How to Grow a Year’s Worth of Food

collection of fresh vegetables in basket

Is it possible to grow a year’s worth of food at home? Growing food at home is a wonderful way to make sure that your family always has fresh, nutritious food at home.  But, can you really grow enough food to feed your family for a year?  Yes!

With practice, it’s possible to grow the majority of the food that your family eats right in your backyard.  Here’s how to grow a year’s worth of food, right at home:

Decide What You’re Going to Grow

vegetable garden rows of produceThis is the first step that you should take with any garden that you’re planting.  Start by deciding what your family actually eats so that you know exactly what you need to grow.  You may think that your family doesn’t go through many jars of tomato paste, until you write it down and then realize that, in one month, your family uses 12 cans of tomato paste.  Just because your neighbor isn’t growing and using garlic or onions, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to.

You need to determine what your family uses.  The best way to do this is to keep track of your meals and the ingredients that you use to make those meals.  Write everything down and put it into a spreadsheet for one month.  Use the amounts in the spread sheet and multiply them by 12 to see what your family actually eats in one year.

Calculate How Much You Need

It can be difficult to figure out how many plants you need to plant to meet the needs of your family for an entire year.  Different varieties of plants will produce different amounts of crop, which can make it even more difficult to determine how much to plant.

Start by attempting to grow one whole year’s worth of one crop.  Gradually add crops to your garden to feed your family more and more home-grown produce.  A good place to start is with tomatoes.  Most people use tomatoes, tomato sauce, paste or ketchup, all of which can be canned easily at home.  If you’re canning tomato sauce, paste and ketchup, you’ll want to grow sauce-type tomatoes, like Roma tomatoes.

Aim to plant 10-12 tomato plants per person.  The more sauce that you use, the more tomatoes you need to plant.  If you eat a lot of tomato-based sauce, chili or soups with tomatoes, you may want to plant more tomatoes.  It’s always a good idea to plant a few additional plants above what you think you need in case disease or pests take out some of your plants.

 

Choosing Varieties

Once you have an idea of what plants you would use the most, determine which plants will actually grow where you live.  If you’re living in Maine, you may not be able to grow all of the lemons that your family uses each month.  It’s ok if you can’t grow 100% of the food that your family will use all year long.  The more that you can grow for them though, the better!

Luckily, there are many varieties of crops that have been bred to grow in climates where the crop wouldn’t normally grow.  These varieties can make it easier for you to grow in your climate.  Look for varieties that have been proven or developed to perform well in your climate.

The best way to ensure that you’re getting crops suited to your growing climate is to order seeds.  You have a much larger option of plants when you grow from seeds.  You don’t have to have a greenhouse to start seeds.

You can start seeds right in your living room or anywhere that you have sunlight coming through a window.  Not only will buying seeds give you more options for plant varieties, but you’ll also save money.  You can often buy a packet of seeds for around the same price that you could buy one plant.

 

Keep Growing

Growing food for your family for an entire year is hard work, but it’s well worth it.  In order to grow enough food to meet most of your family’s needs, you’ll need to use your garden space wisely.  This is especially true if your garden space is limited.

There are a few ways that you can maximize your garden space to grow an abundance of food.  One of the easiest things to do is to utilize companion planting.  Companion planting involves growing crops together close together.  Companion plants grow well together and complement each other.

Native Americans practiced the 3 Sisters technique many years before Europeans ever set foot on this continent. They perfected a way of growing three staple vegetables – corn, bean, and squash – that not only required no equipment, but actually helped all three types of veggie grow more efficiently!

It’s worth it to do your research and see which plants grow well together and which ones don’t.

If you can, consider growing vertically.  This is easily accomplished with smaller crops like lettuce or vining crops like cucumbers.  For smaller crops like lettuce or leafy greens, you can purchase a vertical growing system.  You can also DIY one on your own with PVC.  Vining crops can be grown up a trellis, freeing up garden soil space for crops that grow on the ground.

Another way to increase the number of crops that you can grow in a limited space is to plant crops as soon as other crops are removed.  When you’re trying to grow a year’s worth of food for your family, your garden shouldn’t be allowed to remain bare.  Once you pull up a spent plant, replace it with something else.  Having crops in your soil consistently will help you to continue to produce food and will also keep your soil healthy.

Consider planting indoors.  Gardens in the south can grow crops nearly year-round.  This isn’t true for all gardens though.  Gardeners in the northern U.S. may only have a couple of months that are suitable for growing crops.  In these harsh, colder climates, it can be difficult to grow a year’s worth of food outdoors.  Many plants can be grown indoors if you have the space.  Lettuce, herbs and even summer crops like tomatoes, peppers and squash can be grown indoors.  Look for smaller varieties, often called ‘patio’ varieties.  These crops will produce just as much while taking up less space than traditional garden varieties.  You can also extend your growing season with cold frames, greenhouses and sunrooms.collection of fresh vegetables in basket

  1. The first step to growing a year’s worth of food for your family is to tackle growing a year’s supply of one crop for your family.  Don’t be discouraged if it takes a year or two to get the amount of plants needed right for your family.  If you don’t plant enough the first year, plant additional plants the following year.  Always make the best use of the garden space that you have.
  2. Bigger isn’t always necessarily better when it comes to garden space. The garden should be fertile enough to support growing a large number of crops.  Keep the garden full; as soon as you pull up a plant, replace it with another one.  Make use of vertical or indoor growing space if you have it.
  3. Keep track of what your family eats in one month and then multiply that by 12.  This will give you an idea of what you need to try to grow in your garden to feed your family for one year.

What are you going to be growing to feed your family for an entire year?

 

Today’s post about growing a year’s worth of food comes from Shelby DeVore, founder of Farminence [https://farminence.com].  Shelby is a former agriculture teacher and a multi-generational home gardener.  She currently lives on a small farm with her husband and three children where they raise way too many animals and grow a large vegetable garden each year.

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