Growing your own food for optimum health

There is no doubt that the current global conditions are causing us to head into a historical downturn in the economy which impact on our survival wherever we are. The resulting lack of the usual disposable income, or any income for that matter, means that we really need to look at alternative sources of survival. Also the climate is quite unstable and unpredictable now, which is leading to uncertainty regarding food production in even first world countries. It is at times like these when we pull out our alternative skills like self-sufficient farming and the art of growing your own.

Home grown food supplies are perhaps are throwback from the past before the days of supermarkets and just-in-time delivery. We are so used to simply popping down to the shops to purchase any desired item of food from any corner of the world. You could get fruit and vegetables at practically any time of the year, since global import and export was booming and cargo tankers were able to bring us the freshest produce, regardless of its exotic origin or seasonal growing period. But in the current times international trade has slowed and weather conditions have hampered crop production in several countries.

As a result, I recommend a return to the old skills of our grandparents, namely subsistence farming. Growing your own food is a labor of love, but it is also becoming a labor of necessity. Here on the south Cape coast of Africa, I have a friend who lives nearby on a piece of land where one can grow enough food to feed a family. With the correct techniques, based for example on Permaculture practices, as taught by Jeff Lawson and Bill Mollison, one can maintain a lovely garden without too much effort.

Tricks like digging swales and mulching can really help to keep the vegetable garden moist enough to flourish. A swale is a shallow trench that runs along the natural contour of the land. It needn’t be deep and it will help to catch rain water and allow it to sink in the earth right there, as opposed to running of somewhere else. The you simply use the earth that is dug out of the trench to create a small mound all along the side of the trench, and then plant on that mound. Not only do you have good soil dug up from the ground, but you have a little channel which will fill with and keep the rain water close at hand to feed the plants along its banks. The long trench can lead eventually to a pool of sorts which can collect any extra water. And you don’t need much space to grow a good supply of green vegetables and root crops to feed your family in this way.

Another handy trick is to add mulch. This is when you cover all the exposed topsoil or ground cover all around your plants, by using dried grass or any other dry organic plant matter. This mulching technique will keep the topsoil moist for longer and prevent the ground from drying out too quickly. These techniques are based on the principle of work smart not hard. By using all the available vegetation around, you can look after your food garden simply by redistributing the available energy that is already freely available. Most of the ingredients for a good garden are around us and we just need to reorganize them in a more sustainable way.

Some places may have better soil than others so you may need to actually improve your soil conditions by growing legumes first of all, as they are nitrogen-fixing plants. In other words they add nitrogen to your soil which is crucial for your vegetables. There are certain plants that may not even be edible but they act as a good first crop to feed the soil itself and enrich the patch. Then you can grow other items around your nitrogen-fixing plants. Every locality is unique and each of us will need to customize our practice to suit the place and circumstances. But wherever we are, a food garden is the new treasure source for us all today. Ideally we should be in a place that has garden space to begin with. Even if you are in an apartment or in a city, you can still create garden boxes that may be portable, as long as you feed and enrich your soil, you can still grow additional food to supplement your diet if the shops run low or cash runs low too.

Other ways to improve the quality of your soil include collecting all your organic matter, like peels and skins, and create a compost pile, where you add other dead leaves and ash too if you ave it, making a pile of compost that will become rich and nutritious food for your soil and thus for your plants. Worms are a great addition of course, to any compost pile, if you can get the right ones. They will help to turn your compost heap into rich plant food. Such is the way of nature as it recycles everything year by year. It can become a healthy ecosystem if you keep the cycle going nicely.

Those who simply have no space to speak of, and no garden area due to living in less spacious conditions, can still grow microgreens. This you can do in your kitchen on the table in a little tray. It involved sprouts and sprouting lentils or legumes, like mung beans, sunflower seeds, alfalfa seeds and many others. All of these only need some water every day, and they will germinate and grow a little stem with two leaves perhaps. Then after four days or so, depending on the particular seed, you will have a batch of green foodstuffs, rich in nutrition to be eaten just like that in a salad.

So whatever your condition, it is a great addition to your survival and good health by adding a garden with your own produce. This is the first step towards self-sufficiency. It involves only a little effort to begin with and some small amount of daily maintenance and you can have all the green vegetables and nutrition you require. Let nature do the work while you just tend it and help it along. Here in my area of South Africa there is a lot of space, being a big country, and one can live outside the city while cultivating a piece of your garden space for growing food. Do some online research of the points I mentioned if you like, and you will find lots of information to help you along your way to harvesting the fruits of your labors in the form of good food and fine health. The power is in your hands.

Photos are from my collection taken at my friend's garden, where we need to fence everything off from baboons and deer, since we're on the border of a forest.

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