Homestead Planning – Will you want a garden?
Gardening seems like a given on a homestead, but it isn’t. Not everyone likes to garden, or knows how to garden. None of us were born with everything we need to know about growing food. Don’t let that stop you!
If you’re starting from scratch I suggest you call your county’s Cooperative Extension and ask to speak to a Master Gardener. The local garden club and neighbors are also helpful. In the meantime, here are some things to think about when you’re considering a garden.
First things first. Be sure you are allowed to have a garden. As silly as that sounds, some home owners associations and subdivisions don’t allow vegetable gardening. Or, they might limit the garden to the back yard behind a fence. It’s considerate to ask a neighbor about their preferences to how close you garden to the shared property line. It’s possible that your town has a zoning law regarding how close you are allowed to be to the property line and sidewalk.
Is there room for a garden? You might be surprised at how little space it takes to grow a respectful amount of food. One tomato plant in a five gallon bucket may produce upwards of 20 pounds of tomatoes. That’s about $60 worth of tomatoes in exchange for a few dollars in the plant and soil. You can reuse the bucket from year to year. From container gardens to lining the sidewalk with vegetables to a full acre out back, you have options.
Are there large trees or buildings casting shade on the spot you’d have to use for a garden? The trees can probably be felled but moving a building probably won’t happen. You can use some shade to your advantage but there’s only so much you can do.
Is the garden spot convenient? We like to think we’ll be so excited about the garden that we’ll be there with bells on no matter where it is but let’s be honest – that’s not usually true. When it’s inconvenient we probably won’t make the time to walk the extra distance (let’s say a few hundred yards) to pull weeds for ten minutes. I don’t want to walk a few hundred yards for a cucumber.
How about water? Is it available? And convenient? You can run a hose just about anywhere if you have an outside faucet. The hose has to be moved out of the way to mow the lawn. It’s really not a big deal until it’s 90 degrees and you’ve had a long day.
Will you need to fence in the garden to keep out the pests? Deer and other large animals can do a lot of damage in a few minutes. Groundhogs and rabbits dig under fencing, deer jump over, squirrels squeeze through. If you’re going to need fencing I suggest having it ready to go sooner than later. You don’t want to lose your hard work to marauding bunnies over night.
Don’t be discouraged. Plan for the problem so it doesn’t become a problem! The taste of a warm, juicy, really ripe tomato from your garden makes it all worth it.