Elegant and Practical Homestead Gardening

Our shift from an urban hobby farm to a more sustainable homestead gardening concept began with a search for a specific property that would work for our purpose. Off grid and lakeside was important as was at least an acre of plantable property. We took our time and waited until the perfect opportunity crossed our path. It took three years, but when it took shape, we were prepared and ready for the change.

Our new property had a good well drilled far below the frost line at 650 feet, full-sun front yard to accommodate the solar panels and septic system and plenty of free-range potential for the chickens. We had found our paradise and are now knee-deep in improvements, including the new homestead gardening plot.

Homestead Gardening

Homestead gardening for us means adding a significant portion of food to our kitchen through our own efforts. On the livestock-side, we've added meat chickens to our egg flock, and this Spring we will be inserting two bee hives into the mix. But the heart and soul of any pantry-enhancing project is the garden itself. Ours started with situating it in full sun and running a six-foot deer fence around it. Next came the four by four raised beds and square foot soil blend.

The first crop we put in actually went down before the first frost. Garlic is a staple crop for any well-designed food plot and our homestead gardening plan would be incomplete without it. Rather than planting seedlings our first year, we will be buying young plants at our local greenhouse to reduce our effort and to focus more on design and experimentation. Taking out the 'grow our own seeds' factor of the experience gives us a known variable for judging success.

Homestead Vegetable Garden

Our homestead vegetable garden consists of the usual suspects that are traditional preservation candidates. Tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas and fruits as well as immediate gratification staples like butternut and summer squash and zucchini. The more flexible a veggie is for recipe preparation, the more stock we put into growing it.

One of the larger changes we've made to our homestead vegetable garden was the increase in sweet fruits to our harvest. On the downward slope of the food plot we have a healthy blackberry and raspberry patch, groomed to be accessible for summer grazing. There are petite blueberry bushes scattered throughout the property and we're investigating planting a couple of fruiting trees to round out our flavor selection. Homestead gardening is a mindful experiment in balancing what we would like to have and what we can successfully grow in our planting zone.

Living Off the Grid Growing Food

Our approach to living off the grid growing food means a dedication to an organic garden ideology. We compost what we can, use no chemical fertilizers or pesticides and practice a philosophy that means if you can eat it off the plant without worrying about poisoning yourself, it works in our book. Our food goes straight from garden to table sometimes with a side venture to the canning shelves. We experiment with recipes and recognize the fullness of flavor that a well-planted garden can produce. 

From a practical standpoint, living off the grid growing food means the incorporation of rain barrels and a trickle hose hooked up to our well water spigot. Our planned hothouse/greenhouse will be independent from our home energy grid by having it's own solar array and perhaps a pot-belly wood stove for a snuggly, feel-good atmosphere. We produce not only our own food, but our own energy for growing it as well. Sunlight, well water and cord wood. What a way to live.

Gardening Tips for Spring

Winter may be a slight downtime for us in terms of growing food, but the chickens still eat and produce fertilizing manure, the seed catalogues begin to fill our mailbox and the canning shelves are slowly being depleted. Our gardening tips for Spring include warming up the planting beds with black landscape cloth to get a jump on the growing season, checking the integrity of the fencing against deer and other assorted grazers, segregation of the chickens from the beds and planning our planting calendar and layout so we're not scrambling when the young plants arrive. 

In all things, homestead gardening is a direct connection between the environment and our family's wellbeing.

We love to hear from you and would enjoy getting your perspective on homestead gardening. Please add to the conversation by commenting below.