Grow Your Own Food: 2020

“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946.
That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food?
Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests.
It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides.
It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.”

Joel Salatin


“Girls, the moment is here … it’s time,” I announced to a kitchen table full of sleepy eyed daughters, mulling over their oatmeal bowls. “It’s gardening time … time to pull out our hoes!”

Hefting my large wicker basket filled with seeds onto the kitchen table, I smiled a joyful, expectant grin. My table has been cramped full of seed flats with sprouting plants for the past month or so. The girls’ windowsills also have been haven for little seedlings as we do our best with starting seeds indoors (in a very cold old farmhouse with little natural light). But now, with May  in progress — albeit a chilly one for Ontario — it will finally be time to begin (some of) our garden planting.




I cannot tell you how amazing it is to have a large family vegetable garden. I know all of North America is hyper about gardening this year with the strange happenings of 2020, but for us, it’s life as normal. We have been running our family garden for six years now. Every year, we try something a little different, which keeps us ever learning. Every year, we learn something and fail somewhere and reap rewards in other places. We are all learning – but I am grateful for the five years of work under our belt.

I suppose everyone is contemplating gardening this year. My sister told me her neighbour tilled up half of his yard to plant their first ever garden – how exciting!
Due to empty (reported) grocery shelves  {I have yet to experience that myself} and little-to-no-fresh produce or even frozen vegetables, surely it raises even the brownest of thumb-gardeners to want to at least ATTEMPT growing food for their own family.

If you have not gardened yet, do you suppose this is the year to consider it? Not only are things ‘strange’ out there in the ‘real world’, but it is just wise and prudent to provide for your own family with your own hands.

The weekend Luther was born seemed to the weekend our country went topsy-turvy with events – and that did seem to affect grocery stores and food supplies. Yet while others had to scramble to find their food for their pantries, life went on as normal for this family and we can thank God for that – it is a result of last year’s gardening and preserving.  I am so grateful -I cannot imagine scurrying to a grocery store to try to find enough food for our large family, all after just having baby #9. It would have been very stressful, to say the least! This new season showed us one thing: it seemed all our gardening and work and efforts of the past few years really did pay off — in a literal sense.


“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be ne[ce]ssary
in the House keeping way —
as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.”

– Martha Washington, 1792


There is something absolutely wonderful about growing your own food– especially if you grow enough to avoid going to the grocery store most weeks. All the children at home help us with our garden – we all eat at the same table and we all work the same ground (with, of course, exceptions of the little ones). We look to work together. I believe it strengthens our family ties, as well as providing food for our larger – than – normal family.

Now, it is fun to garden for a hobby, but providing most of your food from your garden is another story. When we first moved here (six years ago), I had dreams for our family-supported vegetable garden. With three little girls and one baby on the way, we started, in town, with a tiny 6×6 vegetable garden. We were so excited to plant those little rows of vegetables and were thrilled to harvest the few vegetables that managed to grow. However, moving to the country with baby #6 on the way, we were then able to grow a proper amount of food for our ever-growing family. And every year, our family grew and every year, I’d look at my husband and ask, “Can we expand the garden a little bit more this year?” Every year, he grumbled about it :), but every spring, the garden would grow. This year, yes, it has grown again (well, it just fits our pattern as we have just added our sweet baby #9 to the fold).

Yes, a large garden is a lot to manage, but it is how we spend our summer. It teaches hard work, patience, responsibility and is very rewarding. It fills the hours of our day, creates a summer routine for the children and I (weeding and watering, weeding and watering) and finally, a harvest in the late summer and early fall rewards our family with beautiful home-grown food. I could never go back to not having a proper garden.


Just for fun, here is a list of what we grow in our family vegetable garden:

green and yellow beans
brussel sprouts

a variety of squash
variety of tomatoes
melons (if we are lucky)
sugar pie pumpkins

I have not had success with corn so I buy a huge amount from our friends and neighbours who grow organic corn. We process it and save it in the freezer or can it for the winter. This year, we ran out so we will have to increase our corn amount for the following year.


In the herb garden, which was the original vegetable garden which we outgrew, there will be the following:

Lady’s Mantle



Last year, we planted 50 lbs of potatoes – we have yet to run out of poatoes and we eat a lot of them! This year, we planted the same amount. They are well loved by all the members of the family – and so easy to plant that a two year old can help out! (Thanks, Loyal!)

We plant 110 tomato plants – some we start from seed, some we purchase from our local garden house as started plants (our growing season is quite short in Ontario).
We have yet to run out of tomatoes — and they are used for so many dishes that I could just never do without a huge amount of tomatoes every fall.

All the food we harvest in the fall is canned, frozen and put away into the Provision Room for the winter.

Our Provision Room has proven to be a wonderful asset for our family table.

To determine how much food you will need for your family, figure out how many months of winter you have in your area. For us, cold weather and winter lasts for roughly six months. We cannot grow food in the garden from November-April. Therefore, I need a food supply put away for half a year = 24 weeks.
I have figured that we need a rotation of vegetables for 24 weeks – four vegetable options a week. Our vegetable options will be cabbage, carrots, squash, corn, zucchini and turnips/rutabaga.
For example … this will mean we plant 24 cabbages.
We will need approximately four-five litres of tomato sauce per week for 24 weeks. That is a high estimate, depending on what we are making for dinner, but I would rather not run out of tomato sauce in January. Planning for a surplus is what we’re aiming for in the Provision Room.
We will need enough for two meals of potatoes each week, as well.

Perhaps where you live, you are able to begin planting in January for fresh greens and vegetables. Think ahead to what your family needs, experiment with your garden, plant a little extra this year. If you don’t need it, you can bless another family with it.

Happy planting!




“Before grocery stores and farmers markets, kitchen gardens were ‘a necessary support of life,’
as one gardening manual observed.
In the 18th century,
every home outside the city had a vegetable or kitchen garden
providing nutritious supplements to rural diets.”


If you are already a gardener, here is what is inspiring me lately … this is George Washington’s garden. Isn’t it stunning?


May 21, 2020 - 6:35 am

Gigi Sarah, I am looking forward to those photos!

May 21, 2020 - 6:35 am

Gigi Teresa, have fun planting! So exciting!

May 21, 2020 - 6:35 am

Gigi Ruthie, oh, you are too generous with your compliments.
The frame is a pea tee-pee! We saw it in George Washington’s garden. I always struggle with my pees falling over.
I’m so glad the bread recipe worked well for you!

May 20, 2020 - 4:13 pm

Ruthie Your garden is amazing! I love how all the children pitch in together to make work fun. In the one picture of your 2 girls with the gentleman, what is the teepee shaped structure they are putting together going to be used for? I appreciate you sharing the method you use to plan for the amounts of food needed to feed your family through the winter months. I have trouble figuring that. I also made your recipe for bread! I was so pleased with the results and so was my family. Thankyou!!

May 18, 2020 - 3:56 pm

Teresa @ SF O I have been waiting for this post! Wow what a garden you are planting…look forward to more post on how it is growing and the harvest. I am currently waiting on my husband to till our garden. We are running late do to many many rainy days in our area.
thank you for the inspiration.

May 14, 2020 - 7:32 pm

Sarah Yes, it was “The General in the Garden”. He absolutely loves it! I will plan to do a garden post at some point, maybe when the plants are in and have grown a bit. Adam was able to purchase a tiller this year, so that is making a big difference and is helping him make his dreams a reality. : )

May 14, 2020 - 6:15 pm

Liz I love gardening talk. You mentioned your favourite garden. My absolute favourite garden is the stone-walled garden on the Escape to the Chateau tv show. I could live in that garden! Believe it or not they actually charge people $75 to come work in their garden! Many folks must love it!

May 14, 2020 - 3:27 pm

Gigi Sarah, oh, tell your husband I would LOVE to see photos of his garden. The girls and I have put in a water feature in this year’s vegetable garden – imagine that …. beauty and vegetables … well, I find it all beautiful, to tell you the truth. Which book did you purchase re: Washington’s Garden? Was it A General in the Garden? I’d love to read through such a book!

May 13, 2020 - 1:59 pm

Diane *Doug’s Wife is my daughters youtube channel.

May 13, 2020 - 1:57 pm

Diane Oh this is beautiful GiGi. We are having a really cold spring here in Michigan. Looks like our peach tree blossoms froze again this year. We covered them with tarps but it got down to 25 degrees so it didn’t help. It was snowing here on May 11! Thats the latest snow that I can remember. I find gardening to be the most difficult job here on our small farm. We have an orchard too. I much prefer working with animals, but we still have a good size garden every year. Lots of tomatoes of all varieties, green and yellow beans, peppers, watermelons do well in our sandy soil, carrots, zucchini, and lots of kitchen spices and herbs. our back field is full of sweet corn to attract deer and to feed us. If you want to see it you can go to “Doug’s Wife” on youtube. She has a corn video, and a video in our orchard. It’s called August Memories.

May 13, 2020 - 1:29 pm

Sarah Lovely post! I shared your post with my husband, and he wanted me to tell you how much he enjoyed it too. He has read several of Joel Salatin’s books, and has learned so much from them. Adam also admires George Washington’s garden. Last year I purchased a wonderful book all about George Washington’s garden for his birthday. He is modeling our garden in a similar style, on a smaller scale of course. May the Lord bless you and your family!

May 10, 2020 - 7:12 am

Monica Your garden looks fantastic!! Great and thorough post. Gardening is probably my number one passion—and yes so much to learn every year!! I can’t wait to follow your progress. xo

May 10, 2020 - 5:49 am

Gigi Kristal, I’m so glad you like the spring garden posts. I remember there was a time when I found garden posts (on other blogs/articles) not very interesting – so I have come a long way myself! 😉
Yes, for sure – send along some questions. Although I am still learning, I’d love to help in any way.
A quarter cow is fantastic! You will love it! It is so wonderful to have the meat right there for you in your freezer. Congratulations!

May 9, 2020 - 7:00 pm

Kristal I love your spring garden posts! I will be sending you an e-mail with some questions if you don’t mind. 🙂
As for food and shelves, sadly where we live we have noticed this, especially with meat and dairy products. We don’t usually buy canned goods and thankfully we live in a large farming community, so we have lots of fresh produce right now! My husband and I decided to buy 1/4 cow for the first time. I’m truly excited about this, because I’ve been wanting to buy locally sourced meat for some time now. We don’t have the land to do it ourselves, but Lord willing in the future we might be able too! Take care, looking forward to talking soon.