Food is not the same as it used to be. GMOs are the order of the day and the widespread use of pesticides has certainly changed the way food tastes and how healthy it is for us.
While prices of organic food and other healthy alternatives soar, one can only wonder what alternative they have. Cold winters, time and bugs are some of the deterrents of growing your own food.
In this guide, we hope to bring back the lost art of growing food. Any experienced prepper will know that their ability to survive will hinge on being prepared. Being self-sufficient in terms of food or at least partially so is what we aim to achieve.
Do the right thing, in the right place at the right time.
What should go into your quarter Acre?
Deciding what you should do with your quarter acre can be a tricky decision. Planning what exactly to have on this 10,000 square foot piece of land and in what quantities is essential to success.
Your ideal quarter acre farm should have just the right amount of fruits, vegetables and livestock.
An example of how you may opt to utilize you 10,000 square feet may be:
- 30 Layers( Eggs) 150 sq ft
- 40 Broilers 50-100 sq ft
- 2 Dairy cows (Milk) 500 sq ft
- 4 Beef cows 600 sq ft
- 4 Sheep (Mutton) 300 sq ft
- Tomatoes 600 sq ft
- Potatoes 400 sq ft
- Carrots 400 sq ft
- Onions 200 sq ft
- Cabbage 600 sq ft
- Kale 400 sq ft
- Pumpkin 400 sq ft
- Corn 500 sq ft
- Fruit trees 3000 sq ft
Notice how we still have around 2000 square feet remaining, use this for extra spacing and walk paths, as well as a storage shed for tools and for future expansion.
Opting to grow more fruit trees by reducing the number of animals you have is also a viable option. Others may choose do without livestock or fruits all together and strictly grow vegetables, it is all really a matter of preference.
Growing fruits and veggies that you may choose to keep at you BOL or for when SHTF is also a good way of planning what you should have.
When considering whether to have animals on your farm, one needs to ensure they have the time and interest in animals. Ensuring the necessary resource, willpower, knowledge and space is in place before embarking on keeping any animals will make the process much easier.
Building a stable or animal pen is not always an easy task. Always remember the following rules
- Choose strong but inexpensive material that will be able to withstand any disturbance or attempt by the animal to break out
- Try and build your pens as far away from your house as possible to avoid smell and noise.
- Ensure that your pens are safely secured from thieves and other prey like snakes. Building a raised Pen for animals that are easily attached by snakes and dogs is recommended.
- Ventilation and lighting also play a big part of your pens.
Remember that hardy animals like goats will not need complicated pens and structures. Try to keep in mind that keeping costs down will ensure that you remain viable.
Notice in the table below the required housing for animals
|Area/Animal (Indoor)||-Tie stalls 45 sq. ft.; 5′ x 9′
-Box stall 12′ x 8′ or 10′ by 10′
|70-100sqft||70-100 sq ft||20-25sq ft||50sqft|
|Area/Animal (outdoor)||180- 200 sq. ft||100-130 sq ft||100-130sq ft||50 sq. ft||200 sq ft|
|Family requirements||1 per Riding member||Consumption ½ – 1 Animal
|3 Goats||3 per year|
|Area/Animal (Indoor)||20-25sq ft||3.4.5 sq ft||3.4.5 sq ft||6-7 sq ft|
|Area/Animal (outdoor)||50 sq ft||8-10 sq ft||N/A||18-20 sq ft|
|Family requirements||6-8 sheep||6 Hens||24-30 Broilers||12 Turkeys|
One must ensure that they have a clean water supply close to the animal pens for easy cleaning.
Ensuring that your pens and animal quarters are regularly cleaned and disinfected is vital; keeping records of your cleaning schedule will also ensure success.
Follow the following rules to clean your animal housing:
- Spray the exterior of the animal quarters with insecticide and keep this area free from grass and debris.
- Ensure that there is as little dust as possible by either installing concrete floor around the area or keeping the ground damp.
- Spray the inside with insecticide and Sprinkle detergent on the floor
- Remove all vital equipment clean and disinfect appropriately
- Ensure all waste and litter is cleared from inside
- Wash thoroughly with a high pressure hose
- Disinfect the inside with disinfectant appropriate to the animals you have bearing in mind that disinfectant in not effective when the area is dirty
- Fumigate and seal the pen for a period of 24 hours.
Ensure you wear protective clothing while cleaning which includes a work suite, goggles, gumboots and dust must and gloves. A safety hat or full facial mask must be warm when appropriate.
Choosing the right Animals for your 1/4 acre farm
- Ask to be accompanied by a registered veterinarian and ask for the vaccination certificates of the animals
- Ensure the animals are lively and playful and look like they are in general and good health.
- Make sure that the housing for the animals is ready and the food is prepared. Just like humans, animals will experience stress and shock from movement.
Ensuring that your livestock and are well fed is essential. With the limited space available one needs that you know how much feed you need for you animals. Livestock all have different feeding requirements and as expected the larger the animal is the more feed it will require.
Cattle- 40-80oz of Hay per day
Pigs – 35 oz to 88oz per day
Chickens- A full size chicken will consume a ¼ pound of feed per day.
From the above one should be able to determine the feeding needs of other animals of similar size. Every livestock farmer should ensure that sufficient feed is available for one month. The above quantities should be used as a guide only and specific instruction found on the feed labels should be carefully read.
Like humans, animal’s health needs to be monitored very closely. Livestock like broilers will only thrive in controlled conditions. Artificial light and heating are a necessity and the poultry house will need to be disinfected. Developing a good relationship with your local agriculture department or vet will allow you benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience they have in the area.
Diseases are common among livestock and knowing exactly what to do to prevent and contain such an occurrence is essential. Prevent and control disease by implementing the following steps.
- Ensure your livestock is well fed
Diseases and illness will arise if your animals are malnourished and are not receiving enough food.
- Vaccinate properly
Trying to avoid the cost of vaccines will only lead to losing more in the end. A complete hear can be wiped out overnight if animals are not vaccinated.
Vaccinate against the following diseases:
- Chickens- Mereks disease, infectious bronchitis, Mycoplasma gallispeticum, Salmonella.
- Cows- Pasteurella shot, Leptospira Pomona, Bovine Virus Diarrhoea
- Pigs- parvovirus infection, Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae, atrophic rhinitis
- Purchase Animals from reputable dealers
Purchasing animals from reputable livestock dealers will ensure that these animals have had the necessary vaccination and are suited to your area.
Reserve space for sick animals by means of creating a sick pen. Isolating sick animals will prevent the spread of disease to other animals.
- Proper Record Keeping
Ensure you keep records of all occurrences and the step you took to solve these problems. This will serve as a guideline as each farm will have different conditions that will prevail
Everything begins with the quality of your land and in particular, you soil. There are several things you need to know about your land and soil type is one of them. Different types of soil will determine what crops you will be able to grow and what techniques you employ. There are different types of soil here is a rough guide on them
- CLAY SOIL- Water clogs easily and will form a hard compact layer. Very bad for crop germination. Crops with shallow roots system like lettuce and beans are ideal.
- SANDY SOIL – Composes a lot of hard material like stones and does not store water well. Its inability to cling together makes it ideal for deep root crops like beans.
- LOAM SOIL – Ideal soil type that has just the right balance of clay and sand. Is normally a dark blackish color, great drainage and very healthy
A comprehensive resource on what you can possibly grow in your area can be found on https://www.burpee.com/findgrowzone and by keying in your zip code you will be able to find crops best suited to your area.
Improving the Quality of your Soil
I am sure we have all heard the saying “You are what you eat” Well that is the same thing with soil. Soil will respond to that you feed it.
A good sign that your soil is nice and healthy is in your top soil you will have several healthy worms. These worms feed of the humus in the soil this turns this into excellent nutrients for your plants to feed.
Soil tests are best carried out by collecting samples from different parts of your garden mixing them together and sending them off to a lab for them to be tested. In an instance you would want to test your soil yourself, you should consider buying a soil testing kit from your local agricultural supplies store.
Some of the best home soil test kits are
Here is how to carry out a soil test using a soil tester:
Apart from fertilizers there is a lot you can do to your soil to improve it. Always think green when doing this. The fresher green matter you add to your soil the better it is for it. Another great ingredient for soil is compost. Here is a simple guide on how to make your own compost.
- Take fresh leaves, vegetable scraps and others waste material and add place them into your compost pit.
- You will need to add a layer of manure to it like leftover food, meat and other scraps from your kitchen.
- Cover this with another layer of green matter and sprinkle water on it. Repeat this step until you have the desired quantity of mulch.
- You can check on your compost heap after a few days. If it is decomposing properly if you stick your hands underneath several layers of the pile it should be quite warm. Sprinkle a bit of water every few days to ensure that the process keeps going.
A great video demonstrating how this is done can be found below:
Before adding this compost to your soil ensure that if you have any food scraps they completely turned into compost. If they have not you are surely inviting unwanted pest like rodents into your garden. Rodents also mean you will definitely be inviting a few snakes to the part too.
During hot summer days and as a water preservation method using mulch is always good idea. Mulch is essentially the covering of the base of your plants with natural waste matter. This creates a natural shade for the soil that will reduce the evaporation of water by the sun.
Try to cultivate around your plant to create storage for your water but keeping clear of the roots while you do so. When you water this will help to keep the water where it is needed most. This hole will also help keep compost and fertilizer right where it is needed and prevent it from running off.
A great source for mulch is wood chippings and grass cuttings from your lawn. When you think of mulch always think natural, avoid mulching with like plastic. These can easily be cultivated into the soil when they have served their purpose.
Following the step-by-step instructions in the video below will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to build your compost heap.
Fertilizer and Nutrients
The soil contains several nutrients, which are essential to the growth of plants, and as every plant grows, it takes up these nutrients from the soil that it is planted on
Once crops have been harvested from your farm, you must ‘refill’ the natural supply of nutrients in the soil. You may consider a technique to plough back the stems into the ground for them to form organic matter.
Nutrients can be added — chemical fertilizers, organic matter, and even certain plants from several different sources. This will help maintain the soil’s fertility, so that you can continue growing nutritious and healthy crops.
Using fertilizer is very expensive and can harm the environment if care is not taken. Therefore, before adding fertilizer, be sure to send a soil sample to a laboratory for baseline testing. This will enable you to know which nutrients to apply to the soil, and how much of each to apply.
Fertilizing is all about timing, if too little is added, your farm will not yield as much as it should and if too much is added, or if it is added at the wrong time, excess nutrients will run off the fields and render nearby groundwater and streams unsuitable for plants.
The perfect timing for applying fertilizer depends on the Nutrient Uptake Pattern of the crop. For a given crop, each nutrient has an individual uptake pattern. Be sure to study these patterns when fertilizing your crops.
Consider crop rotation is alternating plants that will infuse different nutrients into the soil.
Choosing Seeds and Crops
Several factors should be considered during crop selection. Choosing the most suitable crops for the current conditions and farming techniques on your farm and planning to manage or avert known problems, can help you have a good start to your farming season.
Identifying the crops and varieties thereof that best suit the intrinsic properties of your farm, can help you maximize yield and quality.
First, be sure to test your soil. Identify which crops you would like to grow, and the soil laboratory will advise you based on the needs of your soil and crops. Every crop has its own fertility needs.
Given the relatively high cost of fertilizer, and relatively low cost of soil tests, added to the fact that soil tests are the only reliable indicator of nutrient needs for your crops, you’d be better off using soil tests than fertilizer.
Tailoring your choice of crops to the current shortcomings of your soils is a clever thing to do, as it gives you higher chances of success. This is because even though fertilizers can help plants to grow in soils that are not naturally suitable for them, their use is expensive and may even be harmful to the environment and the soil.
In some cases, different varieties of the same species may have several different nutrient requirements. Therefore, it is necessary to choose varieties that are suitable for your soil’s own fertility levels.
The length of the daytime is also an important parameter. For instance, onions are affected by day length. So you must select your crops in such a way that the plants’ needs tally with the hours season and the hours of the sun.
Do not select what crops to plant in a given season, if you haven’t first checked the records of the previous season and drawn valuable conclusions… like checking for recurrent disease problems in any particular crop or whether any of the crops did exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly. Evaluating what you’ve done, helps you to plan for what you intend to do.
Make sure you follow planting guides to make sure you do not plant to early or too late.
|GENERAL CROP PLANTING GUIDE|
|CROP||Plant before last spring front||Germination
|Resistance to cold||When to Fertilize|
|Beans seed||Anytime after||48–50||weak||At bloom and pod formation|
|Beets bulb||3 before to 3 after||39–41||fair||Planting time|
|Broccoli||6–8||2–3 before||55–75||strong||After transplant (3 weeks)|
|Brussels sprouts||6–8||55–75||strong||After transplant (3 weeks)|
|Cabbage||6–8||1 before to 1 after||38–40||strong||After transplant (3 weeks)|
|Carrots||3–5 before||39–41||fair||Preferably in the fall for the following spring|
|Cauliflower||6–8||1 before to 1after||65–75||weak||After transplant (3 weeks)|
|Corn||2 after||46–50||weak||Plant achieves 8-10 inches in height|
|Cucumbers||2–4||1–2 after||65–70||weak||After bloom first and third week|
|Lettuce leaves||4–6||1 before to 2 after||40–75||fair||After transplant (3 weeks)|
|Melons||2–4||2 after||55–60||weak||After bloom first and third week|
|4 before||34–36||strong||Plant foot tall and welling of bulb|
|Parsnips||0–3 before||55–70||strong||One year before planting|
|Peas||4–6 before||34–36||strong||After heavy bloom pods setting|
|Peppers||8–10||N/A||70–80||weak||After first fruit-set|
|Potato||0–2 after||55–70||fair||At bloom time or time of second hilling|
|Pumpkins||2–4||1 after||55–60||weak||At running of vines and again when fruit is football size|
|Radishes||1 before to 1 after||39–41||strong||Before spring planting|
|Spinach||4–6 before||55–65||strong||30% growth|
|Squash||2–4||1 after||55–60||weak||At running of vines and again when fruit is football size|
|Squash, winter||2–4||1 after||55–60||weak||At running of vines and again when fruit is football size|
|Tomatoes||6–8||N/A||50–55||weak||Two weeks before, and after first picking|
Water your Plants
Remember that the job of the leaves of your plants is not to take up water! So never water overhead your plants unless you absolutely have to. Always try to water right at the base of your plants.
When you have younger less strong plants, watering above them can cause the stem to break and a long slow recovery will need to take place for this plant to be able to grow again. Ensure you water with a watering can with a spout when possible and water as close as you can to the ground.
One may consider a drip irrigation system for their plans that will help in conserving water. Drip irrigation can be effective but expensive at the same time. Ensure you have a specialist set it up for you and you have the correct water set for the plants that you have
Always remember to try to water in the morning or late afternoon to avoid evaporation of the water by the sun.
Once you harvest your crops, it is important to store them appropriately, so that they can remain in good condition for as long as you want.
To achieve this, there are several factors you need to consider such as the type of crop (i.e. how perishable it is), the humidity and the temperature of the place where the crops are to be stored, the duration of the storage period, the quantity of each type of crop and the storage devices available.
A few commonly used storage devices for crops are baskets, aluminum foil, fridges, barns and buckets. It is important to plan and have the appropriate storage devices and places ready before harvest, so as not to risk losing some of your perishable crops in the course of trying to prepare these devices and places after having harvested. Also, be sure to keep your storage devices and places neat and clean.
Dealing with Pests
Below are a few steps you can to reduce the risk of pests attacking your farm, or spreading across it:
- Make sure you regularly uproot any weeds that may be growing among your crops.
Obtain clean sowing and harvesting equipment from reliable sources, and try to discover where the sowing and harvesting equipment was originally procured.
Ensure that every person getting into the farm is wearing shoes and clothes that are free from soil and/or plant material before they enter or leave the farm.
Be sure to put on clean rubber footwear and protective clothes if necessary. Provide tools for cleaning one’s shoes and clothes for any person getting into or out of your farm, or leaving contaminated areas for clean areas of the farm.
Make sure you carefully keep track of everyone who comes to your farm. In the event of a new pest being introduced into your farm, this will help trace its origin.
Whenever possible, use proper wash down facilities. Make sure that the water used in such facilities is from a clean source, e.g. water treated by chlorination or any other process, rather than from a source whose water may have flowed over land on which crops have been planted.
Periodically clean and disinfect your equipment
Acquaint yourself with difference pests and diseases that are common to you area and crops.
These measures are simply meant to give you the general attitude that you should have towards your farm and all those working in it or visiting it, to keep it free from pests.
Protecting you crops for larger pests like birds, chickens, and other creature may require you to make a scarecrow. scarecrow is an inexpensive guard that any prepper will appreciate.
When You Should Plant
The right period within which to plant depends on what type of crops you are cultivating and what climate you are working in. Planting calendars are not difficult to find, but be sure to adapt them to your climate.
If you are farming in the Mediterranean regions, note that some crops do very well in cool weather, whereas others only grow well when it is warmer. Most cool season crops, such as lettuce, cabbage and many others, can bear a light frost and are most likely to grow best when sown about two weeks before the last spring frost.
Other crops like peas and spinach, are so cold hardy that they can even be planted “as soon as the ground can be worked,” as can be read on several seed packets. As for warm season crops like cucumber basil and squash, the frost will kill them if you sow your seeds too soon.
The same holds for warm season plants such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers — if you do not wait until the danger of frost has passed before planting them, a late frost will destroy them.
For farmers in the tropical Regions, it is of the essence to follow the cycle of the rainy and dry seasons to determine what crop to plant when.
Fruits are a wonderful addition to your quarter acre land. It certainly would be great to have fruit all year round. Below is a guide on when you should expect to harvest fruits from the specified trees. It also specifies time from planting to when first fruits as well as frozen storage time.
|Autumn||Winter||Spring||Summer||Time to fruit
|Frozen storage (Months)|
Planting fruit trees
- Ensure that your soil is properly drained
A simple drain test can be carried out by digging a hole that is about a foot deep, filling it with water and waiting for about 4 hours. If the water has been drained from the hole, then refill the hole and wait another 4 hours. If the water doesn’t drain while carrying out this test on either the first or second filling, then you may have poorly drained soil.
The solution to this may be you may need to construct was in known as French drain to improve the drainage of your land. A French drain is essentially an excavated hole filled with porous material like gravel and rocks to allow water to drain from your land.
French drain Video:
- Planting depth
Normally, fruit trees can be bought from your local nursery. Trees that come from the nursery will indicate the soil line of stem of the tree plant. Ensure that you adhere to this line as planting to deep or shallow could lead to impeded growth.
- Tree spacing
Trees require adequate space to grow and limiting the space between trees limits the size the tree will grow to. As a general rule, do not plant less the 18-25 feet between trees to prevent them forming a hedge (unless this is the desired effect).
Tools and Implements
The tools and implements you will need will depend on how your preference and the complexity of your farming. The types of crops you are cultivating and on what kind of soil you are tilling.
When choosing what tools to use, make sure you take into account the cost and availability, as well as the specific purposes they are needed. Also, make sure that the tools you use are of high quality so as to reduce the risk of accidents and to increase their efficiency and, hence the yield of your farm.
The common tools you will need for you small farm are:
- Shovel and spade
- Garden fork
- Watering can
- Hose pipe
Back to the Land
Sharing techniques and methods with other is normally the best way to perfect ones craft. Ensuring that you are up to date with techniques and methods of farming and store is a great way to stay a few steps ahead of the crowd.
Keeping abreast with latest trends, technology equipment, vaccines and other information will keep you ahead of the pack. Your amazing well-kept quarter acre plot will be the envy of everyone.
Some of us may have grown up on farms while others may have been lived in concrete jungles, the principles remain the same for thousands of hectares or just a few square feet of garden.
We will love to hear from you on how well your ¼-acre garden project was and other tips and tricks you have up your prepper sleeve.