Beginning Backyard Vegetable Gardens

Beginning backyard vegetable gardens are gaining popularity.   The benefits of vegetable gardening go way beyond simply saving money.  Let’s face it, there is nothing like the taste of a homegrown tomato.  Here’s a guide to getting your backyard garden growing.

 Beginning Backyard Vegetable Gardens

 

What Is Your Growing Zone?

This is an important one.  Your Growing Zone lets you know what you can plant, and when the best time to plant it is.  For example, while I would love to plant an avocado tree in my back yard, my growing zone lets me know that isn’t the best idea.

Look up and learn about YOUR growing zone!

 What To Plant In Beginning Backyard Vegetable Gardens

When deciding what to plant in beginning backyard vegetable gardens, it’s best to start small.  You can always increase what you grow next year, when you have a bit of experience under your belt.

First, look at what your family eats.  Remember that plants like cucumber, tomato, squash and others produce all year long.  While carrots, radishes, and corn only provide a single harvest.

Pro Tip:  Did you know that in order to grow all of the vegetables you family would need for a year, you would need to grow about 450 pounds of veggies per person.  Not ready grow that much in your beginning backyard vegetable gardens?  You may be interested in stocking your pantry with some freeze dried fruits and veggies.  We’ll show you how you can order Thrive Freeze Dried Food!

blackberries in beginning backyard gardens

What Type Of Gardening Works The Best?

There are several gardening techniques to choose from. Here’s a quick review of the most popular choices.

Container Gardening

Depending on the size of your family and what you have chosen to grow, a container garden might be your best idea.  There are even specific plants at the nursery geared specifically for container gardening.  Bonus!  You don’t even need a yard for a container garden.  A patio or balcony will work too.

PRO TIP:  Want to learn more about Container Gardening?  I highly recommend The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible by Edward Smith.  This book, plus his The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible are must haves in my humble opinion.

Raised Bed Vegetable Gardens

Raised vegetable gardens makes gardening easier.  Especially for more (ahem) mature gardeners of those with bad backs.

Does your backyard have poor soil?  Raised gardens could be your answer.   This is the situation we found ourselves in after building our current home.  Dig an inch down in our backyard and you hit solid rock.

Using cinder block ‘seconds’ my husband built a raised garden bed that we then filled with a few loads of good soil and a bunch of organic matter.

Smaller raised gardens won’t require tilling.  However, due to the size of ours, we still till.

PRO TIP:  Thinking of building your own raised beds?  Raised Bed Revolution has all the details you’ll need!

 

Beginning Backyard Vegetable Gardens

Traditional Gardening

Many still choose to garden by removing the top grass from our chosen garden spaces, and then tilling and amending the soil before planting.  My Dad grew up in an orphanage where if they didn’t grow it, they didn’t eat it.  This is still his preferred means of gardening.  It works for him as he has 6 acres to spread out on.

Pro Tip:  Regardless of which gardening method you choose, you will want to understand the quality of your soil.  Once you know more about your soil, you’ll know what amendments it might need. *this post contains affiliate links  A soil testing kit can provide you with this important information.

Lasagna Or No Till Gardening Method

This method works for both raised garden beds or gardening directly on the ground.  Bonus!  No tilling……ever!

With this method you kill off the grass and weed seeds by using thick layers of cardboard or newspaper directly on the ground. Personally, I’d lay down a sweet layer of Visqueen under the cardboard to help keep those weeds from sprouting and growing up through your bed.

Next, you build your garden up by adding alternating layers of peat, topsoil, aged manure, mulch, grass and yard clippings. Before you know it, you’ve got a nutrient rich soil to plant in.

PRO TIP:  I love the Lasagna Gardening book by Patricia Lanza.  I think you will too.

Beginning Backyard Vegetable Gardens

Where Will Your Garden Grow?

The location of your garden will be very important to it’s success.  Here are some things to consider.

Drainage You want your garden in a part of your backyard that drains well. If drainage is a concern, you will want to think about raised gardening rather than gardening directly in the ground.

Sunlight Vegetables and most herbs require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Take the time to see how much sun each section of your yard gets during the summer.

Water I remember watching an episode of Little House On The Prairie where Laura had to carry bucket after bucket of water to her newly planted apple trees in the blazing sun of summer.

You won’t have to worry about lugging water to your beginning backyard vegetable gardens if you choose a spot that is close to a convenient source of water.

Direct Sowing Or Ready Made?

Congratulations!  You’ve picked your spot, and created your plot!  Now it’s time to get planting!   But….should you plant seeds or go to the nursery and buy plants.  Well, this is a bit of a personal decision, but I’ll share what I do.

Beginning Backyard Vegetable Garden Peas

I direct sow the following:

Vegetables  squash, broccoli, beans, leafy greens, melons, peas, onions (from onion sets), and beets and other root vegetables.

Herbs  cilantro, parsley, basil, and chives.  The nursery is my friend when it comes to herbs.

I purchase ready made for my tomatoes and peppers.  If you would rather not go to the nursery here’s more information on Starting Seeds Indoors  and Starting Seeds Indoors: Germination.

Where To Find The Best Seeds

Wondering where to find the best seeds? Just because I love you guys so much, I’m sharing my Favorite Garden Seed Sources! *muwah*

Here’s the thing.  Gardening is truly on of those learn as you go activities.  Do something that kills  off all of your cucumbers this year?   Well, I bet you won’t do that again next year, now will you?  heh.

Go.  Have fun.  Take notes on what works and what doesn’t.  And feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below.

Suburban Homesteading

While talking with a group of friends, each of whom expressing a wish to buy land to homestead on.  I couldn’t figure out why my friends felt the need to wait until they had a bigger plot of land to begin their journey to self sufficiency.    Why not start homesteading in your own backyard?   Right now!

Suburban Homesteading. It really is a ‘thing’!

Let’s face it.  Not all of us are going to be able to move from suburbia into the wilds of Nowhere, USA.   Postponing self sufficiency until all conditions are deemed perfect, could result in being unprepared in an emergency situation.

I’m of the mindset where you do the best you can with what you have now, while following a well thought out plan of where you want to be.  My in between is suburban homesteading.

Suburban Homesteading

What Does Suburban Homesteading Look Like?

We live on your average 1/3 of an acre in your average suburban neighborhood.  There is a stream that runs through my back yard from April to October that provides irrigation to the farmers living further out.  It used to run heavy and deep, but we’re in a dry cycle right now and it’s been much more shallow the last several years.

My neighborhood consists of about 60 homes and we are surrounded on one side by a private golf course and on another by a fairly busy road.  Luckily we are tucked deeply enough into our neighborhood that we don’t see or hear the traffic.

Most of my neighbors garden for summer salad and October pumpkin kind of reasons.  I often think of several neighbors getting together to plan out who will grow what, and then sharing.  This makes even small space gardening more profitable.

 

basil

My Spring garden includes, kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, broccoli, beets and peas. The Summer garden  boasts  tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, beans, pumpkins, winter squash and peppers.

I was thrilled  to recently plant  both an apple an a cherry tree.  Neighbors have several of both so I know we’ll be fine pollination wise.

You can find raspberry bushes in diverse places and a large section for blackberries in our back yard.  I love having a freezer full of berries to last the year.    Half a whiskey barrel is home to a thriving black currant bush.

garden 2

Along one side of my lot I have my herb garden.  It’s also home to a few cabbage plants, lettuce, arugula and dikon radishes.

Herb wise I grow Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, Basil, Chives, Rosemary,  Peppermint, Spearmint, Anise, Heal All, Horseradish, Horehound, Comfrey, Vervain, and Chamomile.

This is my first year to really grow medicinal herbs, and I’m excited for how things will turn out.  Rosemary Gladstar’s books have been inspirational as I grow my family’s self sufficiency and as we grow our homestead.

I’m thinking of an Elderberry Bush too, as I make our own Elderberry Syrup to help ward off colds and flu.

 

 

Bail Grows Easily in Backyard Suburan Homestead Gardens

There is a big stack of homesteading books just waiting in my Amazon cart that  I can’t wait to dive into.  Dreaming is a big part of the fun of having a suburban homestead.   Using the experiences of others, I’ll create a suburban homestead that reflects the unique needs a capabilities of my family.

garden

Can I grow all the food my family eats on my Suburban Homestead?

Growing everything my family would need here on our suburban homestead simply isn’t possible, at least not yet.  But like all  homesteaders I am pretty creative and resourceful.  

To help us become more self reliant as we grow our backyard homestead, we implemented a few new ideas.

*Trading bumper crops for things I can’t grow in my back yard.

*Paying close attention to the FB yard sale posts and watch for those inviting people to come and glean from their trees and gardens.

*Planting early Spring seeds and plants.

*Growing a Fall garden for fresh greens through the colder months.

*Storing long term food items such as beans, rice, sugar, and flour.  Daisy Luther’s The Pantry Primer is a great source of information on getting a year’s supply as cheaply as possible.

*Purchasing long term freeze dried food at the best possible prices using the plans offered by  Thrive’s Montly Q Program.  Having freeze dried food on my shelf in case of an emergency offers great peace in these turbulent times.

blackberries

It’s a win-win.  More time in the garden.  More fresh, organic food and I don’t have to worry if there is a recall with it’s name on it down the road.

Self sufficiency.  Homesteading.  Food security.    Part of the fun is in the journey that gets you to where you are going.

What goals have you set to become self sufficient?   Is suburban homesteading something you might try?

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Favorite Garden Seed Sources

If you are anything like me, you’ve already spent time dreaming about garden seeds for 2018’s bountiful harvest. Yes, my favorite garden seed sources just might have a few drool stains amongst their already well worn pages.  I’d love to show your my favorite places to find garden seeds.

Non-GMO Garden Seed Sources

What Type of Seeds Should You Buy

You want to make sure you purchase from companies that are committed to providing non GMO seed. I do not grow out Monsanto seed….period.

While I believe that open pollinated seeds are the best idea (you can save your seeds from year to year) there is a place for hybrids too.  If I want a tomato before the end August, I need to have a couple early hybrids planted somewhere.

ProTip:  Confused about open pollinated, heirloom, and hybird seeds?  Learn more from this excellent post on Seeds Savers Exchange.

summer squash in a Johnny's Seeds catalogs - Garden Seed Source

 

I choose organic seed whenever available, but I do have seed that has been harvested from plants grown organically, but the actual seed that grew the plant wasn’t organic.

The garden seed sources below will provide you with everything from organic, to heirloom, to rare, to ……well you name it!

My Favorite Garden Seed Sources!

Johnny’s Seed (I’ve ordered from Johnny’s for years and and years.)

Fedco

Baker Creek

Vegetable Seed Warehouse

Garden Seed Sources For The Victory Garden

A Seed Company For Your Gardening Zone

I’m fortunate to have a friend, who has a passion for keeping alive many critical varieties.  You may have read his *this post contains affiliate links book, Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers.

I know when I order seeds from Caleb’s company, not only have they been tested in MY state, they are NEVER hybrid, GMO, patented, or corporate owned.   The seeds you purchase from Caleb’s  Renaissance Seeds meets each of these standards.

Emergency and Survival Garden Seed Sources

While we are on the topic of seeds, do you have you have an emergency survival seed stash?  These are heirloom seeds that have been packaged to last for long periods of time.

Don’t Forget The Experienced Gardeners!

Another excellent garden seed source for your area are other gardeners! Experienced gardeners are likely to be saving their seed from year to year. Having a seasoned gardener as a mentor can be a great source of instruction AND seeds!

Pro Tip: Looking for more information on heirloom seeds?  Check out Seed Savers Exchange.com.

garden seed sources for backyard gardens

Take A Look At Your Local Stores

Heck, you could just stroll down to your local grocery store and grab a few packets of easy to grow seed (cucumber, summer squash, pumpkins, lettuce, are a few) and start growing your own food! Burpee has a new organic line that you can find in stores.

Pro Tip: Check to see if your state allows SNAP programs to pay for seeds and garden plants. Many do. Talk about making the most of your grocery dollar AND learn a skill with the ability to make a huge impact in your life!

Starting Seeds Indoors

Once you have your seeds you can read our post on how to start seeds indoors to get a jump start on your garden.  You’ll also want to pick up a few seed starting kits.

There is simply nothing quite like being able to walk out to your kitchen garden (or you backyard garden pots filled with veggie plants!) and pick your own dinner. Now is the time to start your planning!

Where are YOUR favorite places to score garden seeds?