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Self-sufficient garden: the best tips

03.11.2022  /  Reading time: 11 minutes

Rising food prices, skepticism about labels and little time in nature are just a few reasons why more and more people are interested in self-sufficiency. Here you can find out how to plan your self-sufficient garden and a cultivation plan, what you should bear in mind and what gardening work you will have to do over the course of the year. You can also find answers to your questions about storing and preserving vegetables here.

This article contains:

  1. Grow your own vegetables: The path to a self-sufficient garden
  2. Planning garden work and creating beds
  3. Your own self-sufficient garden: motivation and goal
  4. Self-sufficiency all year round: space and time requirements for beds
  5. Self-sufficiency in the garden throughout the year
  6. Pickling and storing vegetables
  7. Cultivation plan for a self-sufficient garden
  8. More ideas for your growing plan as a self-sufficient farmer
  9. Frequently asked questions about the self-catering garden

Quick Overview

Planning a self-sufficient garden: how to do it

  • Planning a self-sufficient garden must take into account the location of the beds, storage and your own goals
  • Simple plants to start with include lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and pumpkin
  • You need about 250-300 square meters/ 299 to 358,8 square yards for four people to provide vegetables all year round, this value varies depending on the crops grown
  • Storing and preserving the harvest for the winter is particularly important for self-sufficient farmers

Grow your own vegetables: The path to a self-sufficient garden

Even though more and more people are dreaming of their own self-sufficient garden, there are different forms and levels of self-sufficiency. For some, the term "self-sufficient" means someone who lives completely self-sufficiently and supplies themselves with food, water and electricity. For others, it means "only" growing food such as animal products, grains, fruit, vegetables and herbs. However, you should not underestimate how much time, space and knowledge such an undertaking requires.

Here are some instructions on how to provide yourself with vegetables all year round. This requires much less space, time and natural resources than growing animal feed. Nevertheless, you shouldn't underestimate vegetable growing. If you already feel completely exhausted, you should think about whether you have enough time and energy for this project. Then you can still garden and try things out, e.g. vary varieties from year to year or venture into new crops - there is plenty of variety and challenge when interacting with nature anyway.

Person digging in the plant
Gardening and landscaping can be designed individually. Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

Planning garden work and creating beds

Self-sufficiency is not a project that can be decided on and implemented in a day or even a year. It makes much more sense to limit yourself to a few varieties or a smaller area at first, depending on your experience in vegetable growing. This will give you a better idea of how much you can manage in terms of time. Over time, you can always grow more and expand your garden. However, it's a shame if you overdo it, don't achieve the desired results and can't harvest and process the entire crop.

Your own self-sufficient garden: motivation and goal

The first step is to realize what the motivation and goal of your own self-sufficient garden is. In the best case scenario, you will have fresh, aromatic and healthy vegetables all year round and save yourself a trip to the supermarket. So what is your goal? Perhaps you want to try unusual varieties that are otherwise expensive or difficult to obtain. Or you might want to cover a large part of your calorie requirements from your own garden and focus on a few varieties. Another option is to be able to eat vegetables from your own garden all year round. Good planning is particularly important for year-round self-sufficiency: in addition to the bed area, you should also consider the capacity for stored and canned vegetables. The final selection of varieties should be based on what you like to eat and should also be suitable for your location (soil, light exposure, climate).

MAngold in a raised bed
Plants in raised beds are also possible for the self-sufficient garden. Photo by Jonathan Hanna on Unsplash

Self-sufficiency all year round: space and time requirements for beds

The area required and the time needed can vary greatly depending on the crop. Roughly speaking, you can expect 250 to 300 square meters/ 299 to 358,8 square yards for a four-person household. With this amount of space, it is possible to grow crops all year round. However, Saturday is not the only day for gardening. The time required depends on how your garden is laid out, which crops you grow and, above all, the area. However, it is not possible to give a blanket answer. It's best to record how many kilograms of vegetables you buy and use over the course of a year. This way, you can be clearer in advance about how much space, vegetables and time you need. You should also bear in mind that in our latitudes, for example, fresh peppers and tomatoes are no longer available in winter and you have to rely on more canned vegetables instead. This requires sufficient supplies and storage facilities. As with all vegetable cultivation, planning for the following year makes the most sense in fall or winter.

These are simple cultures to start with:

  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Zucchinis
  • Bush and runner beans
  • radishes
  • Strawberries
  • Lettuce
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Carrots
  • Swiss chard
Salad is picked
Fresh lettuce harvested from the ground and from your own vegetable garden tastes particularly delicious. Photo by PHÚC LONG on Unsplash

If you want to expand your beds for self-sufficiency, you should make short paths a priority: between the house, tool shed, compost and other beds. Fixed paths are also an advantage. The basis is of course the location, soil, weather and light conditions. You can find out exactly how to create a vegetable patch in this article.


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Self-sufficiency in the garden throughout the year

Even if it's not just April that goes crazy in some years, you can still use the seasons as a guide for most gardening work. Experience and a look at frost, temperature and precipitation are also good indicators.

  • In spring, from March onwards, you can propagate some vegetable crops. Pre-planting requires fewer seeds and gives the plants a small head start. Seedlings are also an option, as is direct sowing for some crops. You can find out more about preplanting or direct sowing in our article on the subject. Here you will also find an overview of which crops are suitable for propagation and which you should prefer to propagate in our latitudes. Seed-resistant varieties in organic quality are best suited, so you can produce your own seeds for the next season. For some crops, it is worth sowing in sets to ensure a consistent supply from your own garden over a long period of time. These include lettuce, rocket, radishes and spring onions.  
  • In summer, the water supply in the garden becomes the main issue, especially in view of the climate crisis. Collecting rainwater is the best alternative to groundwater or tap water. You can find tips on water-saving watering in this article. In the summer months, the light intensity, duration and temperatures are at their highest, allowing the fruit to ripen. Within a species, there are different varieties with different sowing and harvesting times. Here you can vary between early and late varieties in order to harvest for as long as possible. Some vegetable varieties, such as bush beans, are not harvested in one go, but a few pods at a time over a period of weeks.
Tomato varieties on a windowsill
Tomato plants are the most popular vegetable among all gardeners. Photo by Rasa Kasparaviciene on Unsplash
  • Autumn is the main harvest time in the garden. You can find an overview of the harvest times for fruit and vegetables in the themed article. Now it's time not to lose your head and your overview. For self-sufficient gardeners, harvesting a lot also means storing and preserving a lot. There should be enough space and time for this, which sometimes gets lost in the planning. If you harvest more than you can eat and process, why not treat your neighbours and friends to the harvest from your garden? It's also worth thinking now about sowing seeds for the plants in winter.
  • Winter should not be overlooked here. Even now, there are still some plants in the bed: Brussels sprouts, kale, leeks, lamb's lettuce and spinach. If you have a greenhouse or foil tunnel in your garden, you have an even greater choice. You should be particularly careful at higher altitudes, as harvesting is difficult under a thick blanket of snow. Otherwise, in the cold and dark months, the focus is on preserves and storage and, of course, on planning for the next gardening year.

Pickling and storing vegetables

Different types of vegetables ripen in different months and differ in terms of water content and consistency. On the one hand, there are harvest peaks when you harvest more from the garden than can be eaten and processed at the moment. On the other hand, there are also months when there is hardly anything going on in the garden. For these reasons, storing and preserving vegetables and other plants plays a particularly important role for all self-sufficient gardeners.

Preserving vegetables

  • Suitable foods for freezing include zucchinis (finely chopped and salted), herbs (in portions in ice cubes) and various types of fruit and berries.
  • Fruit such as apples, berries and elderflowers are particularly suitable for jellies, jams and syrups .
  • Chutneys , on the other hand, are a great way to combine fruit and vegetables. Spices are the be-all and end-all.
  • You canair-dry herbs from your garden in bundles, e.g. for teas, as well as vegetables such as tomatoes in a dehydrator or oven.
  • Pickling and preserving are the best-known traditional ways to enjoy vegetables even in cold months. Hygiene is particularly important here. Vinegar or salt is usually used here and the liquid is poured hot into jars with the vegetables. Chillies and herbs can add a special touch to the oil.
  • You can find more tips on preserving fruit and vegetables with instructions in our article.
Potatoes stored
Potatoes are an important staple food and keep well until the next harvest. Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

Storing vegetables

  • You can store potatoes and onions particularly well. The rule of thumb here is to store them in a cool, dark, dry and well-ventilated place. Carrots are different, as they need a certain amount of moisture to stay crunchy. Outside the house, root vegetables can also be stored in piles of soil in the ground. You can find out more about storing vegetables correctly and tips on earth mounds and the like in our article.

Cultivation plan for a self-sufficient garden

This cultivation plan for a self-sufficient garden covers an area of 58 square meters.

This cultivation plan is an example of how you can plant about 58 square meters/ 69,3 square yards of bed area for self-sufficiency. Of course, this also depends on which crops you particularly like to eat and what your local conditions are like. The plants are not all in the bed all year round. To make the best use of the area and avoid erosion, you can either plant new crops in the area after the harvest or sow green manure . After the potato harvest, you can also use the space in the beds in your garden for lamb's lettuce, Chinese cabbage, fennel or spinach, for example.

More ideas for your growing plan as a self-sufficient farmer

Here you can find more inspiration for your self-sufficient garden with further planting plans.


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Author

Emilie

Emilie is studying agricultural sciences at the University of Hohenheim. She finds it fascinating how closely nutrition and health are connected and exciting which wild plants you can eat.

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Current topics in the community

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Karen Kristina 1 hours ago
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A question for everyone: how do onions get on with potatoes? Do they affect each other's taste? Does one inhibit the growth of the other? Do they perhaps even support each other? Does anyone have any knowledge/experience?

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Karen Kristina 1 hours ago
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A question for everyone: how do onions get on with potatoes? Do they affect each other's taste? Does one inhibit the growth of the other? Do they perhaps even support each other? Does anyone have any knowledge/experience?

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Bexafus 2 hours ago
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Liked 3 times

Super happy with my unconventional allotment. Not your typical way of doing things but as someone with joint problems its helped me alot to continue enjoying a passion of mine! ❤️🌻

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FAQ

Consider the location of the beds, storage options and your personal goals. Easy plants to start with are lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and pumpkin.

For a family of four, around 250-300 square meters/ 299 to 358,8 square yards are needed to have vegetables available all year round.

Simple crops to start with include potatoes, onions, zucchinis, bush and runner beans, radishes, strawberries, lettuce, garlic, tomatoes, pumpkins and carrots.

Start preplanting in the spring, use the summer for intensive care and harvesting, and the main storage is in the fall. Over the winter, the stored vegetables should be managed and the next season planned.

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