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Three sisters gardening and ideas about growing all your own food.  RSS feed

 
William Schlegel
pollinator
Posts: 165
Location: Montana
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I have my copy of "Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden" out lately and have been thinking a lot about three sisters gardening lately. Also have thought a lot about how to grow all your own food. Some of the most practical advice I have ever found I found last winter on the latter subject in an article written by Joseph Lofthouse. What and how many seeds to plant. I printed this one out. Also I am pretty sure I have seeds enough in my seed stash now for this scheme- I may be short on one or two. I have quite a lot of squash, corn, beans, peas, and fava seeds on hand right now.

https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/survival-seed-banks-part-two-zbcz1312

So I reckon I can do this and it would be fun to try. Next year? Not sure I actually may need to cut back next year. One things for sure I'm doubling the space between the rows in my garden next year. Gotta fit the rototiller between them in case things get ahead of me! Lots of plants did remarkably well with minimal weeding though!
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 3132
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
253
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Awesome goal, growing all of your own food is possible but it takes a lot more space than most people think.
For Wolf and I this comes out as 2 acres of gardens and orchards to be able to meet most of our nutritional needs, but we still need space for the filling out such as meat and milk.
The best advice I can give for this goal is to write down what you eat and how much of each item you eat per day, then multiply that by 365 to come up with how much is actually required to fill your needs for a full year.
The numbers might astonish you or they may just confirm your thinking already.

The three sisters is just one part of First peoples gardening strategies, there are others that go along with that one.
When you think about the three sisters, you see the relationship of those particular plants, this knowledge can be extrapolated to other plantings of multiples.

Kola Lofthouse has great knowledge and in gardening, knowledge is medicine and power is application of the knowledge.
He is willing to share his knowledge as are all of us here.

Redhawk
 
William Schlegel
pollinator
Posts: 165
Location: Montana
37
forest garden trees
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Bryant it sounds like you are a pro at this! 2 acres is a pretty good size garden. I just calculated my current garden at about 2,500 square yards.

There are 4,840 square yards to an acre. So my current garden is about 1/2 acre.

The reason I am using square yards is there is a diagram in the back of "Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden" in which dimensions are given for 7 gardens. Those gardens ranged from about 792 square yards to about 6,510 square yards with an average of about 2,981 square yards. Which would make my garden a little less than average if I devoted the entire thing to serious food production (instead of endless tinkering).



A modern estimate in an widely circulated infographic suggested that about 2 acres could feed a family of four. That will of course vary widely with productivity of the land and intensity of gardening.

I have a family of three two adults and a ten month old baby. I have about 3.25 acres of easily accessible arable land on my 8 acre parcel and about 0.5 acres of arable land on the other side of my hill. The hill grows a mix of wild plants.

 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 3132
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
253
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hau William

I like the sq. Yd. measurements, especially since you can differentiate actual growing space from overall space (walkways and the like).
I recently measured the orchard area, it covers about 3500 sq. yds. currently and within that area there will end up some garden beds between trees.
Most of our fruit trees are full size trees and when grown they will shade a lot of ground, but at that point that ground will be perfect for growing herbs that need some shade in our Southern climate.

The way we are building our homestead is to add some garden space every year, working up to the size where we don't need to use grocery stores for anything except what we can't grow.
Soil building is always one of our key items and I have found that defining a new space and using it for straw bale gardening the first year, really gives the soil a jump start since the straw ends up as composted in place.

We have around 50 sq. yards for tomatoes which mostly become sauce or are canned whole, some go to friends that have requested them.
We are still setting up squash beds and beet beds (we go through a lot of beets and squash) we also need one or two more bean bed to be able to grow the varieties we like (currently we have two).

I try to build our beds long but thin so all plants are easy to get to as we get older, this also seems to keep snakes from making their home where we can't see them.
Paths are set up as permanent spaces for us, since that means less maintenance over time. Most of our beds are raised by the way, makes it easier for our old bodies.

Redhawk
 
Skandi Rogers
Posts: 71
Location: Denmark 57N
3
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I love the idea of growing all ones own food, but I'm afraid in practice I would get so so bored, there's so much stuff that my climate will not allow me to grow outside a greenhouse or in some cases (peppers) without suplimental heat inside a greenhouse, That I just wouldn't do it. I do however know that I could grow enough vegetables and potatos for us two on way under half an acre, simply by scaling up what we already grow on a much smaller amount of land. That doesn't include and animal products however so it would not be a complete diet. I'm afriad my measurements are in meters and kg but the last three years we've averaged around 4kg per sqr meter without any sucession planting and with a lot of weed pressure (oops) I would think that can be pushed up to 5-6kg per meter with better usage, and I'm going to find out this year as we're upping the space from 250sqr meters up to 600! We should however be selling around 10 boxes a week from that, it would be way to much for two people to eat.
 
Travis Johnson
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For my family of 6, (2) adults and (4) kids 4-12, we have found the actual growing of the food is not the hard part, it is the preservation of the food that has proven difficult on a larger scale.

Canning works well, but it takes a lot of time, and that is difficult in the middle of summer when running hither and thither with the kids, running a farm, and even wanting to do it when canning produces so much heat on already hot days. Even then the canning supplies can be expensive when getting up to so much volume. Then...and this may seem trivial at first...but having storage room for so many canning jars of food is becoming increasingly problematic.

We do not have a root cellar yet, but have put off building one because our efforts at cold storage is not really working. We use our mud room which is always cold and has no windows, but bushels of apples will be fine for awhile...then...we find a half bushel of apples rotted. Same with a bushel of peaches. We want to invest in a root cellar, but are kind of afraid to because what is the sense to spend time and money building one if we still are going to experience loss of food? We have had a lot of luck preserving potatoes, and here we can grow them well, but sadly we can buy potatoes cheaper than we can produce them ourselves. We still grow them, but it would be nice to grow our own food AND save money.

Freezing food food works well for us; it does take away some of the taste however, and freezer space is always an issue, but is quick and dependable, so we use this method a lot to preserve food.

The point of all this is, not to say one method is better than another, or not to look at each method and find work-arounds, but to show that while a lot of people get really excited in all the ways of growing food (and that is okay, that is the exciting part), the part of growing food that often gets missed is how the food will be preserved once it is grown, slaughtered or gathered. There is nothing so frustrating as having to dump out two bushels of peaches into the compost pile because they rotted while in cold storage.

It is a two step process; how to grow your own food, but also how to preserve it. For us the latter part has proven to be more frustrating then the former.



 
Abbey Battle
Posts: 89
Location: Wealden AONB
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Yes - preservation of food is very problematic. I've just invested in a new chest freezer and an apple store (very small tool shed). But what to do with seasonal gluts? I'm not great on cooking / presering. I tend to eat raw. Eggs i can't use at the pace my chooks lay at. I give most of my eggs away. Apples and pears get given away as well.

My soil is horribly infertile, not really good for growing anything which is why it was so cheap and has historically been used for grazing and as a quarry. (Also iron ore extraction). The top soil is only a couple of inches deep before you hit sandstone. Saving grace is that there is a lot of water.

My orchard, (which is only 2 years old and yet to start producing fruit), is about an acre in size. I've planted other edibles around the edge, (again, too young to have started producing crops). I'm planning on planting more edibles this winter. Also extending my nut orchard.

I think if I want to become totally self sufficient, I will have to radically change my diet. I have had almost zero sucess with growing veggies. Even having built up the soil. I think to put any kind of fertility in the soil will take years. The trees I planted were planted in large holes with plenty of compost / organic matter. This should sustain them. I'll have to keep mulching with compost to improve the soil. At least I have plenty of leaf litter to go at.

I'm interested in your idea for a root cellar Travis. My worry is that where I am, the water table is very high. (or I am very low, almost sea level). Maybe I could build the cellar (at the top of the land), then dig a deeper drainage hole to take the water away to one of the ponds lower down.

Meanwhile, I'm still learning how to grow food. The raddishes did very well this year, problem, I really don't like raddishes. I thought I could persuade myself to, it just didn't work that way.
 
David Livingston
master steward
Posts: 3782
Location: Anjou ,France
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For me trying to do anything 100% is going to be a headache as growing my own tea chocolate and bannas is never going to happen . So my plan is simply each year to try to do more and more gradually increasing how much we have of each crop and the number of different crops , building soil and fertility . Same with preserving stuff , we are building up the amount we " can " pickle chutney , compote ,dry and stock plus move to perennials .

David
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
Posts: 1416
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Travis Johnson wrote:

It is a two step process; how to grow your own food, but also how to preserve it. For us the latter part has proven to be more frustrating then the former.


Same here.  I can easily grow 1000lbs of squash, but then what?  And that is just one food.  Growing is by far the easier part for me.  And much more enjoyable.
 
Skandi Rogers
Posts: 71
Location: Denmark 57N
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Abbey Battle wrote:
My soil is horribly infertile, not really good for growing anything which is why it was so cheap and has historically been used for grazing and as a quarry. (Also iron ore extraction). The top soil is only a couple of inches deep before you hit sandstone. Saving grace is that there is a lot of water.

My orchard, (which is only 2 years old and yet to start producing fruit), is about an acre in size. I've planted other edibles around the edge, (again, too young to have started producing crops). I'm planning on planting more edibles this winter. Also extending my nut orchard.

I think if I want to become totally self sufficient, I will have to radically change my diet. I have had almost zero sucess with growing veggies. Even having built up the soil. I think to put any kind of fertility in the soil will take years. The trees I planted were planted in large holes with plenty of compost / organic matter. This should sustain them. I'll have to keep mulching with compost to improve the soil. At least I have plenty of leaf litter to go at.

I'm interested in your idea for a root cellar Travis. My worry is that where I am, the water table is very high. (or I am very low, almost sea level). Maybe I could build the cellar (at the top of the land), then dig a deeper drainage hole to take the water away to one of the ponds lower down.


Couple of comments, I don't know how warm it is with you but I can just use a room in my barn as a root celler as I too have a very high watertable and any celler would very soon become a indoor swimming pool. It's not even insulated but hovers between 6 and 0C all winter, Potatos and root veg do fine in there as did my hams The vegies well there are a few that do not mind poor soil, like peas and most leafy veg not hearting cabbages though. I suspect raised beds may work but I cannot personaly see how anyone gets enough out of them to make much of a dent in a families needs.
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 3132
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
253
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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Travis, how are you storing those apples?

We have racks built so that there is only one layer per rack and air space between each rack.
The racks themselves are made with slatted bottoms so air can go through each layer as well as all around it.
Potatoes we put into sand same as carrots and beets, this keeps them separated and nicely firm all winter long.

My new root cellar (not dug yet) will be large enough that I will need at least 4 air exchange tubes maybe as many as 10, just depends on what the wife wants for size, part of this will be doored off for charcuterie and another space for cheese curing and aging.

 
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