Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:24 pm
It’s a dream: living off what you grow yourself. Biting into plump tomatoes from your own hillside patch in the summer, harvesting loads of zucchini in the fall, spooning up sweet, homemade berry puree in the winter. Want to become more independent, too? We’re sharing 8 tips on how to grow your own garden for self-sufficiency. Find out the best way to get started – and the mistakes you’re better off avoiding. And take the test: How much self-sufficiency potential do you have?
- 0.1 Longing for self-sufficiency – but why actually?
- 0.2 Living as a self-supporter: 8 tips for beginners
- 0.3 5 steps to your kitchen garden for self-sufficiency.
- 0.4 what to grow? Of fresh fruit and saucy herbs
- 0.5 3 beginner mistakes you can learn from
- 0.6 Look at what plants fit the orientation of your balcony.
- 1 Author
Longing for self-sufficiency – but why actually?
Life in the 21st century is global, urban, digital. Never before have we had to know so little about how crops and livestock grow. We become full without having to ask ourselves how our food gets onto our plates. In the global supply chains of an anonymous food industry, we are merely the last link.
High time to change that! More and more people are longing to step out of dependency relationships and find their way back into natural cycles. They want to dig in the earth, work with the seasons, experience the incomparable taste of homegrown fruits and vegetables.
There is no definition of self-sufficiency. Find your own way! No matter where and how you live. Find out what options are open to you, network with other gardeners, plan your own garden for self-sufficiency or plant a community garden with like-minded people. The main thing is to get started!
Living as a self-supporter: 8 tips for beginners
Becoming self-sufficient doesn’t happen overnight, of course. It is a long and fulfilling project. Very important: Find out what suits you best. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Just try it out and gain experience! We’ll give you a little jump start and tell you 5 tops and 3 flops so you can best prepare.
5 steps to your kitchen garden for self-sufficiency.
We’ll start with 5 suggestions that can help budding self-supporters or future vegetable growers like you. So you can start implementing your long-cherished plan right away!
- get started: Planning and resources
First, get to grips with the conditions under which you’ll be growing. Get the tools you need for the garden and for preserving in the kitchen. Think about the varieties you want to grow. Take out a pen and paper and sketch the space you have available. Divide according to the needs of your plants and consider a suitable irrigation system. And last but not least, see where you can find suitable storage space for your garden treasures.
- from small to large: the right cultivation area.
How much acreage do you need for self-sufficiency? That depends on how independent you want to be: For full self-sufficiency, you need to calculate 150-160 m2 per person. For partial self-sufficiency, 30 m2 per person is sufficient. Experienced gardeners can achieve a yield of 3 kg vegetables/m2.
Above all, the weather plays a role: dry years bring low yields, sultry and humid years favor harmful fungal growth. And: the higher the species diversity, the more likely it is that the weather will suit one vegetable very much and another not at all. For example, wet conditions in growth and drought in maturity will give you a huge onion crop, but your bean crop will fail in such a year.
Here is a brief overview of which species need how much space and how much yield:
|Ratio of area (m2) to
|Recommended consumption per person/year (kg)
|Area required for recommended consumption (m2)
what to grow? Of fresh fruit and saucy herbs
For beginners, high-yielding vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and cabbage vegetables are suitable.
If you want to plant fruit trees, you have to plan longer in advance: the first harvest will only come after a few years.
Herbs such as rosemary, chives, thyme and mint are particularly easy to care for and can be harvested perennially.
Here you will find a few favorite plants for your garden:
Vegetables: lettuces, spinach plants, cabbage vegetables, onion plants, root vegetables, legumes.
Fruits: apple, pear, apricot, plum, soft fruits like currants and strawberries
Herbs: savory, tarragon, hyssop, shrub basil, sage, lovage, mallow, mint, oregano, lemon balm, rosemary, thyme, chives
- it goes to the preserves: the own harvest make durable
As long as there’s room in your freezer, you can fill it as you please. However, natural processing methods are less energy-intensive and even more flavorful. Try out what tastes best to you!
Pickling: Let salt, sugar, oil, vinegar or alcohol help you: They provide the right environment for pickling, in which your fruits and vegetables can feel good for a long time.
Preserving: is suitable for pretty much anything that grows in your garden.
Fermenting: With this you can make vegetables like cauliflower, carrots, cabbage and co. even healthier: sauerkraut, kimchi and co. are really good for your digestive system.
Drying: Fruit and herbs in particular can be snacked on and used all year round.
here it cackles and hums: animal helpers
What would a garden for self-sufficiency be without chickens? These feathered friends provide you with wonderful organic eggs and valuable, nitrogen-rich fertilizer. And with their tireless pecking, they loosen up your soil.
Or: Go among the beekeepers! Bees pollinate the plants around you and give you fantastic honey. You can also process beeswax and propolis – for example, to make your own natural cosmetics. Another piece of independence!
3 beginner mistakes you can learn from
After the 5 steps to your self-sufficiency dream, here are 3 classic mistakes that many people make at the beginning of their self-sufficiency career. Don’t get discouraged – and learn from them!
- completely without a plan? Too complicated plans or no plans at all
In the self-sufficient garden, planning is half of life. The other half is improvising and experimenting. If you make plans that are too complex, your garden may suddenly throw you for a loop. Don’t make it too complicated for yourself! With time, experience, and a little intuition, you’ll know which plants feel most comfortable in it.
- when ambition gets the better of you: wanting too much at once
When you’re just starting your garden, it’s better not to cultivate the whole area right away. In any case, it pays to start smaller – and to plant the remaining area with green manure for the time being. Only gradually will you realize how much time you can spend on maintaining your garden, or, for example, how much irrigation water you have available. The same applies to the variety of plants. When you start, it’s best to pick 8-10 vegetable varieties and only increase with time.
- abdication: giving up too early
Becoming self-sufficient is a long process. In the beginning you are highly motivated and start – until you realize that it doesn’t all go so fast. Then it’s a matter of persevering! If something doesn’t work out as planned, think about it: Is it the weather? Did I water too much? Did I fertilize too little? Once you’ve figured out the causes, you’ll have learned for the next attempt.
Small but self-sufficient: Self-sufficiency with little space
Not everyone has enough green space at home to be completely self-sufficient for the entire year. No problem! Self-sufficiency is also possible in a small garden – or on a self-sufficient balcony:
Look at what plants fit the orientation of your balcony.
Make the most of the space, build beds for vertical gardening or hang hanging baskets on your balcony.
Plant zucchini, radish and tomato on the balcony? Absolutely! Here we show you how to do it!
You won’t be completely self-sufficient on such a small area – but it’s a first step. A few more ideas for more self-sufficiency:
Join an urban farming initiative, participate in a FoodCoop or Solidarity Agriculture (CSA). Just getting a box of vegetables makes you more independent and strengthens regional agriculture.
Bake your own bread with regional flour and knit socks and the like with organic virgin sheep’s wool.
Go out into nature and collect mushrooms, berries, wild herbs or (fallen) fruit from unused trees in public spaces.