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Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Planning a Baby Food Garden

Much like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, “extra” time and space don’t seem to exist. Even so, I apparently decided to fill both of those “extras” with a new baby! That’s right, we’ll be saying hello to a new little girl come spring—and saying goodbye to our so-called spare room and spare time.

That means, in the middle of winter, I’m trapped inside and in full nesting mode. As I may have mentioned before, winter is not my favorite season. In fact, it’s not even in my top three. Therefore, I’ve spent much of my time insisting the house isn’t clean enough, making the kids schlep furniture from one room to the next, pouring candles, cooking, and planning my new garden. Generally, I’ve been making everyone around me insane.

We moved into this house a little late last season to get planting, so I’ve been putting a lot of attention toward it this year—you know, the obsessive type of attention pregnant women tend to excel at.

Michelle's seed catalogs As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to feed this baby as organically and naturally as possible, including breastfeeding (my first time) and making baby food. That includes growing many of the veggies I’ll use in her meal prep—in other words, a baby food garden. This took a bit of advanced planning, as she won’t start eating food until next winter.

For starters, our garden this year will be an ambitious 1,500 square feet, larger than I’ve had previously. I’m committed to growing what I can preserve and what I know the family will eat. After combing through my seed catalogs and the very few baby cookbooks I could find, I’ve decided to plant a wide variety of flowers and produce, focusing on veggies I can freeze in bulk. This means lot of peas and carrots, beans, berries, and squash of all types. Here’s my full order for 2015:

•Blauhilde beans (purple)
•Dragon Tongue beans (yellow)
•Sunset and Streamline runner beans (green)
•Envy edamame
•Oxheart and Lunar white carrots
•Chicago pickling cucumbers
•Garden huckleberries
•Cherry Vanilla quinoa
•Cimarron and Butter King lettuce
•Southport and Wethersfield onions
•Little Marvel peas
•Lilac Bell and Etuida peppers
•Giant Nobel spinach
•Fordhook zucchini
•Jersey Giant (red) and Cream Sausage (white) tomatoes
•Strawberry watermelon
•Country Gentleman sweet corn
•Early Prolific straight squash
•Genovese basil
•Stinging nettle

Over the next year, I’ll post tips that I think other new natural moms might find helpful. Here’s my first one: When planning your garden, don’t forget herbs for Baby! Although infants’ initial diets may seem simplistic and made up exclusively of those things listed above, and although we tend to think of baby food as bland, especially because canned baby food is so boring, it doesn’t have to be.

You can start with the mildest herbs, introducing those one at a time so you can gauge your baby’s reaction. Then you can move on to bigger and bolder flavors; for example, mixing mint into lamb and peas. Do proceed with caution if allergies are prevalent in your family, as some herbs and spices—such as cinnamon, fennel, and paprika—can bring on allergic reactions. Even the most simplistic of purées will welcome some herbs and spices, and your baby will develop a taste for more adventuresome foods as he or she grows.

Did you know that around five months in utero babies begin to foster a taste for certain familiar foods? That means if you want your child to develop a natural predilection for healthy choices, you might start (or continue) eating that way during your pregnancy. This has not been an easy task for a picky eater who may or may not be writing this post, but I’d really like my little one to enjoy a wide variety of veggies, so I’m going to grin and bear the green beans. It will serve as a good guilt-trip story in the future when she refuses to eat something I’ve made.

In addition to her diet, I’m also committed to selecting the most responsible and environmentally conscious baby products I can find for my household. I’m glad I started early because, frankly, it’s all a bit more overwhelming than I remember. My son is 10, and my daughter is 16, so there’s a wide age gap. I never thought I would be picking out baby stuff again, so after my second pregnancy, I promptly purged my brain of any relevant info. What’s that I hear? Never say never?

Luckily, the Internet is here to save the day, with a wide selection of sites comparing all kinds of products, including diapers. I was shocked to learn Americans throw away an average of 49 MILLION disposable diapers a day, one of the largest contributions to landfills. These diapers can be full of harmful chemicals, including polyethylene and petroleum, and even more staggering is that they take an estimated 200 to 500 years to decompose.

With so many terms to learn (bleach-free, cruelty-free, wood pulp-, dye-, and latex-free, all with varying degrees of biodegradability), it’s a lot to ponder. I also wanted to be practical and take into account ease of purchasing, just in case of an emergency run, as well as price and my family’s priorities. I spent a good deal of time considering cloth diapers, as well, and compared available services. In the end, I ended up selecting a disposal brand I could purchase locally that uses sustainable materials and is largely biodegradable, cruelty-free, and free of dyes and toxins.

As with anything in this HOMEGROWN life, we all make decisions that are best for our family and try to make decisions that are also best for the Earth. If I can raise a few more responsible, earth-loving humans, I’ll know I’ve done something right. Someday my 72 hours of diaper research will pay off!

More Baby-Friendly Food Ideas

• Don’t miss the Homemade Baby Food 101, full of the HOMEGROWN flock’s collective wisdom!
• If you haven’t perused HOMEGROWN’s Earth Mamas and Papas parenting group, give it a gander!
• If you’re thinking about planting your own baby food garden, check out the Garden Planning 101. Good luck and keep us posted!

Michelle Wire comes from pioneer stock: Her great-grandmother literally wrote the book. It’s this legacy, in part, that led Michelle to trade in her high-stress life for a Pennsylvania homestead where she holds down a full-time gig in between raising kids and chickens.

Photos by Michelle Wire.

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