The Benefits of Growing and Preserve Your Own Food
The Benefits of Growing Your Own Food
Environmentalists have been admonishing us for years to conserve fuel to lessen our impact on the planet. Some of us have taken heed by walking, biking, carpooling, combining trips, or trading in our SUVs for hybrids. While you probably appreciate these efforts, frankly, the majority of us didn’t change. That was until gas prices hit an all-time high last year. As a result, people actually modified their behaviors to conserve gas. The fact that it was a boon to the environment wasn’t the catalyst, although the effect was the same. Put simply, sometimes it takes a hit to the wallet to rustle up real change.
Now that the entire economy is in a slump, people are responding by tightening up and reducing consumption in general—not just at the pump. The cost of everything seems to be higher these days, especially at the grocery store, a trip you can’t skip. Maybe you can skip it, or at least drastically slash your bill, by growing your own food.
Growing fruits and vegetables seems overwhelming to most people, but it’s actually much simpler than it sounds. (Plus you don’t have to trade in your suburban or urban lifestyle for a life in the sticks in the name of self-sufficiency or savings.) All you need is a few square feet of the great outdoors, a water source, and a little time. Your grandparents did it, and so can you.(source)
How to Grow Your Own Food
For all of human history, people have managed to feed themselves, either by fishing, hunting,gathering and/or subsistence farming. Now, with large-scale food production, gardening is often only a hobby. But growing one’s own food could mean increased security, health and enjoyment. Since the details of growing your own food depend on your unique locale, here’s a general overview to get you started.
1 Determine what crops you can raise in your location. Obvious factors includeclimate, soil, rainfall, and available space. A fast and fun way to learn what grows well in your climate is to visit a nearby farm or garden. Here are some details to ask seasoned growers about or investigate yourself:
- Climate. Some locales only have a brief growing season, such as Northern Europe and Africa. This means growing quick producing plant varieties that can be harvested and stored for the winter. Other areas have year-long warm weather, where fresh vegetables and grain can be harvested on demand.
- Soil. Depending on the type you have available, you may expect very high yields from a large area, or meager yields from small areas. The best plan to follow is to plant a food crop which flourishes in your conditions as a staple, and use surplus land to grow “luxury” foods that require more fertilization and effort.
- Rainfall. No plants thrive with minimal rainfall, so most food crops require substantial amounts of water from irrigation or rainfall. Consider the normal rainfall rate for your area, and the availability of irrigation when choosing crops. If you live in a dry area, consider collecting rainwater.
- Space. If plenty of space is available, you may be able to grow plenty of food using conventional methods, but where space is limited, you may have to look at other techniques, including hydroponics, container gardening, sharecropping, and vertical gardening.
3 Become familiar with the different types of food crops. We often think of the vegetables we see in the produce section of a market as the garden vegetables, and in a sense, this is true, but to truly grow your own food, you need to consider your whole diet. This is a general list of the types of food you will want to consider growing.
- Vegetables. This includes legumes, leaf vegetables, root vegetables, corn (a grain, looked at more closely later), and vining vegetables like squash, cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins. These provide many essential nutrients and vitamins, including:
- Proteins. Legumes are a good source of proteins.
- Carbohydrates. Potatoes and beets are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, as well as minerals.
- Vitamins and minerals. Leaf vegetables, like cabbage and lettuce, as well as vining vegetables like cucumbers and squash, are a good source of many essential vitamins and minerals.
- Fruits. Most people understand that fruits are a great source of vitamin C, but they also contribute many other vitamins and minerals to your diet, as well as offering a broader variety of taste to enjoy. Fruits also can often be preserved by drying or canning, so refrigeration is not required to store your surplus.
- Grains. Growing grains is not what most people envision when they think of growing their own food, but grains are a staple in most diets. They are filled with carbohydrates and fiber, and can be stored easily for long periods of time. In many early civilizations, and in some countries today, grain is the primary foodstuff for the population. This category of food crops includes:
- Corn. Often eaten as a vegetable with meals, corn is also a versatile grain that can be stored. Proper varieties, grown to maturity can be harvested and stored as whole cobs, shelled (whole kernels removed from the cob), or ground into meal for use in making breads or mush dishes like grits. For those living in latitudes with long enough days, corn may be the easiest grain to grow for the home subsistence farmer. Freezing corn is the easiest way to preserve it for winter use.
- Wheat. Most people are familiar with wheat, from which we get most of our flour for baking everything from breads to cakes and pastries. Wheat stores well after harvest, but harvesting itself is more laborious than it is for corn, since the whole plant is usually cut down, sheafed (bound in piles), gathered and threshed (beaten to free the seeds), and ground into fine powder (flour).
- Oats. Another grain, oats for human consumption are processed more than wheat or corn, and the labor involved in harvest is equal to wheat. Still, it may be considered an option in some areas where it is easily grown.
- Rice. For wet areas, areas subject to flooding, or which can be flooded, rice is the obvious choice. Rice is commonly grown in shallowly submerged soil, and is harvested much as wheat is.
- Other grains include barley and rye, which are similar to wheat and oats.
Don’t wait until food becomes scarce; start preparing for the future now by becoming as self-reliant as possible. Your long-term chances of survival could very well depend on your ability to feed yourself and your family without relying on someone else.
4 Select the crops and varieties that are suitable to your growing region. This is where the instructions in this article cannot suffice to give comprehensive and accurate information specific to you. Instead, we will look at basic growing requirements for different plants according to standard growing regions, as set forth by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) on their plant hardiness map which you may be able to use by comparing climates in terms of latitude and elevation to your particular region.
- Beans, peas, and other legumes. These are planted after the threat of frost, and require 75 to 90 days to produce fruit, which can continue producing as long as the plants are cared for until autumn frost.
- Gourds. This group of plants includes squash, melons, and pumpkins, and is planted after the last expected frost, and takes between 45 days (cucumbers) to 130 days for pumpkins, to produce harvest-able fruit.
- Tomatoes. This fruit (usually grouped with vegetables) can be planted in containers if kept warm, and transplanted into soil after the threat of frost, and will produce season-long as well.
- Grains. There is a great difference in growing seasons with grains, as well as summer and winter varieties of many of these. Generally speaking, summer grains, such as corn and summer wheat, are planted near the end of winter when freezing temperatures are not expected to continue for more than a few weeks, and they take about 110 days to mature, then another 30-60 days to dry sufficiently to harvest for storing as seed.
- Orchard fruits. Apples, pears, plums, and peaches are regarded as orchard fruits in most places, and do not require annual planting. The trees that bear these fruits require pruning and maintenance and usually take 2-3 years before producing their first, modest crop. When the trees begin producing fruit, the yield should increase yearly, and after they become mature and established, a single tree can produce bushels of fruit each year.
5 Develop a “farm plan” on the land you intend to use for your food production.You will need to address specific issues in your planning, including wildlife encroachment, which may require fences or other permanent measures, sun exposures, since some plants require more sunlight to successfully produce than others, and topography, since tilling very steep ground is fraught with problems.
- List all of the possible crops you will attempt to cultivate on your land. You should try to have as diverse a selection as possible to meet nutrition requirements mentioned earlier. You may be able to estimate a total yield per crop item by researching the growing success of others in your area, or by using information from the source you purchase your seed from. Using the list, and the planting plan you began earlier, you will need to calculate the amount of seed you will need. If you have lots of room, plant an excess to allow for poor performance until you have a firm grasp of what you are doing.
- Plan to use your land as effectively as possible if you are limited in space. Except in very cold regions, you may expect to be able to grow and harvest summer, fall, winter, and spring crops. This will allow you to enjoy some fresh produce year around. Beets, carrots, cauliflower, snow peas, cabbage, onions, turnips, collards, mustard greens, and many other vegetables actually prefer growing in cold weather if the ground does not freeze. Winter crops are also much less subject to insect problems. If you are very tight on space, consider your alternatives .(source)
Preserving Your Harvest
Home canning of vegetables and fruits, along with drying culinary herbs and freezing produce are all excellent ways of assuring that your family reap the rewards of your home grown produce throughout the year. This web site will be devoted to the different methods of home canning, drying, freezing and storing your garden vegetables to extend the enjoyment of your garden harvest.
My goal is to guide you through the different methods for preserving each herb, fruit or vegetable to give you options to suit your specific needs.
Whether you grow your vegetables at home, are a member of a farm co-operative or frequently shop farmer’s markets, knowing how to preserve the bountiful harvest of the summer will help you decide which fruits and vegetables to buy and grow, and, how to store them through the cold winter months ahead.
Some of my earliest memories were of “helping” my parents, as a very young girl, make chow chow, pickles and many other home canned products, including muscadine jelly, spending many a lazy, hot summer afternoon in the deep south picking muscadines (a wild grape that grew on the river banks where I lived) and taking them home to make jelly for the season. Putting food away for the winter has always been a part of my life, and, now, I would like to share the knowledge that I have acquired through a long, happy life to help you serve the most wholesome food possible to your family.
Being able to garden is a wonderful hobby that will stay with you throughout your life. To me there is nothing more satisfying than planting a seed and watching and caring for it until it bears fruit. There is no endeavor more appropriate to family activities than gardening, bringing together the wonder of God and nature with the wonderment and enthusiasm of children. One of the very best lessons that you can teach your children is where their actually food comes from!(source)
The first, most common technique is freezing. Most fruits and vegetables can simply be washed, sliced, frozen on a cookie sheet (so they won’t freeze together in a clump), and then sealed into a freezer bag (or vacuum sealed if you have a vacuum sealer). Some other ideas for freezing:
- Corn can be made into creamed corn, portioned into freezer bags, sealed, and then frozen flat for easy storage
- Green beans can be blanched (dunked into boiling water for a few minutes until they turn bright green and then rinsed with cold water to stop cooking), then frozen
- Berries can be pre-mixed into pie portions (using your favorite recipe)
- Homemade veggie soup can also be frozen flat in freezer or sandwich bags for individual portions
Canning is another common way to preserve food. There are two types of canning: using a pressure cooker and water bath canning. Water bath canning only requires a deep, large pot to get started (plus canning jars and lids), but low-acid foods require a pressure cooker to be safe. Besides standard jams, jellies, and tomato canning, try these ideas:
- Make your own salsa. You can use the peaches you got at the scratch and dent sale!
- Make tomato sauce.
- Pickle everything you can get your hands on, from peaches to garlic to okra to asparagus.
- Make your own pie filling, or make apple butter in a crockpot and can it!
You get the idea. If you would buy it in a jar or a can in the grocery store, then you can can it at home. Some people even can water for disaster prep!
Of all of the ways to preserve food for later use, dehydrating is the most energy intense. Dehydrating requires that food be baked very slowly over a long period of time to gradually remove all of the water. There are food dehydrators that do the same job with potentially less energy, but you can dehydrate nearly anything you like in your oven with a jellyroll pan (or a cookie sheet with a lip) and a metal rack. As a general rule of thumb, the more moisture, the longer it will take, but most foods can be dried in the oven at 140˚ Fahrenheit for 10-18 hours. Some ideas of foods to dry:
- Apples: Pretreat by lightly coating with lemon juice to prevent skin darkening
- Berries: Excellent for a burst of tart sweetness in your winter oatmeal!
- Fruit leathers and jerkies: These make a great snack but are a bit more complex to make (source)
Discover how our grandfathers used to preserve food for long periods of time.
Best Place to Store Your Produce
The best place at home is somewhere cool and dark but not freezing. A garage is often ideal, especially one attached or integral to the house. (How often do people actually keep a car in there?) Another option is a garden shed. The only problem with sheds is that they do tend to vary in temperature. In the winters they can drop to nearly the lowest outside temperature (and you don’t want to freeze you food store) while on a sunny day the temperature will shoot right up.
It’s easy enough to insulate your shed. Polystyrene is a good insulator and you can often pick up sheets used for packaging for the price of asking from electrical goods retailers. Large and thicker sheets can be bought cheaply from builders’ merchants.
You do need some ventilation to prevent condensation building up. The closable air vent covers can be useful for this and can be picked up very cheaply from builders’ merchants. Ideally you want to keep the temperature above freezing in cold weather, so a thermostatically controlled electric heater is useful. If you keep the area where your crop is stored small (we walled off and shelved a section of our large shed to become the food store), then it isn’t expensive to run.
Another solution we had was at night to run a 60 watt light bulb in an old biscuit tin with holes punched through. It made just a very low wattage electric heater, enough to keep the frost off. However, soon you will not be able to buy old fashioned high energy light bulbs.
If you haven’t got electricity, then it gets trickier. A paraffin heater is cheap to run but produces condensation, something we definitely don’t want. You can buy thermostatic controlled tent heaters or even a camping stove turned down to the lowest, but be really careful with naked flames. You don’t want to burn down your shed and I think they might produce condensation as well.
When storing vegetables you need to sort out the damaged ones and any showing signs of rot and use these first. The phrase ‘One bad apple spoils the barrel’ is very apt. One rotten potato can spoil the sack very quickly. Potato Blight, in particular, spreads like wildfire, turning a sack into a stinking soggy mess in a couple of weeks.(source)
Other useful resources:
Survive Attack to Our Power Grid System (Weapon That Can Instantly End Modern Life in America)
Survival MD (Best Post Collapse First Aid Survival Guide Ever)
Backyard Innovator (A Self Sustaining Source Of Fresh Meat,Vegetables And Clean Drinking Water)
Blackout USA (EMP survival and preparedness)
Conquering the coming collapse (Financial advice and preparedness )
Liberty Generator (Build and make your own energy source)
Backyard Liberty (Easy and cheap DIY Aquaponic system to grow your organic and living food bank)
Bullet Proof Home (A Prepper’s Guide in Safeguarding a Home )
Family Self Defense (Best Self Defense Strategies For You And Your Family)
Survive Any Crisis (Best Items To Hoard For A Long Term Crisis)
Survive The End Days (Biggest Cover Up Of Our President)
Drought USA(Discover The Amazing Device That Turns Air Into Water)