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Is It Realistic to Grow Your Own Groceries?

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: September 9, 2020
Is It Realistic to Grow Your Own Groceries?

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At one time or another, every prepper will ask him or herself:  could I become 100% self-reliant in terms of providing food for myself and my family?

Many will say, no, that is not possible. Heck, a couple of weeks ago I even mentioned that I was all but giving up on my food garden. I have very little space and only a few hours of direct sunlight a day coupled with a short growing season.  There are also critters that eat everything in sight.  What is left is a modest container garden on a small deck with herbs and greens as the definitive crop. This is hardly enough to evoke self-sufficiency when it comes to growing my own groceries.

Is It Realistic to Grow Your Own Groceries

That being said, things may change.  I can move or, if the SHTF, I may be able to barter my time to help others in my community with their gardening effort.  Heaven knows, growing food can be a lot of work and an extra set of willing hands is always welcome – even if it is simply to pull weeds or perform routine watering chores.

With this introduction, I would like to share my review of Marjory Wildcraft’s DVD, Grow Your Own Groceries.  After taking some flak from readers about my own gardening situation, I decided to bolster my confidence and watch the DVD again.  I am glad I did.

But let me start at the beginning.

Grow Your Own Groceries

A couple of years ago I invited some like-minded friends over for a meal and a viewing of the DVD  Grow Your Own Groceries.  The four of us watched the DVD from start to finish with many pauses for discussion points and to take notes.  So what did we think?

Well first of all, let me say that this is a pretty amazing DVD in that it covers so much in just a couple of hours.  And while the DVD itself does not go in to extensive detail about the various topics, the included resource DVD does.  Perhaps it is best to start with an outline of the DVD itself.

Section 1: Overview
Why we began this journey
Soil types and climate of the site

Section 2: Water
Water sources and qualities of water
How much water do you need?
Rain water collection systems

Section 3: Garden
Garden location
Size – how much area do you need?
Bio-Intensive gardening overview
Watering the garden
Sun and shade
Bugs and insects
Vegetable varieties and seed saving
Getting started

Section 4: Rabbits
Housing and protection
Watering systems
Other resources

Section 5: Home Butchering
Butchering a rabbit
Tanning hides
Butchering poultry
Other animals

Section 6: Poultry
Chicken breeds
Housing and egg collecting
Predator protection
Getting started

Section 7: Dogs
Why dogs?
Dog training
Size and breeds
Final thoughts

Section 8: Perennials: Orchards, Food Forests, and Edible Landscaping
Locations and micro climates
Using geese for fertility
Tree varieties
Planting and care of trees
Getting started

Section 9: Other Essentials
Calorie crops
Solar food dehydration
Home made herbicide test
Fire ants
Hog panels and tee posts
Water levels and mapping contours
Rocket stove and hay box cooker
In The Wake; a manual for outliving civilization
Propagating leuceana

As you look through these topics, you will see that almost every aspect of food production is covered.  From figuring out your water needs, to selecting chickens and your coop, to determining the correct type of fruit trees for your orchard – there are practical tips that every one can embrace.  (Personally, though, I did fast forward through the butchering section.)

So what is my takeaway?

The author, Marjory Wildcraft is a down to earth, practical lady that has learned what works and what does not work through trial and error on her own homestead.  She is not a Hollywood actor hired to make the DVD sparkle visually.  Instead, she walks us through her own hands-on efforts to attain sustainability, dirty fingernails and all.

Something of Value for Everyone

The most valuable part of the DVD for myself and my dinner companions were her tips for beginners:

Plan your garden.  What is your climate?  What grows well in your area?  Ask other gardeners in your community for advice while you are in the planning stage.

Start small or you will be overwhelmed and will give up.  Even starting with a few pots on a deck is better than nothing.

Determine your water needs in advance and install water systems (she shows you how).

Beginners should start with nursery starts and not seeds (now that was surprising!)

Do not be afraid of failure.  It takes trial and error to figure out the nuances of what will work in your geographical area and your circumstances.  Plus, it takes time to develop the proper technique

Grow for calories.  If you are looking for 100% self-reliance, calories are important

Chickens are for egg-laying and not for meat.  Unless you can handle 90 chickens at a time, that is.

And for the more advanced gardener?  In viewing the DVD a second time, I picked up information that I missed the first time around.  The material is timeless and the resource DVD invaluable in providing references to the more esoteric how-to’s and why-for’s.

A Few Caveats

If I can cite any negatives it would have to do with the fact that a lot of emphasis was given on dealing with the very hot climate in the south – in this case it was Texas.  I feel the DVD could have used a section of gardening and producing food when the growing season is short such as here in Washington state.

Also, the DVD assumes that you have a decent sized area for a garden, say 10 x 20 or larger.  Those limited to a smaller plot or containers would be better off sticking to books, such as Mel Bartholomew’s All New Square Foot Gardening that I love so much or a book on vertical gardening.

That said, after watching this DVD I was motivated to continue to at least try and to continue to be religious about composting.  As I mentioned in the the beginning, with a bit of knowledge I can always barter my labor working in someone else’s garden for part of their bounty.

Back to My Own Situation

I am at peace now that I have recognized that my garden has limitations.  As I said in the beginning, I still can have a healthy crop of herbs and greens which will be supplemented by an ramped-up plan to add to my bulk and freeze-dried food storage.

Two of my blogging colleagues have come to similar conclusions.

Bernie Carr, the Apartment Prepper shared this:

After trying to grow a garden for three years, I have realized that a garden is also subject to too many factors beyond my control such as weather, insects, soil conditions etc., and may not yield enough food to support the family.  I have concluded that my food storage would be the main source of food in an emergency.  I still think gardening is a worthwhile skill, and I still count it as a great hobby.

She wrote about her experience in this article: Why You Still Need Food Storage Even Though You have a Garden.

Another colleague, John Wesley Smith at Destiny Survival said:

Not everybody can grow their own food due to physical condition, lack of space, money, etc. In fact, not everybody who gardens or keeps small livestock can be totally self sufficient. It is important, however, to know about and patronize local farmers markets, get to know fellow gardeners who are willing to share/barter, etc.

A Special Offer for Backdoor Survival Readers

When it first came out, I paid $69 for the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD and resource disk.  Right now, the set is available to BDS readers for $27.75 which is a 25% discount off the current price.  This is a great deal on a fabulous resource with tons of useful information – not only about gardening but about rabbits, chickens, water conservation and more.

The Final Word

If you have never done any gardening, do not shy away from this DVD.  There are so many practical, no BS tips that this DVD can take you from beginner to expert over a period of time.  As a matter of fact, Marjory indicates that failure is part of the process and even she is still learning.

Wise words from a smart lady.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space:    This is the book every vegetable gardener or wanna be vegetable gardener should own.  Even will my failures, I still go back to this book – hoping I will do better next time!

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9 Responses to “Is It Realistic to Grow Your Own Groceries?”

  1. We are finding out growing in your area is very important. Each area has different growing techniques. Also making your watering automatic helps too.
    You simply can’t get out there to water everyday things come up. The plants need the water so making a system even a simple one just makes that happen no matter what. We are growing in Florida sand, heat and bugs raised beds and containers make crops possible for us. Our season is Spring, Fall and Winter
    Summer is out. Lastly save your seed. Each season the plants adapt to your area and the crops are better. Buy from suppliers in your area too. In our case seeds for the Maine part of the country do not do as well as ones from the south. Gardening takes time to learn best not wait until there is an emergency and it is life and death.

    • It’s the seed saving I’m working on learning, not just produce from a normal garden but those ‘wild’ edibles because those are also part of my diet and what happens if there’s a natural disaster. Prepping means for many different scenarios.
      You’re right, what works for you wouldn’t work for me in the PNW. Thanks for pointing that out.

  2. We started our gardening experience with 3 tomato plants in patio pots when we lived in the city. Managed to grow enough tomatoes for our salads and for snacking. Now we live in the country and the garden has 15 tomato plants in just one row. Not to mention the pumpkins, squash, peas, beans, peppers, turnips, spinach, lettuce, kohlrabi ….. well you get the picture. Cupboards are still full of stuff we canned from it last year but still there is so much I don’t know. It’s always nice to have a good resource at your fingertips for the little things that keep cropping up.

  3. For beginners, the KISS word works. Keep it simple. If you’re just starting out, whether foraging or gardening. Stick to one or two plant types, get to know them well (what they are capable of throughout the year). In some climates you can grow some plants almost year ’round.
    Gardening, like foraging and prepping is more enjoyable when done as a group. If you are doing one or two types of plants, then someone else can do others and then trade as harvest time comes around. I feel pretty good about what tomatoes and peppers grow well for me, so someone else is growing those while I learn about growing squash and beets. Since carrots and radishes are fairly easy, I’m learning about how to grow those too. ALL my gardening is done in containers so I can work from my wheelchair. I also have a hanging garden with my herbs growing, these too, were done 2 at a time. I’m up to 6 of my faves while I am relying on someone else to grow some I use but don’t have the space for. Who knows as the season progresses, so does the chat and possible connections for prepping. 😉 BTW: it’s worth it to check to see just how many growing seasons your climate has. I’m in zone 8 and have a spring, summer, fall and overwintering. Containers are great if that’s your only alternative BUT by using containers, your plants are gaining the nutrients which are drawn up from down in the soil. And the magnetism of the earth also makes a diff in how they grow too.

  4. Just wanted to make a positive note to add onto this article! I ordered this DVD, and it arrived mangled — not their fault, something happened in transit — and they were kind enough to send me a new one promptly to replace it. It was a very smooth correspondence, and the new DVD arrived in only a few days. Thank you to them!

    I love this DVD so much, and I’m eagerly working on my garden this year. One step at a time! Now if only the husband would okay chickens… or rabbits maybe. Such useful information, and she’s very positive and upbeat while acknowledging the limitations we may have in space/location/water. She also makes suggestions for working around these problems. 😀

  5. Last year was my screaming year “I am never going to do this again!’ But here I am, with 25 tomato plants (10 different kinds) have given away 15 and they are doing well. I also have 6 Brussels sprouts that are looking good along with the kale. Peas are up, cabbage, beets and spinach is too soon to tell. I have tried milk jugs and toilet paper rolls, garden compost from the city (doesn’t work for grow bags) There is so much to learn. I am now keeping a journal. And YES it can be expensive. I believe I have the $63 tomato.

  6. We all have skills and maybe gardening is not one of them, this can be due to externalities and not just skills, it is important to focus on one skill that you can barter with be it security, sewing, singing or something which will address a need of some one else in any situation….

    • That’s true. Baby sitting, cooking for others that are working all day tending a garden or livestock, helping gather hay for the neighbors cattle, doing laundry (and that’s a chore without electricity), helping clear a garden spot, standing guard (very needed at night!), or a thousand plus other things that would be needed in a shtf situation. There should be something you can do to earn food and a place to sleep, just find it!

  7. About the only things that reliably grow in this area are rocks and weeds. Unless you put an enormous amount of time and money into it.
    I read the story of “stone soup”, but decided it would be a last resort ( if you haven’t read it I’ll try to find it and post it for you). And, the other option I see is to eat the weeds! That’s the reason I am interested in foraging!

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