self-sustainability for everyone #6

plant / /

There is not much else more satisfying than using something you made with your own hands, or eating something you grew yourself. How comforting it is to not run out to the grocery store every time you need something, but rather going out and snipping some herbs or plucking fresh tomatoes and cucumbers for your lunch is less time consuming and less costly (toward both produce and gas).

Whether you live on a farm, have lots of land, have a landlord, aren’t allowed to plant in your yard, or don’t have any yard to plant in, you can plant a garden. Ideally, yes, having that acreage for a complete garden that will feed you year round would be nice. However, I know that some of us don’t have that luxury. Those that don’t still have sun that shines and rain that falls, though (even if it’s only through your window).

Over the next couple of months you’re going to want to start planting seeds. Joe just planted onions, which, once sprouted, and after becoming small plants will be transplanted into our garden plot. But just because you don’t have a space outside to plant anything doesn’t mean you cant get some large pots, set them by a south window for some sun, and grow something inside of them. Maybe your landlord will let you have an area outside to plant in and you could make a raised bed or 2 or 3 or 4… Take full advantage of the resources you have around you.

Ideally I want to plant an herb garden outside, full of perennial herbs so that all I have to do in years to come is weed, and fertilize as needed. Practically speaking, I don’t know if that will happen this year. I plan on planting herbs anyway; inside. As long as they do well, I will have lovely fresh herbs all spring, summer, and early fall. Whatever’s left I can dry and put in jars for using this winter!


If you have never planted a garden before and feel so overwhelmed by your own unpreparedness, don’t worry. You don’t have to have a year round garden on your first try. You don’t have to be perfect at it at all. Just sit down and decide what kinds of things you eat regularly, and maybe a few things you’d like to try. Plant those things. Raised beds are great for beginner gardeners.

Also, no matter what stage of the game you’re in, it never hurts to become more educated. Your library probably has some great resources on gardening vegetables. I personally recommend learning about companion planting and crop rotations. These things will help you keep healthy soil, cutting back on plant disease, and keeping those garden pests away in a “green” way.

A note about seeds: Not all seeds are created equal. Just because it says “organic” on the package doesn’t mean your seeds have not been genetically modified. If you aren’t planning on saving seeds at the end of the year, I wouldn’t worry too much about this. Just grow what you can. However, if you’re feeling ambitious and  you want to save seeds from the lovely plants you are growing, I would recommend you buy seeds that are “heirloom” or better yet “open pollinated”

recommended reads / /

There is most likely an exhaustive list of resources you can tap into, but these are from the shelves of our home and local public library.

Anything by John Jeavons, John Seymour, and Eliot Coleman

For How-To Gardening

The Backyard Homestead 

Carrots Love Tomatoes

Roses Love Garlic

Four Season Harvest

The New Organic Grower

The New Self-Sufficient Gardener

Seed to Seed

For Inspiration

The Fat of the Land

Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life

Hay Fever

The Good Life


Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World

Make your place: Affordable & Sustainable Nesting Skills

Buying Seeds

Bountiful Gardens

Nichols Garden Nursury

Happy Planting!

5 thoughts on “self-sustainability for everyone #6

  1. One year, I tried herbs growing in pots from seeds. They never did anything. I watered them and cared for them for months and months and I swear, they still looked like buds 6 months later, haha. So I got impatient and bought some already started plants and I did very well with those. Some died, but some thrived, and I have to agree with you…nothing is as satisfying as going over to your plants to snip some fresh basil leaves for the meal you are making, or knowing that your soup is made with you own fresh oregano.

    Ultimately, my black thumb and the cold draft from the window in the outer hall (I couldn’t bring them in because the cat would devour them) killed off all my plants, but I learned a lot and can’t wait to try again as soon as we buy our house. Thanks for the great advice and resource recommendations!

    • Oh man, my first try at herbs was a complete flop! The following year, I planted basil from seed and I felt like I was a god because every seed I planted grew up! I found out later that basil is one of the easiest things you could ever want to grow.

      Another thing I think that was hampering growth was that the window I was using didn’t get enough sunlight through it throughout the course of the day. A window to the south may have done the trick! Who knows. Now I’m just letting my plants sprout outdoors 🙂

      I hope the resource material is helpful. We have found them to be invaluable. I moved all the recommends to the Resource link on the side bar.

      • Basil was one of the ones that flourished for me too.

        I also had one successful summer with salad greens grown in giant terracotta pots on the back porch…until a groundhog moved in one day and ate them all. I would love to try that again, it was awesome to eat my own grown salad.

  2. I have basil and parsley seeds ready to be started. I really need to get on the stick.

    Great information and I like your attitude about the whole gardening thing. “Do what you can.” 🙂

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