No doubt, we’ve all come to realize that we don’t need to live in an apocalyptic, zombie-filled world for disruptions in consumer goods to occur. All it took was a microscopic virus. The COVID-19 pandemic, with its food shortages and shelter-in-place recommendations, has led more people to recognize the value of growing a self-sufficient garden. But what is gardening self-sufficiency and how does one go about making a self-reliant garden?
The Self-Sustaining Food Garden
Simply put, a self-reliant garden provides all or a significant portion of your family’s produce needs. Not only does growing a self-sufficient garden reduce dependency upon the commercial food chain, but knowing we can provide for ourselves and our families in a time of crisis is downright satisfying.
Whether you’re new to gardening or you’ve been at it for years, following these tips will help when planning a self-sufficient garden.
- Choose a sunny location – most vegetable plants require 6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day.
- Start slow – When first starting a self-sustaining food garden, focus on a handful of your favorite crops. Growing all the lettuce or potatoes your family needs for a year is an excellent first-year goal.
- Optimize the growing season – Plant both cool and warm season veggies to stretch out the harvest period. Growing peas, tomatoes and Swiss chard can give your self-reliant garden three seasons of fresh food.
- Go organic – Compost leaves, grass and kitchen scraps to reduce your reliance on chemical fertilizer. Collect rainwater to use for irrigation.
- Preserve food – Increase gardening self-sufficiency by storing that peak of harvest abundance of produce for the off-season. Freeze, can or dehydrate excess garden vegetables and grow easy-to-store produce like onions, potatoes and winter squash.
- Successive sowing – Don’t plant all your kale, radishes or corn at the same time. Instead, extend the harvest period by sowing a small amount of these veggies every two weeks. This allows these feast or famine crops to reach maturity over several weeks or months.
- Plant heirloom varieties – Unlike modern hybrids, heirloom seeds grow true to type. Sowing vegetable seeds you collected is another step towards gardening self-sufficiency.
- Go homemade – Repurposing plastic containers and crafting your own insecticidal soaps saves money and reduces your reliance on commercial products.
- Keep records – Track your progress and use these records to improve your gardening success in future years.
- Be patient – Whether you’re building raised garden beds or amending the native soil, reaching total gardening self-sufficiency takes time.
Planning a Self-Sufficient Garden
Not sure what to grow in your self-sustaining food garden? Try these heirloom vegetable varieties:
- Asparagus – ‘Mary Washington’
- Beets – ‘Detroit Dark Red’
- Bell Pepper – ‘California Wonder’
- Cabbage – ‘Copenhagen Market’
- Carrots – ‘Nantes Half Long’
- Cherry tomatoes – ‘Black Cherry’
- Corn – ‘Golden Bantam’
- Green beans – ‘Blue Lake’ pole bean
- Kale – ‘Lacinato’
- Lettuce – ‘Buttercrunch’
- Onion – ‘Red Wethersfield’
- Parsnips – ‘Hollow Crown’
- Paste tomato – ‘Amish Paste’
- Peas – ‘Green Arrow’
- Potatoes – ‘Vermont Champion’
- Pumpkin – ‘Connecticut Field’
- Radish – ‘Cherry Belle’
- Shelling beans – ‘Jacob’s Cattle’
- Swiss chard – ‘Fordhook Giant’
- Winter squash – ‘Waltham butternut’
- Zucchini – ‘Black Beauty’