Home gardening is a rewarding endeavor- it is a connection with nature, a useful skill, and gets you involved in physical activity. But be warned- once you have grown your own tomatoes, melons, or peppers- you will realize that those pretty veggies at the grocery store are more suited for the bowl on the coffee table than the bowl on the kitchen table.
I’ve never crunched the numbers- just the veggies- but I suspect you don’t save much money- if any- by growing your own. But that is not why I do it. The produce is SO much better, it is fun and rewarding, and, these days especially, you know you aren’t getting pesticide- laced GMO poison fruit. That tastes like plastic.
One day, I was speculating about the size of my property in comparison to my neighbors. Though not drastically, it seemed to me that my little plot was smaller. So, I found a plat map and discovered that not only was it smaller than the neighbors- I, in fact, have the smallest lot in my whole town. I take great pride in this for some reason, because to the best of my knowledge, nobody else in town has the crop yield that comes from the Bonderosa- the smallest urban garden in my area.
That is the first thing to know about the home garden- you don’t need 200 acres, 40 acres, or a large backyard. In fact, you don’t need any land at all. Many, many plants can be grown in containers. Some even do better in containers. Peppers, tomatoes, berries, citrus- just to name a few- can be grown on a deck, porch, or windowsill. We don’t live off of our small plot at the Bonderosa- but when the SHTF- it could certainly provide enough to keep us nutrified and sustained if we needed it too with some effort and commitment.
The next thing you need to know- is what will grow where you are. The Bonderosa’s location in Southeast Texas is Zone 9- Zone 1 being the coolest, Zone 10 the warmest. We have the advantage of very few frosts and freezes, so we basically have a year round growing season. We have a spring garden, a summer garden, a fall garden, and a winter garden. This is, of course, rare in the gardening world, but with a backyard/patio garden you will be surprised how much growing season you can manipulate with coverings, mulches, and lights- which isn’t possible with large acreage gardens. But, despite all the preparations and enrichments one might employ, some things simply do not grow in certain environments.
No matter what or how we try, we simply cannot grow certain things here. Whether it be due to humidity, elevation, soil composition, or other environmental conditions- you will not succeed in trying to grow cherries, almonds, walnuts, raspberries, mangoes, cranberries, lilac, or spruce- just to name a few. There are also extreme limitations and intensive preparations required to grow select hybridized varieties of things such as apples, peaches, plums, pineapples, grapes, blueberries, potatoes, and avocados. Conversely, some things such as pecans, blackberries, and citrus grow wild here and require minimal effort. Other things will GROW just fine, but will never produce fruit.You have to know what will and won’t grow in your area.
At the Bonderosa, we have some plants that I call “money crops”. Not that I try to actually sell them and make money, but they are plants that are perfectly suited for the environment, and produce large amounts of fruit with minimal effort. Some of the things that grow perfectly here and produce an unbelievable amount of food- “bang for the buck”- are blackberries, okra, tomatoes, green beans, and peppers. For example, I have just six okra plants in my garden right now and they make so much that we cannot eat them all. Nor can I even hardly have the time to be diligent enough to pick them all while they are producing without some becoming too large and tough. We have gallon freezer bags of blackberries and peppers almost year round.
Commercial farmers in our area grow rice, cotton, and pecans. Some also grow corn and sorghum, but not as much. Many commercial crops, such as corn and rice can be grown in the home garden, but aren’t practical because it takes large amounts of acreage or plants to get a productive crop. These are all factors to consider when choosing which plants to grow in your garden.
At the Bonderosa, in general, we grow the following:
Spring- squash, green beans, pinto beans, red potatoes, tomatoes, blackberries, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, onions, cantaloupes, sunflowers, and eggplant.
Summer- black-eyed peas, purple hulled peas, okra, sweet potatoes, and peppers. It is just too hot to really grow much of anything else that can tolerate the heat.
Fall- tomatoes, red potatoes, beans, carrots, cucumbers, and sometimes squash. As you can see, there are similarities in the spring and fall crops due to the temperatures and hours of sunlight, but some do better in the spring- like red potatoes and tomatoes- because the sunlight and temperature are increasing, while some like the decreasing conditions in fall- like carrots.
Unlike most zones, we can grow quite a few things in winter, and in many ways it is our favorite garden varieties. Our winter crops include broccoli, celery, cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, and sweet peas.
Another thing you will learn, is what plants to gather seed from, and which ones are a waste of time. Some plants will not grow from seeds you gather- new ones must be bought each time like broccoli and carrots- while others, like beans, squash, and melons will do quite well from collected seeds. I have a variety of heirloom tomatoes that have become “hybridized” to the Bonderosa. They have become better with each succeeding generation of plants grown from our seeds.
I encourage everyone to try out the home garden. It is fun, rewarding, and delicious. It is a connection with nature and with an ancient skill. You will gain an appreciation for what our ancestors and forefathers went through- and realize how fortunate we are today that we don’t have to worry about droughts and freezes and pestilences threatening our very survival. And, it is assuring somehow, that if you really HAD to provide for yourself, you would have some skills that would benefit you greatly.
If you have any questions, never hesitate to contact me- I am always willing to share what I know.
Get growing! and start a real green revolution in your world.