If you grow your food, you know there’s nothing better than walking out your front door and plucking a juicy tomato right off the vine.
But growing food requires an element of patience and a little bit of research.
Otherwise, you could end up overwhelmed, and your lovely garden could fail. (Say goodbye to dreams of fresh BLTs at the end of summer!).
So, to get you started, I’ve put together this grow-your-own-food getting started guide.
Because if you start on the right foot, you’ll grow your food for the rest of your life! (and wonder why it took you so long to get started in the first place!)
But before we dig in, let’s talk a bit about the benefits of growing your food!
Why You Should Grow Your Own Food
While it might seem like a lot of work to grow your own food, there’s a lot of reasons to jump in and do it!
Financial Benefits When You Grow Your Own Food
One of the main reasons people decide to grow their own food is to save money.
And they’re right to do so.
Think about the cost of a package of seeds compared to the price of three tomatoes, for example.
But the savings don’t end there.
Canning and freezing food that you’ve grown will save money when it comes to things like spaghetti sauce, jams, and plain ol’ canned (or frozen) veggies.
In truth, the financial benefits are enormous when it comes to growing your own food.
So if you’re willing to put the time in (cause canning isn’t quick), you can save a good amount of money on your grocery bill.
The Health Benefits When You Grow Your Own Food
Another apparent reason to grow your own food is for the health benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Not only will you have more healthy food on hand, but you’ll also know how that food was grown.
For example, you’ll know if your seeds were organic, if you used any pesticides (probably not, right?), and what kind of fertilizers were used.
You’ll also have control over the location of your garden.
This means you can keep it far from farm fields that use pesticides, away from pests that can cause disease, and also in areas where natural rainfall can quench your garden’s thirst.
So, in other words, you’ll not only know where your food came from, but you can also dictate how it was grown.
Emotional Benefits of Gardening
One benefit of growing your own food that’s not talked about as much as the emotional benefits.
Gardening can be highly therapeutic. That’s because you’re planting seeds, close to the earth, and nurturing life.
Caring for a garden can teach accountability, responsibility, and appreciation. Not just to you but also the kiddos in your life. These benefits can spill over into other areas of life.
And, finally, the end product (the harvest) then nourishes your body, so the rewards are twofold.
Eating healthy is suitable for both the mind and the body.
Furthermore, knowing where your food is coming from also gives you peace of mind.
If you’ve planned your garden, you won’t have to worry about chemicals or how your food affects the environment.
You made sure you grew your food ethically and safely. A way that aligns with your values and health needs.
And that knowledge is priceless.
When You Grow Your Own Food, Relationships May Blossom
Lastly, growing your food for your family and to share with others is a beautiful way to nurture your relationships.
The love and care you put into your garden, in a way, pass through the food that your friends and family eat when you share.
There’s just something about watching a close friend enjoy the fruits of your labor. Or simply creating a beautiful meal from your harvest.
That feeling? It is a feeling of providing for others.
Plus, the whole family can get in on the gardening. Because while it’s easily a one-person process, the more, the merrier certainly applies to gardening!
Helping each other foster and care for other living things can bring family and friends closer together.
How to Grow Your Own Food
So, now you’re convinced. There’s a lot of reasons to grow your own food.
Let’s dig in (pun intended) and get started!
Make a Plan
You saw this coming.
Every successful project starts with a solid action plan. And gardening is no exception.
It might feel challenging to narrow down your list of must-have plants when planning your garden for the first time.
You’ll be tempted to add everything! Even exotic fruits and veggies that you usually don’t consume.
Because it’s exciting, and you’re feeling the effects of having control over your food source. You want it all!
But the best thing to do is try your best to start small, so you don’t feel overwhelmed or lose confidence when things get away from you.
Remember, there’s a learning curve when it comes to growing your own food.
Here’s how to decide on the plants you’ll focus on for your first garden:
Make a list of all the things you consume weekly.
Think about these things:
- What do you eat raw for snacks?
- What do you always cook with?
- Will you plant herbs to season your meals?
Write everything down. Make a nice long list of all the things you want in your first garden.
You don’t have to hold back on this list!
Now Cut Your List Down to About 50%
Yup, chances are, your list is a little out of control. So now, dig down deep and ask yourself some additional questions depending on your reasons for growing your own food.
- What can you buy organically on the cheap? – You won’t need to plant this item this year.
- Is there a local neighbor who also grows and sells one of your must-haves? – Maybe you can barter and trade something they don’t grow.
- What doesn’t grow well in your area? – You’ll have to skip this for now.
- What might take up too much space in your garden? – Are you sacrificing more for less?
Just remember, you shouldn’t do it all the first year. Getting laser-focused on a small handful of plants will help you ride the learning curve.
Too many plants, taking up too much room, may become overwhelming.
Plus, never forget that harvesting can be a ton of work, so be prepared to plan and know what you’ll be doing with your bounty!
- Give away extra?
- Make-ahead meals?
- And are you willing to drop everything to harvest when your plants are at their peak?
These are all things to think about because half the work happens after the garden grows!
Research Your Plants (And Your Region).
Now that you’ve got your list narrowed down to a handful of staples for your garden, it’s time to learn more about those plants.
Some plants don’t play well with others, so you shouldn’t plant them next to one another.
For example, corn can cast a ton of shade, and we all love sun-ripened tomatoes!
Other plants may not thrive in your region. So look into things like soils, planting weather, and so on.
At this point, you might decide to cut more plants from your initial list or go back and add one that fits your situation a bit better.
Assess Your Space
You can grow your own food on vast acreage or a cozy patio. But space restrictions are another reason to ensure you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Some plants crawl and spread, while others reach for the sun. So make sure that you’re ready to accommodate all the directions your plants will be growing.
And when it comes to space, always read the directions that come with your seeds (or plants) to ensure you’re giving each plant enough breathing room as it grows.
A crowded garden never prospers.
Decide on a Container
This step goes hand-in-hand with space considerations. If you have a small area for your garden, consider containers or raised beds.
If you’ve got acreage to plant on, make sure your soil is top-notch in the space you’d like to create your garden.
When it comes down to it, space and containers also depend on the number of plants you’ve chosen to start with and their spacing (and shading) needs.
And if you decide to start with a single-potted patio tomato, go for it!
Seed packages often provide incomplete information on what your plant needs.
With the internet and app stores available, there’s a wealth of information on how to grow your own food.
So, don’t guess, no matter how simple you think the process might be.
Do some research on how to grow those juicy red tomatoes, plump green beans, and spicy radishes.
The initial steps in growing your own food can take a lot of work. And once the seeds are in the ground, you’ve got a long way to go.
A lot of your time will be spent waiting.
But our best advice is to enjoy the journey and continue to tend to your sprouts vigilantly.
Water each plant according to their needs. Weed often. And keep destructive critters out of your garden.
In a way, the growing period becomes a type of plant babysitting process that requires patience.
When you’re new to growing your own food, be ready for things to go wrong.
There’s a reason people use the term “green thumb,” and usually, it takes a few years for someone to feel like they know enough to call themselves by that coveted title.
So when you’re plants start to look a little wilty, for example, don’t beat yourself up. You’re learning! And it doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s essential to triage any issues as they arrive. So, if your plants look wilted, look into the possible reasons.
- Are they thirsty?
- Did they need more shade?
- Is there a pest present?
- Are they overwatered?
Once you pinpoint the problem, take action, take note, and be ready for it to happen again. Only next time, you’ll be ahead of the game!
And remember, don’t beat yourself up. Gardening is unpredictable, so you’ll adjust many aspects of your process, including containers, soil, and everything in between.
Truthfully, the challenge will become more enjoyable once you learn how to overcome obstacles.
Never Give Up
You may have a lot of luck, and gardening will come easy for you. Or you may find yourself riding a squiggly roller-coaster of a learning curve.
But don’t give up because gardening is one of those things that gets better with time. The more you do it, the more you learn, the more barriers you bust through, the better you get.
Depending on the plants you’ve included in your first garden, you’ll be harvesting most things at different times.
Corn and beans don’t grow at the same rate, for example. So aside from noting their germination timeframe, keep an eye on your garden, so you don’t miss the ideal time to harvest your bounty!
Plan your canning schedule and meals based on when each of your plants is ready to be plucked.
Then store, share, and enjoy!
Add On to Your Garden
After you’ve grown your own food for the first time, you’ll have a better idea of what plants you want to regrow next season.
AND you’ll know what you want to add to your garden next year.
We always suggest mastering a small number of plants to start with before adding more (or before adding those fun exotics to your garden).
Because if you feel overwhelmed or like a failure, you probably won’t feel like giving it another go the following year.
The idea is to learn how to care for your plants to have a successful harvest and the added confidence to grow even more next year!