Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
There are a lot of different ways to go about planning what to grow in your garden. You usually pick out what you like to grow and eat and put in as many seeds and plants as your space will allow. Another way to begin is to think of the eating first. What you want to eat, but more specifically, how much you want to eat. I’ve written an article that is in the new (October/November 2012) issue of Mother Earth News that helps with the planning— A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency. It contains charts on vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and oilseeds. The oilseed chart is only available online. Possible yields are given in pounds of food per 100 square feet for each crop listed and one column has the estimated half-cup servings you might expect to have on your table from each pound of food brought in from the garden. In other words, the pound we’re talking about is before trimming and peeling.
The USDA defines a serving as one half-cup. A serving of bread is one slice. The size of the servings you eat is up to you and need to be considered in your planning. Now would be a good time to begin calculating how much your family eats, so you know how much food to grow. There is an interesting book about what people around the world eat. Hungry Planet, by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio show families with the food that they normally eat in one week. If they had photographed your family for that book, what would it look like? Would it be food that looks like it just came from the garden or food in boxes and cans from the grocery store? People always seem to be taking pictures with their cell phones these days. You could begin your recordkeeping by taking photos of the food you eat before you prepare it for your table. Take pictures of it ready to serve, also. Just recording what you eat is a project in itself, before you even get to planning how to grow that food.
Once you know how much you need, the charts will help you calculate how much of each thing you have space to grow. You might only want to eat salads out of your garden all summer, or you might want to can some tomato sauce. Either way, you can get an idea of how much space it will take. Maybe you are taking a closer look at how much nutrition you are growing and making some changes in crop choices. If you are experienced in growing snap beans, you could grow beans for the dry seeds and begin to put up some power-packed staple crops. There are some more ideas about this at Homeplace Earth.
There is much excitement about homegrown food. It seems to be the thing to do lately. If there is any activity that will contribute to your health, it is growing your own food. You get the fresh air and exercise, plus what you grow will contribute to healthy meals for your family. My husband and I recently attended the Heritage Harvest Festival in Virginia and the Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania. It was wonderful to meet so many people who are growing their own--experienced growers and newbies alike. Thank you to everyone reading this post. Wherever you are on your journey of food growing, know that you are contributing to the solutions needed in the world today just by considering what I’m talking about. We have a lot of work to do, but with everyone along for the ride, it can be joyful work. Enjoy the journey.
Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she’s up to at www.HomeplaceEarth.wordpress.com.