If you haven’t tried growing plants before, you likely look at it with a good understanding of the process: plant seed, water seed, watch it grow, pick it and eat it. That’s what they taught us as children anyway. Once you’ve killed your first tomato, watched in horror as your flowers wilt, or seen the destruction left behind by bugs, you start to do you research. Overwhelming research full of ph levels, nitrogen levels, drainage methods, and strange plastic “mulch” sheets fills up the computer and suddenly this grow your own food thing feels incredibly complicated.
Practical Prepping And Saving On Grocery Bills
I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore prepper by any means. We have a stash of supplies in the basement for an emergency like water, food that can be stored safely long-term, first-aid bags, and others. (I’m still collecting these things slowly as I find them.) One of my favorite things though is my small heirloom seed vault. I broke into it this year to try my hand at planting a few things. I could try to plant things from the store, but most of the fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle are sterile and new plants can’t be grown from their seeds. I have a few survival seeds packs in the basement though, so I planted some from a pack this year.
From my pack, I’ve planted jalapenos, habaneros, beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and bell peppers. Not from the pack, but still going in my garden, are yukon gold potatoes, strawberries, and white onions. My husband said he can’t tell if I’m growing toppings for a burger or a loaded salad. Why not both? There’s something satisfying about seeing your hard work begin to turn into viable food in your pantry.
Grow Your Own Food In Small Spaces
Now, we’re not in the country, so I’ve had to make due with what space I have here in the suburbs. I had a flower garden in the back yard with ample spare space in it. I suppose the woman who built the house assumed the flowers would spread. I transplanted out a big tiger lily plant and made plenty of space for the potatoes, future space for the seedlings started inside, and put the rest of what’s ready so far in pots around the perimeter of the garden.
If you’ve ever tried to grow food from seeds, rather than seedlings, do you know that horrible feeling of having the little sprouts coming up discolored because you’ve made a mistake? My poor little yellow tomato seedlings limped their way out of the soil with their discolored, anemic leaves. They’d been over-watered in the tray due to me being a bit overzealous and were struggling to break through. They’ve since started recovering, but only 3 of the six seedlings (from groups of three seeds in each pod) came up at all. It’s okay for a supplemental garden, with an abundance of seeds available for cheap. In a situation where you’re depending on a garden for the bulk of your produce (during job loss, survival situations, SHTF, or just personal choice) losing half of your crop immediately could be devastating.
Gain Homesteading Knowledge
If there’s any advice I can give someone who wants to start trying to grow their own food for any reason, it would be to read. Don’t get too intimidated by the chemical descriptions and the jargon from professional growers. They’re a great source of advice for advanced gardens, but you don’t have to be a chemist to grow your own food. Remember, our ancestors did it for many generations before us without a lab. They handed down knowledge that became common sense for growing. We have the benefit of books for that now (and I’ve put a few up above here for you to check out).
Advice For First Time Growers With Easy Plants
- Tomatoes: Overwatering at any stage can mean the end of your plant and you should shoot for around an inch of water a week to avoid things like blossom rot or dead seedlings. When the plant is at a good height (usually around 3 feet), remove the bottom leaves. These are the old leaves and are most susceptible to rot and fungus.
- Potatoes: If you’re going to be storing your potatoes rather than using them the day you pick them, don’t dig them up until 2-3 weeks after the leaves turn brown and die. Then leave them out in the sun (assuming it doesn’t rain) for a couple of days for the skin to toughen up and mature.
- Cucumbers: You’ll need warm nutrient-rich soil, so consider using dark mulches to encourage the ground to heat up and frequent feedings with a fertilizer. (I personally prefer worm castings over chemical fertilizers.)
- Lettuce: Generally one of the easiest veggies to grow, but susceptible to rot and slugs. For the rot, you can help prevent it with crop rotation. Don’t plant your lettuce in the same bed two years in a row. For the slugs, use wood ashes around the plant to discourage them from coming near.
If you’ve tried your hand at gardening, do you have any advice that’s worked for you? If so I’d love it if you’d leave it in the comments. Please feel free to share this with any friends starting their gardening adventure this year!