HERE’S A QUESTION WORTH PONDERING: What would you plant in your veggie garden if, for some reason, you couldn’t access a supermarket for an entire year? In the comments field below, list the edibles you’d grow for your very subsistence.
Of course to come up with a list of subsistence plants, you’ll probably have to think like a colonist. A colonist, that is, with an electric freezer and canning equipment at his or her disposal.
And who knows? This spring, maybe some of us will end up planting the very gardens we describe below.
I’m looking forward to reading your list.
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What a thought provoking post!!
Here is my list:
corn – not sure I would have room for enough?
some herbs – dill, sage, thyme
If I had known several years ago – apples, peaches, cherries
I did have most of these in last years garden, but not enough to hold over for a whole year, I would have had to do a lot more planting and probably dig up the front yard also 🙂
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
That's awesome, Terry! Plenty of vitamin C from the berries you listed…you probably wouldn't need apples. And there's a lot of protein in the broccoli, and beta carotene in the orange-fleshed produce. I could survive — and pretty happily, too — on the goods from your garden!
I like Terry's list, but for my own garden I'd add soybeans for even more protein. Kevin, didn't you grow soybeans last summer? Anyway, they are a great source of protein.
I suppose the corn could be ground to make bread, or at least tortillas. Then you really wouldn't need the supermarket!
Well, I'd aim for lots of things to store in my cellar, like root veggies: potatoes, onions, yams, carrots, beets. Legumes can be dried, so I'd grow my favorites: butter beans (limas) and chickpeas (garbanzos). Like Eric said, it's a good idea to have soybeans for extra protein, so I'd grow them, too. For freezing I'd grow Brussels sprouts, broccoli, haricot verts, tomatoes. For sweet things to freeze, I'd plant strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and currants.
Truth be told, if I gave up some of my flower beds, I could probably COULD live off my veggie garden for a year. Doesn't sound like a bad idea, actually. But I'd still need paper products from the store!
Wow, Kevin, this “survival garden” really has me thinking! I completely forgot about leafy greens: spinach especially, and then arugula and others. And herbs, too: parsley, sage, oregano, thyme.
whoops, i forgot a couple
-need to have flax seed for cooking oil substitute
-need to have rhubarb for the valuable, ahem, softening effects that can really help when the store is closed
peppers- as food and seeds as spice
what a great question! its been on my mind all day.
tomato – vit c and lycopene
swiss chard- wealth of minerals and high in salt to flavor dishes, i dried and ground leaves, add to dishes while cooking
onions, garlic, leeks- to keep heart and immune system healthy, dishes tasty. can be dehydrated to preserve
potato and corn- starchy comfort food, meal extender and versatility of preservation
variety of legumes- to combine for complete proteins
giant amaranth- the highest yeilding grain (lb per plant) that can be grown on a small plot of land while still looking fabulous
castor bean- highest yeild of oil for lamps or soap per square foot, also great looking.
variety of brassica- easy to preserve (kraut), comes with the same anti cancer compounds that protect sharks.
zukes and cukes- produces alot for the space used. easy to preserve in a variety of ways, extends a sparse meal.
root veg- (carrot,beet,turnip,)easy to keep and grow, essential for resource stretching soup.
okra- look great and a good yeild per sq foot.
berry crops-will provide a secure thorny perimeter for your food supply – if you cant shop neither can passersby. can also be tasty ;).
herbs are almost as important
mints (pepper,cat,spear,lemon balm) all natural mosquito repellant in combination and separately useful. if you only have room for one go with pepper.
stevia- because we all need a little blast of sweet even when the store is closed.
comfrey- mineral rich, valuable tea for garden fertilizer. compress for people and animals' injuries.
basil- of course
oregano-again, quality of life
echinesia-pretty and powerful
how much property do we get? i could fill it, lol
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Martha – welcome! And thanks for the list. I researched both quinoa and amaranth earlier today. Have you grown either one? Both offer so much more nutrition than corn. And thanks for the “sweet” reminder…stevia is a must!
My hope is that lists like yours and those above it will encourage gardeners to think of the veggie patch not as a “nicety,” but as a necessity.
Hope to see you here often!
Jerry King (Daisy) says
What a grand question! We already do alot of put-a-side gardening. Organic, sustainable gardening gives us fresh produce from May – October. I also take advantage of the growers markets for crops that we can't grow enough to set aside. Like new potatos, beets and carrots, those we eat fresh from the garden.
Growing on the Gulf Coast we have a longer growing time but wow a hot one in mid summer.
tomatoes; heirloom and available varieties
pepper; banana, bells (red/yellow) and hungarian
Eggplants; japanese varieties
Squash; yellow crook and zuccini
lettuce; cilantro, parsley, carrots, radish
herbs of all varieties
Also have fruit trees; apple, peach, asian pear, grapes, plum, figs, jujubes, olives, satsuma, grapefruit, oranges, meyer lemons. Which get juiced, jamed, jellied and canned.
From June-August we are busy canning, drying and sharing.
Thanks for asking, thanks for letting us share.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Jerry – Nice to meet another advocate of organic, sustainable gardening. Sounds like you produce quite a bounty to put-by for winter — that's my goal, too.
But tell me — how do you manage your orchard? Do you find it necessary to spray your apple (and possibly other) fruit trees?
Really Inspiring! Loving to grow something in my garden after reading this post.
I want to go with:
thanks for the nice note kevin. i love your site, its so inspiring.
i bought the amaranth seeds a couple of years ago from horizon herbs(online). golden giant amaranth, (amaranthus cruentus)aka rasta plant. they grow huge and strangely attractive, the seed heads hang down like dreadlocks as they mature. dried and winnowed they will yeild a lb of seed per plant. full sun.
flax seed is also fun, attractive grown massed in pots and as a cover crop. havent tried quinoa yet.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
firepits – Thanks for your comment. I'm feeling inspired too!
martha – My golden giant amaranth seeds arrived earlier this week. Seems like such a wise crop to grow. Not to mention…who can resist the chance to “winnow” something?
Jerry (Daisy) says
Kevin, So far, in 8 years, we haven't had to spray the trees. We use Microlife products, and orgnic compost and cotton seed meal, also had chickens free ranging for 2 years. For 2 years we were hit with a hail storm in the middle of bloos season. Ugh, that caused issues with setting fruit and blossoms. We incourge bee pollenation, the plums, apples, peaches just hummmm during blooming season. Since we consume most of our fruit I don't worry about skin issues. What we share of course is prime looking fruit. By keeping the litter up under the trees it really helps. We will see what happens this year, without chickens. We also stick with varieties that are well established to grow in our area and with the right chill hours. Thanks for asking. Oh on a side issue, we make no knead bread all the time. Yummy stuff!!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Jerry – I think it's wonderful that you've achieved abundant fruit-harvests without the use of sprays. I wonder if your chickens played a big role in eliminating harmful insects which would otherwise attack your orchard.
And now I'm curious: Did you find that raising chickens was more work than you'd originally thought? I only ask because I'm considering such a venture myself.
Jerry (Daisy) says
Kevin the trick to chickens is not getting more than you can handle. At one point we had 23 chickens and 6 guineas…way to many for us. We gave away eggs more than we consumed. The key is to have 5-6, give them a nice clean chicken house for roosting and laying. Then just let them out daily in a confined area at first. They will dig up anything and everything for scratching. They are fun to watch and I truly enjoy chickens. You just have to have a mind set that you can loose a few plants and it's okay. Now guineas are good with bugs and do not scratch much, except for dust baths. You just have to get used to their cackling sound, which gets loud at times. Also choose a variety of chickens that enjoy people, I like Rhode Island Reds for the consistant laying and friendlyness. You can see the Henny Penny in them dashing around the garden chasing grasshoppers. I order my chicks from McMurry Hatchery and have always had a good time with them. I had said we had them two years, it was actually 2 batches over 3 1/2 years. Since we are redesigning the garden this year, expanding the orchard we are moving the chicken house also. Think they will do better in the orchard than in my garden! There is a 5 ft fence around the orchard to keep cows out so they will be contained in a large area.
Kevin, I know I’m responding to an older post but I hope Jerry (Daisy) or other organic gardeners are still reading this. I have an apple tree and several crab apples that succumb to disease every year. Last year I sprayed them with a nonoranic product from our local garden center with success. It stated on the label not to spray when bees are present. It can’t be good for the environment. I am considering purchasing some pear trees this year but I don’t want to unless I come up with an organic system of care. I visited the Microlife website and Microlife Green sounds like a safe product for the home orchard. I was wondering if this was the product Jerry was referring to? Do you or any of your readers have a successful organic method for caring for the home orchard?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Kathy – I’ve put the word out, and hopefully others will respond. My heirloom apple trees are all but lost. The one year I sprayed them with something inorganic I did get fruit. But oh-oh-oh was that stuff nasty. Unfortunately, commercial growers use this toxic stuff, too.
jerry in Sealy says
Kevin, you are correct! We use MicroLife on our fruit trees. Growing apples, lemons, satsumas, grapes, plums, figs, peaches, jujubes, persimmons, nectarines and of course veggies. All are grown with compost, microlife, cotton seed meal, bone meal and lots of prayer.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Thank you, Jerry in Sealy! Two comments before yours, reader Kathy asked about “Microlife Green.”
Did you end up putting your chickens in the orchard — and how is that working out?
Thanks for putting the word out. I’ve already decided not to use the product I used last year. I could smell the chemical for days after spraying. Besides researching the Microlife Green product, I’ve been looking into homemade fruit tree spray recipes. Howard Garrett is an oraganic gardening personality out of Texas and below is his recipe. I would love to know if anyone has had success with any organic, homemade remedies.
1-2 cups compost tea
1 T liquid seaweed
1 T blackstrap molasses (dissolve in 1/2 cup very hot tap water first)
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 T Murphys oil soap
1 1/2 T baking soda
1 gallon water
Spray early in the morning.
We already grow quite a bit of sustainable produce in our yard and a varied veggie garden every year. We have several fruit trees: a five in one apple, a four in one cherry, a peach, a nectarine, an apricot and pear and plum trees. Then we have three kinds of grapes, strawberries and black and red raspberries. I do need to replace my blueberry bushes though which didnt survive a bad freeze last year. And luckily a neighbor has a black walnut tree that hangs over our wall that he lets us collect from, as well as a sasparilla tree. In exchange we give him some of our fruit. We also have several heirloom beds of potatoes, onions, green onions and garlic . We pick some and leave some to propagate for next year. I grow herbs and pot veggies(ie lettuce, radishes, tomatoes etc)all year round indoors in the green house my husband built onto our house using recovered windows from several home rebuilds in the neighborhood. In future I would like to get some of the dwarf citrus trees to add to the green house for added sweet treats. In our actual garden we rotate what we grow so we dont overtax the soil and every third year is beans so we can turn the plants into the ground to put back nitrogen and other good stuff. I am lucky to have a nice screened south facing porch to dry all my herbs and hang my peppers and beans etc to dry. And a cool dark basement to store root vegetables and apples etc in sand trays. I appreciate the tip about the vinegar too. I always try to use natural means to persuade the little pesky’s to go elsewhere for food. I have been a big fan of Jerry Baker for this kind of info for years. And before you ask. No I dont live rurally. I live in the middle of the third largest city in Pa. But we spent a lot of time looking for a house situated just right so we could do this, since we both enjoy gardening and love eating what we grow. And we spent a lot of time reading about maximizing our space and and what to grow to yield the best return on our efforts. It was worth all the looking and learning. Oh and Monsanto? I grow all my veggies from seeds I collected from last years garden or I exchange them with friends who also do the same. 🙂
Oh one more thing? For organic bug pickers? Try ducks. When we lived in Phoenix Arizona we had several Muscovy flightless and quackless ducks. (An Easter gift that gave back lol) Our yard and garden was the only one in our area to survive a severe hook worm invasion that swept the valley that year. And they didnt damage the plants at all. They just waddled between the rows and picked them off gentle as you please. Our artichokes were the size of softballs that year. Must have been the duck fertilizer hee hee. We were also the only yard around our area that was tick free. Our dogs were clean at every check. Just a thought. And you dont have a lot of eggs to get rid of. Hope your trees do better.
Kevin, thanks for making us think.
Arizona homes are built on postage stamp size lots so we had to be creative and have adopted intensive gardening methods.
We have two growing seasons and our 400+ square foot veggie garden (raised beds) give us carrots, broccoli, spinach, various lettuce, arugula, bok choi, peas, onions, garlic, charentais and other european melons, potatoes, bean, sunchokes, squashes, pumpkins, and many herbs.
We have orange, lemon and lime trees.
We have desert trees for shade but the mesquite tree (it grows wild as a bush) produces pods that looks like bean pods, the beans can be ground into flour.
We have prickly pear cacti (Opuntia): the youngs pads (leaves or nopal) can be steamed or stir fried; obviously the tiny glochids (short prickles) need to be removed (that easily done with a sharp knife)
When ripe, the fruit of the prickly pears give excellent juice that can be made into jelly or used to flavor drinks – when our jelly wouldn’t jell last year, we used it a a glaze for fish and meats..
The prickly pears are full of vitamin B, calcium, magnesium, iron and fiber and have 17 amino acids that have medicinal values.
I grow 100% organic, 100% heirloom, make my own compost and up until now I was savings flowers seeds only but you have inspired me to also save veggie seeds this year.
As our garden evolves the lizard population increases which is great as they eat a lot of bugs, white praying mantis and other good bug eaters have controlled the population as well.
I use a solution of 1 tablespoon of Dawn/water in a spray bottle (the original blue color-not lemon scented) to control the white flies that invade our garden during cotton harvest
It’s tedious but it helps. I use diatomaceous earth as well.
My seeds suppliers are Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Heirlooms Evermore (through our organic coop)
We joined 2 organic coops .
90% of our food now comes from our garden and the organic coops.
Not possible to have a root cellar here so it’s canning and freezing for us.
Our home is 100% solar.
We subscribe to Mother Earth, I highly recommend that magazine.
A lot of good ideas from your readers.
Kevin, thanks for all you do.
Donna B. says
As I’m expanding my veggie gardens, I’m also going to be doubling my saving capacity! I pretty much grow everything I enjoy to eat; which is almost all veggies. I’m adventuring into grains this year with Quinoa… and maybe I’ll attempt some popping corn!
I would also grow a more substantial herb garden… currently I do have the basics like oregano, thyme, chives, and mint… but I suffer with annual herbs like basil and chamomile – I can’t seem to get them to grow properly! I don’t like to purchase starts, so I will try once again with some milk jug experimentation this year!
@ Oriane above: Wow… Your exsistence and way of life is what I strive for… 100% solar! so inspirational…
I’d think of things that I could can, pickle, or store in a root celler. I could never fit a years worth of veggies in the freezer I have now.
My list: winter squash
lots of herbs for drying
berries (for jam)
summer squash… makes a ton of fruit and good for pickling
all sorts of radicchio
all sorts of tomatoes
zucca violina/butternut maybe
peppers and aubergines
and many others I forgot and would miss
I’m allergic to chestnuts, so I’m substituting with hazelnuts and almond tree
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
BlueLapis – Yes to chickens, and yes to ducks. An acquaintance of mine raises ducks at her CSA in Idaho. She uses the eggs to make “Quack Quiche,” which she sells to local restaurants. Apparently the quiche is a big hit there.
Oriane – I’m so jealous that you can have all those citrus trees. Here, I can only grow Meyer Lemon — as a houseplant! (It’s a productive little thing, but still…)
Donna B. – You’ll have to let me know how you make out with Quinoa. I tried Amaranth last year, and although the plants did fabulously well, at harvest the flowers were so filled with bugs (I’m talking millions of creepy crawlies) that I gave up.
Kate – Great list. And yes, impossible to keep a year’s worth of produce in the average freezer. I’ll add “canning equipment” to post above.
mada – Tell us about the kaki tree!
This is definitely a post to refer back to. Lots of great ideas for this relatively inexperienced gardener!
I would plant
What a great question! We kind of do this anyway, and have been both vegetable gardening and fruit tree growing for many years. So my list of subsistence veggies and fruits is pretty much whatever will grow here in Maine, and can be frozen, canned, dried or root-cellared.
A few innovations in recent years have led to big improvements in our harvests–we keep ducks in the fenced in area that includes garden and orchard–the garden is sub-fenced because the ducks are as fond of lettuce as I am, so they’re only allowed to roam freely in that section when there’s nothing for them to damage–Last year I planted the potatoes on the duck’s side, and other than keeping some chicken wire over them as they sprouted, they grew fine and were not bothered by the ducks–even better, we had essentially NO potato bugs, which is previously unheard of. I can only surmise that they were eaten by the ducks!
Two other things we’ve done are to put the entire garden into raised beds (cedar–20 4ft.x24ft. beds) and build a plastic covered hoop-house over three of those beds, which we then move in the fall to another 3 beds (with a 4 year rotation planned). So now, with very little effort, we have greens almost year-round (I planted all sorts of greens 4 days ago in there), and finally, enough tomatoes that I haven’t yet had to buy any canned tomato products this year, and probably won’t–I have salsa and tomato sauce (pomarola) in the freezer, as well as roasted cherry tomatoes and quarts of canned tomatoes in the pantry. It’s all a lot of work, but we all appreciate it so much, and I love knowing where the food I cook and eat comes from!
Dawn Gruss says
I love this questions! I’ve purchased Heirloom seeds like the ones mentioned above to produce more of our own food so we don’t have to rely on stores so much.
Thank you for the Sweet Olive Plant from the giveaway!! It arrived today and is just beautiful!!
We already don’t buy fruit because we grow and freeze enough raspberries and blueberries to last the entire year in the freezer. All the suggestions are great,but I would add rosemary and lemon grass and lemon verbena because lemons don’t grow in new England.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Amber – Thanks for stopping by. I, too, have learned much from the comments on this post!
Mary – Sounds like you have a great operation there in Maine. Aren’t ducks (and also chickens) the most amazing, all-natural “pesticides”? Wish I could have them here!
Dawn – Glad you received and like the Sweet Olive — just wait till it blooms!
Erica – Love lemon grass and of course lemon verbena. I’ll bet you’d enjoy a Meyer Lemon plant. I grow this dwarf citrus indoors, and it produces good-sized fruit for me. In winter the plant covers itself with heaven-scented flowers. Details are here.
Added to all above (which is a lot and is making me rethink my garden this year) would definately be swiss chard and kale. Here in Michigan, I planted those items and harvested right up to Christmas and am beginning to harvest again now. If I had protected the plants, I bet I could have harvested the entire winter! You can’t kill that stuff!
Mike Hylton (Sarge) says
I won’t list it, but I can tell you that “I would plant everything that is edible, because I LOVE TO EAT”
Garlic ! The flavor of homegrown is miles beyond store-bought.
Onions ! My garage is a good long term storage area, luckily.
Potatoes ! Never tried them due to space issues, but always wanted to.
Shell Peas and Sugar Snap Peas for fresh eating, for quiches and pasta dishes.
Pole Beans and Green Beans, which freeze beautifully, and I am still grateful for the straw trick from your article last summer.
Raspberries, which also freeze well, a crop I would have been unlikely to choose myself but I inherited upon moving here 22 years ago.
Basil for Pesto, frozen in cubes, summer captured and later released.
Rhubarb, whose sauces for crepes are the epitome of decadence…
Since we have canning equipment and electric freezers, why not add a dehydrator (fruits, fruit leather, vegetables, jerky) and a vacuum sealer.
If you vacuum seal blanched veggies and then freeze them, they don’t get freezer burn and stay good for much longer. I just took out a vacuum sealed package of patty pan squash from August 2010–I was a little nervous when I realized the date was over a year and a half ago–but the texture and flavor were still great.
And the dehydrator–I can’t say enough about how great that is.
A great canning tip I thought of and tried for the first time this year: Instead of canning fruits in sugar syrup, use apple cider or apple juice. I canned whole apricots (so easy, no peeling or pitting required) in homemade canned apple juice. Delicious! And I don’t feel guilty for drinking the juice–now apple-apricot, just like you can buy in those expensive bottles.
Granny Mary says
Potatoes, corn, squash, pumpkin, green beans, beets, carrots, various herbs
Hmmmmm. Let’s see. Lettuce, tomatoes (do they count since they’re a fruit?), potatoes, mustard greens, spinach, beets, radishes, endive, radicchio, shallots, any type of squash, carrots, Stuttgart onions, turnips, arugula, peas, peppers, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, parsley, lemon balm, rosemary.
Michelle W. says
Terry’s list is awesome, and it certainly covers a majority of veggie items. I’m already growing all of those and more, but what I wish I was growing (and hope to soon) is my own grain. I’d like to give the following a try:
Sandy Hutchison says
Even more onions and garlic than I already grow, potatoes (which I don’t bother with now), carrots (ditto), cabbage (which hopefully would somehow be better protected from white fly than I ever manage), winter squash (also needing more protection than I have yet managed). I’m pretty much on target already for my tomato and pepper supplies, though I might grow more hot peppers for sauces and more paste tomatoes to process into sauce and paste instead of just chopped tomatoes. Enough broccoli to freeze extra. And more fruit, if I can find some that don’t require spraying. I’m finally starting raspberries this year, and I’d probably add a strawberry bed. Obviously greens would be big. I particularly enjoy growing and eating Asian mustards, pak choi, tatsoi, gai lan, etc. I’d also try to get more indoor growing done with hydroponics and other set-ups.
Enjoyed your presentation at Spring Garden Day, Kevin!
Melissa Horton says
Kevin, All of the above plus green peppers and rosemary. You are so much fun! Melissa
Martha, I just ordered my vacuum sealer last night!!! Already have the dehydrator and canning equip.
The only things I am adding to the list are rutabagas for another starchy type veg. and spaghetti squash to replace noodles if no store is available.
I am planting some of my dried beans from the grocery store this year and elderberry bushes to make extract for sickness.
Marc Broussard says
Hum! In the case ( for some reasons) I could not access to the supermarket for a year… I will see the possibility to have not access to the supermarket for more than a year…!!! So I ‘ll plant many beans, onions, …. in fact all the vegetables I already grow in my garden… but I will take very care to let some plant growing until they made seeds… because I’m sure I ‘ll use them the years after… and I’ll keep enough seeds to share a part of them with my neighbors… in fact it’s what I already done.
Thank you for your website
sue greene says
All kinds of beans are high on my list as I’m a vegetarian…. but they have to be spiced up! So all of the salsa veggies- tomatoes, peppers, onions. Broccoli, lettuce, squash, carrots, and brussell sprouts for vegetables. I can do strawberries and blueberries in my climate, but it’s really too cool for citrus fruit here.
Miriam Boyd says
tomatoes, garlic, onion, snow peas, English peas, green and dried beans, corn, squash,melons, cucumbers,hot and sweet peppers, okra,sunflowers, berries, fruit trees, figs, grapes, avocados, potatoes, herbs, asparagus, lima beans
Gail B. says
I’m still afraid of making my first garden but I think this years is the year to start it. If I was as good as the rest of you in the garden, my substance garden would have, a few different types of onions, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, tomatoes, corn, wheat, peas, beans, different types of lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, squashes, melons, herbs, several different peppers. I would plant apple, pear, peach, grapefruit and walnut trees. I would also love to have a few hens and beehives. Now… how much of all this is compatible to my area could be a different thing LOL Maybe that’s why this whole gardening thing scares me. 🙂
We haven’t gardened in a long time, but are venturing back into it. We already have beautiful mature landscaping around our home which delights us, so we are focusing on herbs and veggies. Thanks for suggesting that I take the time to consider what we want to plant this year.
Tomatoes, carrots, red and yellow sweet peppers, onions, eggplant, summer squash, zucchini, butternut squash, acorn squash, cukes (not too many, though!), lettuces, spinach, kale, broccoli, potatoes (sweet and red/russet/etc), cabbages, asparagus… as well as rosemary, lavender, sages, mints, sweet woodruff (for May wine!), basils, tarragon, dill, fennel, thymes… and then sunflowers, zinnias, nasturtiums, and bee balm.
Well, I think we’ll have to “grow into” our garden plans! Thanks for suggesting this!
Peace AND Prosperity.
Constance Clark says
Lets see, this is the first time I am really trying to grow anything (my seedlings don’t seem to be very happy at the moment) I am currently trying some of the food we eat all the time, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, bell pepper, parsely and carrots, Herbs: sage, thyme, mint, rosemary, oregono, basil, chamomile, chives, lavendar, lemon balm and viola’s (edible flowers!). I really would like to try for next year the 3 sisters – corn, grean beans, and squash in an oak barrell (hopfully we will have a job and be able to do that!). Of course I am doing a container garden so there are a few things I am not sure I can actually grow, but would like to such as potatoes. I wold also like to try leeks, green onions, onions, zucchini, rubarb and cumcubers.
I decided to make my list without looking at the others first; so here are my thoughts.
kidney and black beans; winter squashes, potatoes, chard and kale,green and wax beans, san marzano tomatoes (I am afraid the beefsteaks and salad greens would have to go I don’t have that large of a space.) Garlic and onions! Carrots and Thai hot pepers.
I have emphasized what keeps, is nutrient dense and grows well here in Colorado. It would get pretty boring but I hope the spices would help.
We grew a variety of cherry tomato indoors that was bred for southern light and did lettuces user grow lights this winter. I would continue with that if I could afford the energy.
Perta Sennott says
This is such a delightful website for recipes and for gardening ideas! (No, I am not the best for using those domesticity tips.)
Now, what would I grow if I had more room and time:
more garlic and onions and chives than I do now
beets and carrots
eggplant and peppers
even more tomatoes
even more beans
chard and kale
sugar snap peas and shell peas
currants and gooseberries
even more blueberries and raspberries than I do now
and maybe even more flowers!
diane brandes says
the things that i plant every year would stay the same…i try to NOT go to the market for anything in the summer..
tomaotes, lettuce, cukes, onions, yellow squash, orka, garlic,basil, parsley, green beans, pinto beans, chives,potato,collards…
wow this is so interesting , im making myself hungry…
i love this site…
Carrots, potatoes, beans, and beets. I never get tired of these, and I can preserve them quite easily.
Definitely get chickens!! They are so much fun. We’ve had chickens for 4 years now, anywhere from 2-28 depending on local critter aggression. When we moved we simply kept the chickens penned up (they have a 12×20 fenced run beside the hen house) for about a week, then let them into the yard for a few hours at a time starting in the evening (so they return to the coop for evening feed) to let them explore their surroundings. In a week’s time we could let them out all day. Ticks are a huge problem in our area, but I rarely see one anymore, which the dog greatly appreciates. We currently have 11 chickens, 2 of which are roosters (one thinks he’s human), and 12 chicks with another nest due to hatch in a couple days. The personalities are so distinct, and watching the interactions between the chickens, or with the goats or the mini horse can entertain one for hours. Last summer I had the flock trained to follow me to our Rose of Sharon that was overrun with june bugs and I would shake each branch, dropping the beetles to the ground where the chickens snapped them up. The chickens established their territory before I started gardening though, and I’m learning that the bluebells and irises I planted last year may be a lost cause. Daylilies, daffodils, and muscari are mostly undisturbed. They provide manure for my compost, and do most of the stirring for me. I just have to go scoop it back into a pile once a week or so. I don’t have a veggie garden yet, but love all the suggestions. My experience is limited to potted herbs, peppers, and tomatoes.
Wow, Kevin – what a thought provoking question. I life in S. Florida, so I can grow something year round, but it’s difficult in the summer to grow anything but beans and Malabar spinach. I love the Malabar spinach, so I suppose I would eat that a lot for fresh greens. I have an Avocado, mulberry, 3 papaya and starfruit trees. I also have 3 Muscadine grape vines, a Monstera Deliciosa and some passion fruit vines.
I’ll have to think about my vegetable garden list. Tomatoes for sure as I know I can grow them. This is my first year with a “real” garden here in Fort Lauderdale, so I’m not sure what I’m going to be successful with. I have 20 GrowBoxes that I used the last two years with mixed results. This year I have four 4×8′ beds and one 4’x4′ bed. I’m also putting in a 2’x16′ bed for beans along the fence.
You’ve got me thinking! 🙂
Once I figure out this growing thing, maybe I will be able to sustain myself from it!! The work that comes from all of it is truly overwhelming for me – and I wish I knew more so I could do it all. When I think back to that people long ago HAD to do this, it is amazing.
Bar 7R Ranch says
Good greif! We have already planted 42 varieties and it’s only March…That’s just our early season garden…IF I could not buy grocery store veggies for a year I would look to plant more items to can and freeze for winter, as that’s the only season we really buy from town. Probably more spinach, broccoli, greens and I would add a Meyer lemon tree.
In addition to my usual potatoes, beans, squashes, tomatoes, green peppers, raspberries, spinach, cucumbers, this year I got some ground cherry seeds to try out. It has warmed up so early that I have not even started any seeds indoors yet and I feel like I am way behind and its only mid March! I do not plan on doing so many tomatoes this year. I want more of a variety of things and less canning of tomatoes. I recently found a large bag of tomatoes in my freezer I had forgotten about.
what a great question — esp at the beginning of the gardening year.
Here in the high desert southwest a major issue is water — so everything
planted with that in mind. Drip systems and mulch are a must.
Also, in or close to the garden, would be a bee hive.
garlic, leeks (if possible), onions, chiles – several varieties
parsley, basil, tarragon, sage, mint, stevia, rosemary, thyme, dill
tomatoes,, tomatoes, tomatoes.
okra & eggplants — smaller varieties with hopes they’ll survive
(for the ratatouille garden)
zucchini & summer squash
beans & corn
Swiss chard, spinach
lots & lots of lettuce
I have two Meyer lemon trees
neighbor has apple trees
I’d love grapes but have not had much success
but will keep trying.
what is really interesting is reading what everyone writes!
we have a great farmer’s market here — where would that fit in?
Too bad I can’t plant a chicken or two…so instead I would plant:
Onions, broccoli, carrots, garlic, more garlic, and just a little more garlic, tomato, cucumber, boston lettuce, red leaf lettuce, eggplant, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, basil, oregano, cilantro, thyme, parsley, chive, red pepper, green pepper, blueberry bushes would be along the garden, I would like to be in a location where citrus trees would work as well.
Rebecca Peterson says
Wow, where to start!
Tomatoes (too much rain here this summer so have had hardly any ripen 🙁 )
Carrots (Bumper crop this summer)
Snow Peas (also successful with these)
Blueberries (have two bushes already but would need more)
Pumpkins (especially butternut & Queensland Blues)
oh, I could go on forever. Have two dwarf apples trees, dwarf peach & dwarf nectarine trees so if I knew before hand I would put in more fruit trees! Already have lime & lemon tree so that would be covered. Interesting topic as it really gets you thinking about ‘what it’!
Rebecca Peterson says
‘what if’ not what it!!! Sorry typo!
Janice Seigler says
Blue Lake Bush Beans
Purple Hull Peas
wow, great question!
Garlic – lots of garlic
Purple, and green kales
Cabbage – red and green
Sweet red peppers
Watermelons and Cantaloupes
a LOT of flowers
Purple and Yukon Potatoes
Tulsi…is it a bush or a tree?
In the tree dept: Lemon, Apricot, Nectarine, Tangerine, Orange, Fuji Apple …..and several varieties of AVOCADO: Haas, Fuerte, Pinkerton …..for avos most of the year.
…can I just move in with Martha and Terry and help?
Dona Mara says
dill, sage, thyme, tarragon, basil, oregano
and something new each year to keep it exciting.
I have a long list, but my favorite food is tomatoes. What else taste like candy when it’s dried, makes juice, good raw and cook in so many ways.
Well I live in Michigan so the gardening season is May thru November depending on the weather. Its March and we’ve been in the 70’s the last few weeks. If I could I would plant the following:
Red, Yellow, Orange and Purple Peppers
I’m allergic to tomatoes but I would plant some of those just to give to my friends.
Peas, carrots, potatoes-red and white
Lots of onions and garlic
brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, corn
a wide variety of hot peppers
oregano, thyme, chives, basil
asparagus, green beans, pinto-red-navy beans to dry
zucchini, pumpkins, cantaloupe, watermelon
apple and peach trees
blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries
lots of roma tomatoes, slicing tomatoes
spinach and leaf lettuce
Hi, Im new to this site and to gardening. I would like to convert my back yard into the picture above. Our yard is of course smaller than the picture but is full of dandelions and all other kinds of weeds. I would like to place raised box beds and I would like to get rid of the weeds but dont know what to use for ground cover for the paths. also I have a six foot privacy fence and our yard is somewhat of an incline. So I would like to keep whatever I use as ground cover away from the privacy fence. Please any ideas would be greatly appreciated.
linda rizzio de santis says
When I started my first veggie garden in Florida, that was my intent!!!! When I was at the check out counted some one made a comment and my response was,”I don’t want to buy veggies at the market”!!! I did not have full sun in that area and as you can imagine not much grew. I did learn that that is a great spot for my leafy greens and asparagus patch. In that area I have arugula, butternut lettuce and romaine lettuce. I have a “growing” herb section which is doing well. I am going to be adding fruits to other parts of the yard.This will enable me to afford other “green” living ideas. I have noticed that I have a lot less trash on trash day!!!
I grow pretty much what I eat and have most of my life! Many people should be enjoying gardens I’ve left behind (I hope). These are “musts” every year;
All organic and yummy!
Oohhh just found this! Great topic!
We have alpacas and chickens. Most alpaca people give their animals deworming shots monthly but being more of the green/organic mindset, I didn’t like that. If you they ever do have a worm problem, what will you fight it with? So…. we got chickens.
They do a great job eating anything and everything. Haven’t had a sick alpaca in years. They will, however, fly over the fence to tear up my garden. What? 2 acres not enough for you guys? So, we clip their wings once or twice a year. Doesn’t hurt them as long as you don’t clip them too short. It’s like clipping your fingernails.
I do have a question. My roses are usually overrun with caterpillars and they get the dusty, moldy stuff on them. Any organic suggestions? I’d rather dig them up than spray chemicals.
one other thing… vinegar works great on most weeds but not so well on deep rooted ones like dandelions. however, boiling water takes care of those.
I have never seen your site before, thank you for your question!
it is a very important subject that I do not think about it often enough.
I have a small patio but a solitary bee condo makes sense to have for some of the vegetables that need them, for several years I had a small vegetable garden and enjoyed the salads and tomato sauce, but two years ago the plants were full of flowers and nothing was produced, the bees were gone! Last year installed the solitary bee condo and let the weeds in a small area bloom for them.
This Spring I want to build a cold frame for salad greens year round, I do not have room to grow many things for a year subsistence.
I prepare jams, saurkraut and pickles and can vegetables, but I buy them at the Farmers Market, I recently bought a dehydrator and I will buy the vacuum bag sealer and freeze fruits and vegetables, unfortunatelly they will not be produced in my patio.
The big problem in this area are earwigs, chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels and ground hogs, I use wire mesh, ground dry hot chiles around the plants and soap spray for earwigs, bags with cat litter from my friend’s cats in several places are the best deterrent for squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and ground hogs.
I replant scallions and celery and they are very handy as last minute garnish.
I dry and keep the seeds for years with good results.
Thank you for making me think about this subject!
Dandelion salad is delicious and all weeds in this area are what the local bees need to survive, I leave a corner for the weeds to grow in peace and flower to have nectar and pollen for the bees and I hope that my vegetables will give me some food to eat.
I haven’t read all the comments, but would like to add wheat sprouts. Actually, most any sprouts are incredibly good for you, packed with vitamins, and even carbs and protein, and they just get it from air and water, and I don’t know how that can possibly be, but it IS! Amazing!
So, why wheat? Because you can get wheat in a great big 5-gallon bucket from a survival store, and use it for sprouts, for flour, boil it like rice and use it for casseroles or cereal, crack it and use it as a bulking ingredient in breads and crackers. It has lots and lots of uses, so why not add sprouting to it. I figure, the more uses you get from a single resource, the easier it is to plan your storage and open fewer cans at a time. Also, you can malt the wheat sprouts by baking them, when they are just budding, and they are sweet crunchy snacks, which can be ground into malt powder. YUM! Also, I personally just love the flavor of wheat sprouts, but alfalfa and red bean sprouts are also really tasty to me.
So, I’d definitely get a whole bunch of wheat, and while I may not have the room to grow wheat, per se, I definitely have room for a tower of sprouts. You can get these stacking trays, and have many tiers, in a square foot on your counter. And it only takes a few days to sprout them, and they are ready to eat, so you have a constant supply of fresh greens.
Add bean sprouts, radish, alfalfa, and various other seeds to your sprouting rotation, and you can have killer salads every day, with very little prep time, very little space, no soil, and very little sunlight required. Some sprouts should be set in the window to green a bit, the day they are served, but others don’t need to green. And all of them do their growing in the dark, so it is excellent for those gray days of winter, or the stormy days of spring, when you don’t have much sunshine. Great for apartment dwellers, or just people who want to use up thier land growing other crops.
OK, gonna read the comments, now.
I would choose 3 or 4 varieties of legumes, and whatever grain I can grow (it’s all so localized, I’m not sure which would work best), as combined they give you a complete protein. By the way, if you run dried beans and a grain through a grinder, you have complete protein in a very tasty flour. I like my protein pancakes, made with red beans and rice.
I’d grow potatoes, carrots and onions, because you can makes so darned much with them. I’d grow lettuce (2 or 3 varieties) and eat them a few leaves at a time, so they keep going.
Dandelions and sunflowers – they are pretty, cheerful, easy to grow, and you can eat them, too.
Strawberries, melons, and some fruit trees (again, whatever grows well locally. Currently I’m hoping for peaches and apricots).
Brocolli and cauliflower
Sweet potatoes and/or yams.
Herbs – parsley, sage, thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary.
Also, I’d have 2 geese and some rabbits. Do those count? Moreover, I’d want to incorporate aquaponics in at least part of the garden, so whatever freshwater fish is local, as well.
And in that case, I should add lemons to the mix.
And nuts. Local nuts.
Finally, if I had to have a subsitence garden, I would have the biggest greenhouse I could muster, even if it’s nothing more than plastic duct-taped to two-by-fours.
If you’re considering raising chickens, check out “The Walden Effect” online. They sell automatic chicken waterers, where the chicken pecks at the drip tube, sort of like a hamster waterer, so they don’t get poop in their watering troughs. Better for them, and easier for you.
Also great gardening stuff there!
Abe Yonder says
What would i grow if couldn’t go to the store for a year? That is an easy one as that is exactly what I did one year living with a backwoods family that had no way of going to a store, and they were also vegetarians, living entirely out of their garden.
If there is any one garden item more important for a years survival would be winter squash. hebbard is good, butternut is good but does not keep so well, the skin is too thin and you can’t stack them, but what i like best is the Chihuahua Landrace. Also you will want spaghetti squash, because it is so versatile.
The reason is that these big squash will keep all winter in a cool dry place, and you can eat them one by one, or put them up in canning jars if you wish, but that is only necessary if you need to harvest the seeds. One squash will give you about four hundred seeds, enough for all the squash a big family can eat all winter. We kept the wood-burning cook stove going all the time in the winter, and always the oven was baking a squash. We had baked squash every day and didn’t get tired of it. As vegetarians do not use butter, and no store to go to, a diet like this took some getting used to, but it didn’t take too long to develop a taste for it to the point where it eventually tasted better without anything on it, although I personally like a little salt.
Squash can be made so many ways. You can make anything from pumpkin pie to tasty casserole dishes, but the main thing is the survivability of the squash as food for the entire year without having to preserve anything. Most garden produce will not keep you fed year around.
Denise Every says
There is a book I love that you all might be interested in, it’s called “The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times” by Carol Deppe. She is a plant breeder/geneticist/botanist who has been developing plant varieties suited to her locale in Oregon (her web site: http://www.caroldeppe.com/Bio.html). She’s done a lot of work with chickpeas, corn and squash in particular (she’s developed a popping type of chickpea even). She also raises ducks.
She is gluten-intolerant, so the type of diet she has based on the crops she raises I think would be of great interest to people who can’t tolerate gluten. But beyond that, she gives wonderful advice for developing your own strains suited to your particular locale and tastes.
She has a lot of information about plant genetics and how to keep healthy, viable strains going from the seeds you save (how to keep a wide genetic diversity when you can only grow a few plants to save for seed). She has a solid, sound philosopy about sustainability and self-reliance.
This is one of my must-have books and I think anyone who is interested in substience and saving seeds for future propagation will love this book as much as I do. So even though it’s not technically in my garden, to me it’s indispensible for substience.
Melissa Clark says
While I’m not to the point of being self sufficient we’ve been slowly adding to our list every year. We started with our grocery list as our planting list. We now are working on apple, cherry, orange, lemon ( we’ve got 8 this year), tangerine, 2 limes, bunch of different berries, raspberries and blue berries. We plant broccoli, Brussel sprouts, celery, lettuces all kinds of herbs. Potatoes, rice, cranberries, tomatoes, peppers, peas, carrots, and different beans. We’re adding some new herbs and sugar beets, peanuts and parsnips this year. We even have a bunch of melons, squash and watermelons. We are also most to the point the during the season we can get everything we need from our garden. Our next goal is to fine tune our list and get to the point where we have enough to keep. Every little step helps though and it’s all in the right direction.
onions, garlic, ginger, Chinese chives
This is our 3rd year doing sustenance gardening. We plant
Sweet meat squash
Yellow summer squash to dehydrate for snacking
And family have apple trees
And I dry all the Vegis and fruits I can. I season the summer squash slices and other Vegis before drying for snacking instead of potato chip and eat the dry fruit instead of candy and bad sweets. Drying takes a lot less room to store than canned and frozen and if power goes out for long periods of time as it sometimes does here every winter, no problem. I cook on the wood stove then. I vacuume seal in qt. jars and vacuume seal bags as well as freeze and can.We also have a number of wild berries and I like to forage from the wild here too.
Linda Moseley says
My list would be so large I would need to buy a county! Potatoes, sweet potatoes carrots, onions, green onions, garlic, tomatoes green beans, october beans, green peas, crowder peas, broccoli, butternut squash, acorn squash, crookneck and straight squash, cucumbers, lettuce, strawberries, blueberries, cantalope, honeydew melon, watermelons, cabbage, corn, herbs9all kinds), field peas, asparagus, peanuts, pumpkins, gourds, cauliflower, purple hull peas, pinto and other dryable beans, blackberries, celery, soybeans, beets, butterbeans, lima beans, brussel sprouts, collards (currently have some almost 16 months old in garden still producing), turnips and greens, rutabagas, rhubarb, bell peppers, jalapens, datil peppers, leeks, zucchini, okra, stevia, banana peppers, eggplants, radish, cilantro, grapes-concord and muscadine, figs, pears, apple, peaches, cherries, plums (esp my apricot colored we have here), apricots, nectarines, pecans, walnuts, oranges, lemons, limes, we have chickens and I would need a cow for now.
Wendy Delmater Thies says
As a Zone 5 gardener transplanted to Zone 8a, I’ve been working on getting us more self-sufficient. Love this site and this topic.
We have 18 raised beds. The first year was experimental, and I planted things way too late – now that we start planting in January and February and cover the beds with 6″ of pine straw to protect them from growing weeds all winter, we have much better yields. Here is what we grow successfully:
Salads: Red and green leaf lettuce, Jericho cos (Romaine), Swiss chard, oak leaf lettuce, beet greens, snow peas including the leaves (in season) , nasturtiums (leaves and flowers – grown under tomatoes as a companion), cukes, radishes
Herbs & flavors: thyme, lavender, cilantro, parsley (the kind with an edible root), bee balm, rosemary, hard neck garlic, Egyptian (perennial) walking onions, bunching onions, chives, jalapeno peppers, and catnip for our “rabbit & bird deterrence squad”. We are looking forward to using grape leaves this year.
Fruit: peaches, two new apple trees (not fruiting yet), strawbs, blueberries, muscadine grapes, four new raspberry canes (not fruiting yet), a Brown’s Satsuma cold-hardy orange tree (sapling), mulberries, and brown turkey figs. Add to that the honey figs from our neighbors and Keifer pears from a friend…we can a lot.
Veggies & legumes: Kentucky Wonder and “greasy” green beans, beets, carrots, parsnips, bell peppers, and lots of tomatoes. Limas, black-eyed peas,, okra, yams, potatoes…not much luck with squash, cabbage or spinach, but we keep trying. We want to add a Jerusalem artichoke bed.
Oils & fats: four American hazelnut trees and an Alberquina olive – all too young for fruit but doing very well. Sunflower seeds and peanuts – so cool to grow them yourself. I use peanuts as a ground cover under the sunflowers in the front yard.
Should we have the time, we want to try oats as an overwinter cover crop. And we are interested in starting a “food forest” in the woods behind our house. I have pawpaw seeds and black walnut nuts for that, and will transplant native elderberry and blackberries into the clearing.
We’re also trying to do edible landscaping: the olive, blueberries and grapes are landscape plants n the front yard. The hazelnuts are a hedge. If I can figure out a way to get rid of our red tip hedges I want to plant tea bushes, which grow well here.
Several good lists but I would ADD Parsnips….This is a root veggie you dig up in the spring first thing for your first Fresh and sweet veggie from the garden….Dig em up and plant spinich or Swiss chard right away in the cool spring weather..Fresh Spring Parsnips, the only thing that says spring is here to a Northern gardener..
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Jeff Corbin says
We produced 40% of our annual food budget by growing our own organic produce 2005-2010 on a large plot in a community garden in Philadelphia. We also traded our produce at farmers markets for cheese and free range eggs and chicken….about $900 worth. In addition, we profited $4800 marketing our produce at farmers markets, while covering all our capital and operating expenses. In 2011 we moved to a rural location and are gardening a 1 acre plot with 16 chickens and a small fruit orchard. A subsistence garden must start with the stuff that makes food task good: Onions, Leeks, French Grey shallots, garlic, herbs and spices, chili peppers and fruit. Fruit is most important because without it you cannot make vinegar for pickling or make wine. Food without good homemade beer and wine is true poverty. You cannot live and be happy eating lettuce, greens and collards alone. You might feel squeaky clean but you will end up feeling deprived and depraved and run back to the supermarket for a bear claw or apple fritter. Great fruits for flavoring and making preserves and flavoring lambic and making wines and meads are elderberries, current, raspberry, blackberries, blueberries strawberries. Apples are great sauced, dried in rings, sweet and hard cider .and for vinegar. 6 apple trees are a huge blessing to a family of four. Next ,. you must grow wheat, oats and malting barley, 800 square feet is enough land to grow enough grain to brew 12-15 cases of beer. 3200 square feet is enough to brew all the beer and make all the bread, pasta and crackers, breakfast cereal any family of four would ever need. As far as sheer caloric volume Pumpkins, and potatoes are it for us. We eat tons of pumpkin., Musquee de Provenance and waltham butternut are terrific reliable producers. Kennebac and Yukon gols are also very productivity. We also grow French fingerlings which are delicious and extremely productive and our own variety of potato I developed in 20011 called Corbin’s Pink. Cukes are for pickles and we grow mountains of them. We have found green and purple Tomatillos are wonderful for everything from Salsa Verde , Gazpacho, to Pizza. My son hates tomatoes so we feed him tomatillo’s, which actually are more interesting than tomatoes…flavor wise. We grow Cherokee purple, Sidduth’s strain Brandy-wine, Mammoth German Gold, Italian Heirloom, and Principe Borgese (awesome…for cooking, canning and eating out of hand) and Amish past tomatoes. We grow 15 different chili peppers for drying, pickling and saucing…to keep things interesting. My favorite roasting chili peppers are Aji Crystal and Bulgarian Carrots. We grow mountains of melons, and carrots. We love Rutabegas and Rutabega greens the best…Gilfeather is awesome. We grow Cylindra beets and can 6 cases of quarts of pickled beets. Also we grow grapes for juice and wine. As for beer, I make lambic and fruit lambic because it is dirt cheap to make and tastes better than regular beer. Last but not least are the legumes. peas.. beans green and dried. Beans are fabulous with everything that is listed above. There is nothing better than a potato, tomatillo, Poblano chili peppers and bean frrittata with onions, a bit of chicken and our own free range eggs with a bit of fresh arugula…. or potato leek soup or pumpkins soup with homemade bread with homegrown wheat milled at home and corn bread from home milled and home grown bloody butcher corn. Flour corn is great. I am just now learning how to nixtamalize the corn to make masa for homemade tortillas. Our next step is bees to improve our berry pollination and for honey. Finally, buckwheat is a must in the garden to feed the myriad of little wasps and lace wings that eat all the bad bug larvae and it is a great Phosphorus fixer.. We harvest our own buckwheat for re-seeding….Hairy vetch for nitrogen fixer.
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I have three planting beds for veggies and wonder if I should plant certain things next to each other. I have noticed when I moved the sage next to my spindly rhubarb, the rhubarb flourished.
All of the beds get full sun. All along the back of the house I plant things that grow tall, to shade the house against the hot summer sun, peas in spring, then green beans, lettuce in front, herbs in front of lettuce. Do I need to plant something else there, to rotate crops?
Goodness where to begin!
When Kevin asked this question 8 years ago it was one of those speculative, philosophical questions one discusses while sitting by a warm fire with a full belly sipping Bourbon or Brandy.
Things have changed.
So let me introduce myself. My name is John. I am a ‘subsistence’ gardener who lives on five acres in the woods of the Southern Appalachians (western North Carolina) on the boundary of 6b and 7a growing zones with my wife of 12 years who was raised in this region by her grandparents who were subsistence farmers. We are retired-she is 68 and I am 74- so adjustments must be made for our physical capacity limits.
To ‘Subsist’ means to survive, to continue to exist; air, water, shelter and warmth, food are all necessary components. It’s not about what you enjoy, but merely staying alive. We’ll assume everyone reading this has all five, but the last one -food security-is the question. Especially now, during this pandemic, the error of being dependent on complex international food distribution networks became dramatically apparent. When I went to my local Walmart grocery and saw a 40 foot empty space where beans and rice should have been and and another 20 feet where there should have been pasta as well as empty fresh meat cases I knew we had a problem. So did you.
Subsistence farming is growing the macro nutrients..Fats, protein and carbohydrates to sustain yourself. The great majority of the world subsists on a grain and Legume diet….beans and rice, beans and corn, beans and wheat, etc. with s few fruits and vegetables and occasional meat. Growing up my wife was raised on beans and cornbread or biscuits with some vegetables from the Kitchen garden- either fresh or canned-and a chicken or some pork on Sunday with the occasional trout, catfish or wild game. They had some chickens (for eggs), a cow (for milk) and a Pig (for meat and fat).
Our subsistence garden is about 4,000 sq feet in two spaces-one is 100’x20′ and the other is about 50’x45′. ALL our food for one year would take about 5 times that space but we are stepping up gradually.
In the first plot I have about 1/3 flint corn for grits, etc. In the middle 1/3 I have 8 hills of squash and the last 1/3 is half Kennebec and half are Russet potatoes that were growing my my potato bin in the kitchen! Rule number 1 for a subsistence gardener-if it’s growing in your kitchen, throw it in the ground-might work! the other plot is pole beans, tomatoes, more squash and the start of a fall garden – cole crops and root crops
So if you are going to try to grow more of your own food what should you grow?
Answer this question…What did the native people in my region grow? The second and related question is what did the new Europeans grow? Well, I have descendants of both groups in my extended family and the answer is clear. Beans, Corn and Squash. The new immigrants added
Potatoes and over time root crops (carrots, beets, turnips and rutabagas) cabbage and greens, a few herbs as well as chickens and pigs. You can live on that diet, survive, ‘subsist’. Then the ‘niceties’ show up in the Kitchen garden…peas, lettuce, radishes, Shallots, exotic herbs and vegetables for variety. Daddy grew the main crops, momma ran the kitchen garden with herbs and flowers (bees make honey you know) and the kids helped everywhere.
It is estimated the Indians needed an acre to grow food for a family of four(beans, corn, squash)
supplemented by hunting and gathering. Their diet was VERY basic. We all want to grow a grocery store and it can’t happen.
So what to do? If you don’t have even an acre of ground (an acre is over 43,000 sq feet-210 feet on a side). Learn to can and freeze. My local farm stand provides bulk items in season. Gallons of strawberries in the spring, peppers, squash, pole beans and cukes in late summer and potatoes, apples and tomatoes in the fall-in bushels, totes and pecks at decent prices, as well as fifty pound bags of cabbage. If wal-mart is having a sale on something ask to buy a case. My local store does this all the time.
2-Borrow or rent some land if you live on a city or suburban lot. Carol Deppe wrote the definative book on subsistence gardening, “The Resilient Gardener, Food Production and Self-reliance in Uncertain Times”. She has her Doctorate in Botany from Harvard Un. and suffers from Celiac disease, as in Gluten doesn’t just make her grumpy-it can kill her. She grows all her own staples-corn, squash, potatoes, beans and no doubt other additions as well in her kitchen garden. And she has ducks (she lives in Oregon). She is in my wife’s age group and has a bad back. If she can do it so can I ….and so can you. She also lives on a city lot and has done just what I suggested…rent or borrow land.
3-“No man is an Island” a title by Thomas Merton. You cannot simply go off half cocked and survive purely on your own effort. It takes a neighborhood, a community of like minded people who can co-operate and assist each other. When there was no chicken at Wal-mart I immediately ordered 50 Cornish X meat chickens in two 25 bird shipments. I have the equipment to process them. I then asked a neighbor for a hand-he has a tractor and would he cultivate my 4,000 sq foot garden. He said, ” sure, be over tomorrow night”. He had a 16 inch plow so he turned both beds…took about 30 minutes. He said,’let’s give it a week to dry and I’ll come back and cultivate’. He came back a week later with the cultivator attachment – like a big 6′ wide rototiller-and another half hour it was done. “Don’t owe me a thing” as in I didn’t have to pay, but obviously I owe him…to return the favor in some way in the future if he has the need…which I would be honored to do. He has allow that if I had any blueberries (I have a 1/4 acre patch) his wife could make her wine. If I get any this season you can be sure that will happen and I made get a bottle or two to boot. That’s how it works in subsistence communities-trade and barter.
So I would like Kevin to re-issue the question one this thread-but more along the lines of, “what are you doing in your garden to deal with food shortages?”
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi John – Your comment inspired a new post on this site. Click here to see it.