There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of sitting down to a meal and knowing exactly where all the ingredients came from. With many controversies surrounding several supermarket chains over the past couple of years, it’s never felt more important to know exactly what your food is, where it comes from, and what it contains. Growing your own food is the perfect antidote to this problem; you’ll always know the source of your food because it’s your very own back garden.
Of course, it’s not that easy. You can’t just stand up one day, declare that you want to grow your own food, then gaze upon a garden replete with tomatoes and apples and lots of other good stuff. There are plenty of steps between desire and execution, so we’re going to help you. What follows is a series of tips for growing your own food. It’s not easy, but if you stick with it and show dedication, you’ll have a garden bursting with life before you know it.
1. Think about crops
You’re not going to be able to grow every type of crop in your garden. Some locations are better suited for growing certain things than others. Tomatoes, for example, thrive best in warmer climes, while potatoes are more well-rounded and can be grown in many more places. Of course, you can alleviate this by using greenhouses. Brands like Cultivar offer excellent, robust greenhouse options for your garden, so if you want to grow a wide variety of vegetables or fruits, a greenhouse is a good option.
2. Plan for every eventuality
When you’re growing your own food, you’re going to be subject to much more than just the whims of the weather. You’ll also have to think about wildlife encroachment, pest control, and other things. It’s possible to create a garden that’s wildlife-friendly, but this will require extensive planning, as will making sure your garden is pest-proof. Think through everything that could possibly happen to your garden and do some research on how to prevent negative consequences.
3. Mark out your space
It’s a good idea to clearly mark exactly what will be growing in each plot in your garden. First, make a detailed plan on graph paper or plain paper. Delineate plots and dictate what’s going to grow in them. You need to think carefully about which vegetables grow well next to others and which ones shouldn’t be placed near one another. Once you have a plan, go into your garden and try to visualise it. Make adjustments based on your results.
4. Think about a storage method
When it comes time to harvest your crops, you won’t be able to just leave them out in the open, especially if the weather isn’t on your side. It pays to have a barn, a shed, or something similar in which to store your crops once they’ve grown and you’ve harvested them. It’s also possible to simply freeze or can your vegetables and fruit for a more long-term solution. Whatever you decide, you’ll definitely need to come up with a foolproof way to store your vegetables.
5. Don’t start big
Unless you’ve got a sizeable amount of land and can afford a few failures, you’ll definitely want to start off small. Try a small trial plot and grow something easy and hardy in it. See if you can take care of these plants and grow them to fruition. If you can, then you can start implementing your plan on a larger scale. If you can’t, then you haven’t lost a tremendous amount and you know that this just isn’t the lifestyle for you. There’s no shame in that, but you need to know sooner rather than later.
6. Patrol your plot regularly for pests
The nature of pests is such that they keep on returning no matter how vigilant you are. You’ll probably never be completely free of garden pests, so you need to keep on patrolling your plot to get rid of them periodically. One clever way to keep pests away from your plants – especially mosquitoes – is to plant things that the bugs naturally shy away from. By doing this, you’re keeping your aerosol spray usage to a minimum but also keeping the pests away.
7. Know when to harvest
There’s no hard-and-fast rule on when to harvest everything you’re growing. Every plant has a different harvest time and it pays to know when that is. Grains, for example, should be harvested at the last minute, when they’re dry. Many vegetables, on the other hand, should be harvested as soon as they fruit. Eventually, you’ll build up enough experience that this becomes second nature, but until it does, don’t be ashamed to do some research on the plants you’ve chosen to grow.
8. Keep some space between rows
When you plant your seeds, you don’t want to plant them all in a small batch. The reasons for this are twofold: first, you don’t want them to jostle for space, and second, you want to be able to walk between them and water them when necessary. Remember to optimise the space in your garden, because that’s the best way to get the most out of your growing adventure. It may also be worth setting up an irrigation system to help you with watering.
9. Don’t be afraid to scale back production
Eventually, you may find that you’re growing too many vegetables and fruits to realistically keep track of them all. When this happens, there’s absolutely no shame in scaling back production. Harvesting and preserving your food is quite a labour-intensive procedure, so you should know your limits. Don’t be afraid to enlist help, either. If your friends or family are willing to lend a hand, it’s a good idea to ask them if they wouldn’t mind helping you.