Growing A Self Sufficient Garden - Plant A Self Sustaining Food Garden

Person Holding A Basket Full Of Fresh Vegetables
(Image credit: Milan Krasula)

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 organicCompost 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'
Laura Miller

Laura Miller has been gardening all her life. Holding a degree in Biology, Nutrition, and Agriculture, Laura's area of expertise is vegetables, herbs, and all things edible. She lives in Ohio.