Organic Gardening for Self Sufficiency - William Dire Wolff

Farming for self sufficiency is becoming a lost art. But it is always possible for people to get back to living off the land. The model of farm required to support a small commune of around twenty people, has several different components. The main components are a small kitchen garden, a small greenhouse, 1 acre of field crops such as beans, corn, carrots, etc, 1 acre wheat, a small fruit tree orchard, and cultivated or wild berries. Each farm is different and there is no exact formula for growing all of your own food, but this is a workable model given the right climate, soil, and available resources. This model is for vegetarian diet, but having some form of animals helps to provide fertilizer for the soil. It's best to start small and expand the amount planted, as you find which plants work best. Learning to grow your own food and establishing self sufficient food production is a rewarding and liberating experience.

When trying to maintain a Vegetarian diet, while farming for self sufficiency, there are two large challenges. The first challenge is eating enough protein to remain healthy. Without raising livestock, there is the additional challenge of providing adequate nitrogen compost for the soil. Integrating animals into the farm community can provide milk, eggs, and meat for food, manure for compost, and in some cases horsepower to perform work. Chickens and pigs can be used to fertilize and cultivate soil. While there are are merits to a vegetarian diet, it requires more knowledge of human and plant nutritional requirements.

I first read about complete proteins in a book called Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe. The book explains that a complete protein, is a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids, that humans need. If you do not eat meat and other high protein foods, you can combine foods to create a meal with complete protein. The most obvious combinations to eat are beans eaten with rice or corn. Of course, most farms in America don't grow rice. Beans eaten alone are not a complete protein, therefore meals are planned to contain nuts and grains, eaten with beans. Many cultures eat tortillas made of flour or corn, which are eaten with beans to form a complete protein. Tofu and soy products are complete proteins that contain all 9 amino acids.

Variety is a key to a successful self sufficient farm. People get tired of eating the same foods, all year long. A healthy diet consists of well balanced meals. Having a large variety of food plants, helps to protect the plants from disease and bugs. Different bugs and animals like to eat different plants. Having a variety of plants reduces the risk of diseases, wild animals, or bugs killing everything. Some plants grow well by being grown alongside certain other plants. Some plants grow poorly, when planted beside other particular plants. Planning and planting a garden based on the plants that grow well or don't grow well together is referred to as "companion planting". In some cases insects are repelled by certain plants. and these plants can be planted alongside the plants the bugs are attracted to, as bug repellents. In some cultures, "beans, corn, and pumpkins" are grown together to improve the soil quality. The pole beans grow up the corn stalks as natural poles. Part of planning a garden, is knowing which plants grow well together and which plants don't like each other.

Soil must be fertilized. Vegetable farming rapidly depletes the nutrients from fertile soil. To have a sub stainable farm, systems must exist to fertilize, enrich, and protect the soil. Vegetable and plant waste is used to create compost. Some plants create nitrogen, in the soil they grow in. Clover, rye grass, and beans can be grown to add nitrogen to the earth, by plowing them back into the soil. Crops that are grown to produce nitrogen are sometimes referred to as "green manure". Horse and Cow manure are rich in nitrogen, and are often used as fertilizer. If not fully composted, manure will have too much acid and need to have lime added to balance the Soil ph. Concentrated liquid fertilizes can be made by soaking manure in water, and this is called manure tea or slurry. Chickens and hogs are sometimes used to fertilize the soil, by rotating their pens around the garden. I found the book, The Nature and Properties of Soils by Nyle C. Brady to be very helpful in learning about soil fertilization needs.

The most efficient way to grow a wide variety of garden vegetables is a french intensive raised bed. Making raised beds requires materials and more initial digging, than more traditional use of row crops. Some plants like soy beans, corn, and pintos beans, lend themselves to being raised as row crops, due to the larger quality of plants being grown. A combination of raised beds and a field of row crops allows the farm to take advantage of both approaches.

In order to be a self sustaining farm, plants must be grown from "standard" seeds. Standard seeds can be harvested each season, as part of the crops that are grown. "Hybrid Seeds" and their evil cousins, "Genetically Modified Seeds" cannot be used to propagate a new garden, the following year. Since Hybrid and Genetically Modified seeds have been breed and tampered with, they produce mutant offspring's. Therefore "Standard Seeds" must be used. Each year, the best of the garden crops should be set aside as seed stock for the following year.

In addition to growing vegetables, a self sustaining farm should have permanent trees and bushes. Although permaculture refers to creating an ecologically balanced farm, it is also the permanent fixtures. An orchard of fruit trees is usually a major component of a self sufficient community. In addition, nut trees should be integrated into the landscape. Planting of trees is often done to both grow food and create windbreaks. Many berry bushes are dense, with sharp stickers that be used to create natural fences as hedges. Planting a variety of fruit, berries, and nuts will help to ensure more food, often with much less work than the vegetable garden.

In many parts of the world, plants need irrigation for water. Planning the source of water and getting it to the garden, cannot be overlooked. Watering can done with hoses, irrigation systems, or dipping water from buckets. Planning for irrigation is largely a money versus time required to complete. Carrying buckets and hand watering each plant is a time consuming process, even standing each day with a garden hose takes considerable time. On the other end of watering, we have fully automated, timer activated irrigation systems. Many different watering solutions are other employed, on the same farm.

Just as important as growing the plants, is storing and preserving the food. Garden produce can be preserved by canning, drying, or freezing the food. Some food, such as potatoes and carrots, can be stored in a cool dry underground root cellar. The harvest and storing of the produce requires time and effort, just as growing the food does, Using glass canning jars, fruit and vegetables can be preserved for winter. Fruit is easier and safer to can, than vegetables. Some canning requires the use of a pressure cooker. The pressure cooker must be used with caution, as improper use can cause a dangerous explosion. Manufactures of canning jars usually provide booklets with the canning instructions, according to particular fruits or vegetables Many older farm cookbooks, also have instructions for canning and preserving food. Grains such as wheat and corn, and various types of beans are preserved by drying the harvest. Wheat and corn can ground in a small mill to make flour. Dried soy beans can ground into flour, and then made into tofu. Canning and preserving food requires a lot of time and effort, but it is as important as actually growing the food.

Kitchen Garden
French Intensive Bio-Dynamic Garden Bed
Field Crops - The Main Vegetable Garden

Hay for livestock and mulch

Vegetables for the Garden:

Corn Soy Beans Green Beans Pinto Beans
Lettuce Eggplant Green Onions Radishes
Garlic Onions Potatoes Tomatoes
Green Peppers Hot Peppers Cabbage Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts Cauliflower Chard Turnips
Beets Cucumber Squash Acorn Squash
Spaghetti Squash Zucchini Pumpkin Peas
Carrots Melons Basil Water Melons
Asparagus Mustard Grapes Strawberry

Herbs and Edible Flowers:

Mint Basil Oregano Lavender
Rosemary Basil
Borage Calendulas


Tarragon Amaranth Dill Horseradish
Violas Sunflowers Marjoram Thyme


Common Fruit Trees:

Common Berries:
Rose hips


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