It often amazes me that when many people think of self-sufficiency, home food production is usually the last item on their list—that is, if it makes the list at all. We all tend to take certain things for granted, such as foods that are plentiful.
I have had a running debate with a friend for years on what would be more important in a global meltdown or great depression. “Gold,” says he. I say food.
The power of self-sufficiency gardening
Regardless of the response to this question, history has taught us that in times of crisis, food becomes both a commodity and a currency. Many people are aware of this, but what few people know is that self-sufficiency in food in times of peace and prosperity is also a powerful foundation for both security and health.
Self-sufficiency gardening is much more than simply breaking your dependencies on food manufacturers, processors, and retailers. It means taking control of your nutrition, food costs, and food supply and even creates an opportunity for earning extra income. And that always makes good sense.
The skills necessary in order for your garden/landscape to be more self-sufficient are not only easy, but you may already have many of the skills already. Unfortunately, many people think of gardening as work.
One can quickly realize the benefits that can be enjoyed from having a self-sufficient garden. And it is easy to understand how those who have gardened only once are often hooked and continue this satisfying hobby throughout their lives.
It reminds me of the old saying: “If you find a job you like, you will never work again.” Gardening has never been work for me. It is a joy. If you are looking for some reasons or excuses to explore self-sufficiency gardening, I have listed a few below.
Reasons to try self-sufficiency gardening
Fresh air and exercise
Forget the gym, costly diets, and exercise machines. Gardening provides fresh air and exercise. It is a great stretching, strength-building, and aerobic exercise. At the same time, you are creating your own food security as well.
How much you do depends entirely upon you. If you are out of shape, go slowly at first, and do not forget to stretch and warm-up before beginning each gardening session. The exercise is not just for the body either. Nurturing plants from seeds until they give an abundance of food is both emotionally and spiritually rewarding.
Grow what you like
We have been conditioned to believe that all the food, selection, and quality that we will probably ever need or want can be obtained from our local supermarket. As just one example to the contrary, a “well-stocked” supermarket might carry only three or four types of tomatoes.
They may have roma or paste, some vine, some cherry, and maybe a large bulk or hothouse variety, depending on the season. All these tomatoes have been bred so that they can endure the rigors of farm-to-supermarket transportation, storage, and handling. That means skins like leather and low eating quality, and more than likely, they are picked green and ripened with ethylene gas.
However, if you grow your own tomatoes, you can choose from hundreds of varieties and cultivate specifically those you prefer. I personally choose high vitamin, tasty types. Some are high-sugar cherry tomatoes that taste like candy, while others are long-keepers ideally suited for storage. And they all have one thing in common: all are superior to supermarket types.
The tomato is but one example, but this can be applied to practically any food available at the market. And do not forget that for every fruit and vegetable found at the market, there are often hundreds of additional varieties which can be homegrown.
Healthier, tastier, produce
Fruit, vegetables, herbs, and nuts, when allowed to ripen naturally under God’s blue sky, have more nutrition and better taste. But let’s just talk about nutrition. If you listen to the news, you will know that most of our killer diseases, such as heart attack, diabetes, and cancer, are diet-related.
And those miracle foods, antioxidants, and fresh fruit and fiber can be right at your fingertips. As for taste, high sugars are undesirable for supermarket fare as such foods are more prone to spoiling and bruising and therefore may end up as waste. You have no such problem in your own backyard. You can grow the healthiest and tastiest produce that will make supermarket fare pale in comparison.
Grow storage varieties
There are many varieties of fruits and vegetables that excel in storage capabilities. That means that in winter, when any produce is high, you can simply go to your cold room or storage area and help yourself to apples, carrots, squash, onions, and other foods. The cost savings of such strategies can be enormous. And you are eating healthy too at a time of year when most people do not.
Whether it is a shade tree, a foundation plant, a hedge, a climbing vine, a perennial bed, or a ground cover, there are edible alternatives that you can grow.
Forget the maple for a shade tree; try nut trees or a large apple tree. For a climbing vine, try grapes or kiwi. For a perennial bed, try a selection of herbs and edible flowers. For a hedge, try elderberries or gooseberries. For vibrant flowers in the spring, try cherries or plums.
Take some time and learn all the edible plants that can give the same effects as traditional landscape plants.
When you choose your own varieties, you get to choose when they ripen. For instance, I have a dozen varieties of apples that ripen from late July to late October instead of one variety ripening all at once. The last ones are the keepers for winter.
By spreading out ripening times you can make sure you have fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables throughout the season. And if you use a greenhouse, you can often extend your season of harvest by several months.
No harmful chemicals
You have just purchased a tomato at the supermarket. Was it treated with herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides? If it is from Mexico or another country, were banned chemicals was used on it? How do you know? How can you know?
If you grow your own produce, you know exactly what chemicals have and have not been used, and since most self-sufficiency growers tend to be organic, you are guaranteeing yourself safer chemical-free food.
Sell your surplus
If you have an excess of food production, you can sell it or trade it. This is what many self-sufficiency growers do, and the cash that can be generated can be substantial, particularly if you are growing high-cost food items.
I know an older gentleman who put his kid through college with the income from four acres of blueberries from which he had a u-pick operation. If you are into bartering, it helps to have something to trade, and foods and value-added food products always have value even in the safest of times.
Save by propagating
Forget the sticker shock at the new car dealership. Ever see what they are asking for potted plants and seeds?
If you buy a package of tomato seeds for a couple of bucks, you are paying more for seeds, ounce for ounce, than you would pay for gold. If you start your own plants from cuttings, you can save yourself a bundle. And again, you can sell your excess plants for premium prices.
Use waste for animals
When you grow your own produce, you always have waste. Those peas have left mountains of vegetation behind, which is excellent for composting or feed for animals. If you grow to any extent, your waste products can help feed several farm animals and expand the scope of your self-sufficiency.
From your garden, you can grow produce to make wine, vinegar, flour, and even fuel. As you know, such products can be expensive to purchase, and your savings can be substantial. The money you save can be put to other uses, such as becoming more self-sufficient by paying off debts or a mortgage.
Grow culinary herbs
If you like to cook and make preserves, you can grow all types of herbs and spices. There is nothing in the world like fresh basil in tomato sauce or with fish, or fresh dill in a potato salad.
Some fresh mint will spruce up any salad, and fresh parsley is very nutritious and healthy. Chives are great in salads, other dishes, and on potatoes. The possibilities are almost endless.
Grow exotic foods
There are thousands of food plants from other countries that can be grown in your garden. These berries, roots, shoots, vegetables, and herbs come from South America, China, and other areas of the world. And while these foods are staple foods in their own lands, they are relatively unknown in North America.
Your own medicine chest
Did you know that much of our medicines and pharmaceuticals come from plant materials that you could grow?
There are many books on medicinal herbs and plants, and alternative medicines that can teach you which plants are safe and which ones are not, as well as preparation.
Of course, if you are growing your own nutritious and healthy foods, you are practicing preventive medicine, which means your likelihood of getting sick is greatly diminished.
Your own wood lot
If you have a few acres, you might be surprised at how much wood you can get from your land. Certain woods such as poplar and birch are very fast-growing and produce great yields. Even if your lumber is sparse, it is always there for an emergency.
You can also plant trees for hardwood and softwood for your future. In a world with diminishing resources, this could be a very valuable investment.
A great place to gather
Gardens are great places in which to socialize and gather the family. Throw in a pond, a waterfall, a hammock, a swing, a barbecue, a path, some furniture, and it can become a very peaceful place to relax, meditate, entertain, and nap.
Gardens are healthier than lawns
Lawns require a great deal of water, maintenance, fertilizer, and care. They waste precious resources, including petrochemicals, to power lawn mowers and weed-whackers.
Gardens, on the other hand, produce food and, if done correctly, return valuable nutrients to the soil. Landscaping with fruit trees and bushes will help control soil erosion and can help keep your property cooler in the summer by providing shade.
Probably the most important thing that you can grow as a by-product of self-sufficiency is self-pride. You will feel pride that one of the greatest things we strive for on this planet, security, has been placed more in your own and out of the control of others.
So there you have it, the main reasons which, in my opinion, should convince you to try self-sufficiency gardening. While it may be overwhelming at first for many, you can start slow and move at your own place. Once you get the hang of it, you will see that self-sufficiency gardening becomes a way of life with many more benefits than the ones listed in this article.