Grow your own

It’s that time of year when we think about the garden a lot more than at other times of year, because there’s that limited window of opportunity to sow seeds.

Have you got plans for yours?

I’ve been watching a few videos of Vandana Shiva on YouTube recently and in one of the videos she said something that stuck in my mind… “To solve a big problem (the mess of the food industry, industrial agriculture and GMOs) we need to do small things. Only the small can multiply and diversify enough to solve the problem.”

And I would add: Only the small can CARE.

That small thing we need is more people re-connecting to the earth and growing food. Did you know that in India there are laws that prevent farms becoming too big? That means that farming is kept small, as it should be, in the hands of people and families, not corporations.

So what to grow?


Make a list of the fruits and vegetables you eat a lot of, and grow those in a natural way that mimics nature… the forest. 

Here’s a list of things I eat that will grow in my climate (USDA zone 8), and in my small garden:

Small trees: apple, pear, plum, damson, cherry, almond, hazelnut.
Berries: blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, goji, strawberry.
Vegetables: carrot, parsnip, celery, onion, garlic, potato, tomato, sweet corn, broccoli, asparagus, runner bean, broad bean and pea.
For conservatory or greenhouse: fig, lemon, olive, eggplant, sweet pepper, chilli pepper.
Other: grape, rhubarb, mushroom.
Salads: lettuce mix, lamb’s lettuce, arugula.
Herbs: rosemary, sage, coriander, basil, thyme, parsley, basil, chives, dill, oregano.

Land always moves towards forest, even grassland is trying to, but it keeps getting mowed by grazing animals so it never gets very far :-)

The forest shows us how to grow food optimally, by layering the plants… large trees, small trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, roots, ground cover and climbers.


Here’s a picture of a temperate rainforest with a path, that shows the natural layers in the system…

rainforestSo, we can layer and path our unused land in the same way to create largely self sustaining systems that produce food for us. If you have very little time for gardening, you could focus only on perennials, so that you get a truly self-maintaining but useful system, that’s also beautiful.

Many of our commonly used foods have perennial equivalents… onions and brassicas spring to mind. And there are many perennial herb replacements too.

Gardens like this are low maintenance  need no inputs, and control insects and weeds by natural ecology — I feel the perfect solution to all the problems facing us in health, agriculture, climate change, pollution and so-on. It’s a true holistic solution.

Let me know what you think and what plans you have for your garden!

8 thoughts on “Grow your own

  1. It’s a fabulous idea to think of the foods that you eat to figure out what you grow! Because we live in an apartment currently, we don’t have the space to grow fruits and nuts and everything else the we eat, but we grow what we can and everything else we buy locally! So far we are growing elderberries, garlic, snap peas, lavender, mint, oregano, squash, beets, radish, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and many flowers. We will be adding more once the weather warms up a little bit since a cold-front came in the night before last. It should start warming back up today.

      • I love to make lavender lemonade! This year I hope we have enough so I can also start making lavender sachets from friends and family. Lavender is very calming to the nerves and can help with headaches, swelling, stress, etc.

      • Yeah I heard about its calming effects. The lemonade thing is a new one on me! :-) You’re growing such a lot in a small space. I’m a bit frustrated by my small garden. I want a walnut tree…. or 10 :-)

      • Are you growing all the things that you mentioned in the post? All the things you eat? That is A LOT to be growing and I would do just about anything to have a space big enough to grow using the permaculture food forest techniques!! We definitely do fit quite a lot into our small space, which is also shared with a few unruly landscaping bushes that I’m not entirely too fond of.

      • Not all those things are growing right now, but they are literally on their way… I have a cherry tree ordered and lots of seeds packets. Some seeds are germinating etc. I am actually right now working on the plan. I have Goji, blackcurrant, blackberry, fig, rhubarb, sage and thyme actively growing. Rest is coming soon! It will be a progression, because I want to use perennials where possible so that takes some research etc. I am planning a main path only 2tf wide and then some “ribs” of 1ft or less only, spaced ~ 4ft apart to minimize walking on the soil. If I had more room I would do that leaf design for the paths or I had the idea of a dragonfly’s wing pattern. Hopefully you will have a whole field to grow in. That’s what I would love… just a field… is that too much to ask? :-)

      • That is totally magnificent, Michael! You are growing so much food! I dream of growing a forest of food one day, but until then I’m so happy to be growing on even a small space! It is such a blessing to be able to eat fresh food from my own home garden. I would love to see pictures of your food forest in progress!

      • ooooo that’s an idea (pics). It could be a while before the “after” pics though, trees do take their sweet time growing :-) So it could be some years before it looks foresty.

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