Sizing up your Garden Needs
Determining how much you need to grow is critical step in planning on how big you garden needs to be. Some people just want to grow a little bit of their own food, others want to grown enough food to feed themselves year round and others want to be able to to sell excess produce to friends, family and neighbors. The types of food to grow in those three scenarios are not necessarily the same. There will be crossover in plant types but the amounts and varieties are going to change depending on your end goals.
Small Row Gardens
For a lot of people they just want a simple garden that can be planted in one day growing summer favorites like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and beets. If you want this then a simple row garden that is based on modern agriculture practices is the one for you. Most gardening tools that can be found in home improvement warehouse are designed for this type of gardening. It is not the most effective layout for a garden as it can cause weed problems and soil erosion because of the openness of the design. It also is water, fertilizer and space inefficient. On the other hand it is very easy to layout and the initial planting is a breeze when compared to other garden systems. Above you can see a garden I planted during my Great Cardboard Garden experiment. It was not my most successful garden I have ever planted but it does clearly show how wasteful in space a row garden can be. To learn more about my cardboard garden experiment check out my Garden tab as the top to read on my observations.
Food for a Year
If you plan on trying to grow enough food to feed yourself year round then you have entered into a a whole new realm of food growing. To grow enough food to feed yourself year round to you to look at the food you really eat on a daily basis. Vegetables only provide around 10% of our daily caloric intake so if you plan on eating off of your garden you have to take into account the other 90%. This is made up primarily with grains like wheat and corn and meats like beef, chicken, and pork. So if you really want to grow your own food for the year you have to plant grains and grow some meat. This requires a shift in your garden designs to accommodate animals like chickens and the growth of densely planted grains. It will also require looking into some intensive gardening techniques like Square Foot gardening in order to maximize space and productivity.
Selling Fresh Produce
Finally you have people that wish to garden for the purpose of selling produce. If that is your primary goal then you will tailor your garden to maximizing production and growing profitable popular items. In most areas popular items include veggies that are very perishable like the salad greens, fresh fruits like watermelons and
items that damage easily like tomatoes. If your goal is to sell fresh produce then some investigating in the local area is a must. Check out local farmers markets if there are any and maybe conduct a survey with friends and family to find out what they will like to eat that can be grown in a garden. Doing some footwork like above should give you a snapshot on what would be easy to sell and hopefully grow.
The goals are presented above are very broad by design. You maybe have a more specific goal of making you own spaghetti sauce or making applesauce. For me the best type is a combination of Food for a Year and Selling Fresh Produce. The plan for this summer is to try and grow enough foodstuff to feed a group of 4 and still have some to sell on the side. If you want to follow along with a trials and triumphs of the growing season check out the Learning Curve Garden tab at the top of the page to learn all about it.
If you have never gardened before I will tell you one thing for sure will happen, something will go wrong. It is a absolute certainty that something will go wrong but never fear their are a variety of great resources out there that can help you out for what ever type of gardening you wish to pursue. One of my favorites is a book called Mini Farming-Self Sufficiency on a 1/4 Acre by Brett Markham which covers a variety of gardening methods, seed saving, produce selling techniques that are easy to follow and use. So whatever type of gardening you choose I wish you good luck in your growing endeavors.
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