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Gardening is Not Just for Vegetables

By Nan

July 31, 2007

Most people eat far more starchy foods than meats or vegetables. Wheat, Rice, Corn, Potatoes and Beans have been the foundation of many cultures. These are field crops that don't require the attention of vegetables, but will need several times as much space to grow a year's supply. Your local climate will determine which ones you can grow. I'd try to find out what the native peoples and early settlers grew for their own food.

Grain plot Mature Hulless Oats
Close up of mature Hulless Oats

The common agricultural crops in your area today are worth noting, but they may rely on hybrid or even Genetically Modified (GM) seed or herbicides to grow them today. To grow most grains, you thoroughly cultivate the top few inches of soil and broadcast the seed. When ripe and dry, you harvest, and thresh to separate the kernels of grain. You don't need a fertile soil, or much summer rain, but you do need it to be dry at harvest time. The yield and labor are both low, so you need a few thousand square feet of grain to feed a family all year.

Harvest basket for small grains
Hulless Oats ready to thresh
Spelt Nearing Maturity 2

Beans, corn and potatoes are planted in hills or furrows and covered. Only the soil directly below them needs to be loosened deeply, no need to plow the whole field. They need water through the growing season, and want a very fertile soil under them, but the yield and labor are both high.

Dry and Shell Beans
Corn in early August
Early Garden Corn and Beans

Where I live in New England, our wet autumn season makes it hard to dry field crops. It not just how long your growing season is, or what USDA zone you live in. Potatoes grow very well here too, and keep through the winter in our root cellar. Before you buy a bucket of food or plant a field, you really should try a smaller quantity, cook it different ways, and see what you like to eat.