Food Gardening Journal: Baby steps to becoming (food) self-sufficient, P1

Food self-sufficiency is the ability of a household or community to maintain its own food requirements, which can be achieved by growing and preserving your own food, composting, raising livestocks, hosting bees, collecting rainwater, and other natural ways to sustain life.

Strawberry harvest – July 2017, Wisconsin

Everyone is talking about food sustainability and self-sufficiency and there’s nothing more sustainable and self-sufficient than growing your own food in your garden, right?

I’ve been gardening for a long time. I always have ornamental and flowering plants in my backyard. In the last few years living in Wisconsin, I’ve grown strawberries in a 20 x 10 ft. patch of land in my old country ranch property, which I enjoyed so much because of the bountiful harvest! I remember harvesting about 30 pounds of strawberries one summer. I canned them and made jams and froze the rest.

Late last year, my family and I moved to Texas. Unlike Wisconsin which has warm and wet summers and partly cloudy year round – Texas has subtropical or hot and humid summers. I was really excited to start gardening here, though I’ve been warned of very hot and humid summers by new Texan friends. So, I started documenting my progress in an effort to learn, assess and improve my techniques in growing vegetables.

PLANNING

I started my list of veggies to grow in early March. I waited until the temperature was in the lower to upper 70s to be safe from any impending frost. Thank God, no snow in Texas this year. Hopefully the February winter storm in 2021 was just a weather fluke. 

I already know what I wanted to grow this year because these are the veggies that I buy and consume often.

After I finalized my list, I started looking for pots. Why not plant them directly in the soil, you may ask. We are currently renting a house with a fenced in yard. We can’t put anything permanent in the ground. Besides, I’d like to be able to take all the plants with us when we move to our permanent place. So, this year, all plants are going in pots.

PURCHASING

I got all the vegetable seeds and bare root strawberries ordered online at Burpee. I ended up buying more seeds than what was on the list, oh well.

For the vegetables, I tried using fabric grow bag, it’s a breathable environment for plants and best for keeping roots and soil oxygenated and cool throughout the hot days. They come in different sizes. I bought 12 pcs of the 3-gallon size on Amazon and used two old milk crates.

For strawberry pots. I know that strawberries, if planted in pots should go at least 6-inches deep in dirt. I saw this cheap 1-gallon Easter (basket) container at Walmart for $1.98 each, I took 12. 

When all my purchases were about to be delivered, I went to Home Depot and grabbed 2 bags of potting soil and 1 bag of composted cow manure, using the 2:1 ratio. I also bought 1 bag of mulch to cover the top of the soil and seal the moisture in the dirt. Towards the end, I had to buy 3 more bags of dirt and 1 more bag of manure to fill all the pots.

PREPPING THE SOIL

I mixed all the dirt together and the manure in the wheelbarrow. This time, I added about 2 cups of Epsom salt in the dirt and gave it a good toss using both my gloved up hands and a hand shovel. To be honest, when I was mixing the dirt, I didn’t know the science or ratio of the Epsom salt to the amount of dirt yet. I just winged it and hoped I didn’t overdo the salt. Then I filled up all the pots and bags and watered them. As a general rule, according to Google, add 1 cup of Epsom salt per 100 square feet into the soil.

For my natural fertilizer, I started collecting coffee grounds and eggshells to start a compost bin. I had an empty cat litter bin. I washed, sanitized and designated it as my compost bin and placed it outdoor under the sun.

Compost mix
Inside: Used coffee grounds, eggshell, vegetable scraps, and dirt

PLANTING

Once the seeds and bare strawberry roots were delivered, they went into the pots. Strawberry roots had to be soaked for at least 2 hours per package instructions. Some seeds needed to be started indoors. 

June-bearing Strawberries will not fruit until next Spring

FROM THE KITCHEN SCRAPS

Yes, I did that too! I also started saving scrap vegetables and half-soaking them in a small plastic container with water until they grow roots. Then, transferred them in pots.

Garlic soaked in water starting to show root growth

WATERING RITUALS

Since I planted my veggies in Spring, I didn’t water them everyday. I figured it doesn’t get too warm yet. My rule of thumb in watering is to poke my finger into the dirt, if it feels moist I would not water; if it feels dry I would water them. Like I said, this is my first time gardening in Texas and I don’t know yet how the weather would affect the veggies.

Banana water
Rice water

I watched a lot of gardening videos about using banana water (banana peels soaked in water) and rice water (water used to wash rice). Since I like baking banana bread I started saving the peels for the garden. We also ate a lot of rice and pasta, so I started saving rice water and pasta water (plain, unseasoned water used for boiling pasta), as well.

>>> More GARDEN PICTURES


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