FREE Food for life - is it possible?


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I'm very inspired by the goal of seeing if it's possible to grow all the vegetables I need for free - without any costs at all.
I would love to hear from more experienced gardeners - is it possible?

We're new to this - on year 2. We've started out using the no-dig approach and so far so good. Using the Charles Dowding approach, all you need to do is add 2 inches of garden compost to your beds every December. No other amendments necessary.

Thus far, we've spent a small fortune on bought in compost to make all our beds. We're hopeful that by next year we'll have enough of our own compost. Our neighbour gives us all her grass cuttings, prunings etc (she has a huge, mature garden). We collect nettles and seaweed locally. We back onto a farm so have access to as much manure as we need.

We have comfrey growing everywhere and make our own comfrey and nettle fertilizer.

We have a worm farm, and a hot composter that we put in the polytunnel in winter and that produces compost all year round.

Our goal is to save all of our own seeds.

Has anyone achieved this - is it really possible to grow veg without buying anything?

All tips and ideas welcome!!
 
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I'm very inspired by the goal of seeing if it's possible to grow all the vegetables I need for free - without any costs at all.
I would love to hear from more experienced gardeners - is it possible?
Oh you'll pay for it. The payment may not be in the form of currency but it will take the form of a lot of time and work.
 

Meadowlark

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I once had a goal of never having to buy veggies from external sources including grocery stores. I achieved that goal but there were some veggies that I like that just couldn't be grown in my climate....so I abandoned that somewhat. Now, I strive for "above 90%" that is above 90% of all our consumed veggies come from my garden.

My real focus is in growing nutrient dense veggies. Multiple studies indicate that, over the last 50 years, the nutrient density of food has fallen considerably. Nutrient dense produce is the desired outcome simply because the nutritional value per unit of food is greater in nutrient dense produce, increasing the nutritional quality of the food produced. Nutrient dense crops have also proven to have health benefits, a longer shelf life, greater yield, highly intense flavors, and a greater resistance to disease and pests.

A zero-cost goal seems very difficult to me and not really practical.... but yes, certainly possible. We only have so many hours, so much energy and zero cost would require expending time and energy at the expense of producing nutrient dense veggies.

One thing you can do to reduce/minimize costs is use the "barter" method. Trade your excess veggies/seeds etc. for another's surplus. This works very effectively for me here in East Texas.
 
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A zero-cost goal seems very difficult to me and not really practical.... but yes, certainly possible. We only have so many hours, so much energy and zero cost would require expending time and energy at the expense of producing nutrient dense veggies.
What do you consider to be the unavoidable costs.

We're retired and have 4 Beagles, so aside from their walks spending most of our time in the garden is ideal.

We live next to a farm so can get as much manure as we need, and we're by the sea and in country side so collecting things like nettles, leaves and seaweed to compost is easy. Neighbours are happy to give us their garden waste to compost and hubby is happy going overboard creating masses of compost.

We also have a hot composter which we move into the polytunnel over winter (along with our wormery) - this allows us to keep composting all winter.

We've got lots of comfrey and nettles available so can make our own fertilizer.

I'm barely started with seed saving, but I'm keen to try and create a bank of all my own seeds, optimized for my garden.

Obviously I'm very new to this and still have rose coloured specs!

Where do you see the problems - what do you think I'll need to spend on?
 
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It is called susistence farming and people have been doing this for millenia.
Well that was my thinking. What did people do when their lives depended upon surviving on nothing more than a plot of land?

I take on board what others have said about hard work, and it being worth the spend to get the most nutritious crops.

But the fun of saying 'I did it' makes this a good goal for me. Once I've done it I may well opt for something easier/better!
 
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other than onions and cauliflower I dont buy veggies anymore. maybe broccoli a few times a year.
 
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I used to live next door to an old boy who once said to me "I grow everything we eat except the meat, and I even get some of that". I would see him setting off with his Jack Russel and shotgun and coming home with a couple of rabbits, but I suspect they bought bread as well. Reading about cottagers in Lincolnshire, they had a half acre of land attached to the cottage and would grow half of it as wheat, the other half veg. and provide for themselves. Wheat was planted with a 'dibbling stick', a long stick with a point and a loaded weight at one end, the man would walk with a stick in each hand dibbling holes in the ground as he went and the wife and kids would follow dropping four seeds in each hole, "One to rot, one to grow, one for the farmer, one for the crow."

You might well enjoy 'Cottage Economy' by William Cobbet. A bit of an Eighteenth Century idealist, but a lovely book.
 
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I'll track down that book - I'm not a purist by any means, but I love to get inspiration from all sorts of places and cottage garden is a big influence for me.

I'm part doing this for fun, but also with the thought in mind that if the economy really gets into a mess we could have the knowledge and preparedness to scale up.

Right now though looking pretty is a big part of it. Have you seen lord of the rings - the Hobbiton veg garden. That's a big inspiration looks wise.
Mum was raised in London during the rationing, and Dad was raised in a little thatched cottage on Dartmore. They had a veg garden, a cow, a pig. Dad's parents didn't have a penny to their name, but childhood holidays there were the best days of my life! (Glad I was never there when they slaughtered a pig tho'!!!)
 
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It is definitely possible and very easy if you grow Callaloo (those tasty greens you had on that Jamaican vaca). That stuff is prolific!! Started growing it this year with just 2 plants and we can't keep up with eating it! For those who don't know, it's a variety of Amaranth (Love lies bleeding) - Amaranthus Viridis. You can also harvest the copious but tiny seeds and use as a grain as well as for next year's planting.

BTW: Some Caribbean countries call Dasheen or Taro leaves Callaloo, just to confuse the issue.
 
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My standard answer here is just start growing something and supplementing your grocery list. Step into it and see what works for you.
I think I phrased my question badly.

I wasn't really asking if it were possible to grow all your own vegetables.

I'm more interested in whether you can do it 100% for free. So no fertilizer, seeds, compost etc.
 
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I'm more interested in whether you can do it 100% for free. So no fertilizer, seeds, compost etc.
Probably, but there will be accidents. For example, I have saved runner bean seed for years, but last year stored it badly in a margarine tub and it all went mouldy so I had to buy new seed and start again.

You can make your own compost, it is the nitrogen element that will be lacking, keeping chickens would be a good way round that, but there are usually local sources available for a bit of work. Round here farmers are quite happy for gardeners to collect hop shoddy, and anyone with horses will usually give you as much as you want if you help with mucking out.

There was an interesting article about immigrants who had brought seed with them and were growing from saved seed for ten years or more, their plants were better adapted to British conditions than the ones specially produced by the seed companies, so presumably un-natural selection would improve almost anything to suit your own climate and soil. I mourn the loss of my runner seeds.

I can't see growing Caribbean veg. in Ayrshire is going to be very successful :)

PS, Cobbett is a lovely read, but take him with a pinch of salt, he was an idealist gentleman farmer, Grew seed on a farm in Notting hill, now solid housing, and had to leave for America for a while because of his political views.
 
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There's an American homesteader that I occasionally watch on youtube. She has heritage runner bean seeds (she calls them something else, but they are runner beans) that have been passed down by her family for decades. I may be imagining this part of the story, but I have a feeling she said that an ancestor originally brought them over from the UK.

That would be so cool. I love the idea of seeds passed down from family.
 

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Thus far, we've spent a small fortune on bought in compost to make all our beds.
So even if you never spend another penny on anything your veg will never be truely free, because of the initial set up cost.
In earlier times there was a lot of foraging done in hedgerows and along field margins, for fruit, fungi, seeds, leaves and roots.
 
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I have created a bed next to the hedge. It was solid clay with sparse grass on it. The first year I turned over complete cubes, a spade width in each direction and left it to overwinter. Then I cut the hedge next to it severely , mowed up the clippings and dumped them on the bed. When they had settled down a bit I dug them in and turned up the top layer that had been underground for a year, added some well rotted compost and planted potatoes. I mulched them heavily with lawn mowings. Various other bits of wood ash and stuff have gone in it as they came available and the top layer is now pretty friable., with a lot of grass mixed in. I have leeks growing there now. It is possible without buying in stuff, but you pay the equivalent in work and time.
 
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So even if you never spend another penny on anything your veg will never be truely free, because of the initial set up cost.
In earlier times there was a lot of foraging done in hedgerows and along field margins, for fruit, fungi, seeds, leaves and roots.
Part of the thought process was that when the government started spending like there was no tomorrow over covid it was obvious we had massive inflation on the way.

It seemed to me that if an initial outlay allowed me to grow free food indefinitely it was like money in the bank. I did something similar by investing in a wood burning stove and 3 year's supply of wood. Inflation now ramping up towards 10% and energy costs predicted to go by more than 300% by Jan 2023!

But mostly it's for fun. I like the goal of trying to produce food with whatever I have in my own garden and what I can get for free locally (seaweed, fallen leaves, manure from the farm, neighbours clippings).
 
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I'm very inspired by the goal of seeing if it's possible to grow all the vegetables I need for free - without any costs at all.
I would love to hear from more experienced gardeners - is it possible?

We're new to this - on year 2. We've started out using the no-dig approach and so far so good. Using the Charles Dowding approach, all you need to do is add 2 inches of garden compost to your beds every December. No other amendments necessary.

Thus far, we've spent a small fortune on bought in compost to make all our beds. We're hopeful that by next year we'll have enough of our own compost. Our neighbour gives us all her grass cuttings, prunings etc (she has a huge, mature garden). We collect nettles and seaweed locally. We back onto a farm so have access to as much manure as we need.

We have comfrey growing everywhere and make our own comfrey and nettle fertilizer.

We have a worm farm, and a hot composter that we put in the polytunnel in winter and that produces compost all year round.

Our goal is to save all of our own seeds.

Has anyone achieved this - is it really possible to grow veg without buying anything?

All tips and ideas welcome!!
I live just down the coast from you in Luce Bay, & I would say that you can definitely grow all the veg you need, & I see you have a polytunnel polytunnel, so if you & are prepared to eat seasonally, & on what you can preserve, it's definitely possible.
I, too, use comfrey & manure & seaweed as fertiliser.
I. like meadowlark, enjoy fruit that can't be grown here, so I don't let good be the enemy of perfect, & I'm quite content buying oranges.
It's also the case that we go through so many carrots, that I don't have enough ground to grow them all.
The good news is that the climate is good for a multiplicity of fruit & veg.
Ayrshire is famed in Scotland for its potatoes, but it's also great for a number of other veg.
I can't think of a root veg that won't grow, & have in my plot neeps, beetroot, parsnips.
The only cereal I grow is sweetcorn, but peas & beans, especially runner beans, do very well & I've a glut of them right now, as I have courgettes. If you've a sunny but slightly protected area, butternut squash gives reasonable results.
Alliums, leeks, onions & garlic do well, & you can grow both short day (over-winter onions) & long day (spring planting onions).
Garlic is best going in Sept Oct to make sure it gets the cold it needs.
Since you already have a polytunnel, you probably are well aware how to use it to grow marginals, like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers & aubergines, as well as extending the season in other crops.
Brassicas are cool weather crops, & all do well in Ayrshire, & the good news with them is that they like solid ground & don't require to be grown in your no-dig beds.
It may take a couple of years to get the right balance, but it's certainly possible, if you have the space, to grow a highly nourishing mix of veg which will last all year.
 
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