One of the primary things we want to encourage here at Men of the West is self sufficiency.  While we’re not ready to start a group swapping recipes for acorn flour, we want to ensure that everybody knows how to provide their own food.  The problem with writing about gardening on a site like Men of the West is that our desired audience covers such a large variation in growing zones.  If you don’t know what a growing zone is, or you don’t know what growing zone you are in, take a minute and skim over the article at Infogalactic.

United States Hardiness Zones

USDA Hardiness Zone Poster

So, from this point forward, we are going to operate under the assumption that you know (1) what growing zone you are in, and (2) how to use Google (or your search engine of choice) to find message boards and local gardening sites to help you figure out what plants grow well in your area.  Keep in mind that the hard core local gardeners may have varieties of plants that aren’t for sale in large stores that have been bred for your specific area.   They can also give you good advice on when it is safe to plant.  If you are new to gardening, the first thing is to look up when typical planting time is for your particular growing zone – which varies not just on growing zone, but also on the plant.

 

One of the easiest plants to start with is the venerable tomato.  Almost everybody has a recipe with a tomato in it that they like.  And the beauty of starting with a tomato plant is that you can grow them in a pot if the idea of tilling the soil up and making sure that the nutrients to support the plant are there.  Also, by starting small, you don’t have to worry about storing your food (how to preserve food may be a future topic addressed if there’s enough interest in growing it).  You will want to start with something that grows well in your area, preferably an heirloom seed.  There are a lot of genetically modified tomato breeds out there, and while they will grow well, produce a lot of fruit, and resist disease and insects, for our purposes, we want to foster varieties that we can harvest seeds from for our future use.

Now, having decided to start a garden, there’s an important tool that you will also need to start cultivating.  And that is compost.  It takes a lot of care to make sure that the dirt in your garden is capable of sustaining your plants.  But, it’s ridiculously easy to start composting stuff, and the best part is, most of what you would compost would otherwise be trash.  This, my dear capitalist friends, is an opportunity to profit from your trash.  The basic idea is that you throw your biodegradable organic matter in a big pile, douse it with water, and let it sit in the sun and decompose.  If you can do that, you can compost.  But, if you want to get more serious about this kind of thing, we recommend David the Good’s book Compost Everything:  The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.  But, don’t blame us if after reading the book, you have the desire to create your own Compost Tea recipe.

 

It sounds vile, but can you really argue with a guy whose name is actually The Good?