Key Elements for Self-Sufficient Gardening
Key Elements for Self-Sufficient Gardening by B. C. – Survival Blog
I was blessed to grow up on a farm and later was fortunate to be able to receive an advanced degree in Agriculture. For the last 15 years my wife and I have been running a small diversified farm where we produce vegetables, fruit, and animal products for local markets and a C.S.A. (Community Supported Agriculture). During this time we’ve spent several years in several countries doing agricultural mission work, seeing how the rest of the world feeds itself, and doing our part to assist them with that.
Over time we’ve worked hard to turn our own 30-acre farm into a self-sufficient property. My goal has been to see our farm as one that could feed my family and other families far into the future if “the front gate gets shut and locked.” As SurvivalBlog readers are well aware, this seems to be more of a possibility with every passing day. The discussion on growing your own food often arises, and a recurring theme is the advice that you aren’t just going to open a pack of survival seeds and feed your family. I couldn’t agree more, but I often feel like readers get brow-beaten with that advice and can leave the discussion a bit overwhelmed and in the end do nothing to advance their food security.
Growing enough food to feed your family for an extended period of time is a daunting task, but let me assure you that it is doable with a plan, a little land, and the willingness to try. We have to be successful every year in order to stay in business, and that has naturally led us into growing techniques that work. With this article I want to share with you a few key elements of these techniques that I hope will be a big help in your journey towards food security.
Element Number One: The Importance of Timing and Food Storage
Step number one for growing enough food to survive is food storage. Now I know that this seems contradictory, since we are talking about growing food. Why would we store a bunch of food if we are planning on growing it ourselves? The answer is timing. Unless you never buy anything from the grocery store and already grow all your own food, year-round, most people would need to ramp up production tremendously in order to provide all of the food that they need.
Nobody knows when the tractor trailers will stop rolling and the grocery shelves will be empty. It could be any time of the year. The absolute worst time of the year for this to happen would be at the end of summer or the beginning of fall when warm season crops are a distant memory and it may be even too late to start any cool season/winter crops, which are normally started in August/September in our Zone 6. Starting in October, you would have a long winter and at least six months before the earliest spring crops could be harvested, and even longer for the high-calorie crops like potatoes, corn, and other carbohydrate-rich grains. So, even if you are planning on growing enough to feed yourself, six months of food storage is a minimum. A year’s worth is even better, especially for inexperienced growers. You’ll definitely need a little food insurance, as your first year’s crops are probably not going to meet your expectations.
If you are going to be eating year-round from food you produce yourself, it makes sense that you need to be growing just about year round. There is no need to take the extra expense and work to preserve all your food when you can eat most of it fresh. This is entirely possible in most zones, with good planning and the willingness to eat a wider variety of crops than corn, beans, and tomatoes.
The key here is a good plan and a succession of crops that are planted and harvested at the right time. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to buy a cheap monthly planner and to write all my seeding, transplanting, and harvest dates down. Make notes on what varieties you use, what works and what doesn’t. Start with a planting calendar from your local extension agent if you need a place to begin. The point is that every year you tweak your planting schedule on what works best, and after a season or two you’ll be way ahead of the game and planning will get easier with every passing year.