One of the many important things to do when you’re going off-grid is to learn to grow your own food. I decided to tackle that this year, on top of the chickens we’re already raising, and will be working with a few different ideas here at the house.
First of all, we needed to have a raised garden bed, and it needed to be high enough to not bend over at all. In our household, we have someone that is ridiculously tall, and has health issues that make it nearly impossible to bend over to do any kind of gardening. Secondly, I wanted to follow the concept of square foot gardening, which I’ve been reading about in a great book by Mel Bartholomew. I’ve posted a link below to it if you’d like to check it out.
My idea was to use pallets and build the raised bed with those. First, I connected them all together in this 1 pallet by 3 pallet rectangle. Yes, I know I should have found ones that match better, but these work. Once I had the walls put together, I stapled old chicken feed bags to the inside. This will hold the soil and compost material in. I’m aware that they’ll break down over several years, but that’s okay for now.
With that work done, at a cost of absolutely nothing (free pallets, and we had the feed bags already from feeding our chickens), it is now time for me to fill the box. It was suggested to me that I build a tray on top and fill that with soil to grow in, but I decided to fill the box from bottom to top with compostable material. We have lots of it, after all.
I started with a pile of tree branches I had that was going to be headed to the dump. Instead, it’ll be a slowly decaying base that will take several years to fully compost. On top of that, I have my dead leaves. We had a yard full of them, and they filled the box nicely to the halfway mark.
I have a lot of yard cleanup to do as well, so I’ve been taking all the weeds and vines I’ve been pulling out, and throwing those in as well. They’ll compost well and give the soil a lot of nutrients. By burying them deeply, I’ll ensure the weeds don’t pop through into my growing area.
This is where I am so far with this build. From here, I’ll be topping up the bio-mass, and then adding soil that we’re going to pull from our land north of town. It’ll cost a bit of gas and the time it takes to shovel into the back of the truck. Within a few weeks, we should be able to start growing our first vegetables.
As I mentioned above, I plan on using the square foot gardening method. While the book recommends using a 4 foot by 4 foot growing area, I decided to use a 2 foot by 12 foot area instead. This gives me 8 extra square feet of growing space, but also allows for easy reach with this raised bed. If we were using beds that were lower, I’d probably use the suggested area sizes.
The growing area will be divided up into one foot square sections, in which we’ll grow different vegetables in each. As we harvest each plant, we’ll replant something else in that square immediately. This will allow us to have a continuous supply of veggies throughout the rest of the growing season.
When I started thinking about setting up a garden, I originally planned on a much larger area, to grow lots of vegetables for the family, and I figured I’d learn canning and preservation methods. The more I thought about it, though, the more overwhelming it seems to be. So, I decided to follow through with the strongest recommendation I’ve been given: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. So, I’m starting small. One raised bed is a good start. If and when I feel comfortable expanding, I’ll make a second raised bed. If I need a third, I have room in the yard for it. But this small garden will be good practice and it’ll give me the chance to make sure I am not over-extending myself.
In the meantime, I’ll keep you all updated on my progress.
This is the book I have been reading. Check it out and let me know what you think.