, and make preserves, sauces, and chutneys from your garden yield.
Advantages of Having a Self Sufficient Garden
Homegrown produce tastes awesome!
Forget about the tasteless, waterlogged fruits and vegetables you get at the supermarket and replace it with the most nutritious, flavorful, high-quality food you can provide for your family. Nothing beats the taste of homegrown produce.
This is as local as you can get
Today, food experts promote the locavore movement over the organic movement. Why? Because bureaucracy and greedy corporations have made the “organic” label virtually meaningless. According to the experts, the best way to make sure that the food you eat is genuinely free of GMOs and harmful chemicals is to know the person who grew them. With a self-sufficient garden, never again will you have to second-guess a food product’s label (“non-GMO”, “pesticide-free”), because you know what went into the ground you grew your fruits and vegetables in.
It’s good for your health
Enjoy fresh, natural, seasonal, and local food year-round! With fruits and vegetables right in your own yard, it will be so easy to whip up a salad for lunch and it will be much easier to resist the temptation of unhealthy snacks.
Remember that the price of anything you take off the shelves at the supermarket includes the company’s profit, the cost of advertising, the cost of transporting the item, the cost of storage, the grocer’s profit, etcetera. When you produce your own food, you eliminate the idea of “value-added”.
With food prices permanently on the rise, it’s only a matter of time before fresh and wholesome food becomes too costly for the normal consumer. Growing and preserving your own food is good preparation not only for times of economic chaos, but also for natural disasters.
And last but by no means least it helps you to have a beautiful, functioning home which I have written about in a previous post.
Disadvantages of Self Sufficient Gardening (and Overcome Them)
It can be time-consuming
A lot of times, people attempting to become completely self-sufficient will draw out their plans, start preparing their self-sufficient gardens, and then drop the entire thing when they realize that they just don’t have enough time on their hands to maintain a garden. Many of those who succeed at this endeavor have this as their main occupation. In some families committed to food self-sufficiency, one of the parents will resign from his/her job to focus on food cultivation, preservation, and preparation. Limit the size of your garden and the number of plants you cultivate to only what you can handle in the spare time that you have.
It requires multiple skills
Some people will go into this with an eagerness to do the things that they already find interesting and then fail to develop the skills necessary to perform the tasks that they deem too dull or wearisome. An attempt at food self-sufficiency requires a diversity of skills and knowledge. If you are unwilling to learn about and/or attempt the tasks that you are unfamiliar with, recruit and share the work with a willing neighbor or friend.
If you can’t commit and follow through, this isn’t for you
Keeping a self-sufficient garden can be hard on the body, mind, and resources. It is a year-long endeavor with multiple responsibilities and multiple problems (pests, plant diseases, extreme weather) to tackle. Be flexible and remember that you don’t have to do it all yourself. Gardening should be a community effort. Ask other people for help and share the yield with them come harvest time. Build a community of like-minded people and enjoy the journey!
For more info check out the BBC’s site as it has a wealth of useful and regularly updated details.