Imagine a life where you do not have to go to the grocery store to buy food… ever. The only time you need to venture into the store is for a non-food product or for a treat like chocolate, ice cream, cheese or whatever you fancy. That’s the life I’m living right now. I grow all the food I eat all year round in the backyard of my typical American house. You can also do this by transforming your lawn into a kitchen garden.
To really replace the food you buy in the store with what you grow yourself, you need a space of 4,000 square feet (40 feet x 10 feet) for one person. Add another 1,000 square feet (10 feet x 10 feet) for each additional person. Some vegetables, such as broccoli, take up a lot of space. Other vegetables, such as lettuce, take up very little space. They even grow back after you cut them, giving you more harvests in a small amount of space.
You can grow food in the space you have available, whether it is a front yard, backyard, patio or deck. Do not just think about growing your vegetables horizontally, but expand to vertical gardening. Beans and squash can very easily be grown vertically, dramatically expanding the amount of food you can grow in a small space. This kind of thinking is especially useful for residents of apartments.
What you can not grow yourself (or what goes wrong), buy from your favorite local farm that has sustainable cultivation methods that you want to support. This will give you the lowest CO2 footprint – and the most delicious food.
Each type of vegetable requires a certain temperature range to grow properly and also requires a certain amount of growth time before it is ready to harvest. You can grow most vegetables almost anywhere in the world, but you need to learn how the vegetables like it so you know when to plant them based on the weather cycles where you live.
Of course, you will only plant foods that you know you want to eat. Here are other tips to help your home-grown vegetables thrive
Learn about accompanying planting
Accompanying planting is important to keep your plants happy. Not all vegetables get along with each other, so plant them next to their friends.
Keep your soil healthy
Soil health is the secret key to having healthy vegetables. Your vegetables pull the nutrients they need out of the soil, which also helps them fight pests. If your soil is not diverse and does not have life in it, then you do not have healthy vegetables. Build up your soil health by composting your leftovers and rotating your crops. It may take years to build up your soil, so patience is needed, but it’s worth the wait as your plants become healthier and more abundant each year.
Perennials, such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, are great additions to your garden and help protect it from strong winds and storms. Plant these tasty perennials on the side of the garden where the wind is coming from. Perennials also draw a lot of carbon out of the air and leak it into the ground. The carbon, combined with the very long roots of perennials, helps improve your soil.
Protect your vegetables from pests – of course
Plant fragrant flowers and herbs (such as marigolds, mint, bib balm and borage) among your vegetable paradise. While pollinators love them, most pests hate these types of fragrant plants. So by planting them throughout your garden, you are building in a natural pest control system while giving your honey bees more food.
Enjoy your harvest
Cooking with fresh vegetables is very easy. If you ask a self-respecting chef how to cook good food, the very first thing they will say is that you get the freshest ingredients you can. When your vegetables are fresh, they are already full of flavor. The best recipe for most of your vegetables is to add a little bit of olive oil to a pan, cut your vegetables into slices and then add them to the pan with a dash of salt. When the vegetables are soft, they are done; Get ready to experience a taste explosion that you have never had with products purchased in the store.
Throughout the growing season, while harvesting your food, preserve what you cannot eat now for use in the winter. Blanching and freezing is the easiest way to preserve your bounty and can be done with everything except salad (salad is too thin for it to be frozen / frozen up intact). Juice your salad (along with other greens), add a little lime, put it in a jar and freeze it. (Add the thawed, juicy salad to rice, quinoa, couscous, or other dishes to add some freshness to your winter cooking.) It doesn’t take long before you have a freezer full of vegetables that you can easily and quickly thaw up. and cook in the winter.
If your freezer is full and you still have more vegetables than you can use, you can share the bounty from your vegetable paradise in a yard with your neighbors, friends, family or food bank. Or you can sell the excess food at your local farmer’s market, giving you a whole new side hunt in addition to a year’s food. Now this is something that grass will never give you!
Photos courtesy of James Lissy. Feature image: Adobe Stock
About the author
James Lissy is an avid urban farmer who is able to grow more than a year of food in the backyard of his typical American house. James writes about these adventures on his blog, Grass to Veggies, which also includes a free guide that shows you how to grow your own food, too.