a carrot, a hand shovel and two tomatoes
top view of a place mat with a graphic of vegetables and banner typography that reads Back to Basics: Homesteading 101

Stacy Farrell

a head of lettuce and a red pepper
a young girl wearing an apron smiles as she carries a wooden crate full of vegetables while walking through foliage
a child's hand picks through a large bowl full of vegetables
This year we wanted to give you practical help for creating a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. A way to be a little less dependent on circumstances and a little more dependent on Him. It’s time for us all to get back to basics!
How to Plan a Garden That Feeds Your Family

he world is different now, and our supply chains aren’t as secure as they once were. If there’s a silver lining to this economic mess, it’s that more and more people want to take back control of their food production.

Growing a garden is a joy-filled, peaceful, and rewarding hobby. That said, it’s also hard work. As with any project that’s worth doing, success starts with a solid plan.

Sometimes, starting is the hardest part.

The Secret to Filling Your Pantry with Homegrown Food
There are so many wonderful fruits and vegetables, it’s only natural to want to plant one of everything. However, if your goal is to cultivate and store enough food to feed your family for months to come, it’s important to be strategic.

The risk of planting “all the things” is that you’ll end up with a little bit of everything—but not enough of any one thing to preserve and fill your pantry shelves. And your time, budget, and attention can quickly become depleted.

For a full pantry at the end of the season, try cultivating a staples garden—focusing only on crops that offer the most value. These are plants that store well, preserve effectively, and provide versatility in meal preparation.

As painful as it might be, this requires ditching plants that don’t justify the effort and space due to low yields or challenges in preservation. For example, sweet peas may be a family favorite, but they require a substantial quantity for preservation. Similarly, beloved brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower are challenging to preserve, and each plant only yields one head.

Such considerations are crucial in planning a productive garden.

a potato
a young girl with long braids wearing glasses and overalls trims a potted plant in a large garden

So, what is worthwhile? That answer will vary from person to person, but I recommend:

  1. Onions
  2. Cabbage
  3. Tomatoes
  4. Potatoes
  5. Sweet Potatoes
  6. Cucumbers
  7. Green Beans
  8. Squash Varieties
  9. Peppers
  10. Garlic

Calculating Amounts to Plant

Once you decide what to plant, the next step is to calculate how much to plant. This involves thoughtful consideration of your family’s dietary needs, preferences, and the storage capacity you have available.

  • Evaluate the nutritional requirements of each family member, factoring in age, activity level, and any specific dietary considerations.
  • Consider the shelf life of different crops and prioritize those that store—or preserve—well and can sustain your family over extended periods.
  • Consider seasonal variations and aim for a diverse range of crops to ensure a continuous supply of fresh produce throughout the year.

It’s beneficial to strike a balance between staple crops that serve as the foundation of your meals and complementary crops that add variety and essential nutrients.

For help in planning, we have a free printable, Staples Garden: What to Plant for a Year
a three pronged cultivator
Maximizing Your Garden’s Footprint
a three pronged cultivator
When it comes to cultivating a garden that sustains your family, making the most of your available space is paramount. Here are a few tips to help you fit more in less space.
1. Capitalize on Vertical Space
In a space-conscious garden plan, vertical gardening is a game changer. Make use of trellises, arbors, and vertical planters to capitalize on unused airspace.

Vining crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and beans thrive when given vertical support, not only saving ground space but also facilitating better air circulation and sunlight exposure.

2. Plant a Fall Garden
While many people associate gardening with the spring and summer months, the fall season presents a prime opportunity to extend your harvest. Cool-season crops thrive in the autumn chill, and planning for a fall garden can significantly boost your overall yield. As you harvest a summer crop, a new fall (or even winter) crop can take its place.

Consider cultivating vegetables like kale, spinach, and carrots, which not only endure cooler temperatures but often taste sweeter after a touch of frost.

3. Extend Your Growing Season

To truly maximize your garden’s productivity, explore ways to extend the growing season. Utilize cold frames, row covers, or hoop houses to shield your plants from early spring chills or late fall frosts.

These protective structures create a microclimate that allows you to start planting earlier in the spring and continue harvesting later into the fall.

a short cucumber
4. Stick to Seed Varieties Suited to Your Area
Don’t waste time trying to grow plant varieties that will never be successful in your climate.

Set yourself up for success by researching plant varieties that thrive in your specific region, taking into account factors such as temperature, precipitation, and soil composition.

Native and adapted plants are more likely to flourish, requiring less intervention and providing more reliable yields. Thankfully, you don’t have to guess as to what these plants are. Your state likely has an agricultural extension office that you can find online with a simple Google search.

5. Pair Plants Wisely
Companion planting, rooted in the idea that certain plants can mutually benefit each other, adds a strategic layer to your garden planning.

The primary aim of companion planting is to create a harmonious environment where plants support each other in various ways. Some act as natural pest repellents, while others attract beneficial predatory insects or contribute valuable nutrients to the soil.

For example, basil, nasturtiums, and zinnias are wonderful companions to virtually all vegetables.

On the other hand, there are plants that don’t play well together, such as beans and alliums. These are combinations to avoid, not due to life-or-death scenarios, but because of the risk of stunted growth or pest overpopulation.

By incorporating companion planting wisely, you not only optimize your garden’s footprint but also foster a thriving and mutually supportive ecosystem.

white gardening gloves with black polka dots

In case you ever doubted it, growing your own food is absolutely possible. It just takes a little planning and foresight to make the best use of the space that you have.

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

— 1 Corinthians 3:7
Stacy script typography
white gardening gloves with black polka dots
headshot of Stacy Farrell

tacy Farrell, was surprised by Jesus when she went from being an unmarried, childless, 30-something career woman to a Christ-following wife of 30+ years with two sons she homeschooled K-12. She’s the author of 20+ books—including the award-winning Philosophy Adventure, and Food Prep Guide: A Plan for Money-Saving, Self-Sustaining Abundance in Hard Times.

You’ll find helpful food preservation, pantry storage & gardening tutorials on the Food Prep Guide YouTube channel she produces with her amazing assistant Jordan, and food prep and homeschool resources at HomeschoolAdventure.com and FoodPrepGuide.com.