Homesweet Homegrown: How to Grow, Make, And Store Food, No Matter Where You Live

Homesweet Homegrown: How to Grow, Make, And Store Food, No Matter Where You Live



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781934620106
Publisher: Microcosm Publishing
Publication date: 05/01/2012
Series: DIY
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Jenn Biggs occupies her time by drawing silly cartoons, making gluten-free food stuffs, wearing goggles and doing pretend science.

Robyn Jasko is a local foods activist and community garden starter. She is the co-founder of, a site promoting sustainable lifestyles, homesteading, eating well, and living local. Her first book is Homesweet Homegrown: How to Grow, Make and Store Food, No Matter Where You Live.

Read an Excerpt




There are so many reasons to grow your own food these days. Whether you have a container garden in New York City or a raised bed in suburbia, you can grow your own food no matter where you live, without a huge amount of work. Because, here's a secret: gardening doesn't have to be complicated.

You take some soil and some seeds, and you make food. Making food means you don't have to go to the supermarket. By not going to the supermarket, you aren't contributing to the cycle of food transportation, fuel costs, pollution, and the absurd reality that those tomatoes you see in the store actually came from a country thousands of miles away. But that's just one reason to grow food, here's more:

Homegrown Food Tastes Better

Quite simply, food that you grow tastes a lot better because it wasn't sprayed with pesticides and it didn't sit in a truck that was driven across the country. And, by growing your own, you'll have access to culinary varieties that your regular supermarket doesn't even carry. Purple basil, heirloom garlic, yellow beets, blue pumpkins — just think of the amazing dinners!

It's Fun

Growing, making, and storing food is also rewarding, and a perfect way to add some balance to our stressed out crazy world. There are actually studies that support this — even just five minutes of putting your hands in the soil can give you a better perspective and improve your mood.

Rising Food Costs

We almost can't afford to not grow our own food these days. And, food costs are expected to keep going up, doubling by 2030, according to a recent study by Oxfam. Growing a small raised bed or even a few tomato plants on a balcony can save a lot of money.

You'll Know Where Your Food Comes From

No more mystery spinach — when you go out back to harvest lettuce or pick basil, you'll know for sure that it wasn't sprayed with heavy duty pesticides, or tainted with ecoli runoff from factory farms.

Kids Love Gardening

And, why not? Gardening is like magic when you think about it. But, more importantly, growing food teaches kids to be self sufficient, and to know where their food comes from. It's easy for kids to think food comes from a supermarket. That's why I love seeing children at the community garden pull up beets with a huge smile on their faces, or look in amazement at the giant pumpkin growing.

Food is power, so it's time to take matters into our own hands and start something. And this book will show you how to grow, store, and make as much food as possible on the cheap.


Produce is expensive — and the costs keep going up. Especially for good organic food. Even herbs and salad greens, which can be grown on a windowsill anywhere, anytime, are $5 for a tiny box. By growing your own, you can save a lot of money, especially if you grow from seed.

Here's an example:

Cost of tomato Plant- $3 or about 25 cents if you grow it from seed Average Pounds Per Plant- 10 to 15
or, take beets:

Cost for beet seed Packet $3 for 75 seeds Average Pounds of beets Per Packet 50
And, this doesn't include the high cost of heirlooms — which are usually $1 a pound more because they taste awesome and come in all sorts of different colors, shapes and sizes.

Not sure how much to grow? Check out our guide on page 17 to figure out how much to grow per person to have enough produce for the year.


There are so many terms for seeds being thrown around these days that it can be confusing to know what's what. Here's a quick lowdown:

Heirloom Seeds:

This is a true seed that has been around for at least 60 years, most likely a lot longer. Heirloom seeds are usually open pollinated, meaning that wind or insects fertilize the seed. They'll breed true to their parent plants, so if you harvest seeds and replant them you will get the same variety. Heirlooms are key to having a truly sustainable garden, since you won't have to buy seeds every year and can actually save a ton of money this way.

Hybrid Seeds:

Not to be confused with GMO (genetically modified organisms), hybrid seeds are naturally bred for beneficial characteristics such as disease and insect resistance, new flower types, improved vitamin content in vegetables and grains, and many other characteristics. The downside with hybrids is that their seed doesn't resemble the parent plant, so you cannot reliably save their seeds.

Genetically Modified Seeds (GMO)

GMOs are manmade seeds where scientists insert genetic material into a plant to add a characteristic that is not naturally there. No, it's not a Phillip K. Dick novel, this is happening now, and GMO corn, beets, and soybeans are already at your supermarket.

These seeds are highly controversial. In some parts of the world, they are outlawed. No one knows the longterm ramifications of turning nature into Frankenfood. And while the "official" word from the U.S. government is that such seeds are safe, contradictory evidence indicates otherwise.

GMO crops were created in the 1970s specifically to be resistant to Roundup — a dangerous pesticide that is produced by Monsanto, a company patenting GMO crops. See the connection? New studies are showing that the past 30 years of using Roundup on GMO crops have brought on a new breed of super weeds, which farmers are treating with even more pesticides.

More and more articles are coming out showing the irreversible health and environmental effects GMO crops are having on people and animals as they enter the food supply, but until they are outlawed, we are the guinea pigs. And that's one more reason to grow your own food.

Organic Seeds

Organic seeds are grown, saved, and stored without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, GMOs, irradiation, and biosolids in your food. When shopping for seeds, or for produce, choosing organic is definitely the safest way to go and a good way to keep GMOs and pesticides off your plate and out of your garden.

The Great Food Fight

There's a battle going on today for food. Between rising food costs, factory farming causing deadly ecoli runoff on vegetables, and GMOs entering the food supply, growing your own has never been more important.

Every time you buy or eat food you have a choice. And, that choice adds up. So, grow what you can, support local farmers and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and help fight the good food fight!




Some people are put off by growing from seed because they think it's too complicated, but it's not that hard at all. You'll save a ton of money versus buying plants, and have access to more varieties than you ever knew existed. Purple carrots, anyone?

Two ways to start a plant from seed:

Direct seed: When you plant the seed directly into the spot in your garden where it will grow. Easy, peasy.

Starting seeds indoors to transplant later: Some plants are frost sensitive and need to be started indoors before going into the garden. This also gives them a headstart when the plant needs a longer growing season (like tomatoes).

Starting seeds indoors is a little more involved — they'll need soil, water, and light — but it can easily be done with a greenhouse kit from the local hardware store. And, they'll look so cute growing on your windowsill!


It all depends on the variety. Some plants don't mind being transplanted, but the ones that do, hate it. So, it's good to know who likes what.

Vegetables to direct seed: Beans, beets, carrots, corn, garlic, kale, lettuce, melons, peas, potatoes, radishes, summer squash, spinach, winter squash, and pumpkins.

Vegetables that transplant well: Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, onions, peppers (sweet and chili), and tomatoes.

Seedlings aren't always faster

Take the pumpkin — if you were to plant a 3-week-old pumpkin seedling and a new set of seeds on the very same day, you'll find that the seeds will catch up and outgrow the seedling, because pumpkins get stressed out about being transplanted (and, I don't blame them). But other plants, like tomatoes, don't mind it at all.


Growing plants from seed is definitely the cheapest way to go. Plus, you'll have access to endless varieties, instead of being at the whim of whatever your nearby plant store is selling for $3 a pop.

Here's a handy example:

1 pack of cucumber seeds (25 seeds): $2.50

1 cucumber plant: $3

Cucumbers are very quick to germinate, and super easy to plant from seed. So, if you plant your whole pack of cucumber seeds, and 20 of them make it, that's $60 worth of cucumber plants for less than the price of one plant. Plus, cucumber seeds will last for up to five years, so save any unused seeds for next year's garden.

Some seed companies like Renee's Garden and Fedco Seeds now offer variety packets so you can mix it up without spending a ton of money.


Seeds are living things, and if stored properly, they stay viable for five years or more depending on the variety.


Keep your extra seed packets in an airtight Mason jar, along with one of those little silica packets that comes in shoeboxes, and store them out of direct light. They'll stay cool and dry until you are ready to use them.


It's easy to overplant your garden, especially if it's your first. Here's a good guideline of how much to grow per person to have enough to eat fresh, with some leftover for freezing/preserving.

Double these amounts if you want to grow enough food to last you all year long. And, definitely tweak according to what you like best:

Vegetable Plants per person Asparagus 10 to 15 plants Beets 25 plants Broccoli 4 plants Beans (bush) 15 plants Beans (pole) 3 poles Cabbage 2 to 3 plants Carrots 10 foot row Cauliflower 3 to 5 plants Celery 3 to 5 plants Corn 15 foot row Cucumbers 3 to 6 plants Eggplant 3 to 5 plants Garlic 15 to 20 cloves Kale 3 to 5 plants Leaf lettuce 10 foot row Melon 3 to 5 plants Onions 15 to 25 plants Peppers (Hot and sweet) 3 to 5 plants Potatoes 10 to 15 plants Radishes 5 foot row Spinach 5 to 10 foot row Summer Squash 3 plants Tomatoes 4 plants Winter Squash and Pumpkins 3 to 5 plants

Starting seeds is all about timing. If you start transplants too early they may be rootbound before they get outside. Too late, and they won't be ready to harvest in time. First, figure out when your first/last frost dates are, then use the guide below:



Some vegetables, like tomatoes and eggplant, need to be started earlier because they require a longer growing season.

Depending on how much time and dough you have, you can start these yourself or buy them from a local nursery.

Pros of starting your own seedings:

* Access to more seed varieties

* You'll be saving money versus buying seedlings

* Knowing your plants are 100% organic

* Satisfaction in being totally self-reliant


* Time (caring for eggplant and tomato seedlings can be like a part- time job)

* You'll have to dedicate part of your home/apartment to lights and seed setups

* Buying soil and seed starting equipment

But, don't let this deter you — lights and seed starting equipment are a one time price to pay. It's fun to start your own plants from seed and have a little green in March.

Too busy to start seedlings?

These divas are just easier to buy:

* Tomatoes

* Eggplant

* Cauliflower

* Brussel Sprouts

* Cabbage


No matter where you live, you can set up a basic seed starting area without having to spend a lot of money.

Start by checking out your recycling bin — plastic yogurt containers, old salad containers and even egg shells make great seed starters.

Just make sure to poke holes in the bottom of your containers so your seeds have good drainage.

Your seeds don't need light to sprout, but they will need constant moisture and heat. Put them near a radiator or warmer spot in your house.


Once your seeds have sprouted, they will need light right away, preferably 12 to 16 hours a day. You can do this in a number of ways:

-Put them in a super sunny window and near a lamp with a CFL light at night.

-Hover a 4-foot fluorescent shop light above them. (See page 79 for an easy setup you can make at home.)

-Buy a fancy schmancy growlight kit.

If they don't get enough light, they will get leggy and tall, and will be too weak for transplanting. So hook them up!

A 4-foot hanging shop light with fluorescent bulbs costs about $35 at the local hardware store and will give your plants the light they need until they are ready to go into the garden. Plus, you can use it year after year. Florescent bulbs work well because they emit a lot of light and hardly any heat, so you won't risk burning your plants.

Also, think about where you put them. The first time I used these growlights in my upstairs window, cops were driving by my house multiple times a day, curious as to what I was growing, no doubt.


Seeds germinate at different times and soil temperatures. Here's the average amount of time it takes a seed to sprout:

Vegetable Days to Germinate Optimum Soil Temp for Germination
Source: Arizona Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona.

The size of a seed helps determine how quickly it will germinate. The larger the seed, the faster it will sprout!


Knowing when to transplant your little seedlings outside or to larger containers is an art all in itself. Each vegetable has different growing rates and needs, but there are a few guidelines:

Look for true leaves

OK, these aren't the first set of leaves, but rather the second set, that look like what the plant will become.

Don't wait for roots to come out the bottom

This means they have been growing in the same container too long, and the roots have become tangled and are growing in circles (a.k.a. rootbound). If this happens, you'll need to break up the root before transplanting to help get those roots growing down again.

Don't wait too long to transplant

The smaller a plant is, the less shock it will experience. Usually three to six weeks is enough time for most vegetables to be transplanted.


Seedlings like tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers grow fairly quickly, so they will have to move to bigger pots before being put into the garden. Upgrade them to pots that are twice the size that they are in now so they have room to grow.

To transplant into their new pots with as little shock as possible, it'll take a little planning:

Day before:

Water your plants well the night before.

Day of:

Get your new larger pots ready. Thoroughly wet the potting soil after putting it in your new container. Only fill it halfway so the new plant has some room.

How to transplant:

Carefully lift up the plants by the first leaves and support the bottom root side with your other hand. Then, gently put them in their new container or tray.

Cover with more soil and pack it down lightly. Water thoroughly and move to a room with no lights or direct sun.

Day after:

Keep plants in the shade for one full day. This will help them put energy into their roots, not into their leaves.


Like people, plants need a chance to adjust to things. You can't just throw them into the garden after being in your cozy warm home for the past month — it's a mad world out there!

For one week leading up to transplant day, let them adjust gradually by bringing them outside for just a few hours, increasing the time each day.

Then, on transplant day:

* If possible, pick an overcast day and plant later in the day, after it cools off. This will help reduce the shock to the plant.

* Add some compost to the bed where they will be planted to give them a good boost.

* Dig a hole that is 2 inches wider and deeper than the plant's container.

* Place plant into the ground, disturbing the roots as little as possible.

* Cover the root of the plant with soil, and leave a small recessed indent at the base so the plant collects more water.




Plant asparagus in a sunny spot once and you'll be harvesting it for the next 15 years! If done right, it will come up every spring, and be one of your first harvests.

Stats: Sunny, cold season, 2 to 3 years+, perennial, spring.

Getting Started: Buy one-year established crowns online, or at a nursery. You can save money by starting from seed, but it will take an extra year for spears to develop and can be tricky. Crowns are your best bet.

Harvest: Early spring through early June.

Companions: Dill, coriander, tomatoes, parsley, basil, comfrey, and marigolds.

Avoid Planting Near: Onion, garlic and potatoes.


Excerpted from "Homesweet Homegrown"
by .
Copyright © 2012 Robyn Jasko & Jennifer Biggs.
Excerpted by permission of Microcosm Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Know,
Chapter 2: Start,
Chapter 3: Grow,
Chapter 4: Plant,
Chapter 5: Plan,
Chapter 6: Make,
Chapter 7: Eat,
Chapter 8: Store,

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Homesweet Homegrown: How to Grow, Make and Store Food, No Matter Where You Live 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a must have for all gardeners and to-be gardeners. Robyn takes you from the seeds to the delicious healthy food you end up with, with tons of recipes that take your taste buds on a journey. I recommend this book to everyone who wants a healthier lifestyle.