Every year, more and more families are choosing to create an off-grid lifestyle for themselves. It’s a healthier, less expensive, and less demanding lifestyle but it will involve a lot of elbow grease for the first few years until the majority of the off-grid homestead becomes sustainable.
One of the first things that will be needed is a sustainable off grid organic garden that will supply enough fresh vegetables and fruits to keep your family fed. Hunting and gathering will provide more sources of food, and raising livestock will provide a source of protein and manure to improve garden soil.
Starting an off-grid organic garden should be done right after securing shelter and a water source. Here are some tips to get the garden off to the right start and fast food production.
Select The Right Location
Food-producing plants will need to be grown in a sunny location that receives at least 6-hours of sunlight every day. Select a flat location that is not prone to flooding and that is near a water source.
Keep in mind the wildlife that is in the area when selecting the garden location too. Plant-eating animals like rabbits and deer can wipe out a vegetable garden overnight. A safe, sunny location that will be easy to enclose with fencing is ideal for an off grid garden.
A cold frame, hoop house, or greenhouse will also need to be placed in a similar location as an outdoor garden.
Turn the Soil
The soil feeds the plants so it will need to be turned and amended so it can support plant life.
Dig the soil down to 6-8 inches with a mattock, shovel, and/or turning fork. Some homesteaders will use a gas-powered roto-tiller or a plow pulled by a horse or mule to turn the soil and other homesteaders adhere to the ‘no-dig’ style of gardening.
No-dig gardens will take a few years of investing in the soil before it can support plant life, so to get food growing quickly the soil will have to be turned. Turning the soil breaks up the compaction so the nutrients from the added amendments can penetrate down to the root level.
Raised beds are an option for a no-dig garden. Build the raised bed frames from lumber, concrete blocks, or whatever material you have on hand, then fill the beds with soil purchased from the garden supply center.
Feed the Soil
Compost is the best amendment that can be added to garden soil. Compost is a nutrient-rich organic material that will feed the soil, prevent compaction, promote good water drainage and air circulation. Compost can transform poor, barren soil into fertile soil capable of producing food.
Add 4-6 inches of compost onto the top of the turned soil. Use a turning fork to turn the compost under to a depth of 4-inches. Compost will need to be worked into the soil before planting the garden each year to replenish the nutrients. Compost can also be sued as plant mulch and a side-dressing of plant food during the growing season.
Animal manure can also be worked into the soil at this time as long as it has had time to age and decompose. Don’t use fresh animal manure in the garden, it will take away the nitrogen from the soil and use it for the decomposition process.
Make A Compost Pile
You will need a steady supply of compost for an off grid organic garden and it’s easy to make your own. Create a pile of green and brown organic material (green is food scraps and brown is dead plant matter like fallen leaves), moisten the pile, and turn it every 3-4 days. it will take 2-months before the pile of organic waste has decomposed into compost, so it’s a good idea to make a fresh pile every month for a continual supply of nutrient-rich organic compost.
Fast Growing Vegetables
You will need a fast food supply for a new off-grid homestead so start the organic garden by planting fast-growing vegetables.
Radishes and carrots will be ready to harvest in 30-days. Several green, leafy vegetables will grow rapidly and be ready to harvest as immature leaves for salads, like loose-leaf lettuce, spinach, kale, mustard, basil, and arugula. These fast-growing vegetables and microgreen plants will provide fresh food while you’re waiting on the tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peas, and squash to reach maturity.
Start your off-grid organic garden with non-GMO seeds and save seeds each year to re-plant. This will ensure a steady supply of top-quality organic seeds that will reproduce true to the parent plant.
Winter Cover Crop
Always plant a winter cover crop at the end of summer to help prevent garden soil from eroding and compacting during the winter.
Crops like kale, mustard, turnips, collards, rye, winter peas, and clover make ideal winter cover crops. In climates that have mild winter weather, these plants will provide fresh greens all winter. In colder climates, these plants will protect the garden soil all winter and can be turned under with a plow or turning fork in the early spring and used green manure that will feed the soil.
Plant a little extra in your organic garden to feed the livestock. Corn, cabbage, sunflowers, peas, and beans will keep the chickens well fed so they can produce eggs for you and manure for the organic garden.
Ducks, rabbits, goats, and other livestock can be fed from your off-grid organic garden also to help keep expenses low and the cycle of life turning smoothly on an off-grid homestead.