You don’t need dozens of acres to become self sufficient. Through careful planning, selection and land use, you can grow delicious vegetables, herbs and fruit, and even livestock on as little as one to two acres. The secret is careful planning and research, as well as thinking differently about the space available for your garden and farm.
How much land you need to be self-sufficient all depends on how efficiently you use the land.
Planning Your Land Use
By carefully choosing crops that will do well in your climate, as well as adding nutrients to the soil through the application of compost and manures, you can raise abundant crops on a small amount of land. Plan ahead of time how you will use the land available to you, and take good care of your soil. If you care for your soil, it will care for you by returning nutritious, abundant crops.
Fertile, well-drained soil is a blessing, but even if your soil is rocky or contains enough clay to make bricks, you can still grow a garden. Have your soil tested at your local Cooperative Extension Office; the Extension agent will guide you on the amendments your soil needs to grow healthy vegetables based on the results of your soil test. Alternatively, you can build raised beds and add soil and compost to create the perfect soil.
Growing Your Own Vegetables
Vegetables can be grown in a tiny urban yard or on many acres; the choice is yours. Many intensive gardening practices such as square foot gardens, vertical gardening, and raised beds can help you grow more vegetables in a small space.
Think beyond a vegetable garden plot to increase the amount of land available to grow your own food. Can you plant vegetables instead of a lawn? Potatoes can be grown in old tires, barrels and more. Old pallets can be nailed together, filled with soil, and used to grow lettuce, squash and cucumbers on a vertical platform. Tomatoes can even be grown from special vertical planters hanging from a porch or a deck. With a little ingenuity, you can dramatically increase the space available to grow vegetables.
Herbs for Tea and Medicine
Herbs are a wonderful addition to the home garden and require very little space. You can grow herbs in window boxes or flower pots inside your home on a sunny windowsill. Try parsley, chives, rosemary and basil in pots or containers; calendula, oregano, lemon balm and mint need more space, but can be grown in old whiskey barrels or other containers outdoors.
Fruit and Nut Trees
Adding fruit and nut trees to your home increases the amount and variety of food available to your family. Nuts provide excellent nutrition and protein, and fruit can be eaten fresh, frozen, or dried, or made into jams and jellies for winter consumption. Fruit and nut trees offer abundance in exchange for little space in the garden.
When researching fruit trees for your gardening zone, consider whether or not the tree requires a pollinator; some trees require two or more of different varieties for pollination. Look for dwarf fruit trees which produce plenty of fruit in little space. Nuts such as hazelnuts grow on low-growing shrub-like trees, making them easy to add to a small garden space.
Livestock Requires More Land
Consider whether or not you wish to add livestock to your homestead. Small livestock require little space, but you need to plan for their food supply, especially in the winter. Wheat, corn and hay can be grown on an additional half to one acre, which may be fine in a temperate climate where your livestock can graze on pastureland for most of the year, but may be inadequate in colder climates. Even with great pasture land you’ll need to store up or purchase hay or feed to get through the winter months.
Chickens need very little space and provide eggs and meat. Goats and sheep need fenced pastures, and a cow needs the most land of all. Before adding livestock to your homestead, learn as much as you can about the care and feeding of each animal. Consider whether you’re willing to trim hooves, administer vaccinations, de-worm your animals, and other tasks livestock require.
Self Reliant on Two Acres or Less? It’s Possible!
Through clever planning and space management, as well as paying careful attention to your soil, you can grow delicious vegetables, herbs, and fruits at home in as little as a half acre. If you have more space, you can add livestock if you choose to do so. Self reliance on two acres or less is definitely possible.
So what are you waiting for? Do something now to get you closer to self sufficiency!
The editor of Ethical Living, and pursuer of relatively interesting information, Simon has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales, and is a photo-journalist and writer whose written and photographic work has been represented by the AFP news agency and appeared in newspapers across Europe and Asia.