The Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Own Food
Growing own food is essentially helpful to live healthy, active, and resilient life. Food production at home garden, or any nearby space offers a wonderful feeling of satisfaction, happiness. Growth and development of growing plants, emergence of flowers and ultimately food offer pleasure and mental relaxation. Moreover, self-grown food is free from contaminants and can be consumed as fresh. It not only offers great and enriched taste, but also helps to save big.
Growing own food is not a difficult task, but it needs good commitment, dedication, and hard work. Plants are living entities, and just like other living things they need care, attention, and proper management. Gardeners can grow food at home by using some specific management practices such as
- Soil selection
- Management of soil
- Sowing good quality seeds, or transplanting healthy seedlings
- Selection of desired fruits and vegetables
- Efficient utilization of small spaces for gardening
- Management of insect pests and diseases
- Careful and planned harvesting
- Garden preparation for next season vegetation
Soil Selection and Management
Soil is basic growing media for plants, and it provides support, aeration, water, and nutrients according to needs of growing plants. There are different kinds of soil such as sandy, clayey, and loamy, and all soil types are not good for gardening. So, successful gardening, and healthy food growing is greatly dependent on the type of soil, and providing feasible conditions, for good nutrients, and water uptake by plant roots.
Use of sandy and clayey soil should be avoided, as sandy soil causes immediate leaching of applied water, and nutrients, and thus it leads to the wastage of resources. Whereas, clayey soil holds more water contents, and offers much low drainage. As a result, there is no enough circulation of air, and plants suffer from stress. Soil is most critical factor to grow garden, and selection of contaminant free, and good quality soil should never be overlooked.
Whereas, loamy soil is best to support gardening, and if this soil is not available in the home ground, or the nearby area, gardeners can mix some proportions of sandy, clayey, and loamy soils. Moreover, the addition of organic matter, compost, and potting mix can significantly improve the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil. Growers/gardeners can also make compost at home by utilizing fallen leaves, twigs, and kitchen waste such as coffee grounds, eggshells, food scraps, and leftover food.
Sowing Seeds/Seedling Transplantation
Once the garden soil is ready, gardeners can grow seeds or can transplant seedlings according to requirements for the specific food plants. Some food plants can grow well from seeds, but the use of healthy, and vigorous seedlings can reduce the lifecycle of food plants in the garden. Gardeners should obtain these seedlings from a reliable source only, as vigorous and healthy seedlings can produce high-quality yield. Whereas, the use of diseased seedlings may cause some problems, such as poor growth, more demand for fertilizers, insect pest attack, and development of diseases. So, only good quality seeds or seedlings should be used in the garden.
Selection of Fruits and Vegetables
Although, some many fruits and vegetables can be grown in the home garden, but gardeners should select best suitable plants according to climatic conditions, topography, and geological conditions. No doubt that the choice of favoritism is always there, and gardeners can always select their most favorite food plants. Moreover, there should be a good consideration about the consumption trends at home, so preference should be given to plant most favorite vegetables, and fruits, so that good budget can be saved along with enjoying great and delicious taste.
Gardening in the Small Spaces
While everyone is not having access to large backyards, and plenty of spaces for gardening, so most people are reluctant to start a garden for food production. Making space for outdoor gardening is a critical factor, but it should never be considered as a problem, as smaller spaces can be efficiently utilized for growing food.
Gardening is also possible in the small space, as food plants can be grown in the raised beds, containers, and vertical towers. Intensive gardening offers good utilization of growing spaces and helps to get maximum biomass per unit area.
- Raised Bed Gardening
Building raised beds allows easy access to growing sites from all the sides and helps to produce more food by providing greater control over water conservation, pests, and ease of workability. Plants in the raised bed conditions are grown close to each other so a continuous leaf cover is provided that helps to reduce the moisture loss from soil.
Moreover, raised bed soil can be easily mixed with amendments, compost, and potting mix. So, it allows good penetration of roots, and nutrient uptake is enhanced. Resultantly, bioavailability, and retention of nutrients in the edible parts of plants is enhanced. This nutrient-rich food can offer great benefits to promote human health, by providing essential vitamins, and antioxidants.
- Vertical Gardening
Vertical gardening involves different approaches to use vertical space around the home or garden. Vining plants such as peas, and cucumbers are ideal for vertical gardening, as they can easily climb in the upward direction. Other than vining plants, many fruits and vegetables can also be grown in the vertical gardening, by using espaliered fruit trees, salad towers, and hanging baskets.
Vertical plants should be grown in such a way that they cannot affect the growth of sun-loving plants. These plants should be grown on the sides of supporting structures, so that all plant parts can easily access the sunlight. Plants grown in the vertical direction are dried faster so a proper irrigation scheduling should be planned for these plants.
Interplanting is also a good option to grow 2 or more than 2 plants in the same place at the same time. This task can be accomplished by making alternating rows in the beds. Plants with the similar requirements should be grown near to each other. Success of interplanting is greatly dependent on various factors such as length of growing plant, moisture requirements, nutrient contents, preferred sunlight, and season, possible allelopathic effects on other plants, and growth pattern. So, good management of all these factors can boost up quality food production by multiple times.
Growing own food is not only limited to seasonal vegetables, but gardeners can also grow fruit trees in their backyard, and lawns. Planting a garden and fruit trees offers good value to the property, and provide habitat to the birds, and minute creatures. Moreover, you can grow your ow vegetables and growing your own food will offer great level of mental peace and relaxation.
Whatever, the conditions are, gardeners should pay proper attention to nutritional requirements, shade tolerance, growing patterns, climatic conditions, and growing seasons. Despite the feasibility of growing by using different methods, only those plants should be selected that can easily grow according to prevailing climatic conditions, and seasons in a specific area.
Management of Pests and Diseases
All gardeners have to manage the insect pest’s population and disease emergence. Although there are many pesticides, and insecticides against these harmful organisms, but the use of natural and organic practices is most sustainable and friendly way to minimize the problem of insect pests. Use of synthetic chemicals should be avoided to a greater extent, as they can pollute the environment, and cause contamination of groundwater. Moreover, these chemicals also kill the beneficial insects, and as a result, produced food is not nutritional rich and healthy.
Diseases attack is also common in the many gardening spaces but use of right management practices can greatly reduce the chances of diseases. Food crops are more susceptible to a few diseases such as fruit rots, leaf spots, and root rot. Mainly these diseases are caused by nematodes, viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Diseases due to fungi, and bacteria are more common in the rainy season. So, gardeners should regularly scout garden during rainy season. Whereas, viral diseases, and diseases due to nematode are more common in the warm climatic conditions.
Occurrence of diseases in the home gardens can be greatly reduced by following important cultural practices such as site selection, choosing healthy plants, crop rotation practices, disease-free transplant and seeds, use of disease-resistant varieties, provision of proper space, and trellising, efficient irrigation scheduling, mulching, required application of organic matter, and fertilizers, cultural control of weeds, nematode control, and proper sanitation.
Harvesting food from the garden is the most awaited time, but gardeners should be careful to determine the time of harvesting. Early harvesting may not provide nutrient-rich foods. One of the biggest advantages of a home garden is to collect vegetables, and fruits when they have reached their optimal flavor. Harvesting should be done with great care, as any mismanagement can cause breaking or bruising of vegetables or fruits. Rotting parts of the food should never be allowed in the garden, so, these parts should be immediately collected and buried.
Gardeners can store surplus food at the optimal temperature, and humidity conditions and can also share their food with their neighbors, and friends. Furthermore, gardeners can save some seeds from their own food, so that they can grow healthy, and vigorous plants in the next season.
Maintenance of Garden
Starting a garden is an easy task, but its management needs proper care, attention, and time. Gardening is a full-time duty, as it needs proper management from seed sowing to harvesting. Duty of gardeners is not even finished after harvesting, as they have to prepare the garden for next season planting.
There should be proper cleaning to remove twigs, stumps, and remains of previously grown plant. After cleaning, soil should be properly ploughed, so that well-pulverized conditions can be created for next season planting. Addition of compost or any amendment to correct soil conditions is also recommended at this time. In this way, you can grow your own food by little dedication, management and maintenance and can enjoy great mental relaxation, and joy.