Everyone needs to eat. Everyone knows to eat their vegetables. Some only eat vegetables. A self-sustainment growing revolution is full force right now. Now is the time for everyone to learn how to grow their own. Better to have your own fresh supply of fruits and vegetables, before catastrophe happens.
The average American spends between $2.00 to $2.50 per day at the grocery store on fruits and vegetables to match with a 2000 calorie diet. The average cost per cup of watermelon was 17 cents, and raspberries as high as $2.06 per cup. When you buy your fruits and vegetables, do you know where they come from? How they were handled? What variety they are? What pesticides may have been used? How about growth stimulants? What kind of fertilizers? Are they GMO? Do you know what it would cost to grow your own.
By growing your own at home, you can really drop that down to the mere pennies per day at most, along with knowing answers to all of the questions above. Sure, not everything grows everywhere, and some may need a bit more extra care than others, but if you have a little bit of free time, and a want to have a source of food all your own, growing your own is very doable and rewarding. This is by no means a comprehensive list for every plant, but more of a generalization of how to grow your own food.
Let’s answer some of the initial questions you may have been thinking.
Where do I start?
Start by making a list of all the different types of fruits and vegetables that you eat on a regular basis or the ones you want eat. This is fairly critical, as you don’t want to buy every seed or plant on the market, but instead, you really want to focus on what you will use the most, as well as which will provide the fastest yields. Next, you want to identify a space for growing your new found hobby. This requires as much space as you are willing to carve out. If that is a portion on an external patio, or a portion of yard, either will get you a usable crop. Finally you will need supplies (seeds / starters, containers, potting soil, and water).
What is required?
During the spring and early summer you can normally buy starter plants at stores. While it is great to pickup small pre-established plants you can’t necessarily answer all of the earlier questions, nor does this give you the true pride in actually growing your own. I suggest you buy actual non-GMO heirloom seeds. This will give you seed to harvest experience, pride, and knowledge of truly growing your own food. I also suggest you use good quality soil to give your plants the best possible chance.
How long will this take?
That is always the tricky question. The answer is defined by “resources”. The plant or seed, sun, soil, water, fertilizers, and temp are all resource factors. Some plants grow faster than others and can be harvested sooner.
What will I get?
You get the knowledge of how to grow your own food, you get the accomplishment of proving your sustainability, and you get great, natural and healthy food. This resource is only inhibited by your space and location.
Now that those are out of the way, we can work through building your garden.
Seeds vs plant starters –
As I mentioned before, to ensure that you truly know everything about your food, I suggest you should start with Heirloom non-GMO seeds from whatever source you choose ( a couple of sites listed below). Plant starters are a bit easier, and you get the reward of harvesting much sooner; however this doesn’t give you the full experience of growing your own, nor the answers to some of the questions from above. Plant Starters are also not available year round, where seeds generally are. From there know the type of soil that you are planting in, a soil test is fairly inexpensive to understand what you are starting with.
Potting soil vs garden soil –
Potting soil is to be used in Pots or Buckets, garden soil is used in raised garden beds or in the ground. I know, it reads goofy, but it has to be stated. There is a difference in those products and how these soil types allow water to store or drain effectively. If you go to your local big box hardware stores, there are a large number of brands / types. Initially try smaller bags of each brand to identify which one will work best for your location, crop type, and circumstances. This is a trial and error method but could be minimized if you have others near you that have already done this testing.
This requires a lot of planning and could be considered an art form. Certain plants do good together, others thrive together, and some don’t play well with others in the near vicinity. That said, knowing and understanding how companion planting is a big deal to the success or failure of your growing practice. Spend the time to understand the benefits of companion planting, especially with the crops you are intending to grow.
Knowing how many and how deep to plant the seeds or starters is another critical aspect of growing your own. Some seeds are surface sprouters, while others need to be buried as deep as 1″. Some plants and crops will benefit by adding more dirt up the plant as it grows. Understanding the planting depth of each of your different crops requires a bit of research and will further your success in the long run. Take your time, do your research, and plant accordingly. When planting I usually drop 2 or 3 seeds per planting hole, I can always thin them later. This will give you a higher success rate in sprouting. Remember not all seeds will germinate, but you don’t want to have to wait for 3-4 weeks to identify which ones didn’t. Also remember to plan and plant within the companion planting suggestions.
How many of one crop can fit within your garden space, your planter, or a square foot? Knowing how much space each of your crops will consume is another vital aspect of growing your own. Some plants expand as space is available, while others grow more vertically. The spacing of your crops will reduce the overpopulation or crowding of your allotted space and reduce resource starvation of your other plants..
Not only is the water required different between each crop type, but down to each individual plant. The root structure of each plant will be different and require different levels of watering. In a short time of daily watering, you will start to see the difference between plants, and understand their water needs. Watch what the leaves do, limp and droopy by the afternoon, give it some more water. Yellowed out leaves, don’t water it for a day or two. Water your plants on a regular basis, both volume, as well as time of the day to get them used to a schedule.
Some radish are ready to be eaten in as short as 25 days, while other plants may take up to 120 days to maturity. Knowing what plants, you want to grow, and their standard grow time will determine how you get to harvest your crops in the long run.
Some plants benefit in the form of higher yields without space accumulation by simply pruning back some of the growth. Each plant is a bit different in how this should be done, so do the research for each of the plant types that you have.
Harvesting your crops
From pulling a pea pod off the vine, to cutting lettuce leaf’s, harvesting your crops are easy and fun. In general, this is the easiest part of growing your own food. Harvest your crops in a sustainable way, and you will be able to use the crops, as well as the plants in many usable forms. When the plant is done compost it and continue to reap the benefits of it after the fact.
Whether you replace the soil every year, or move crops from location to location. Certain crops leach resources from the soil in order to grow, while other crops help to replenish them. Having a rotation of your crops will help reduce the amount of soil resource loss.
If you planted your crops from seed, you know what the seeds are supposed to look like. This is wonderful news, as you can collect the seeds from your freshly harvested crop for re-planting purposes. Seed collection could be as simple as opening up a pea pod and drying out the peas for a couple of weeks, to waiting for kale flowers to dry out. Planting seeds from the crops that grew local to you is even better than the original growth, as these seeds have acclimated to your climate, and location. This next crop will grow even better, and produce more than the original given the same resources.
There are crops that after you have harvested can continue to grow. These crops do take time to be harvest able again; however, most will be a shorter time as opposed to starting from seed again as the roots are already established. Knowing and using these crops makes your garden far more productive, especially if planted in intervals.
There are a number of different types of fertilizers that can be purchased from big box hardware stores. Being this article walks through keeping this growing environment as natural as possible, we will continue that with natural fertilizers that you are probably already purchasing and have on hand. Coffee grounds, egg shells, banana peels, Epsom salt, rabbit manure are all fantastic natural fertilizers that can be added to your garden with little preparation or composting.
Speaking of composting, this is an invaluable process for your gardening as you are returning valuable nutrients back into your gardens with what is left over from your previous harvest or use. The proper composting mixture, and time will deliver nutrient loaded mix and replenish the soil. A little research into this will pay huge dividends.
As many of my articles are based on preparing for a major event, this one is no different. Better to have this knowledge and food source readily available before circumstances call for it. Not only will you save money that you spend at the grocery store, you will also have a readily available food source that you can continue to harvest in the event that something happens. Over time you will gain experience, collect a quantity of seeds. Knowing how much effort you put into growing these, and feeling the benefit or reward of having your own food supply makes everything else you have done worthwhile.
URL’s for seeds
https://www.seedsnow.com/?rfsn=106309.fe38 – this site also offers great growing guides for each seed that they sell.
Companion planting URL’s
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