Many of us love to garden, and spend many hours happily working in the dirt to nurture new life and get it to thrive. But beyond blooming flowers and neatly trimmed hedges, a garden can be a productive and healthy space. With growing your own food and caring for nature comes self-sufficient gardening — a concept more popular now than ever.
Self-sufficient gardening is a way to live sustainably by growing your own food in a productive, prolific landscape. You can start as small as herbs in pots, or make it a project with a raised bed and square foot gardening. The important thing is to know your environment and what you’re capable of so that you can maximise your garden’s productivity and positively impact your personal well-being. Self-sufficiency starts with small changes that gradually build into habits, then into a lifestyle.
Whether you’re a beginner gardener or an experienced one, self-sufficient gardening is an excellent first step into a more sustainable way of living. And if you’re ready to give it a try, then let’s get into it!
How Self Sufficiency Works
According to Self Sufficient Me, self-sufficiency is more than just growing your own food. It’s about producing instead of simply consuming — caring for your own needs beyond eating. This comes in many different forms: going DIY for home needs, upcycling and recycling, reusing and repurposing, and yes, cooking from scratch. It involves minimising your waste in everything, from your commute to your kitchen. Self-sufficiency is a lifestyle, a means of simple living — not necessarily in everything, but in the ways we can achieve.
Self Sufficient Gardening For Beginners
It can feel overwhelming, or you may want to do too many things at once – but know that even in self-sufficiency, you can start small. Simple projects are a great way to take your first step into self-sufficient gardening.
Start an herb garden
If you don’t have the space or you want to take up a simple project to begin, an herb garden is a great first foray into self-sufficiency. Choose herbs that you use often, like thyme, rosemary, oregano, and chives. You can also opt for native varieties of herbs like mint and basil. Meanwhile, medicinal herbs like lavender and yarrow are useful for home care products.
Grow your own vegetables
What’s more rewarding than eating food you grew yourself? Once you’ve tried homegrown veggies, you’ll find it hard to go back. Start with productive and easy-to-grow foods like lettuce, peas, garlic, carrots, and potatoes. Save scraps from your kitchen and replant them. Look into no-dig gardening or raised garden beds. Then get ready to get your hands dirty in the best way.
Make your own compost
Soil is the foundation for everything in your garden, so you’ll need to keep it healthy and nutrient-rich to help your plants grow. Compost and mulch are straightforward and organic ways to enhance your soil, before and during planting. Start saving food scraps and yard trimmings to use. You can start a compost bin in a corner of your garden, or simply layer the mulch on the soil. But make sure you check the do’s, don’ts, and how-to’s ahead of time!
Recycle your water
As one of our most valuable resources, we need to use our water wisely. Conserving and recycling water is important to self-sufficiency. You can set up a ditch where the water runs off in your garden, or recycle greywater. Or even set up a rainwater collection system and use that to water your garden!
Tips For Self Sufficient Gardening
Plan out your goals
Self Sufficient Me talks about clarifying your goals as a good place to start — and it is. Begin by asking yourself a few questions (and be honest!). Assess the garden you already have, and figure out what kind of garden you’d like to turn it into. Examine yourself and the skills you already have, and what you’ll need to learn to achieve things. Do you have budgetary constraints? Physical limitations? Are you willing to commit to even small changes in your lifestyle?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start setting small goals for yourself. Maybe you’d like to create a windowsill herb garden, or you can look into local suppliers for raised garden beds. Or maybe even turning the corner of your garden that’s closest to your kitchen into a vegetable patch. Setting goals before you start gives you structure and lets you know what you’re working toward. You’re giving yourself something to build on.
Familiarise yourself with your environment
Before you dig any holes and plant any crops, check out your garden! You’ll need to know several things about it, or your hard work might go to waste. Analyse the topography and find out what kind of soil you have, where the water runs off, where the sunlight hits. What’s your local climate like? Is there any local wildlife? All this will affect the kinds of plants you can grow, and where and how you grow them.
Minimise your waste
The less commercial products you use, the better! See if you have local sources for mulch, compost, and fertiliser — or if you’re feeling bold, go DIY. You can upcycle your kitchen scraps and yard debris into compost for your yard. Set up a bin or pit in a corner of your garden, and read up on the do’s and don’ts.
Beyond food, reuse other things like plastic containers or old tubs. You can repurpose them into planters, or even water containers. Collecting and recycling rainwater and greywater are also great ways to minimise wastage in your home.
Use local resources
Part of self-sufficiency is knowing when to ask for a helping hand. Check out local nurseries for plant recommendations — especially native ones. See if your community has gardening groups and other associations who can give you advice. Hit up the library for books and references. Meanwhile, when it comes to reworking your garden, you can hire a local gardening service to aid in the job.
Grow along with your garden
Self-sufficient gardening isn’t just about planting some lettuce and calling it a day. It’s about changing and growing as a person, too, and learning to integrate with nature instead of changing it to suit your preferences. You can also pick up new skills (and then teach family and friends!) and habits that will help with your physical and emotional well-being. Just remember not to force things, and that you don’t have to stick to any particular rules or principles. Work with what you have and what you’re capable of doing. Be open to change, but start where you’re comfortable. And once you get started with self-sufficient gardening — and self-sufficiency in general — keep going!