Opportunities For Self-Sufficiency – Food Production

In the past most people grew their own food; now we are dependent on an unsustainable and polluting agriculture. If we do garden at all we should consider planting fruit trees and growing vegetables between the flowers. Most gardens are too small to grow all our vegetable and fruit requirements; however what we do grow is at least under our control, and can allow us to keep to organic principles in the process. How far is it possible to have a garden that provides a reasonable amount of food? Almost every garden has enough space for growing a small quantity of vegetables and one or more fruit trees. Herbs can of course be grown in all corners of a garden and inside the house as well.

The first decisions to be made relate to fruit trees. These can be very productive and can provide some to all of our autumn and winter fruit needs, depending on the size of our garden. If you have no fruit trees at present, it is worth planning their positioning such that shading in particular is carefully considered. The choice of fruit or nut trees (e.g. apple, pear, plum, hazelnut or walnut) is a personal one, but it is worth finding out what is likely to grow well in your local climate and soil. Fruit trees are probably the best crop to go for if you have enough space, as they require little maintenance- only yearly pruning and limited feeding.

Certain vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach and lettuce, are very productive in quite small areas. Peas and beans can be grown up hedges and garden fences. By carefully selecting the varieties, it is possible to harvest a succession of fresh vegetables and fruit throughout the year particularly with the use of a conservatory, greenhouse or cloches. If you have a small garden and wish to grow more, consider an allotment. If you are growing vegetables for the first time, start in a small way and experiment with different crops and different positions in the garden.

There is one further problem to be mastered. How can we successfully grow fruit and vegetables without modern pesticides and fertilisers on which so much food production has come to rely? Fertilisers can be replaced by compost and by an understanding of what makes a fertile soil, which are addressed in the subsection below.

As regards alternatives to pesticides, it is important to learn ecological methods of pest control. Here are some examples of what you can do:

o Encourage natural predators-spiders, hoverflies, ladybirds, and dragon-flies all prey on a wide range of insect pests. Birds, toads and hedgehogs are also effective predators of slugs and snails.
o Use ashes, lime or sawdust around plants to act as barriers.
o Use aromatic plants-garlic, onions, marigolds, and tansy-these repel some insects, and the plants can also be made into natural sprays.
o Time your planting to avoid the worst seasonal infestations.
o If necessary, use weak soap solutions with small amounts of vegetable oil.

Some other ways of avoiding the use of pesticides:

o Choose only healthy plants and seeds.
o Give plants the right soil conditions, light and moisture.
o Rotate annual crops.
o Grow a diversity of vegetables and flowers.