Sustainable Saturday: Book Reviews of The Backyard Homestead & Square Foot Gardening

The Backyard Homestead explores exactly what it promises as the tag line on the front of the book "Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!" This book goes into great detail about all the components to live off your land, even just a 1/10th of an acre. This book provides guidance to the concept of self-sufficiency in a society that is so dependent upon highly processed foods and food that is grown and transported from all over the world. There is a just a wealth of information in this book related to Gardening, Growing Fruits and Nuts, Growing Herbs, Homegrown Grains, Poultry for Eggs and Meat, Meat and Dairy and Food from the Wild. I would consider The Backyard Homestead to be an interesting read and excellent reference guide for implementing all or some of the ideas related to living off your land or self-sufficiency.

While I really like this idea of self-sufficiency I also realize that this is probably not practical for my family living in a Suburban City even on a 1/3 of an acre. For us it's not entirely practical for the following reasons:
  • Much of our property, specifically our backyard is shaded. The areas that do receive a significant amount of sun is where we have placed our garden beds. However, this book has made me reconsider our front yard which receives a significant amount of sun throughout the day. I want to incorporate some of the ideas in this book for edible landscaping. 
  • We are not allowed, according to Zoning Regulations, to have livestock on our property. I think raising a couple of chickens would be fun from both the standpoint of having fresh eggs, but also for the experience for our two young children.
  • While I would love to produce more of the food we eat, I also realize that time is a factor in how much we can actually grow and preserve for the colder months. Gardening in itself is time consuming and in order to grow a decent harvest for a family of 4 many hours each week must be dedicated to it.
That being said as I've read this book and thought about the land that we do own, I realize that the previous homeowners had some concepts of this book already in place throughout the 40 years that they lived in this house.  For example: Large garden (20 feet x 40 feet), Raspberry and Blackberry plants, Grapes, Crab Apple Tree, Sugar Maple Tree (which has never been tapped, but is something we would like to do) and they composted.

While in the middle of reading The Backyard Homestead, I also started reading Square Foot Gardening.  I found Square Foot Gardening to be much more applicable to the way we are trying to produce primarily vegetables on our property and have found many of the concepts to be eye opening.

Square Foot Gardening is a Step-by-Step Guide to building a very manageable garden in a series of 1-foot squares.  I really love this concept!

Some key ideas in Square Foot Gardening include:

  • Dividing your garden up into 1-foot squares.
  • Planting only one seed in each whole spaced appropriately for the type of vegetable you are trying to grow to eliminate the pain stacking task of thinning plants.  
  • Guides for when to plant both starting indoor seeds and outdoor seeds and plants based upon the Last Spring Frost in your location.  
  • Structures and concepts for supporting tomato plants, cucumbers, pole beans and more!

I can honestly say even though I have been gardening for 5 years now and have learned a great deal by my own trials and errors, I have learned so much from reading Square Foot Gardening.  It has allowed me to view the garden space I have (even though it is limited due to a heavily shaded backyard) in a completely different way.  I am excited to get started working in our garden this year.

Square Foot Gardening Online Resources:

The Square Foot Gardening Foundation features many resources including Local Resources, Square Foot University, Garden Store and Forums.

iPhone/ iPad Application for Square Foot Gardening

Read about our past experiences:  Saving Family Green 2010 Gardening with Children Series:

Gardening with Children - Getting Started
Gardening with Children - Garden Update
Gardening with Children - Garden Planning Tools
Gardening with Children - Composting Basics
Gardening with Children - Rain Barrels
Gardening with Children - Raised Garden Beds
Gardening with Children - Organic Pest Control
Gardening with Children - Video Blog! 
Gardening with Children - The Finale
Gardening with Children - Making Your Garden Last

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