Feed Yourself From Your Yard, Part One

So I’m breaking away a little from my usual blogging topic of discussing the goings on here on our farm to talk a bit about self sufficiency for the typical suburbanite. That is, if the typical suburbanite is ready to become an atypical suburbanite.

More and more people who live in subdivisions are beginning to wake up to the fact that they are entirely too dependent on an industrial, multinational, unsustainable food system that churns out nutrient deficient, environmentally destructive, and inhumanely produced food, especially when it comes to meat. This is a system that is dependent on huge quantities of petroleum, tax payer subsidies, and international debt in order to operate. Just recently it’s come to light that Chinese corporations that answer to their government have increased their ownership of of American agriculture, most notably with the acquisition of Smithfield foods, the largest pork producer in the world. Financed by the Chinese national bank.

But I digress. So what is someone to do? How does one hedge against this current system that will likely one day fail, but not before food prices skyrocket out of control? Many folks seek out small local farms such as ours, to support and get their food from. But ultimately, you have to take some matters into your own hands and grow some of your own food. Naturally the first thing one may think of is planting a garden. Sadly, in America this is no longer normal and many communities actually have ordinances against tilling up a lawn to plant a garden. Most subdivisions were not designed with vegetable gardens in mind with shaded and sloping lots not to mention the minimal amount of soil available to plant in. But you should not allow these obstacles to keep you from your goal of self sufficiency.

So what can you do? First of all, if you don’t live in a neighborhood that deprives you of your right to garden your own land, I strongly recommend getting a copy of the book, Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. This was my number one resource when I first started gardening. This method uses raised beds, does not require the uses of a tiller and is great for sloping ground. Rather than planting directly into your soil, which is likely very deficient, vegetables are planted into a soil mix of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. The book spells it all out in a very simple and easy to understand verbiage.

Square Foot Gardening

Second, reevaluate your landscaping. Replace ornamental trees, though pretty to look at and cast some shade on your windows, with fruit trees. Check with your local gardening groups or extension agent for what varieties grow best in your area. Here in north Georgia, pears and apples do quite well and can be grown in many regions. You may want to seek out some classes on their care and pruning. Replace shrubbery with blue berry, Goose berry, Currant, and honeyberry shrubs to name a few. Blackberries and raspberries require little maintenance once established and can be trellised neatly along the sides of the house. You can blend herbs and low growing vegetables into the flower beds. It will take a year or so before trees bear fruit, but in the meantime you can look around your neighborhoods and you may find established trees loaded with fruit. Many folks will gladly allow you to harvest from them. I still do this very thing to supplement our gardens.

Blueberries

Third, there are innovative alternatives to traditional gardening if all you have is a deck or patio. Containers like pots, boxes, and even buckets can be used to grow all manner of garden veggies. A new product that I’ve just discovered is the Garden Tower. As the name suggests, it is a vertical growing method that allows for the production of a larger volume of food on a smaller footprint. Being aeroponic, it requires no soil at all and could possibly allow for year round production if brought indoors.

Garden Tower

This is just the beginning to securing freedom from the traditional food model most of us grew up in. There are still many questions that remain such as; What about meat? How do I make compost? What do I do in the winter? Stay tuned and these topics will be addressed in future posts. Now it’s bedtime and I have cows to milk in the morning.

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