There are many reasons why you should be growing your own food other than for pure survival and living of the grid.
The cost factor is one of the main reasons people will farm a portion of their gardens to produce fresh fruits and vegetables for free.
Just about anyone can have a crop of vegetable regardless of whether you live in an urban area or out in the countryside – you can grow something.
If you are an urban dweller you can use containers on the balcony or window ledge or even inside in a spare room – it’s all possible and will give you new survival skills and also save you money.
You may be one of the many growing tomatoes out on the porch or a few cucumbers on the windowsill, maybe potatoes at the end of the balcony or some runner beans climbing up the south wall – we are finding the amount of people producing their own, home grown food is on the increase.
Growing your own food, as ‘survival food’, gardening or just a hobby, is most definitely a basic survival skill you need to learn.
In real life, growing your own food will be beneficial to your family, and help you survive the current economic situation we are all in, as well as giving you added survival knowledge to use out in the wild – you learn the ability to increase your chances of long term survival or even off grid survival if you had to evacuate your home.
How To Grow Your Own Food
- Climate. In some countries there is only a short growing season, typically Northern Europe and Africa. This means adapting to your environment and growing the quicker producing vegetable varieties. Ones that can be easily harvested and then stored for the winter. In many other areas there are true growing seasons allowing plenty of time for planting and harvesting
- Soil. You may not be blessed with good, nutrient rich soil – the type that will give you excellent yields of crops – So, depending on your particular soil it may be necessary to just plant essential crops and do without the more luxurious foods until you have fertilized and worked the areas.
- Rainfall. Plants will simply not grow and thrive with low levels of rainfall – most food crops will need substantial amounts of water. You must certainly consider the amounts of normal rainfall in your area. From there you can decide if you will be needing added irrigation from your stored water.
- Crop Area. The amount of crops you can grow in your home or garden will always be limited to the planting area available to you. In a bug out situation you may well have a lot more room for your crops.
Different types of food crops. – it is unlikely you will be able to grow all of these, and a lot of the time it won’t be possible due to soil conditions, climate and time. However, You can pick what suits your circumstances the best and work from there.
- Vegetables. This will includes leafy vegetables, root vegetables, legumes, corn and vining vegetables like cucumbers, melons, squash, and pumpkins.
These vegetables will give you many of the essential nutrients and vitamins you need to survive, and include:
- Proteins. Legumes are an extremely good and a high source of your protein.
- Carbohydrates. Potatoes and beets contain complex carbohydrates, a good source of energy as well as minerals.
- Vitamins and minerals. Most of the leafy vegetables, like lettuce or cabbage, as well as the vining vegetables like cucumbers and squash, provide an excellent means of obtaining the essential vitamins and minerals your body will require for added assimilation of the proteins, plus general good health
- Fruits. Easily eaten and requiring little preparation or cooking, fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is also a great survival food as it can be canned or dehydrated for future use.
- Grains. Of all the foods you can grow yourself, grains are probably the most important – however, grains are the staple food of most of the worlds diet. Very rich in energy giving carbohydrates and fiber they can be mixed with most other foods to give a substantial meal. Grains have the added advantage of the fact that they can be easily stored for long amounts of time, making them an ideal prepping food.
This category of food crops includes:
- Corn. Often eaten as a vegetable with meals, corn is also a versatile grain that can be stored whole, unshucked, shelled (removed from the cob, with whole kernels), or ground into meal for use in making breads or mush dishes like grits. Corn is probably the easiest grain to grow for the home subsistence farmer. Freezing is the easiest way to preserve it for winter use.
- Wheat. Most people are familiar with wheat, from which we get most of our flour for baking everything from breads to cakes and pastries. Wheat stores well after harvest, but harvesting itself is more laborious than it is for corn, since the whole plant is usually cut down, sheaved (placed in piles), gathered and threshed (beaten to free the seeds), and ground into fine powder (flour).
- Oats. Another grain, oats for human consumption are processed more than wheat or corn, and the labor involved in harvest is equal to wheat. Still, it may be considered an option in some areas where it is easily grown.
- Rice. For wet areas, areas subject to flooding, or which can be flooded, rice is the obvious choice. Rice is commonly grown in shallowly submerged soil, and is harvested much as wheat is.
- Other grains include barley and rye, which are similar to wheat and oats.
- Beans, peas, and other legumes.
These are planted after the threat of frost, and require 75 to 90 days to produce fruit, which can continue producing as long as the plants are cared for until autumn frost.
This group of plants includes squash, melons, and pumpkins, and is planted after the last expected frost, and takes between 45 days (cucumbers) to 130 days for pumpkins, to produce harvest-able fruit.
This fruit (which is usually grouped with vegetables) can be planted in many ways, from straight in the soil to hanging baskets and various containers.If kept warm, and transplanted into soil after the threat of frost, they will also produce season-long as well.Tomatoes, of course, are highly nutritious and can also be preserved.
There is a great difference in growing seasons with grains, as well as summer and winter varieties of many of these. Generally speaking, summer grains, such as corn and summer wheat, are planted near the end of winter when freezing temperatures are not expected to continue for more than a few weeks, and they take about 110 days to mature, then another 30-60 days to dry sufficiently to harvest for storing as seed.
- Orchard fruits.
Apples, pears, plums, and peaches are regarded as orchard fruits in most places, and do not require annual planting. The trees that bear these fruits require pruning and maintenance and usually take 2-3 years before producing their first, modest crop. When the trees begin producing fruit, the yield should increase yearly, and after they become mature and established, a single tree can produce bushels of fruit each year.
Develop a “farm plan” on the land you intend to use for your food production.
- List all of the possible crops you will attempt to cultivate on your land. You should try to have as diverse a selection as possible to meet nutrition requirements mentioned earlier. You may be able to estimate a total yield per crop item by researching the growing success of others in your area, or by using information from the source you purchase your seed from. Using the list, and the planting plan you began earlier, you will need to calculate the amount of seed you will need. If you have lots of room, plant an excess to allow for poor performance until you have a firm grasp of what you are doing.
- Plan to use your land as effectively as possible if you are limited in space. Except in very cold regions, you may expect to be able to grow and harvest summer, fall, winter, and spring crops. This will allow you to enjoy some fresh produce year around. Beets, carrots, cauliflower, snow peas, cabbage, onions, turnips, collards, mustard greens, and many other vegetables actually prefer growing in cold weather if the ground does not freeze. Winter crops are also much less subject to insect problems. If you are very tight on space, consider your alternatives
Plan on your storage method
- Drying (or dehydration). This is a useful method for storing fruits and some vegetables. It can be done without high-tech gadgets in most fairly dry, warm climates.
- Dehydration is the healthiest, easiest, and most economical way to preserve foods. Load the trays and set the temperature, the dehydrator on the right is the Excalibur 2900ECB 9-Tray Economy Dehydrator
- Dehydration concentrates the natural flavor, sweetness, and aromas of your food. Leaving you with a flavor that’s far healthier than high-fat snacks and high-sugar candies that are filled with chemical preservatives.
- The Excalibur Dehydrator gives you 15 square feet of drying space – thats a lot of food in one go.!
- Canning / Bottling This requires containers (which are reusable with the exception of lids, which may deteriorate over time) but does require proper preparation, cooking equipment, and skill.
- Pickling is considered in this article as a “canning” process, although it does not have to be so.
- Basic Canning & Bottling Equipment:
- Funnel for filling regular and wide mouth canning jars
- Bubble remover for releasing trapped air bubbles
- Magnetic lid lifter removes canning lids from hot water
- Kitchen tongs for easy handling of hot foods for canning
- Jar lifter easily removes hot jars from caner Jar wrench helps to remove sticky screw bands
- Freezing. This, again, requires some cooking preparation, as well as a freezer and proper containers.
- Bedding. Not previously mentioned, this is a method for storing root crops such as potatoes, rutabagas, beets, and other root crops. It is accomplished by layering the product in a dry, cool, location in a straw bed.
- In Ground Storage: Many root crops and cole crops can be overwintered in the garden. In most cases it is important to prevent the ground from freezing. Milder winter climates may only need a frost blanket. But colder climates may need mulch of up to a foot and a plastic covering. This type of storage is an effective way to save space and keep your produce fresh
Break the ground
- For cultivated land, this is simply the process of loosening the soil, and “turning under”, or covering, the plants or plant residue from a previous crop.
- You do not need a lot of Garden Tools to do this – in fact the Fiskars Garden Tool Set shown on the right will do the job perfectly adequately.
- It may also be referred to as “tilling”, and is done with a plow or tiller pulled by a draft animal or tractor, or on a small scale, with a self-propelled machine called a “rototiller”.
- On a small plot of land and due to financial constraints, you may have to revert to the use of pick, shovel and hoe. This can be accomplished collectively. You should clear away any large stones, roots and limbs, heavy accumulation of vegetation, and other debris before tilling.
Lay off rows
With modern farm equipment, this process depends on the type of crop being planted, and “no till” planting actually skips this and the previous step. Here, we are considering the general method that would be used by someone who does not have this type of equipment and expertise. Mark out the area you intend to plant, and with a hoe or plow, create a slightly raised bed in the loose soil in a line across the length of the plot. Next, make your furrow (a shallow groove cut in the soil) with your chosen implement.
Place your seeds in the furrow at the depth required for the particular crop you are planting
This may vary according to your choice of plants. As a rule, succulent plants like legumes (beans and peas)and melons, squash, cucumbers are planted between 3/4 and 1 inch (2 – 2.5 cm) deep, where corn and potatoes may be planted 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches (6.3 – 9 cm) deep. After placing the seed in the furrow, cover them and tamp (gently pack down) the soil lightly so the seed bed (the covered furrow) does not dry out as quickly. Continue this process until you have the number of rows you planned on planting.
Alternatively, you can “start” seeds indoors (such as in a greenhouse) and transplant them later.
Cultivate your crops when the ground becomes packed by rainfall, or weeds become a problem
Because you are planting this crop in rows, you will be able to walk the center area between rows (the middles) to accomplish this, if you are doing this by hand. You will want to keep the soil around the roots loosened without damaging the roots themselves. You may apply mulch to reduce, if not eliminate “weed”/unwanted growth by undesirable plants.
Watch for insects and animals which may damage your plants
If you see leaves which have been eaten, you will have to determine what is causing the damage. Many animals find tender young plants in a garden more appetizing than native growth, so you will have to protect the plants from these, but insects are a much more prevalent problem with growing food. You may find you are able to keep insect damage to a minimum by simply removing and killing them as you find them, but for serious problems, you may have to resort to chemical or biological control ( use of surrounding bug repellent plants ).
You will have to educate yourself to some degree on when to harvest your crop. Many common garden vegetables are harvested as they become ripe, and continue to produce throughout the growing season with proper care. Grains, on the other hand, are most often harvested when they are fully ripened and dry on the plant. Harvesting is a labor intensive operation, and as you become experienced in growing, you will find that you need to reduce the production of some plants so that harvesting can be managed.
For common vegetables, you have several choices for storing them through the non-growing season. Carrots, turnips and other root vegetables can be stored well into the winter months in the refrigerator or a root cellar. Drying produce is one option for long term preservation of meats, fruits, and vegetables, and for seed type crops like legumes, this will give excellent results. For succulents and fruits, you may want to consider canning or freezing your harvest. A vacuum sealer will give better results in freezing vegetables for long-term use.