Adam Weishaupt
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How do I start growing food in my backyard?

I'm new and have no idea what I'm getting into but would like to eat healthy and save money in the long run.I have dogs in my yard so I thought maybe my stuff could be on an elevated platform,and in a greenhouse to protect from bugs and weather.I want to feed 2 adults and 2 growing teenagers properly every single day,all very physically active.I don't care what it takes or how ugly it makes my yard look.I also thought maybe I could grow more than I normally could if I make a machine where there are a bunch of layers of pots and the machine moves them around so that at the end of the day all the plants have all the sunlight they need.

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Re: How do I start growing food in my backyard?

Where do you live or at least what climate? How much land do you have? How many hours are you willing to work in a week? Why can't you grow in the ground with dogs? Are they destructive? If so, it may be easier to train them or contain them than to grown in containers at the scale that you want to accomplish.

Also, what if I told you that you may not save any money, even in the long run, other than possibly on healthcare? It is hard for a gardener to beat store prices consistently.

Feeding four people a substantial portion of their daily ration from the garden is a lot of work and requires a lot of time and learning to accomplish. It is absolutely possible, but there is going to be a long investment period before the payoff.

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Super Green Thumb
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Re: How do I start growing food in my backyard?

Very admirable ambition! I really suggest you start small and simple while you are learning about growing things. You can expand and complicate later once you know the basics of keeping plants alive.

It is hard to say very much helpful without knowing where you are located and what kind of climate and also how much land/ yard you have. What to do is real different if you are in a year around growing climate with half an acre vs cold winter country with 200 sq ft.

I wouldn't start with a greenhouse until you know what you are doing and why you want it. IMHO in cold winter country, greenhouses really only are useful a few weeks in spring and fall. They are way too expensive to heat and light in winter and not needed in summer. In year round growing seasons, they aren't needed at all. There are lots of less expensive, more useful ways to protect your plants.

Your first step will be to work on building good rich fertile soil for your garden. Raised beds are very useful for doing that and for keeping the dogs out of the gardens. They really don't need to be on platforms, just with the sides built up to hold in your enriched soil and discourage the dogs.

Here's a picture of a couple of my raised beds. They are stacked 4x4" pine fence posts, which are cheap and WAY more durable and long lasting than boards. They are held together with steel rebar pounded down through the whole stack (drill a hole down through the stack first!)


Incidentally I don't think vegetable gardens will make your yard ugly. I think they can be quite beautiful. The ones in the picture are not looking their best, because that was late fall after the garden was done. Those were made tall, because they are sitting on concrete patio, not soil. You might want tall, to help remind the dogs to stay out. I also have a raised bed, not as tall sitting in the middle of my front lawn, because that is where the best sun is. In the growing season it is quite lush and ornamental.

So we can tell you more after you answer the basic questions. Welcome to the Forum and to the start of a wonderful new hobby/ way of life.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: Facebook page I manage for them: Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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Re: How do I start growing food in my backyard?

Sounds ambitious. First of all please update your profile to show your location and zone information
This link can help you out with that. Where you live will determine what you will be able to grow. ... QgodKjgA2Q

According to Square foot gardening a minimum of 16 squares or 1 block 4x4 (1ft blocks) is the minimum space for each person in the household. For four people you would need a minimum of 64 blocks or an 8 x 12 ft space = 2- 4x8 ft long beds with at least a two foot row between them to get around to plant, weed, harvest without stepping in the beds.

Mind you this is if you are using the square ft method and you plant intensively. If you have more space than that or you like really big plants, it would be better to have more space.

Make some decisions first.

1. How much time do you have to devote to gardening? Most people have to spend at least some time on it every day. More in the beginning when you are prepping the soil and while the plants are small you will need to keep the weeds at bay. Watering can be automated with a drip system and timer that you install after the beds are prepped but before you plant, otherwise plan on spending some time every day or two watering, weeding or on bug patrol.

2. Make a list of the things you like to eat. That is what you should plant. If they are big plants like tomatoes, zuccini, eggplant, I plant them in containers on the perimeter and not in the square foot garden. They take up too many squares. Some things take up a lot of space like corn and the yield is low for the amount of space they need so decide if they are worth planting like corn, squash and watermelon.

3. Draw a garden plan. Tall plants should go on the North. Also plan for trellises for beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes and the like. The site should get a minimum of 6 hours of sun a day.

4. Are you going to compost? If yes, then plan for a compost pile.

5. Where will you be potting and storing tools? Do you have a potting shed and a place to keep seedlings if you plant in succession?

6. How far away is the water source?

7. Dogs can be kept out of the garden with fencing and training. Hoops and nets or row covers can get you some protection from pests and frost. Other pests are quite crafty and you may need other deterrents.

8. After you decide what plants you want to grow, you will have to separate the warm and cool season crops. Perishable short crops like lettuce can be planted in succession every couple of weeks so you will need to propagate and maintain seedlings. It is best not to plant the whole package but just enough seeds for the amount of lettuce you can eat in a couple of weeks.

8. Try some cut and come again crops like Swiss chard, kale, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. You can get multiple harvests from these plants and they last a long time. Kale, Chard, beets, arugula are things you need to acquire a taste for so find some great recipes.

9. Consider growing things you use a lot of, are relatively expensive to buy, taste better fresh, and are easy to grow. HINT: Celery, Iceberg lettuce, and head cabbage are not the easiest things to grow. Herbs are relatively expensive, taste better fresh, don't take up much space and are easy to grow. Onions, carrots, and potatoes have a long growing season, unless you have a large space, you probably cannot grow enough to meet all your needs and they are relatively cheap and store well.

10. Don't bother to grow things you don't like even if they are easy to grow. For me that would be radishes.

11. Now if you can come up with an automated weed puller, snail, slug, and bug catcher I might be interested.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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Super Green Thumb
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Re: How do I start growing food in my backyard?

I can't imagine that you can grow any significant fraction of the veggies for one person in a 4x4' square and I garden in raised beds very intensively. Do you want potatoes, squash, tomatoes? They all take up room

Here's some estimates of space per person that seem more realistic to me, especially if you are in a cold winter area, where in 6 mos of the year, you have to grow enough food for 12 mos.

Once you have about 500 square feet – 20 feet by 25 feet – (50 square metres) per person you have enough space to grow about 90% of vegetables for one person all year round except maincrop potatoes and winter brassicas which take quite a lot of space. Double that and you’ve room for the maincrop potatoes and winter brassicas. ... chievable/

In Elliot Coleman's book The New Organic Grower, the author claims that he can grow enough food for 100 people on 2.5 acres, equivalent to 0.025 acres / person, 1100 ft2 or 100 m2. Elsewhere, he claims to feed his household of two adults with a 40'x40' plot of land plus a 20'x40' greenhouse (1200 ft2).

Meyers, N. 1999 The Next Green Revolution: Its Environmental Underpinnings. Current Science 76: 507-513
The minimum amount of arable land required to sustainably support one person is 0.07 of a hectare. This assumes a largely vegetarian diet, no farmland degradation or water shortages, virtually no post- harvest waste, and farmers who know precisely when and how to plant, fertilize, irrigate, etc.

[.07 hectare = .17 acre = 7400 sq feet say a 70 x 100' garden. And this is for one person]

I think the 7400 sq feet is for someone who is vegetarian and is going to grow everything they eat all year, including fruits, grains, etc. I think you would be quite happy with what you could grow in 500 sq feet per person. I have about 200 sq feet of veggie gardens (+ herbs, flowers, woodland shade garden, asparagus patch, strawberry and raspberry patches, etc). I garden that intensively as much of the year as I can here. I estimate maybe 1/4 of the veggies the two of us eat comes from it and the other 3/4 from our CSA. If what you want is to eat fresh, locally grown, organic veggies, I really recommend you look in to CSA.

But the point is to get started! Understand that your goal of feeding your family mainly from your garden is a few years off, but you can start making a difference right away.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: Facebook page I manage for them: Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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Greener Thumb
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Re: How do I start growing food in my backyard?

I second everything that has been said so far. I highly recommend starting small. If I had the garden I have now (which mind you is still very small) I would have been very over whelmed.

Along with your vegetable garden I also recommend an herb garden, it can be within your veggie garden or separate. Herbs can generally do better with more shade than veggies so if you have limited full sun it might be smarter to use all that space for veggies and then have a separate herb garden.

Another thing to consider is fruit trees. If you have enough space you could plant a couple dormant this winter/spring. I recommend planting them about 6 feet apart and keeping them small. I will post a link to the thread where we discussed this. If you plant them this year you would not get any fruit this year but next year you might. IMHO they are fairly easy and definitely something to consider. ... 20&t=55614

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