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Originally Posted On: How to Start Growing Your Own Food – Off Grid Blog
There is a difference between dabbling in gardening and expecting your garden to be your primary food source. To feed one person for a year, you typically need about a 4,000 square foot garden.
If you already live off-grid or are thinking about it, the idea of growing your own food probably appeals to you. Check out some basic principles here!
Choose the Location
To give your garden the best chance of prospering, you need to pick a good location. In order to nourish themselves, plants need lots of sunlight. Choose a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight each day.
Plants also need water, but pools of standing water will drown them so be sure to pick an area with good drainage.
A secondary concern might be how easy it is for you to access the garden. You’ll have to be tending to it frequently so a convenient location is a plus. However, always put the needs of your plants first, or you could end up with a failed experiment.
Composting/Preparing the Soil
Plants get some of their nutrition from the sun, but they also need rich soil that is full of nutrients in order to grow the best. Creating your own compost is a good way to do this.
Composting is easy, cheap, and creates soil that is chock full of good nutrients for your garden. You can get a bin or you can just make a pile on the ground. Toss bits of cardboard, food scraps, eggshells, leaves, and pretty much anything made of organic material in your compost pile. Cover the materials over with dirt and spritz it with water if you notice that it’s drying out too much.
With time, it will turn into rich, black dirt that you can spread over your garden area. Your plants will love it!
Pick Your Plants
Now comes the fun part, you get to pick what to plant! There are a few things to keep in mind as you decide on which plants to choose. Let’s look at them here.
If you want your plants to do well with minimal work on your part, pick plants that grow well in your climate. Hobbyist gardeners sometimes like the challenge of growing plants that aren’t 100% suited to their area. If you want a garden that will produce, however, you want to stick with what works.
Check out your climatic zone to learn about the best plants for your area. We’d also recommend talking to other gardeners in your area as even within climatic zones there can be variance. They’ll be able to tell you more precisely what grows well.
Though most vegetables offer lots of nutrition, some are more nutrient-dense than others. If you’ll be getting most of your food from your garden, it’s important to have a variety of foods to properly nourish your body.
Here are a few ideas of nutrient-dense foods that you can grow:
- Sunflowers (seeds and sprouts)
Another thing to keep in mind is how well these foods can be stored. If you’ll need food to last the winter, you need items that preserve well.
Herbs are easy to grow, don’t take up much space, and most are packed with vitamins and minerals. Not to mention, they help add delicious flavors to the rest of the foods in your garden.
Make sure to set aside a sizeable piece of your garden for planting herbs. Alternatively, you can also make a small window herb garden in your kitchen for easy access.
You’re going to be eating what comes out of your garden so you want to plant foods that you like. Narrow down the list of possibles by climate and nutritional value and then pick your favorites from what’s left.
Your plants will always need water, but your climate and garden’s location will dictate what you can do to get it to them.
If you have access to a stream or other surface water source, you can locate your garden downhill and let gravity take care of it for you. Alternatively, a hydraulic ram pump can use the energy from the water itself to pump it up to your garden. You can easily build one yourself from parts at the local hardware store.
If you don’t have access to surface water, you can set up a rain collection system and strategically locate your cistern to let gravity handle it.
It’s also possible to set up your garden in such a way that it doesn’t need to be watered. In other words, it harbors enough water from the rain to keep your plants hydrated. This will partially depend on how much rain you get but you can use tricks like spacing the plants farther apart, shading the soil, and leaving the soil alone to develop a natural crust on top.
Saving the Seeds
To make your off-grid garden sustainable, you’ll need a way to plant again next year. Thus, you’ll need to save some seeds. Watch out that you don’t buy hybrid plants as these seeds are often not viable. You also need to make sure that your seeds are pollinated. Store them in a cool, dry location where they’ll be safe and ready for you next year.
Use Your Animals
Certain types of livestock are beneficial to have around your garden. For example, chickens help fertilize it as well as eat the pests that might come to have a snack. If you notice you’re having a slug problem, add a few ducks and that should take care of it.
Manure from herbivores like cows, horses, or even bunnies is great for your compost pile and will be fantastic fertilizer for your garden.
Become an Off-Grid Gardening Pro
It will take a bit of trial and error, but you’ll find what works best for you. Growing your food is quite a thrilling adventure. Imagine how satisfying it will feel when you sit down to a meal full of the fruits of your labor.
For more tips for living off the grid be sure to check out the other articles on our blog!
Where to Buy Seeds, Plants and Gardening Equipement?
Check out our blog post on the most recommend places to buy from.