Grow More Food – Part 3
Welcome back! It’s time for part 3 in my 3-part series of how to grow your own food, how to grow organic food and feed your family on your own mini backyard farm.
Let’s recap the 8 steps to growing biointensively:
- Deep soil preparation,
- Feed the soil with compost,
- Use organic fertilizer (only when needed) “on the approved list of the California Certified Organic Farmers [CCOF]” ,
- Close spacing of plants in the growing area,
- Companion planting,
- Use open-pollinated seeds,
- Include high-carbon and and high-calorie plants and,
- Think of it as whole-system farming (closed systems).
So let’s discuss parts 6, 7, and 8.
6. Use open-pollinated seeds
What is “open-pollination”? It’s basically when a plant is pollinated via insect, bird, or wind, and sometimes humans. The pollination usually creates a “true to type” offspring, meaning the offspring will be very similar to the parent plant. There are instances where this isn’t true, like if similar, but not exact, plants pollinate each other (why I won’t plant both dill and fennel).
I consider the opposite of open-pollination to be a hybridized offspring. The problem with a hybrid plant is that the seeds won’t create the same offspring as the parent, and a person could wind up with a tomato plant that only makes leaves and no fruit, or something like that. Hybrid plants are vigorous and strong but the offspring produced from their seeds will not be.
If you’re looking to save money growing your own food, open-pollinated seeds are what you need. Seeds can be a each just cents on the dollar when you buy them, and free if you’re saving seeds from your best plants. And when you save seeds from your best plants, those genetics give you stronger and better producing plants.
Open-pollinated seeds lasting many generations are known as heirloom varieties.
7. Include high-carbon and and high-calorie plants
Why high carbon plants? Plants that have a large amount of carbon in them, when broken down during composting, gives us back those carbon molecules that then go into our soil. The carbon molecules were in the air, as the plant grew, it snatched them from the air. Now that the molecules are in the soil, they’re more stable. Organic matter in the soil feeds the microbes, which then adds nutrition and taste to our food. We are looking for balance here. We want a soil that is alive with microbes and organic matter. We don’t want a dead soil. And we need the carbon to help make more compost.
What are high-carbon crops. Grains. Yes, wheat, oats, rye. Or corn. But I also say there’s other high carbon plants. Plants like zucchini with their big leaves, sunflowers with huge stems (I wouldn’t put the flower heads in there, too many seeds to worry about), brassicas (kale, cabbage, broccoli, etc), or a perennial legume like alfalfa (which is also nitrogen fixing)
Why do we want high-calorie crops? Well, because our bodies can’t survive on fruit and greens alone. Part of saving money is getting nutrition we need from our own back yards and that means food our body needs to move and get up in the morning.
What is high-calorie crops? Root vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts. Beans, seeds, and nuts also have the benefit of adding some protein and/or fat. Try these crops for your calorie-rich foods:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Winter Squash
- Peanuts (a legume)
- (I’d also like to add Walnuts but keep in mind that these are a bitch to peel and shell)
- Sunflower Seeds
- Avocado (if you’re in the right climate. Zone 8 or above)
(Don’t ask me what to do with the last two, I’ve never planted them or eaten them. But they’re psuedo grains and I’m told fairly easy to work with as they don’t need to be hulled. One of our local “Food Not Lawns” gurus plants amaranth in her front yard garden.)
8. Think of it as whole-system farming (closed systems).
I’ll be straight up here, the term “Whole systems farming” had a pain in the ass definition that I can’t quite break down. So I can’t explain the definition but I CAN explain the examples.
Basically you look at all the components in your system as a whole (“system” meaning your mini farm, homestead, garden, house, property as a whole) (“components” can be water, the food beds, the animal area, the compost bin, etc). For example, you can look at what waste you have and how can you have less waste and keep the things on your property.
These are just some examples of ways you can incorporate closed-system thinking and whole-system thinking into your food production. But there are many ideas out there and you can get as complex as you want (I don’t live with you, I’m not the boss of you).
- Harvest rainwater (see infographic, below) (check your laws first)
- Use berms and swales on contour (more on this will be in another post
- Build a greywater system (check your laws first)
Click to Enlarge Image
- Build a lean-to greenhouse against your home. Plants produce heat and can grow in the winter months. The heat generated can warm a portion of your home, reducing your use of the grid resources.
- Compost your scraps, or
- Use vermicomposting and get the added benefit of worm castings, plus worm tea.
- Use the compost to build your soil
- Food grows and gets composted again.
- Let rabbits and/or chickens eat kitchen scraps (do your research on what they can eat)
- Let chickens live under rabbit cages, chickens eat flies
- Chickens also eat black soldier fly larvae that might grow in your vermicomposting bins. BSF larvae eat meat and baked goods and compost those items down.
- Use compost from BSF larvae, rabbit manure and chicken manure.
- Eggs from chickens
- Potential meat from rabbits and chickens (depends on you).
(here’s another infographic)
Source: Fix.com Blog