In a world where empty shelves and unstable food supply chains have become commonplace, growing your own food is a popular solution that makes complete sense.
Why? Because you’re in control.
As the grower of your own food, you’re always in the driver’s seat. So whatever stops the nation’s food supply—natural catastrophes, fuel shortages, etc.—you always have the food your family needs.
Growing your own food is not only rewarding and fun, it’s easier than you may think.
Not sure where to begin? Just follow these 5 easy steps:
1. Find a great location.
Most of us garden in our own backyards. Others have access to a community shared garden space, so you might want to check that out, too. But in this article, we’re assuming you want your garden nearby and constantly accessible.
So first you have to analyze your space.
Is your backyard flat enough for a garden? Does it get as much as 6 to 8 hours of sunlight on most days? Is the area free of rocks and tree roots? Does it have access to water?
If you can answer yes to each of these questions, you may have a great garden location. As an extra step, you might also conduct a simple soil test to make sure food will grow and that the soil isn’t contaminated.
2. You need a plan.
Once you have the location picked out, your next step is to think about what you’re going to grow.
What kinds of food does your family consume that you might grow in your new garden? How many crops a year can you expect? How will you space out your plantings so you have a continuous harvest?
Try drawing up a layout of your garden space, dividing it into sections for your different foods: vegetables, herbs, tall plants, low plants, etc.
You can use a plant spacing chart to give you a good idea how much space you need for various types of seeds. Also, if you’re planning to grow seed indoors for later transplant to your garden, set a date at which to begin the seeds so they’re ready for the outdoor growing season.
Many seeds can take 3 to 6 weeks indoors before they’re strong enough for transplanting. You need to add that time to your gardening timeline.
Incidentally, if you don’t have a large garden area available, you might think about growing in pots and containers. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to grow container crops of tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, peas, lettuce and much more.
All you need is good sun exposure, good soil mix and consistent watering.
TIP: If you’re going with a pot or container, choose a larger size than you might think necessary. Larger vessels hold moisture and nutrients longer.
Once you have a plan for what to grow and when, it’s time to put it into action.
3. Prepare the soil.
Adding fertilizer to your soil helps nourish your plants and make them stronger and more viable. Check with your local garden center for recommended soil enhancers, and be careful not to over fertilize.
In most cases, you need to work the fertilizer into the upper 3 to 5 inches of the soil. Then gently water it in to get a good and uniform mixture.
Plants need fertilizer when they’re growing fastest. For leafy greens like lettuce, arugula, kale and others, that’s in the early spring. For plants like corn, you need just a small amount of fertilizer at seeding time, then more in early summer just before rapid foliar growth.
Tomatoes and potatoes should be fertilized mid-season. Also, as your tomatoes begin to produce flowers, switch to a low nitrogen fertilizer formulated to develop flowers and fruit rather than leaves.
4. Water regularly.
Different plants need different amounts of water, but all plants need consistency. You will be surprised at how much or how little water certain plants need, so consult with your nursery for details.
During dry periods, you may need to water more frequently. Watch for signs of dehydration or over watering.
The best time to water is usually early in the morning or late in the afternoon or evening.
5. Protect against damaging weather and pests
When your seedlings finally begin to mature in the ground, the last thing you want is for them to be damaged by storms, high winds, frost, birds or other pests. So at some time, you may need to cover them from the elements.
For crops that need to retain heat or that don’t do well in cold conditions, we cover them with a sheet of polythene as a barrier against the cold.
To protect against birds, a breathable fine mesh cover keeps them away from your growing fruits—especially berries. For stronger pests like cats or rabbits, you may need to use a stronger barrier such as chicken wire.
Growing Your Own Food—Pay Off Time
Harvest time is when your hard work pays off.
Some crops are tastier if you harvest them quickly; others do well if they linger a bit longer on the ground or on the vine.
When’s the best time of the season to harvest? Each crop gives off different clues. If you know what to look for, you can remove the guesswork and avoid harvesting too early or too late. Remember that different regions may have different peak harvest times.
Check out this online resource for more specific harvesting information.
So why should you grow your own food?
It’s not just that it saves you money and reduces food waste. It’s the knowledge that, no matter what happens in the world, you and your family will always have a healthy, nutritious food supply.
Growing your own food is smart. It’s easy. And it pays out dividends long into the future.