For thousands of years people have grown their own food. Today, many people garden as a pastime. However, there once was a time when families and communities grew their own food out of necessity. Large-scale food production has become common only in the last several hundred years. Before that, food was grown on a smaller scale for villagers and individual families. A resurrection in the trend of families and small-scale food producers has increased the need for viable instruction into the process of growing your own food and ensuring that your garden or small-scale plot remains viable from year to year.
Doubtless, the convenience of walking into a grocery store and purchasing mass-grown produce has its benefits. But considering the increasing cost of shipping produce worldwide, including fruits and veggies in your everyday diet is becoming rather cost prohibitive. Additionally, the pesticides, artificial additives, and genetic alterations that are included in mass-market produce make it increasingly dangerous to ingest. Many health-conscious individuals make sure to purchase organically grown produce to avoid any contaminants, but the cost of organic food is outside the average food budget.
Chemical processing aside, it is economically sound to grow at least part of the food that you eat. Depending on where you live, some fruits and vegetables may be more feasible than others, but you can certainly save a few hard-earned dollars off your food budget if you invest in a self-sustaining garden. Once you get started, there is little to no actual expense in doing so.
Whether you are growing food in a backyard garden or in a more restricted urban setting, you are probably wondering how to begin. Assuming that you are starting from scratch, you will need to determine a few important factors before you begin. You will need a location complete with a layout and plan, you will need to determine which foods will grow best in your region, and you will need your tools and supplies.
It is a simple fact that not all foods will grow best in every area — especially if you live in a cooler climate. Spring and fall frosts will limit your growing season so you will need to ensure that your region has a growing season long enough to support your selected foods. Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, parsley, peas, radishes, spinach, Arugula, beets, endive, leaf lettuce, parsnips, potatoes, and Swiss chard are hardier foods that can stand a bit of cold weather. But green beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, summer squash, and tomatoes are warm season only veggies — they can only be grown from frost to frost. So, make note of what region you are in to ensure that you select the foods appropriate for your growing season.
Hint: You can extend your growing season by starting your seeds indoors and transplanting them outside when the danger of frost has passed.
A quick look at the back of most seed packets will indicate which hardiness zone a particular plant grows best in.
Of course, some foods are more difficult to grow than others. Beginners should concentrate on such foods as beets, bush beans, collard greens, green onions, kale, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, radishes, peas, summer squash, Swiss chard, turnips, and, of course, tomatoes. More experienced growers might like to try cauliflower, celery, eggplant, lima beans, melons, okra, peppers, and sweet potatoes.
You will need to pick a good spot for your garden. Some leafy vegetables will grow well in partial shade, but fruit-bearing plants need full sun.
The ideal spot for a garden should also include a fence or other barrier designed to keep birds, rodents, and other animals from destroying your food.
The most important aspects of the soil are that it be well-drained, relatively free of rocks and stones, and with subsoil that is not loaded with gravel, shale, sand, or other hard substances. Although some experts insist that the fertile properties of the soil are the most important aspects, soil can made fertile, whereas drainage and subsoil properties are more difficult to fake.
Just dropping any seed in any spot is not the best way to plan a garden. Space should be allotted according to the amount of space plant roots and leaves will need to grow best and according to the height of the plant as it grows. You will need to ensure that you will be able to move through the rows and sections of your garden so that you can perform tasks such as fertilizing and weeding and so that you can harvest ripe fruits and vegetables without destroying others.
Tools and Supplies
Fortunately, not many tools are necessary for the average grower. Concentrate on purchasing a few high-quality tools such as the following:
- Spade Shovel
- Garden Hose
- Cord or Rope
For smaller gardens, the above tools are all that are necessary. For larger plots, you might want to invest in a power tiller and other power tools to make turning the soil and weeding easier.
Whether or not you rely on pre-packaged seeds or seed saving, depends on how self-sustaining you want your garden to be. For the first planting, you will need to purchase quality seeds from a garden center or reputable dealer or obtain seeds from another grower. However, after the first planting, you will be able to use seeds saved from your own garden, eliminating the need for the purchase of seed for future plantings.
The most readily available form of fertilizer is compost. Any organic material can be tossed onto a compost pile. Once the material rots, it forms a rich source of nutrients for any food garden.
The key to successful growing from seed is the eventual sustainability of your garden plot. Whether you are container gardening on a backyard deck or terrace in the middle of the city, windowsill gardening for fresh herbs, or whether you have a bit of green space you can designate specifically for the growing of food, at one point, your garden will produce its own seed for the following year, and you can produce your own compost fertilizer. After your initial investment of tools, seeds, and supplies, your garden will be completely self-sustaining! Think of the health benefits and the savings!
Rebecca J. Stigall is a full-time freelance writer, author, and editor with a background in psychology, education, and sales. She has written extensively in the areas of self-help, relationships, psychology, health, business, finance, real estate, fitness, academics, and much more! Rebecca is a highly sought-after ghostwriter with clients worldwide.
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