Planning Your Garden: Part 1

Thank you for a fantastic year! We have wrapped up another season and are preparing for the next even as I pause to write this I am working on our own plans for the upcoming growing season.

Let’s begin with the essentials.
What is your goal in growing your own food?

As we coach others in growing their own food for themselves and their families, I’ve realized that each person has a different reason for growing food. And that’s actually the first thing to sit down and reflect upon… what motivates you to grow food?

I’ll use myself as an example to get the wheels turning for you hopefully…

“I grow food because…”

My spouse and I need to eat more greens and veggies to be our healthiest. Having greens and veggies growing in our home and in our yard brings a convenience that the store just can’t provide. We jokingly say that we “shop” from our own produce aisle right outside our door — and once you get a taste for that kind of freedom there’s no going back. Nurturing those that you love the most is my main motivation!

My main reason for growing our own food is pictured right here — the love of my life and the best of men!


We want our children to learn to eat these same foods so they will develop good healthy habits. We know that children who participate in growing their own food tend to eat that food because they are more connected to it.

Our 8 year-old daughter watering the Sugar Snap Peas. The Extension Office didn’t think we could grow them in the fall in our zone, but we went for it anyway and enjoyed some tasty Sugar Snap Peas through the fall cool season! Growing food alongside your children connects them to their food and they also learn patience, persistence, how to grow that particular food, and healthy habits.


We want to know what is on our food. We had relied on convenience-based foods for too long. Couple that with food grown for mass market and we had those chemicals going into our body. How do I know? Because I was diagnosed with PCOS many years ago and research has shown these chemicals are also hormone disruptors. As we’ve grown our own food and limited chemicals in our environment, PCOS symptoms have decreased. So, if I grow my own food, I know what is literally, going into my body and those that I love. And that brings not only health, but peace-of-mind.

I want my daughter to have a fighting chance when it comes to PCOS. Teaching her now that by doing life a little differently, she can life holistically and be healthy despite the odds against her of also having PCOS.


We want the maximum nutrition from our food. When I realized that the produce I was buying had traveled thousands of miles and was on average 10-days old by the time it hit our plates and mouths, I knew from other studies that the plant was losing nutritional benefits with every day it went from point A to point B and point C. Further, the produce that is mass-marketed is not picked at it’s peak maturation (because travel time to market has to be factored in.) Since it’s picked early, it is not at it’s maximum nutrition. If we grow our own, we can pick at it’s full maturity and consume right away, thereby getting the MOST nutritional benefit from what we are eating.

Have you ever tried home-grown celery? It tastes AMAZING! Much stronger celery taste than in the store-bought celery. Picking a plant at it’s peak maturation has health and taste benefits!


We save money in the long run. Growing your own food does have a cost, (so does eating nutrient deficient food) but when you have a family of seven and five of those eating male adult portions, organic greens, fruits and vegetables quickly add up and end up being more expensive than the effort to grow yourself. One head of organic lettuce goes for about $4 a head in our local grocery store. If instead, I purchase one pack of lettuce seeds, for that $4, I get about 25 pelleted seeds. If I plant a few seeds every week, I would have continuous lettuce and if 20 of those pelleted seeds grow to maturation, I would have saved $40 over the course of time. What could I do with an extra $40 in my pocket? Buy more seed!

The hydroponic aeroponic vertical garden Tower Garden growing system does an amazing job of growing greens. We looked at it as an investment and purchased ours several years ago. They continue to work fantastic and is my preferred method for growing food.


It provides our family with food security. When we went through the Covid Pandemic self-quarantine, we quickly realized what a blessing it is to have the know-how to grow your own food and the tools in place to have that fresh supply of food. It brings peace-of-mind knowing that we could provide food for our family without worrying what other germs might be on the food we were purchasing, who had handled it previously, if it had been cleaned properly, or if there would even be food available. All those concerns others were experiencing, never affected us, because we had already altered our way of living so it was a natural flow to our day and lifestyle. What’s more, any extra in our harvests can be saved for future use through freezing, canning or dehydrating with a little planning. Some call it homesteading. Some call it self-sufficiency. It’s just our new normal and we’ve learned to re-prioritize things in life to accommodate our desire to produce good clean nutritious food.

Yummy cucumber relish!


Growing our own food provides for those in need. Even with a large family, we purposely plan for extra to share with widows and those who may not have as much. We are to treat others the way we would like to be treated. I may not always have extra money to give to someone, but I can certainly share from my harvest to encourage them emotionally as well as meet their physical need of food.

A bag full of green lettuce ready to be delivered. We freeze a recycled soda water liter of water and put it in a medium size cooler and after our greens have chilled down a bit in the refrigerator, we pop the heads of lettuce into the cooled cooler and they transport beautifully to whoever we are giving them to and stay fresh.


It naturally lends itself to grow our family-run Seed Company Business. Seeds can be collected from the food that we grow for our family to utilize. Nothing is wasted. What’s even more important is intentionally choosing a home-based business model that fits our goal of being the primary ones to raise our children which includes at the fore-front educating them. A farm and garden is a great tool for teaching valuable life skills and helps our children grow into healthy adults.


Growing our own food fits into our lifestyle and supports our other food systems. As we prune and process, any excess can be given to our chickens and good green waste given to our worms. The worms provide worm waste which believe it or not provides beneficial bacteria for our plants. It is all interconnected and with a little tweaks to our daily routines, is totally feasible.

Our chickens enjoying a special treat — cilantro! I plant extra just for my hard working girls, because I know they love it and it grows well here in the SE.


Gardening brings enjoyment to life — it helps us try new things and satiates our love of always learning something new. Take for instance our 2020 challenge. My son and I decided to try growing watermelons in the shape of a heart… and it worked! We are tweaking a few things and will try again next season hoping the next watermelon variety will have fewer seeds.

I love a good challenge! I told my son that I wanted to try growing a heart-shaped sugar baby watermelon this past season and we successfully did it! We are currently trying various varieties and my son has figured out some tricks along with way for growing them. Try something new — gardening is fun!

So, before you trying growing your first seed, determine WHY you want to grow food in the first place. This will help direct you in the next step… HOW to determine what to grow (based on your “why”) and your available growing space.

Live your best life today and happy growing!

—Erin

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