Gardening What should I do now to make my food garden self sufficient / Self Sustaining next year?

cloxchulanthevegginator

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So I'm wondering what I should be doing now to greatly reduce or eliminate the need for store-bought products in my food garden. A couple key points:


1. I cheaply filled my first raised bed with some yard clippings and then filled the rest of the space with peat moss and Black Kow manure. I'm going to save up over this season so i can rent a truck and buy bulk soil (probably 3 CU yards) when I expend and then work on amending that soil.
2. Composting - right now I'm tumbler composting, but this is going wayy too slow for me so after some research I'm going to switch to vermicomposting in a multi-tray system. To my knowledge, This should cut the time to usable product in half (2-3 months) and while it's not EVERYTHING the soil will need apparently it's a really good amendment
3. I'm noticing I'm getting a lot of stuff at the store: The Soil, beds, tumbler, Fish fertilizer, soil and amendments, seeds etc etc and I'm looking to get away from that. I know up front I'm going to have to "buy in" to gardening, but is it reasonable to expect to be self sufficient inside 3 years with conscious purchasing of equipment and garden practices?

In short: What should I be doing from the start of my gardening practice to make my garden as self sustaining / self-sufficient as possible? I want to eliminate as much non-equipment purchases from the store as possible.
 

t4ms

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First of all, patience is a virtue and your garden may never be as self-sustaining as you would like. One of the wonderful principles of permaculture is that you take time to observe your garden throughout all the seasons and to work with your microclimate.

2. Composting - right now I'm tumbler composting, but this is going wayy too slow for me so after some research I'm going to switch to vermicomposting in a multi-tray system. To my knowledge, This should cut the time to usable product in half (2-3 months) and while it's not EVERYTHING the soil will need apparently it's a really good amendment

Worms take time and you won't generate the quantities I'm assuming you'll need. I'm also assuming you've got a reasonable amount of space. Check out hot composting. This might be what works for you. I suggest having both worms and a hot composting system. There are some things the worms don't like.

3. I'm noticing I'm getting a lot of stuff at the store: The Soil, beds, tumbler, Fish fertilizer, soil and amendments, seeds etc etc and I'm looking to get away from that. I know up front I'm going to have to "buy in" to gardening, but is it reasonable to expect to be self sufficient inside 3 years with conscious purchasing of equipment and garden practices?

Okay, this is going to sound a little 'odd' but go with me here. It sounds like you're in a bit of a hurry to move away from store bought soil improvers so have you ever thought about urine? Yes, that's human urine. It is excellent for breaking down compost and it is a magnificent fertiliser. And, if you really want to go there, you can also compost human excrement (humanure). But, before you opt for humanure you have to really careful with pathogens. Human urine is sterile and I use it in the garden just like you would with any liquid fertiliser (ratio 1:10). If you decide to collect it to use at once, use it within 24 hours as it gets pretty funky.

Also, plant some comfrey. Wonderful stuff.
 

KathrynJN

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In regards to compost taking so long, the smaller the ingredients are the quicker they break down. So any kitchen scraps can be chopped in a food processor and then tossed into the compost. Same with any garden refuse. I have heard that it would take maybe up to a month for it to become compost.
 

Mandy Onderwater

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1, Please do note that amending soil can take a while and it may mean you won't be able to use those beds for a good couple weeks to months - depending on how harshly you have to amend it of course! Having a 'good' layer of soil on top of the 'bad' soil can often allow you to grow a little earlier as nutrients will also sink into the bed over time, so long as you do keep working on it. I have seen people start small, like with simple herbs or plants that don't require all that many nutrients. Another idea might be to grow something you will turn over into the soil to put nutrients into it whilst you are amending.

2, if you've seen Mark's way of composting you'll notice he has 3 compartments. This means he can start putting whatever he wants to compost into one, then move to the other after a couple weeks, and then when he starts filling the 3rd one, the first one will be ready to get used in the garden. This allows you to keep composting and using as you're not bound to just the one, meaning you have to wait for it to fully break down before starting over again.

3, you can most definitely gather seeds from what you are growing! Though you may want to probably buy seed every year to add variety. On top of that, a bad growing year may make you burn out of seeds really quickly, without getting back enough. In saying this however, you will likely gather seeds and not 'need' to buy as many as when you started. I like to keep my seeds in paper bags in a cool (preferrably fridge) area so they don't go off. I've been using and re-using my bean, tomato and chive seeds for a while now that way.
 

DThille

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If you are in a rural area, you may have some easier options in terms of befriending local farmers who may have access to manure, straw, or even be scraping off topsoil.

If possible, getting some cover crop seed that would grow in what you have already then cut it down before it goes to seed and just leave it sit there.

It does take time, but you can also grow in less than ideal soil as you build it up with mulch or cover crops.

Relatively speaking, seeds are the inexpensive part of this (typed the guy who spent over $200 on seed this year before his wife even got involved) endeavour. Another idea is @Mark ’s tagline about being self sufficient in one thing…you can evaluate which foods you would most like to be self-sufficient with. In other words, what vegetable do you eat that you spend the most money on? Perhaps focusing on growing some of your top few costly plants could help save enough to justify the input costs. Also, consider that you can improve the soil over time…it may be smarter to spend on higher quality tools - that is, buying cheap tools may need to replacing them more regularly and you may save in the long run procuring higher quality items.

There are many variables to consider. Good luck.
 

DivingTemptress

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I am a lazy gardener, and want results with less work. I composted in place before I began planting my veggies - no need to move finished compost to the garden beds.

I try to grow more perennials, so as the years grow on, more yield with less work. I grow plants and trees that are pretty as well as feed me! And I plant what I enjoy eating. I found my "go to" crops and then each year I do some experimenting too. I don't plant things that I can buy affordably or cannot find at the store. Happy Gardening!!!
 

Kasalia

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1. Compost everything you can get your hands on, including shredded paper, and your neighbours lawn clippings, but avoid invasive weeds. This means turning the piles of plant material over regularly.
2. Collect your own seeds, so plant heirloom and old varieties no F1, they won't reproduce.
3. Use plants and animal products as liquid fertilizers ie comfrey, seaweed,,cow manure. Look it up.
4. Use plants against bugs. Eg mint and garlic spray, look up natural sprays and plant the plants you need to use.
5.,Start small, when you can self sustain one or two beds, build another. Replacing soil is your biggest problem, so,aim to buy a load yearly, for spring. I use half cow manure and half mushroom compost.
6.,Get a couple of hay bales to save water, and for protection it will also break down.
 

Lunai

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6.,Get a couple of hay bales to save water, and for protection it will also break down.

Addition to that one: but be concious about getting that grass into your beds... depending on when the grass was mowed it can have a lot of seeds in it. Same goes with straw.
But both go a long way to feed the worms and lighten up your soil if you have for example much clay, like we have.
 
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