When I think about growing my own food in my own garden from my own backyard, my first thought is:
That is a stupid amount of work.
I love to be active, and I love working…in general. But gardening is really a ton of work, and it takes a long time to get results, and I know that deep down I am an inherently lazy person. I need good reasons to start things, and some personal responsibility to kick me in the butt and finish them. If I don’t start my projects with a good, solid purpose I just won’t have the follow-through to complete it.
My purpose of having a garden has to be because I sincerely love watching it grow. I love watching things grow and seeing the fruit develop. It is a deeply satisfying and moving part of life, to grow things. This is the part of farming that people speak the most fondly of: the satisfaction of hard work and seeing your completed product in the end.
However, I am not a flower person. Flowers are pretty, sure, but they do nothing for me (in the garden…I love getting flowers from Ben!). I need my gardens to be more than just for looks. I would rather grow things that we can use. Things that have a harvest. I also want to grow food that generally costs more at the store.
I also make sure I have a good balance of annuals and perennials in order to always have something growing in the garden along with the luxury of planting new things in the spring. A little to stay all year round, and a little to work on each year. This keeps my workload on a manageable level.
So here are some gardening tips I use on my little homestead!
I remember buying grapes with Ben one time and paying something like $10 for a bag of grapes. He remarked, “$10 FOR GRAPES, ARE YOU KIDDING?!” Ya, tell me about it! So I just never bought grapes…they just cost too much for what you get and I could never justify that in our budget.
So I was thinking: what if you just bought a grapevine? How much would that cost, and how many grapes do you get from one vine?
Let me tell you, I paid $12 per vine and got grapes the second year I planted the vines. There have been baskets and baskets and baskets of grapes every season! This was probably the best investment I have made in my garden, hands down, so it gets top spot!
Grapes are perennials, so they will lose their leaves every winter and grow again every spring. It is important to prune the vines after your harvest because one branch will yield one bunch of grapes…and that’s all. So cut the branch off after you get the grapes, and next season you get a new branch with new grapes.
I would HIGHLY suggest ordering your grapevines from Stark Bros. (link!) They have always given me amazing plants, and I will always order from them.
2. Fruit Trees
Fruit trees are the greatest investment because they will give you so much bang for your buck…once they start giving you some bang. Although trees take a few years to grow and start giving you fruit, they are a long-term investment in your garden that is completely worth it.
The trees I have going so far are: peach, apple, cherry and apricot.
The reasons for these selections are twofold: on one hand, the fruit from these trees are expensive in the store. Apples, alone, cost about $1.50 an apple. They aren’t much cheaper at the Farmer’s Market. Sometimes you can get them for $1 a piece, but that is still hefty, in my mind…because my house will eat apples all day long if we could. I could spend $100 in apples every month without blinking.
You could spend $30 for an apple tree (again, from Stark Bros.) and get bushels of apples every season.
Now, the second reason why I chose these trees is this: the apricots are ready in May/June. Peaches in July. Cherries in August and Apples in October. In between there I have grapes harvesting. I have timed the trees to be in harvest one at a time to make sure that we always have fruit available (besides the winter)! I love the order of this.
Herbs are so easy to grow, I always have herbs on hand. Here are my basil and bay leaf plants.
I also love having fresh mint, oregeno, rosemary and thyme on hand. These just need a pot and some sun and water, and you are good to go!
I use my herbs in salads, chicken dishes, stir frys, and pickles. Herbs can be used for rubs, iced teas, crockpots, baking, or just fresh! They are totally worth having in your garden.
Would you rather pay $5 for a little box of blueberries, or grow your own?
These are my two blueberry bushes: the one on the right is my blueberry bush. The one on the left is my pink blueberry bush! I am so excited about these it’s not even funny.
I have had a blackberry bush before, but they are an invasive plant and they are covered with thorns. Even the leaves have thorns. So I would highly suggest thornless berry bushes, if you are going to get them.
Vegetables are absolutely a must in gardens. They’re just super easy to grow…if you remember to water them (just sayin.).
Tomatoes are fantastic to grow and I devoted an entire raised garden to them this year. It also is in my bloodlines to grow tomatoes, so I would probably grow tomatoes even if I hated them. Every woman I have ever been related to has grown tomatoes, so I kind of have to. Fortunately, I LOVE TOMATOES. Eat them cooked, eat them fresh, eat them with cheese…tomatoes never go to waste in this house. I also planted a couple peppers in this bed to get some zesty tomatoes…
Squash, zucchini and cucumbers are also super easy to grow. Anyone who has grown zucchini knows that it’s almost impossible to have a small crop of zucchini. These are good to grow because, just in case you don’t have a great crop with other plants you are guaranteed to have a great crop with these!
As a gardener, you do have to buffer for your ego. Just in case. You never know.
Chickens are so super easy to raise, I would encourage everyone who can to get a few.
We have 7 and we get the chicks in February when they are available at the feed store.
They eat chicken feed, table scraps and bugs…and your very lucious, delicious garden: so put a fence around things you care about. The hens are generally very quiet and we love having them. They are very sweet creatures and are fantastic with kids. I would suggest getting them as chicks because then they are used to you and are familiar with being picked up/held, and that makes life a lot easier for everyone. We start getting eggs after about 6 months and with Rhode Island Reds we get one egg a day. I think chickens are absolutely essential for a good starting homestead!
So there you go! Go nourish your home with your own food!