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How much time per week does it take to raise a year’s worth of food or a large vegetable garden with fruit?
Today we’re diving into how much time it really takes to raise a year’s worth of food. This is a question I get asked often, so I wanted to share a glimpse into our own life and how much time we spend on growing and raising all of our food for the year.What constitutes a year’s worth of food will look different for everybody, depending on the size of your family, the ages of your children, your gardening experience and your food preferences, etc.
However for our family, a family of four including a son just entering his teens, it takes us an average of about two hours a week to raise all of our own fruits and vegetables. And for a lot of those fruits and vegetables, we do get a year’s worth of that particular crop.
We raise 100% of our own meat and over 50% of our fruits and vegetables for a year of our family of four. I often get asked how much time does it actually take to produce all of this food. A good portion of those fruits and vegetables we produce enough to take us through the entire year and eat fresh.
Today we’re tackling the time aspect of the fruits and vegetables.
Listen in below to the full podcast, Episode #174 How Much Time Per Week to Raise a Year’s Worth of Food, of the Pioneering Today Podcast, where we don’t just inspire you, but give you the clear steps to create the homegrown garden, pantry, kitchen and life you want for your family and homestead.
This is one of my favorite things to talk about is raising your own food because it has so many benefits on so many different levels. It has changed my health. Growing as much of our own food as possible is one of the reasons and I have been able to go off of prescription medications and heal my stomach from stomach ulcers and acid and having cellular change to my esophagus and my upper stomach. I know it has changed my health and hundreds and thousands of people through my books and who actually inside the Pioneering Today Academy, I have seen it change their health and the projection for their family as well.
Homegrown food is better and everyone can raise at least one item of their own food. Good news, more and more of us are realizing the benefit of home grown food and I’ve got a challenge, 10,000 families raising at least a year’s worth of their own food of at least 1 item.
This is something every single person can do!
And to provie it, I have a goal of 10,000 families raising their hand and saying yes, we’re going to raise a year’s worth of at leat one food item at home and I’ve got a sign up sheet right here for you –> FREE 10K Family Grow Challenge
On average we spend 2 hours a week on our vegetable garden and fruit trees/ orchard. Notice, I shared on average.
During the winter months I don’t do much, so I’m lucky November through January if I put in 2 hours a month.
Come spring, I’ll have a few dedicated weekends to my perennial beds and herbs.
For our established fruit plants (fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries, and elderberries) I’ll spend about 5 hours in the spring pruning, adding fertilizer/compost, and mulching the berry patch. Our fruit trees/plants consist of:
5 blueberry bushes
2 elderberry plants
13 raspberry plants
4 apple trees
2 cherry trees
1 peach tree
2 plum trees
For my perennial herbs I spend about 2 hours annually pruning in the spring and adding fertilizer/compost to the container plants (I grow a lot of our herbs in containers due to spreading or as a warmer micro-climate so they make it through our winter months).
Our perennial herbs:
I do my best to set my garden up so that it will grow and produce without a whole lot of hands-on management when at all possible. This is where it can be more work when you’re just getting started, but then it gets easier to manage as time goes on.
For example, we just put in a new asparagus bed and a whole new section of raspberry canes. The initial work that went into getting these new beds and plants started and set up definitely took some more time, once those areas are established, those perennial plants will produce with very little hands-on work for years to come.
When it comes to your annual beds, even though you will need to replant each year, once you’ve done the initial hard work of clearing the land and setting up your garden area, you’ll be planting in the same plot of land year after year which will take much less time than when you’re first breaking ground to put a new garden in.
The same goes for raised beds or container gardening. Once you’ve got your containers or your beds in place, you’ll be putting in much less time each year to get your garden growing.
When it comes to gardening and growing your own food, there are definitely certain tasks and areas that will take more or less time than others. Like I said, when you’re first breaking ground and putting in new garden beds, this will take much more of your time than once your garden beds are established.
Starting seeds, however, takes a lot less time than other gardening tasks, often totaling just a few minutes a day in the spring to plant the seeds, turn your grow lights on and off and keep them watered. Once they’re ready to be hardened off you’re looking at a few more minutes each day. Most of the time at this stage is just wait time.
As for direct sowing seeds outdoors, that usually takes us a total of about three to four hours, which we tend to do all in one day.
Of course those weeks and during those times there’s more involved and more of a time commitment. But once everything is in, you’re going to save yourself so much time if you just do the work up front and do it right.
One other area where you should try to spend some more time up front (to save yourself time in the long run) is to do whatever you can at the time of planting or even before that to give your plants the best chance at growing big and strong and take steps to ward off pests and disease right from the start so that you’re not spending time trying to correct problems later.
A lot of this will come with experience and with a lot of trial and error, so again, if you’re a new gardener, expect to spend a bit more time dealing with some of these problems. But once you learn how to set your garden up for success right from the start, you’ll save yourself tons of time and effort in the end.
For example, there are certain things you should do when planting tomatoes in order to avoid common diseases like blight and blossom end rot. You can avoid both of these things very easily with a few simple actions at the time of planting.
First, start off by choosing the right spot for planting. Choose somewhere dry where you wont get a lot of overhead rain or water, which can cause blight. We grow our tomatoes under cover in a high tunnel to avoid the leaves getting wet and susceptible to blight.
Next, practice crop rotation. This is always important in order to avoid transferring diseases from previous year’s plants onto this year’s crop. And finally, amend your soil to give your plants a healthy start.
When it comes to tomatoes, try adding calcium to your soil to avoid blossom end rot. This can be as easy as adding some created eggshells or oyster shells to the soil before transplanting your tomato seedlings.
Another thing that I like to do that saves quite a bit of time is to set up the trellis system for our pole beans at the time of planting because they’ll need to climb on that will support them. I put the trellis system in first and plant my beans around that so everything is ready to go and I don’t have to worry about disturbing the roots when I put my trellis in later.
Once your plants are in place and you’ve done the initial work of getting your garden set up right from the beginning, from there it should only take you a couple of hours each week to maintain and care for our plants, including weeding, watering, pruning and fertilizing as needed.
Focus most of your time and attention on establishing your garden and setting your plants up for success and you will no doubt save yourself countless hours in the long run.
And that’s it! That’s really all it takes to grow a year’s worth of lettuce, cucumbers, butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, Brussels sprouts, Kale, carrots, beets, radishes, onions, you name it.
And if you think about it, if you were to just go to the grocery store every week, by the time you add up your drive time, parking, the time spent shopping, standing in line waiting to pay, coming home, etc. you’re probably spending more than two hours a week as is just going and buying those things from the store.
If you want to learn more about how to raise a year’s worth of food at home, then be sure to join our free 10K Family Challenge over at melissaknorris.com/10000.
Join our Raise a Year’s Worth of Food 10K Family Challenge click here for details!
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.