Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.Thomas Jefferson
The small yeoman farmer has been an important part of American and Southern culture since the very beginning. Being able to grow your own food and be self-sufficient is almost essential if one is to maintain liberty and republican government. In fact, Jefferson and his followers were well known for this idea. Furthermore, agrarianism/self-reliance has a long history in this country, and there’s no reason you can’t take steps to grow more of your own food. Whether one is in the city, suburbs or country, there are many ways one can grow their own food.
To start a garden one must first assess their current situation. Obviously, 50 acres in the country would be ideal, but most people these days aren’t fortunate enough to be in that situation. I think most people who are of modest income should aim to acquire 1-3 acres with a small house when they have enough money. While more acreage is better, one can produce much of their own food with only 1-3 acres. In the meantime, one must work with what they have.
If you live in the city or in an apartment with little or no yard, there are a few things you can do to produce more of your own food. The key to growing food in the city is to optimize what little space one has. Highly productive and vining plants are some of your best choices. If all one has is a balcony for a backyard, trellised green beans are a good example of a space saving plant. Tomatoes are also a good choice for city dwellers, since they continue to produce fruit throughout the season. Companion planting is also a great strategy for apartment dwellers. This is simply planting plants with plants that help each other, instead of competing with each other. A classic example is the Indian method of planting corn, beans and squash together in one hill. Another example would be okra and black-eyed-peas. The point is to utilize space and have the plants working with each other. In addition to gardening in the city, one can even raise some of their own meat! Obviously, one is not going to raise hogs or cattle in the city, but someone can easily raise rabbits. Rabbits are quiet, simple, cheap and highly productive (and they also provide valuable fertilizer).
Now that you’ve figured out what you’re able to do with what you have, you must decide where to get started. It’s best to plan out your garden well in advance before spring. There are many things to plan in the off-season. These include: soil testing/fertilization, raised beds or in ground, types of seeds/crops, the weather in your area and the time one has to commit to the garden.
To start off, it’s a good idea to get your soil tested to find out if it’s lacking any nutrients. Most likely you’ll have to spend a couple years amending your soil in order to really get a good yield. This is especially true in much of the Deep South where sandy soils are prevalent. The three main nutrients one has to worry about are nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Nitrogen is found in animal manures (especially, high in chicken manure), bone meal, feathers, composts and dried blood. Nitrogen can also be obtained as well by planting cover crops such as clover (we will talk about cover crops later in this article). Phosphorous comes from multiple sources including ash and phosphate rock, as well as, bone meal. The third nutrient, potassium is also found in manure, ash and cottonseed-meal. These are the three main nutrients, for a more detailed look at other important nutrients check out this. When amending the soil one should also look at the Ph, and try to maintain a near neutral Ph (7). I live in an area with alkaline black clay, so I have to bring the Ph down, and if you have acidic soil you may have to raise your Ph.
As was briefly mentioned, another way to improve soil fertility is cover cropping. There are many different types of cover crops, but the most common are: clover, cereal rye, oats, vetch, winter peas and buckwheat. The cover crop you choose will depend on your climate, as well as, your gardening objectives, many people prefer a diverse cover crop containing a variety of seeds. The main purpose of cover cropping is to gather nutrients, protect the soil and to incorporate organic matter. Cover crops are usually planted after the main crop has been harvested and provide a superior alternative to leaving the ground fallow during the winter. Cover crops can be plowed under before they go to seed, they can also be killed and used for mulch, composted, or you can let chickens roam the garden area and eat the cover crops.
Finally, one of the oldest ways to maintain soil fertility is crop rotation. Crop rotation is the practice of planting different families each year in a particular spot. Crop rotation does a number of different things – including the prevention of diseases/fungi and the depletion of nutrients. A simple rotation plan is to plant nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes) in year one, legumes (beans, peas) in year two, brassicas (cabbage, turnips, greens) in year three and root vegetables the fourth year. If you have the space, one can also let part of the garden go to pasture the 5th year and graze it the next four rotation years. After the section has rested for four years as pasture, it can then be converted back to a garden plot. This is a great way to incorporate manure and organic matter back into the soil.
Once you’ve assessed your soil’s fertility, it’s now time to decide your gardening method. There seems to be three main methods: traditional in-ground gardens, no-till heavy mulch and raised beds. All three methods have their pros and cons, and it largely depends on your situation and tastes. In my opinion, I think raised beds are over-hyped and seem to be the “trendy” thing to do. Although, I will say that they can be advantageous for certain soil/crops/climates. I would recommend raised beds if you live in a wet area and have soil with bad drainage. For people with sandy well drained soil and or hot summers, I would go with an in-ground garden. The two main advantages of in-ground gardens are the low startup cost and being better at retaining moisture.
Heavy mulch or lasagna gardening is another method. This is method that can be done in-ground or in raised beds, although it tends to be in-ground most of the time. Most heavy mulch gardeners use wood chips, hay, sawdust, or crop residue as a mulch. The idea is to use the mulch to suppress weeds, retain moisture and to protect the soil from erosion. To start a heavy mulch garden, cardboard or paper is usually placed on the ground, followed by compost and mulch on top. The main disadvantage to this method is the time it will take to kill all the weeds. After a few years it will be mostly weed free, but the first few years will involve a lot of hand picking of weeds. In contrast, it just takes a little cultivating with a hoe to kill weeds in a traditional garden. So, as you can see, there are pros and cons to each method. I love the feel and smell of freshly tilled soil, so I normally use that method while also using hay mulch at times.
Finally, you’re going to have to decide what type of seeds you’re going to use, as well as, what plants are most suitable to your climate. Most seeds sold to homesteaders/gardeners aren’t going to be GMO, so that leaves you with the choice of heirloom or hybrid seeds. Unlike GMO seeds, hybrids are a natural cross between two plants of similar kind. Hybrid seeds can provide you with superior traits including drought resistance and flavor. The main downside to hybrid seeds is that they don’t reproduce true to their kind (so, you will have to buy new seeds each year). With heirloom seeds they reproduce true to their kind, so one is able to save the seeds. Next, you will have to pick the variety of plant seeds that grow best in your area. Some seeds are particularly bred for certain climates. And, there’s also the fact that some vegetables just don’t grow that well in certain areas. Russet potatoes for example don’t do the best in the Deep South, since they prefer cooler weather more akin to Seattle. Likewise, the Southern staples (okra, black-eyed-peas, sweet potatoes, watermelon and eggplant) won’t do as well in North Dakota due to the cooler weather.
I hope this brief article will inspire you to start your own garden, become more self-sufficient and reconnect with your forefathers (of the not-so-distant past). Whether you are in the city or the country, there’s no reason not to try. Furthermore, simple things like growing a garden are great ways to reassert our traditions and to distance ourselves from the globalist establishment. Moreover, the truth is that agrarian societies remain the freest of societies.
Oh, I'm a good old Rebel, now that's just what I am; For this "Fair Land of Freedom" I do not give a damn! I'm glad I fit against it, I only wish we'd won, And I don't want no pardon for anything I done.