How much can you really grow? Sustainability.


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In the context of eating from your garden, how much can one really grow in a basic sized house and its backyard? Assuming one had plants indoors and outdoors, can enough vegetables/fruits be grown to become dramatically less dependent on grocery stores?
 
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"become dramatically less dependent on grocery stores?"

Absolutely. It takes
little space to grow plants. How you preserve is a big issue. Climate is a big variable. Our Canada season is very short and care must be exercised as to what to grow. I grow most of my plant food and supplement from bulk food stores. The growing area must be massaged to have good soil. At first it take much effort in learning and doing. Not a job for the unambitious. Few people do it.
 
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"become dramatically less dependent on grocery stores?"

Absolutely. It takes
little space to grow plants. How you preserve is a big issue. Climate is a big variable. Our Canada season is very short and care must be exercised as to what to grow. I grow most of my plant food and supplement from bulk food stores. The growing area must be massaged to have good soil. At first it take much effort in learning and doing. Not a job for the unambitious. Few people do it.
Would you say you save half of your grocery bill from your garden? Grocery bill for how many people?

thanks for the response... currently I just have to get my soil prepared this fall for next year spring.

I want to grow a lot of food starting next spring, is it possible for me as a first time grower to pull that off?

Appreciate the info Durgan
 
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Where is your location? You don't pick up growing stuff in one year. It is learning process, trial and error to a great degree.
 
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Where is your location? You don't pick up growing stuff in one year. It is learning process, trial and error to a great degree.
I am located near Toronto in southern Ontario. Alright so I shouldn't expect much in the beginning but rather just learning?

Thanks for the response!
 

Meadowlark

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Climate can be a limiting factor...some things are not suitable for certain climates, although many work arounds are possible.

Next most important is your garden soil. It must be renewed and improved constantly...365/24/7. Crops must be rotated; soils must be reconditioned constantly.

Yes, it is very possible to become independent of grocery stores. More importantly, you and family can enjoy excellent tasting, nutritional food year around...from the same garden spot every year.

Sustainability has been a recurring annual goal of mine for many years and I'd say I'm 90% to 95% completely independent of grocery stores. That last 5% or so is what I'm limited to by climate.

I've posted many threads on here on sustainability especially as related to garden soils. You're welcome to read them to see my approach.


Go for it!!
 
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Climate can be a limiting factor...some things are not suitable for certain climates, although many work arounds are possible.

Next most important is your garden soil. It must be renewed and improved constantly...365/24/7. Crops must be rotated; soils must be reconditioned constantly.

Yes, it is very possible to become independent of grocery stores. More importantly, you and family can enjoy excellent tasting, nutritional food year around...from the same garden spot every year.

Sustainability has been a recurring annual goal of mine for many years and I'd say I'm 90% to 95% completely independent of grocery stores. That last 5% or so is what I'm limited to by climate.

I've posted many threads on here on sustainability especially as related to garden soils. You're welcome to read them to see my approach.


Go for it!!
Thanks for the response. I really got to buckle up I guess because this is no easy work. You're from East Texas right? My climate is a lot cooler than yours so I probably wouldn't be able to achieve the same amount of sustainability as you? Perhaps there are enough workarounds to make it work for me.

I tried to view your threads on sustainability but I cannot find a dedicated section just to view your authored threads...
 
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Self sustaining in food is an admirable aim. Preservation of food in the non growing season presents a challenge. Not many people do it successfully.

My methods of preserving and storing is pressure canning slurry/juice at room temperature. Dried grains at room temperature. Chickpeas, soy and lentils dried. Potatoes, garlic, onions fresh while they last. I keep much dried grains in covered pails, wheat, flax, corn, almonds,sunflower seeds, and some others mostly from a bulk food store. Tempeh is my main protean source.

I play with dehydrating but find it not worth the effort.

Fresh produce in season but this is a minor amount and is available about four months.

My thrust is growing is essential but preservation is probably a bigger issue.
 

Edward Sean

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Self sustaining in food is an admirable aim. Preservation of food in the non growing season presents a challenge. Not many people do it successfully.

My methods of preserving and storing is pressure canning slurry/juice at room temperature. Dried grains at room temperature. Chickpeas, soy and lentils dried. Potatoes, garlic, onions fresh while they last. I keep much dried grains in covered pails, wheat, flax, corn, almonds,sunflower seeds, and some others mostly from a bulk food store. Tempeh is my main protean source.

I play with dehydrating but find it not worth the effort.

Fresh produce in season but this is a minor amount and is available about four months.

My thrust is growing is essential but preservation is probably a bigger issue.
Why do you think that dehydrating is not worth doing?
 
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My biggest issue is produce sticking to the dehydrating pan. It takes too much time for a reasonable output. Mind you I only do plant produce. It is probably productive for meat. I have made pemmican but use so little that I no longer produce it.
 
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Meadowlark

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Hey Meadowlark, I read through all these links and didn't notice how you were scattering the cover crops. Do you run your mower over it?

Thank you,
James
James,

Yes. If I'm intent on the cover reseeding I just mow and let the residue lay. If I'm ready to prepare for planting, I will follow up the mowing with disking.

Field Peas are especially well suited to this technique. One double, double row patch provided 4 generations of green manure and soil building this summer , seed, mow, re-grow, mow, re-grow, mow, regrow. That patch is now planted in my onion crop which will be harvested next May and will also produce my 2021 potato crop.

In addition to field peas, I also use alfalfa for summer cover and mow it every two weeks until frost. This summer I made 8 cuttings of alfalfa this way providing incalculable valuable soil building. Just mow it with the lawn mower and let it lay. Right now, I have my winter covers going and will mow and then disc those next March for the spring planting. My winter crops include broc, cabbage, brussels, carrots, turnips, radishes, kale, chard, collards, and beets. These crops flourish without artificial fertilizers or insecticides in space that was previously covered with legumes.

It has always baffled me as to why the use of cover crops, summer and winter, isn't much more wide spread. It is so easy and so extremely productive.
 

Meadowlark

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Mr. James,

Here are some photos of my garden currently:

The first photo shows my alfalfa cover together with my winter cover crop. This alfalfa has sustained three or four freezes/frosts so far going as low as 24 deg. and still remarkably seems to be alive and growing.

alfalfa after freeze.JPG


This next photo shows the main winter cover crop I have right now...Elbon rye, clovers, Austrian peas, turnips, various other grains, etc. This will thrive until next spring when I mow it and then disc it in preparation for spring/summer crops.

winter 2020 cover.JPG


Lots of broc, cabbage, kale, etc. producing also. I like to stager plant my broc, cabbage, others to provide a continuous harvest all winter.

cabbage 2020.JPG


broc.JPG


red cabbage.JPG
 
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James,

Yes. If I'm intent on the cover reseeding I just mow and let the residue lay. If I'm ready to prepare for planting, I will follow up the mowing with disking.

Field Peas are especially well suited to this technique. One double, double row patch provided 4 generations of green manure and soil building this summer , seed, mow, re-grow, mow, re-grow, mow, regrow. That patch is now planted in my onion crop which will be harvested next May and will also produce my 2021 potato crop.

In addition to field peas, I also use alfalfa for summer cover and mow it every two weeks until frost. This summer I made 8 cuttings of alfalfa this way providing incalculable valuable soil building. Just mow it with the lawn mower and let it lay. Right now, I have my winter covers going and will mow and then disc those next March for the spring planting. My winter crops include broc, cabbage, brussels, carrots, turnips, radishes, kale, chard, collards, and beets. These crops flourish without artificial fertilizers or insecticides in space that was previously covered with legumes.

It has always baffled me as to why the use of cover crops, summer and winter, isn't much more wide spread. It is so easy and so extremely productive.
Thank you for responding!

I agree, and I think you're doing it right too. I'm in central Iowa and we're obviously on a shorter growing cycle, although it's still warm enough for them to grow something. 52 deg today! But, I've noticed a few farmed fields here have what appears to be winter wheat now.

I also wondered if you are sacrificing a growing season on those areas to prep your soil?

I hadn't put a garden in for the past 5 years and reduced it by about 1/3 this year. (Roughly 20'x20') Plans next year are to expand to roughly 30'x60'. I think skipping a season, assuming this what you're doing to repair and build your soil, could be a good practice for me.

I just got permission to pick up horse stable cleanings last week, but after going through these forums I see there is some concern with some chemical used on alfalfa that would be detrimental for vegetables. In the past I've used my chicken coop cleanings to till in after the season is over. It seems to work well as I think the nitrogen level is high enough the wood chips don't tie up too much nitrogen during decomposition, (Guessing?).

While I have you here, what storage area do you have to store your potato's and onions? I'm getting to the age now that I'm beginning to think about what I can do to supplement intake after retirement. We hollowed out the area below our front stoop when we built the house and I've been monitoring the temp for a few weeks now and it has remained around the 57-60 deg. Still have the cold winter to watch it, but insulation is still an option if it drops too far. I need to research the optimal storage temps and humidity so I know where I need to be.

Thanks for your time and information!
James
 
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I didn't actually see your last photo's before posting. Dang! That is some kind of green cover! Your soil is going to be smiling for sure, as will you! Haha! Yea, 25I would think would shut it down, but I swear my grass is still growing up here too! Not too fast, but it hasn't gone dormant yet.
 
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Meadowlark

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Country,

Thanks for your replies...so many times the person never responds and I appreciate a good discussion...and we both learn.

1) One of the principal benefits of the use of cover crops is in the soil rotation they provide. If you are going to garden in the same location year after year....and I've been pulling produce out of this same garden space for over 40 years...it is absolutely mandatory to rotate your crops. The cover crops fill that requirement. Especially for plants like potatoes and tomatoes and corn, without rotations yields fall significantly in just a year and continue to drop without rotations.

It is true that you have to give up some space the way I do it, but space is in abundance here and I just use a larger area to accommodate my use of rotational cover crops. In fact as I'm aging, I find I can actually reduce my producing volume and work by just planting cover crops...one way to reduce the footprint.

You mentioned wheat as a cover...and I use it and its probably the most hardy of all the plants I use. It has survived temps falling into the teens, a rare event here.

2) When you grow 200 pounds of onions, 200 pounds of potatoes, and over 100 dozen ears of corn, it pays to develop good storage techniques. For onions, I use a corner of an equipment storage shed that gets good circulation...but one of the keys to successful onion storage is in the preparation. Try to limit water intake in the week prior to harvest, let the sun thoroughly dry them after pulling, and before storing, remove the tops making sure the onions do not touch other. I lay them on a "bed" of raised chicken wire and have found that to work better than hanging them in sacks or whatever. I'm able to store them with some loss from one harvesting season to the next...in spite of what the "experts" say.

For potatoes, I find they need more temperature control. I have a "well house" which has a storage tank that gets refilled from use and that water provides some summer cooling. I keep the spuds in the dark, not touching and in the coolest place I can find. That hollowed out area you have sounds to me like a great candidate for potato storage.

For corn, I go to great lengths to have continuous production of fresh corn as long as possible in order to enjoy the fresh taste by stager planting crops through out the growing season. I harvest corn starting in June and continue through September. The excess goes to the freezer.

By doing this year after year, I believe my garden soil is probably nearly optimal, near perfect and capable of sustaining production indefinitely.

Here's my primary onion storage area:

onion harvest 2019.JPG


Potatoes go here:

potatoes bagged in wh.JPG


I find a potato bucket to work better than bags however as touching is almost eliminated with layers of straw

potato bucket full.JPG
 
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I suppose some folks don't like the public reading their responses, and I get that, but I am over that stage and it is great to have discussion with like minded and enthusiastic people.

I do have the property to create what I need to follow what you're doing, and again, I think it's a great technique and look forward to applying it.

I am lacking in the implements department, but have my grandfathers old Troy Built rear tine tiller. It's old, but it's a beast! I am looking into a tiller for my 425 John Deere, and if that happens, I'll be set up well.

I have been gardening for many years, but following what I learned from my dad and grandparents, that never thought about soil maintenance, or at least they never discussed it with me. I've had pretty successful harvests and have rotated every year. I also noticed the years I have grown potato's that the best years were following areas that were brand new tilled garden that was once mowed yard. Always figured they were sucking the life out of the soil and would amend with whatever I could get. Grass clippings, alfalfa cutting (used as mulch and weed control) and my chicken coop cleanings for the season. I raise around 20 Cornish X Rocks for meat every spring and they eat and crap continuously! Makes some hot compost, but in the right application it seems to work great. This year, I collected about 25 bags of city folks yard refuse and am doing a pile of them with the Berkley Hot Compost Method. Will discuss that if you're interested...

So, the storage of onions is something I'll try. We're in, and have been in a drought up here. Our onions suffered because of it. I did water a few times, but they were smaller than they should have been with ample moisture. We eat a boat load of onions, so expanding their production is on the horizon. I was taught to hang them in bundles by the stalks and had decent luck drying them this way and then used mesh bags for the remaining storage period. If I had 200lbs of them I'm not sure how this would have worked and if your method works I'd jump in on it. Was also reading about the gassing effect they have on other produce, so will have to consider this and get the plans worked out.

Potato's are a staple as well, especially with two competitive swimmers (1 in college and one waiting on the Olympic trials to end his career), both in the house during the summer and one back home permanently now. (He is a future gardener and has planted garlic for our first time!) Production next season will be in newly tilled yard in the expansion, so think it should be decent.... After that they will hopefully be in well prepped soil that will satisfy their needs.

For the storage, I have also been monitoring RH% and it's hovering in the 58%. If I am reading other info correctly, I may need to up this so we don't dehydrate any. It is a cement floor that I cut a trench in after heavy rains allowed water in and out on the basement floor. Quite an interesting experience there! LOL! The monitoring of this area is in prep for another father/son venture of growing mushrooms! I've found it extremely interesting and hope to have our first flush of Blue Oyster around Christmas. I know this are has potential to fill the needs and will make it work.

Lastly, to overcome any future droughts, I do have a 2.5 acre pond that I am hoping to use for irrigation, if needed. I have filled up a 30 gal tank and used that on our tomato's, but 30 gal doesn't last long and it's a pain in the A to do it. I have a 500 gal tank I've been considering moving to the garden site, but worry about it being unsightly... A gas powered pump could be used for irrigation or filling the tank.

Great discussion here! And, I thank you too for carrying it on. Cheers and TTFN! Have a project to tend to.

James
 
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I am located near Toronto in southern Ontario. Alright so I shouldn't expect much in the beginning but rather just learning?

Thanks for the response!
Durgan is a bit pessimistic in my view.
There is a lot to learn, there are plenty of mistakes to be made.
However, we older growers perhaps forget that there was no internet around when we started, nor access to the experience of such fine growers as Durgan or Chuck.
That's what powers human advance; we don't all have to invent the wheel.
 
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Meadowlark

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View attachment 73864
...I am lacking in the implements department, but have my grandfathers old Troy Built rear tine tiller. It's old, but it's a beast! I am looking into a tiller for my 425 John Deere, and if that happens, I'll be set up wel

... Great discussion here! And, I thank you too for carrying it on. Cheers and TTFN! Have a project to tend to.

James

James,

I'm a big believer in having and using equipment in gardening. I often tell people, when they marvel at the size of my garden, that it is far easier to manage a large garden with equipment than it is to have a small garden without. I've done it both ways and equipment is definitely better.

I think that 425 JD is about 20 hp, right? That is about the same hp as my small Kubota that I use for gardening. Plenty of hp for most garden jobs. I don't have a tiller for it but use an old cultivator instead. My hand weeding almost obsolete. If you get a tiller for the 425, you will really be set up for some great gardening!

tractor cult.JPG
 

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