Growing food yourself is hard work, especially if you’re a new gardener. Sure, you can read gardening books, but you really need something more. You need wisdom from experienced growers, men and women who already grow food themselves.
Today, we have five tips from some of the experienced growers featured in the Beyond Off Grid Grow More Food Course. These tips will help you start growing food yourself…even if you’ve never touched a garden tool in your life!
Don’t Treat Your Soil Like Dirt
Jason Matyas & Rob Wokaty, expert gardeners
Many people treat their soil like dirt, and you don’t want to be one of those people! The health of your soil will determine the health of your garden, so it’s important to build your soil.
First, it’s important to know your soil’s needs. Buy a soil test kit, and send it to a lab. (Try your local agricultural college for kits too.) You can also look at the plants already growing in your soil, to determine what type of soil you have. For example, if you see a lot of moss, your soil is high in acid and is missing other types of nutrients and drainage helpers.
Second, soil needs high organic matter—organic matter’s nutrients help plants thrive. Sandy, clay, and/or rocky soils don’t have much organic matter. Even after you start gardening, constantly think about increasing your soil’s fertility and organic matter. After all, if you build your soil, your plants will thrive.
All You Need is a Hoe
Noah Sanders, author of Born Again Dirt
High-tech growing is hard to get started in, especially when you’re avoiding debt. When you’re first starting out, low-tech tools are often more economically feasible.
Noah heard about people in Africa using some amazing techniques and teaching the poor a simple, low-tech system. In Africa, they use the two major principles of soil management that we find in nature:
- Minimal tillage
- Maximum soil coverage
It’s very simple to prep a garden plot the low-tech way. Just get out there early in the year, lay out a perfect rectangle, and chop off the weeds from the ground. Lay down those chopped weeds as mulch, and dig holes or furrows to plant seeds.This seemingly-simple method produces amazing results. At first, Noah didn’t think it would help—after all, it’s so simple. And yet, the results are astounding…and you only use basic tools like hoes, planting sticks, and planting strings!
Think Vertically & Plant Around the House
Angela England, author of Gardening Like a Ninja
Vertical growing helps you cram lots of food production into a tiny space and helps you extend your harvest. For example, think about gigantic squash vines. Squash vines take up a huge amount of ground space, but when Angela trained them to grow vertically, she fit many more plants in the same space. Hanging baskets, porch rails, and window boxes are all vertical growing opportunities that will help you add multiple growing levels to your landscape.
Also, don’t be afraid to plant things around your house. When Angela starts looking around, she wants to take advantage of every space she has available.
- That ugly side yard
- The space around the mailbox
- The space by the driveway
- Any areas that don’t have good soil (good for container gardening)
For example, someone once had a very ugly and weedy space behind her garage. This woman removed the weeds and planted a bank of raspberries. The raspberries are low-maintenance, sprawl along the wall, and now this woman harvests bucketfuls of raspberries from this otherwise-wasted space!
Set Up an Energy-Efficient Site
Josh Deel, permaculture designer and homesteader
Make the most of your layout by setting up an efficient system—a system where you won’t waste time, labor, or other resources.
First, consider “Zonal Placement”, a permaculture principle. In other words, place things in relation to the amount of energy or usage that will go into them. For example, if you have an area where you’ll make compost, it makes sense to position that compost relatively close to your garden.
Second, favor perennial systems that will become more complex and mature by themselves. Once established, perennial systems like food forests grow to maturity and yield food for centuries, without requiring lots of external inputs.
Begin Where You Are
Tessa Zundel, author of The Do It Yourself Homestead
If you’re new to gardening, don’t let it intimidate you. Just start. If you’re already a great gardener, try something new this season. Use it to its fullest extent.
For example, why not start growing herbs like Tessa? Rosemary and peppermint, for example, can be grown in pots. Also, calendula seeds are very easy to grow, and the plant also tolerates poor soils. And, fresh thyme is very easy to dry yourself.
Whatever your journey, just get started where you are, and you’ll be well on your way to growing things yourself.
Learn Even More from these Experts
These lessons were excerpted from the training sessions in our Grow More Food Course, which includes 12 sessions with over 17 hours of instruction. It’s Coming Soon, so stay tuned for more info!
You can download a free Grow More Food with Experienced Growers Guide that goes into much more detail and provides guidance for implementing these principles.