The Self Sufficiency Pages
Home food production, renewable energy, alternative technologies, sustainable agriculture
with an emphasis on Brisbane and Queensland

Growing your own food in a financial crisis

If the idea of of people in an affluent country like Australia going hungry to make ends meet seems unlikely, take a look at the following stories from the mainstream media:
Families forced to steal food The Daily Telegraph

Let's be realistic - it's highly unlikely that you'll ever be able to feed yourself totally from even a large backyard. You might be able to obtain higher yields than you otherwise would with specialised irrigation systems, growing beds, fish tanks and the like, but these are a big investment. Even getting a usable harvest by traditional means isn't always easy and takes time, space, skill and there's still some cost for seeds, fertilisers etc. If you're a suburban homeowner in strife, you might not have these things at your disposal.

It's probable that more people will be turning to their backyards if these trends continue

There's masses of information about edible gardening out there, and as you become more established you may wish to explore it. This page, however, will try to focus on:
1. fast, easy and value-for-money-spent crops and techniques for survival (or, perhaps, just want a less intimdating way into veggie gardening).
2. information appropriate for subtropical regions (of which there is a general lack) although residents of other regions will find useful information here, too.
3. using supplies that are readily available in suburban outlets and preferably be transported home easily by the bus or bicycle

There isn't any magic formula here - as the page evolves new information and new ideas will be added over time in an attempt to make it more and more useful

The Disclaimer: Don't count on being able to produce ANY food from your backyard. This is not a substitute for responsible money management and the content of this page does not consitute financial advice. See also general website Disclaimer


If we accept that we won't be able to grow everything, what should our priorities be? Forget about snow peas and strawberries for now. They might be good to eat but the yeilds are low and for the amount of space and work involved, and they are also very seasonal. Unfortunately, some of the easiest vegetables to grow in a hot climate aren't so appealing or even familiar to many of us.

Why not get started with herbs and other flavour-enhancing crops? While they don't contribute a lot of nutrition to a dish directly, they can help turn basic (and cheap) staples like rice and beans into real meals.

Also, you can start cautiously picking from most herb plants as soon as they're big enough (best to leave an interval for dissipation of pesticides if you have bought from a garden centre). So, you can get started quickly.

Being able to gradually introduce home-grown produce into the diet in tiny amounts in this way could also help to break down resistance amongst vegetable- haters in the family.

Day One - Start Composting!

If you don't compost your own kitchen scraps, lawn clippings and prunings, you're essentially throwing away plant nutrients and humus that you would otherwise have to pay for in the form of fertilisers and soil conditioners. For more on composting, go to Garden Waste Management.

Cheap stuff, free stuff

It's possible that you already have a collection of tools, pots and other bits and pieces left over from a previous gardening attempt sitting in the shed waiting for you. However if you really are starting from scratch, there's no need to go out and immediately spend a big pile of money on basic tools. Read more on the Budget Gardening page.

Make your first fruit tree a lemon!

Keeping with the flavourings theme, the advantage of lemons is that they can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes and drinks without requiring a huge harvest to provide useable quantities. They can also be used around the house in various ways, even just arranged in a decorative bowl.

Through pruning and training trees can be kept down in size if space is tight, but there are also get dwarf forms to suit small spaces, even a pot. For more information, visit the Citrus page.

Consider these

Bunching onions - these are the narrow onions sold with he green tops (sometimes called "spring onions" or "shallots" here, although these are not the true shallots, which form small bulbs). They're easy to grow and, if left in the ground, will multiply by themselves, but you can begin harvesting them as soon as they are big enough. The cheapest way to get lots of plants is to start from seed. The biggest problem will be leaving enough in the ground to multiply, so plant lots. These are so handy for snacks (just harvest one) or as well as more substantial dishes. For more information go to the page dealing with Onions & Relatives.

Lettuce - expensive to buy from the greengrocer. Select a type suited to the season. Well suited to planter boxes and pots, and the looseleaf types can be picked a few leaves at a time as required. For more information go to the Lettuce Page.

Tomatoes - not as easy to grow as some might have you believe, as they are prone to so many pests and diseases, but any aspiring vegetable grower should have a go as they are so useful and nutritious in the kitchen. Many seed cataloges have an overwhelming variety of tomato varieties on offer in a variety of shapes and colours, but seed of popular varieties like Grosse Lisse and Roma are easy and cheap to purchase and are as likely to give results as any. "Cherry" types are widely acknowledged to be among the easiest of all to grow. Tomato seed sprouts readily from compost and is the cheapest and easiest way of all to get tomato plants, although the results may be somewhat unpredictable. More information: Tomatoes

Choko - much maligned but the secret is to pick them small just as you would a zucchini (they belong to the same family). Easy to grow but the does vine is vigourous and requires a suitable support. This can be an advantage, however, if you have an ugly fence or pergola to cover, and is a way to add to the productivity of the garden without taking up much horizontal space. For more, go to the Cucurbits page.

Winged bean - an unusual vegetable that could be a crop well worth trying (see the links provided on the Beans page for more information). Seed may be hard to find - you may have to buy from specialist online seed suppliers.

More Coming Soon!


The following links may also be of interest:
The Year-Long GRS Project: How Much Does a Garden Really Save? An ongoing project at the Get Rich Slowly blog. Check the blog for updates
Save a year's salary by growing your own veg This is a media release about the UK's Royal Horticultural Society 'Grow Your Own Veg' 2008 campaign.

See also :
Queensland Gardening Pages - Soils More links about soils
Queensland Gardening Pages - Plant nutrition Info about soil fertility and nutrient deficiencies
Queensland Gardening Pages - Waste management contains links about home composting
Queensland Gardening Pages - Worms, Worm Farms contains links about vermiculture

The Disclaimer: Don't count on being able to produce ANY food from your backyard. This is not a substitute for responsible money management and the content of this page does not consitute financial advice. See also general website Disclaimer

Treechanger / Treechangee

A page intended for Australians looking for opportunities to move to the country and for communities that are actively seeking people to move to their district. View here:

A page for the mortage-stressed & others hoping to use their yards to produce food in an emergency:

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