One of the most rewarding things about homesteading is growing food for your off-grid home. Growing your own vegetables, fruits and herbs is not only a healthier choice, but it can save you money and become a very rewarding hobby.
People have also become much more creative in how they incorporate home gardens into the design and aesthetics of their landscaping and home layout. In this article, I'm going to share some tips and tricks for having a successful garden for your off-grid home.
If you're new to homesteading or you're planning on building your first off-grid home, the first thing to consider when it comes to your garden is the type of climate in your location. The type of weather you get in your area will determine which plants will have the best chance of thriving in your garden.
The types of seasonal vegetables and fruits that you can grow will vary greatly depending on if you're in a very cold environment or in a desert environment. There are also solutions available that you may want to consider that can help have more success with your garden in extreme climates, such a building a greenhouse.
Once you've determined what you will be growing, the next thing you'll need to plan is how you'll best utilize the space you have available on your property. If you have a large amount of near-flat and level land, a traditional ground-level garden may be the most cost-effective choice.
If your home is a place where you have limited ground area for growing, you'll want to consider other space-saving garden solutions. This is where your creativity can really come into play. And if you're not the creative type? There are tons of great ideas on Pinterest on gardening systems inserted into rooftops, decks, and indoors that can upgrade the look of any off-grid home.
If your land has plenty of quality land for growing (near flat and level with good quality soil), a traditional ground-level garden may be your best bet. That doesn't mean you can't still include other, more stylish methods into the design of your home such as decorative planting boxes and hangers.
The ability to have a large, traditional style garden will open up the options for what types of vegetables, or even fruit trees which you can grow. You may want to use this area to plant vegetables and fruits that require the most space to grow, such as corn, squash, gourds, and melons.
Up your landscaping and home design game by utilizing large decorative planting boxes and pots in your home garden plan. These solutions can serve both the needs of design and utility. For example, if you have a very large and open deck or rooftop layout, you may want to take advantage of large planting boxes that can serve as dividers for that space.
Also, consider planting flowers along with your vegetables in these types of decorative planters. This can serve several purposes. First, it will improve the look of your decorative planters. Second, it will reduce the space available for weeds to grow and third, it will help attract pollinating insects and birds to eliminate unwanted pests.
Planting tables are another great solution that merges design and functionality. I've seen high-top tables that are a combination of dining or bar areas and tabletop herb and flower gardens. This can give your outdoor recreation/relaxation area a great look while providing your family with delicious salad greens, herbs, and strawberries.
Another benefit of planting tables is their height. These remove the need for you to have to bend over and/or kneel in a ground-level garden for extended periods of time. They'll take the pressure off your back and provide a more comfortable gardening experience.
Hanging planters are perfect for those people that want to maximize production and reduce the amount of space used. They can also be a great decorative element near walls. Hanging planters also allow you to keep vegetables separated and more organized which will help them be stronger and healthier.
Make sure that if you plan on using hanging planters, pick a structure strong enough to support the weight of the hanging pots. You'll also want to use hardware rated to support the weight of your hanging pots. The last thing you'll want is for your hanging pots to come crashing down.
Incorporating raised planting beds into your off-grid home design is a great way to increase your growing capacity while upgrading the look of your outdoor areas. Raised beds look great used as edging around decks and patios and allow you to keep vegetables separated by type.
Separating your plants by species allows you to better plan your feeding and watering schedules for optimal growth. Raised beds also help keep your garden separate from your yard, making everything look more tidy and organized.
Vertical gardening systems have grown in popularity, especially now in 2020. You're now starting to see these DIY growing kits pop up in major retailers and on Amazon. Even though these types of grow systems are marketed more towards urban gardens, they can still be a great addition to any off-grid home.
Vertical gardening embraces the concept of optima space utilization, similar to the idea of hanging pots. There are many different types of vertical growing systems, such as using PVC pipes to stackable vertical planters. These types of grow systems work great for herbs and small fruits such as planting strawberries. Vertical growing systems are also ideal for growing indoors, should you need to protect your plants from extreme climates during certain times of the year.
Although they are not very visually appealing, grow bags can be a great, low-cost solution for growing your own vegetables. The biggest benefit of grow bags other than their extremely affordable pricing is the fact that they make it easy to move your plants from location to location. In fact, several brands come equipped with handles to make moving your plants a cinch.
Another benefit of grow bags is that they can be washed and used again and again. They also have a mesh liner that allows for better drainage and provides additional oxygen for your plant's root systems. Some people use grow bags as a starter pot for their vegetables before transplanting them to their raised beds or tabletop growers.
We talk a lot about growing vegetables and fruits, but be sure not to forget to plant a wide assortment of herbs. If you're using your garden to produce food that will be cooked for your off-grid family, it will also taste a level better if you're using fresh herbs grown from your own garden.
Herbs also work great in beverages, have medicinal purposes, and can keep away flying insects such as mosquitos, flies, bees, and wasps. If you are using planter boxes in your patio or deck areas, try including some lemon grass, mint and basil. These not only smell amazing, but they'll also keep you and your loved ones from getting harassed by mosquitos, flies, and stinging insects. Lavender is another awesome plant that smells great while repelling unwanted insects.
If you're planning on living off the grid, it is a smart idea to consider a composting system. By composting your organic waste, you'll be recycling to create amazing new soil and nutrients for your gardens while reducing the amount of physical waste you'll need to store and dispose of, or in some cases burn.
Composting also helps create healthy bacteria and nutrients that plants love while reducing your need for chemical fertilizers. In fact, thanks to some new technology, there are composting systems available that capture the natural gas generated by the composting system which is then used as cooking gas in your off-grid kitchen. Just another way you can save money on energy needs while helping the environment!
When it comes to protecting your gardens and growing areas, the best defense is a good offense. What I mean by that is you can attract good insects such as ladybugs, honeybees, and dragonflies with certain plants that will repel unwanted insects such as aphids, caterpillars, and beetles.
If you live in an area that has wildlife, especially deer who love to eat from gardens, you'll definitely want to consider a sturdy fence. Another option that works great to protect your garden from predators is nettings. Nets are helpful if birds become a pain in your gardens. If you're still having problems with pests eating at your plants, consider an all-natural spray insect repellent safe for vegetables and herbs.
Now that you put all of that work into building the perfect growing areas and gardens around your off-grid home, you'll want to harvest the seeds from your best plants. You can then start new seedlings and when those plants grow large enough, you can use them to replace sickly plants or start a new growing area.
When you harvest your vegetables and fruits, remove the seeds the best you can and rinse properly. Tomato seeds can be soaked for 2 to 3 days to get them to separate from the pulp, then rinsed. Once your seeds are all rinsed and clean, you'll want to set them out to dry completely. Store your dried seeds in paper envelopes and label them. Doing this will ensure you have plenty of healthy, high-producing plants for years to come.
I hope this article provided you with some helpful information. Remember that is important to plan ahead, especially if you are just starting out with your garden and off-grid growing. Select plants that thrive in your area and position certain species depending on their qualities.
Use herbs in areas where you'll be entertaining family and guests. This will help repel unwanted insects and improve the overall appearance of this area. Protect your plants with fencing, netting, and natural insect predators. If you have experience growing food for your off-grid home, I would love to hear from you. Please post your thoughts or questions in the comments below.