Welcome to the Growkit 👋

Here you will find tools & inspiration to get you growing in 2024.

I suggest you bookmark this page so you can back to it & follow along with what’s growing on my small farm, week by week.

ONE: Why Grow Food at Home? ✌️ (intro)

Welcome, friend.

Given that you’ve put in the trust and effort to be here, I’ll be completely honest with you.

I think that growing food at home doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

It takes time, space and some monetary investment, and there are no guarantees that what we’re planting will actually grow into something we will eventually eat.

We get soil deep under our fingernails, chicken poop on our shoes and our sourdough bread comes out (often disappointingly) different even though we’re following exactly the same steps as the time before. That being said…

Growing food = activism

In a world of two dimensional, standardized convenience, this is a living, three-dimensional, messy use of our time which makes us happier and more resilient human beings.

Below, you’ll find a selection of some of the best videos and books out there to get you started. My hope is that the information in here will support you in your growing journey in 2024.

Much love, Nico the Home Farmer 🌻

Connect with me

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TWO: Growing Vegetables in Small Spaces 🥬 (7 videos)

Contents:

Growing vegetables in small spaces ⤵️

Start a Low Budget Garden ⤵️

Tips For Beginner Gardeners ⤵️

Getting started with No-dig Gardening ⤵️

Applying Permaculture in the Garden ⤵️

Planning a Productive Vegetable Garden ⤵️

Growing Vegetables on a Balcony ⤵️

Growing vegetables in Grow Bags ⤵️

Growing Vegetables in Small Spaces

I haven’t grown up growing vegetables, and chances are that neither have you.

When I started becoming more intentional about growing food at home, I knew I wanted to garden in a way that created healthy soil and a healthy ecosystem, as this would eventually result in healthy vegetables.

This means:

🪱 Limited disruption of the soil, turning the soil as least as possible to preserve soil life

🍃 Always keeping the soil covered, with organic material like compost, leaves and hay

🚫 Zero chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other nasties

With this in mind, here’s a selection of the people I turn to for guidance and inspiration:

Start a Low Budget Garden

Ever since I started gardening, I’ve been trying to do the best I can with what’s available around me. No need to get fancy, just get growing!

What you’ll find in this video:

Essential Tools

  • Get some versatile tools: spade, gloves, hand trowel, pruning snips, rake, and a watering can.

Building Your Compost Pile

  • Create a compost pile using three pallets joined with metal wire.
  • Experiment with the right ratio of green and brown materials for a thriving compost pile.
  • Reduce waste, enrich soil, and fertilize your garden with home-produced compost.

Crafting a No-Dig Raised Bed

  • Build a no-dig raised bed using heat-treated wooden boards or repurposed pallets.
  • Minimize soil disturbance by not turning the soil and leaving roots in the ground after harvesting, to feed soil microorganisms.

Tips For Beginner Gardeners

What you’ll find in this video:

Understand Good Soil:

  • Soil is the foundation; understand your soil type (clay, sandy, etc.).
  • Improve heavy clay soil with organic matter; enhance sandy soil with compost and quality garden soil.
  • Aim for "Goldilocks soil" – not too heavy, not too light. Use the "fist test" for soil assessment.

Grow What You Like:

  • Grow veggies you enjoy eating; don't prioritize based solely on what's easiest to grow or locally popular.
  • Consider climate challenges; start with easier-to-grow crops before attempting advanced ones.

Grow at the Right Time:

  • Understand growing seasons; consult local grow charts for planting times.
  • Timing is crucial; planting outside optimal windows can result in poor growth and susceptibility to pests and diseases.
  • Refine growing times based on your garden's microclimate and orientation.

Getting started with No-dig Gardening

In a nutshell, no-dig gardening focuses on minimal soil disturbance, so the goal is to disturb the soil as little as possible. This allows for plants and soil life to collaborate, ensuring that earthworm underground tunnels remain intact, providing passageways for water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich castings.

What you’ll find in this video:

Clearing the Area:

  • Begin by clearing the selected area of existing vegetation. This step is crucial to create a clean slate for your new no-dig bed.

Cardboard Layer:

  • Lay down a layer of cardboard over the cleared space. The cardboard serves as a barrier to suppress weeds, preventing them from penetrating the surface. Expect the cardboard to soften and decompose in approximately 10-12 weeks.

Compost Application:

  • Apply a generous layer of well-decomposed compost on top of the cardboard. Compost is a key component, providing essential nutrients for plant growth.

Climate Considerations:

  • Adapt your no-dig gardening approach to the local climate. Factors such as rainfall, temperature, and humidity influence plant growth and bed maintenance.

Mulching Adaptations:

  • Experiment with mulching materials based on your unique climate. In regions with limited rainfall, using a lighter-colored mulch, such as shredded straw, can help retain moisture.

Applying Permaculture in the Garden

I don’t think I would think the way I do today, if I hadn’t come across Permaculture a while back. When applied to the garden, it can get us away from linear and wasteful thinking, into thinking of the home farm as a complex ecosystem with the goal of creating a low-maintenance, biodiverse garden.

There are 12 Permaculture Principles in total, here’s a selection.

What you’ll find in this video:

Produce No Waste:

  • View waste as an opportunity to create a closed-loop system.

Integrate Rather Than Segregate:

  • Combine elements, like using paths for composting.
  • Integrate flowers among vegetables for pest control and aesthetics.

Use Small and Slow Solutions:

  • Start with a small garden and gradually expand.
  • Embrace gentle techniques like no-dig gardening.

Use and Value Diversity:

  • Plant a variety of crops, varieties, and use diverse gardening techniques.
  • Emphasize diversity in textures, colors, flavors, and pollinators.

Planning a Productive Vegetable Garden

What you’ll find in this video:

  1. Start with a Base Map: Sketch out permanent structures like raised beds and fences. Use rough, hand-drawn sketches; precision isn’t necessary in the initial draft.
  2. Setting Goals for Your Garden: Determine what you want from your garden, such as self-sufficiency, aesthetic appeal, or simplicity.
  3. Designate Spaces for Pollinators: Reserve sections of your garden for pollinator-friendly plants.
  4. Creating a Garden ‘Menu’: List the staple crops you plan to grow, like potatoes, onions, carrots, and garlic.
  5. Plan for Vertical Structures and Shade: Consider the placement of vertical-growing plants like runner beans and peas.
  6. Succession Planting and Crop Rotation: Plan for successive plantings of crops for a continuous harvest.
  7. Leave Spare Areas for Flexibility: Reserve about 10-20% of your garden space for unplanned or additional plantings.

Growing Vegetables on a Balcony

What you’ll find in this video:

Consider Balcony Conditions:

  • Check building rules and balcony weight capacity.
  • Use lightweight containers for easy mobility.
  • Calculate sunlight exposure; most veggies need 6-8 hours of direct sun.
  • Consider wind conditions and create windbreaks if necessary.
  • Be mindful of balcony temperature; some plants don't thrive in extreme heat.

Time Management:

  • Choose low-maintenance vegetables if you have limited time.
  • Start small and gradually expand to understand what works best.

Plant Selection:

  • Choose plants based on sunlight, wind, and temperature conditions.
  • Plan the layout in advance to optimize space and sunlight exposure.
  • Consider companion planting for mutual benefits.

Healthy Soil Practices:

  • Prioritize soil health for vigorous plant growth.
  • Use nutrient-rich compost and quality soil.
  • Rotate crops yearly to prevent nutrient depletion and pest issues.

Early Seed Germination:

  • Start seeds indoors or in a mini-greenhouse for early germination.
  • This allows for a longer growing season and increased crop yield.

Growing vegetables in Grow Bags

The growing potential and versatility of these flexy-pots has excited me for a while now, and this year I’ll be growing in a lot of them. Growing food in grow bags works the same as in any other pot, with the added benefit of being cost effective, simple to move around, and beneficial to plants as they promote air pruning.

What you’ll find in this video:

Why Grow Bags?

  • Grow bags provide better root development due to air pruning, leading to a more fibrous root structure.
  • They allow for a variety of plant options, including flowers, herbs, vegetables, and even fruit trees in containers.

Plant Variety:

  • Choose the right size grow bag and soil for limitless plant options.
  • Grow flowers like marigolds for aesthetics and pest prevention.
  • Use grow bags for pollinator attractants and companion planting.

Fruit Trees:

  • Contrary to belief, fruit trees can be grown in grow bags.
  • Citrus, like Meyer lemon, thrives in grow bags.

Watering Tip:

  • Grow bags drain quickly, requiring more frequent watering.
  • Use a "grow bag bathtub" (wooden frame with pond liner) for subirrigation, providing a water reservoir.

Interplanting Bags:

  • Utilize bag edges by interplanting with smaller plants like radishes or turnips.

Themed Bags:

  • Create themed grow bags, e.g., salsa garden, herb garden, tea garden, for a more organized and enjoyable gardening experience.

Easy Raised Bed:

  • Grow bags can serve as mobile raised beds, suitable for renters or those in temporary spaces.
  • Easy to move, fold, and set up in a new location.
THREE: Keeping Chickens for Eggs 🐓 (2 videos)

Contents:

Chicken Keeping for Beginners ⤵️

Everything you Need to Know about Raising Chickens ⤵️

Just like the great, permaculture chicken keeper Justin Rhodes ❤️, I’m not a fan of stationary chicken coops. I would much rather - as I have in the past - keep chickens in mobile chicken coops, regularly moving them onto fresh patches of earth to scratch on.

So, if you are thinking of getting chickens, uncle Nico suggests:

  • keep everything mobile & moving
  • or if need to keep a stationary coop, keep adding organic material to keep your chickens happier, healthier & better-smelling.

Chicken Keeping for Beginners

What you’ll find in this video:

Regulations:

  • Check local regulations on keeping chickens.
  • Confirm the number allowed, rooster permissions, and coop placement.

Coop Options:

  • Decide between buying or DIYing a coop.
  • Consider predator-proof features; prioritize safety.
  • Invest in essential items: coop, water system, feeder.

Coop Spacing:

  • Allocate around 1 m2 per hen.
  • Provide sufficient roost bar and internal coop space.

Daily Tasks:

  • Check for eggs daily to prevent egg-eating habits.
  • Monitor hens' health and address any issues promptly.

Weekly/Monthly Tasks:

  • Turn bedding weekly for tidiness.
  • Check and top up food and water.
  • Clean coop and run monthly for hygiene.

Yearly Tasks:

  • Consider changing bedding every 6 months to a year.
  • Utilize removed bedding for high-quality compost.

Everything you Need to Know about Raising Chickens

What you’ll find in this video:

Choosing Chickens:

  • Opt for dual-purpose breeds such as Rhode Island Red, Black Australorp, or Barred Plymouth Rock.
  • Aim for about four chickens, as they can provide a dozen eggs per week.

Space Requirements:

  • Allocate at least three square feet per bird in the coop or run.
  • Consider deep bedding with wood chips for a more natural environment.

Setting Up a Brooder:

  • Use a 40-gallon container with a lid for the brooder.
  • Provide heat initially, around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and use pine shavings for bedding.
  • Consider a portable brooder for easy transport.

Feeding and Watering:

  • Use a starter feed for chicks, preferably organic or non-GMO.
  • Ferment the feed to boost the chicks' immune system and increase efficiency.
  • Provide a waterer with "magic water" (garlic, apple cider vinegar, honey) for immune support.

Grit and Natural Feeds:

  • Introduce grit (small rocks) for the chicks' gizzards to aid digestion.
  • Optionally, offer natural feeds like kitchen scraps, finely broken up, for added nutrition.
FOUR: Baking Sourdough Bread 🥖 (2 videos)

Contents:

Baking Bread for Beginners ⤵️

Baking Bread like the Pros ⤵️

Baking sourdough bread at home is one of the most satisfying things we can do.

I’ve been baking 2-3 500g loaves (almost) every week, for the last few years.

As a general rule, I go with 3 parts flour to 2 parts water (e.g. 1.5 kgs flour for 1 litre of water), and bake straight in the oven with no other equipment.

Baking Bread for Beginners

Ingredients:

  • 475 grams bread flour*
  • 350 grams water*
  • 25 grams sourdough starter (taken from the fridge and then fed)
  • 10 grams salt

Instructions:

Day Before Baking:

  • Take 25 grams of sourdough starter, feed it with 25 grams of water and 25 grams of bread flour.
  • Let it rise at room temperature until it doubles in size (6-8 hours).
  • For one loaf, add 350 grams of water, 10 grams of salt, and 50 grams of the active sourdough starter to a mixing bowl.
  • Stir in 475 grams of bread flour until fully incorporated.
  • Cover and let it rise at room temperature for 10-12 hours.

Shaping and Proofing:

  • Shape the dough gently on a floured surface.
  • Cover with a kitchen towel and proof at room temperature for 1.5 hours.

*Nico’s suggestion for baking, not included in this video

  • Bake directly on the oven shelf at around 220°C with a water-filled bowl for steam for the first 20 minutes.
  • Reduce temperature to 190°C and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Baking Bread like the Pros

  1. Levain Preparation:
    • Start around 8:00 in the morning.
    • In a clean jar, mix 35g mature sourdough starter, 35g all-purpose flour, 35g whole wheat flour, and 70g room-temperature filtered water.
    • Ferment at 78°F (25°C) for 5-6 hours.
  2. Autolyse and Dough Mix:
    • Mix 804g bread flour, 75g whole wheat flour, and 740g filtered water.
    • Reserve 80g of water for later.
    • Heat the remaining water to 90°F (32°C) and mix into the flour.
    • Cover and let it rest for 1.5 hours.
  3. Mixing and Folding:
    • Pour levain onto the dough and mix by hand.
    • Perform slap and fold for 3-5 minutes.
    • Bulk ferment for 4.5 hours, performing folds every 15-30 minutes.
  4. Bulk Fermentation:
    • After 4.5 hours, the dough should rise by 85%.
    • Divide the dough, pre-shape into light boules, and rest for 20 minutes.
  5. Tartine Shoelace Shaping:
    • Flour the top of the boule.
    • Flip, fold sides, and create a shoelace pattern on the top, middle, and bottom.
    • Roll into an oval shape and place in a floured Banetton.
    • Proof in the refrigerator for 12-14 hours.
  6. Baking:
    • Preheat the oven with a combo cooker to 500°F (260°C).
    • Score the dough with a lame and bake at 500°F for 20 minutes.
    • Reduce temperature to 450°F (232°C) and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes.
  7. Cooling:
    • Cool the bread on a wire rack until room temperature.
FIVE: Simple Ferments that Anyone can Do at Home 💨 (3 videos)

Contents:

How to Ferment Anything ⤵️

Make Your Own Yogurt With 2 Ingredients ⤵️

Make Soda with Fermentation ⤵️

Why Fermentation?

Even though we’ve been fermenting foods for thousands of years, most of us are losing the knowledge and the taste for it. But thanks to people like Sandor Katz and Edible Alchemy, it’s still alive!

In a nutshell, consuming fermented foods can improve digestive health due to the presence of beneficial bacteria, and increase nutrient availability in our food by breaking down cell walls, making it more nutritious and “alive”.

Here are 3 of the simplest fermented recipes I’m adding to my weekly routine for 2024.

How to Ferment Anything

What you’ll find in this video:

Introduction to Lacto-Fermentation:

  • Lacto-fermentation is the process of preserving food using lactobacillus bacteria, responsible for yogurt, sourdough, and cheese.
  • Lactobacillus metabolizes glucose into lactic acid, preserving and enhancing flavors.

Basic Steps for Lacto-Fermentation:

  1. Choose Your Vegetable: Select your vegetable for fermentation. In the video, white asparagus is used.
  2. Calculate Brine Percentage: Use a kitchen scale for accuracy. Calculate a brine percentage (2-3%) based on the total weight of vegetables and water.
  3. Prepare Brine: Pour filtered water over vegetables. Dissolve calculated salt amount (fine sea salt) in water and pour back over vegetables.
  4. Ensure Submersion: Keep vegetables submerged using fermentation weights, non-metallic pinch bowls, or a sealed plastic wrap.
  5. Fermentation Time: Allow fermentation at room temperature until the desired taste is achieved (3 days to 2 weeks).

Handling Common Situations:

  • Calm Yeast: A harmless yeast called "calm" may develop on the surface, resembling a web. It is safe and normal.
  • Refrigeration: Once fermented, store vegetables in the brine in the refrigerator for extended preservation.

Make Your Own Yogurt With 2 Ingredients

What you’ll find in this video:

  • Making yogurt is quick, easy, and requires only two ingredients.
  • Homemade yogurt offers cost savings and allows you to control the entire process.

Milk Selection:

  • Whole milk is recommended for creaminess.
  • UHT (ultra-pasteurized) milk is also suitable; choose the best quality you can afford.

Heating the Milk:

  • Heat one quart (946 ml) of whole milk to 180°F (82°C) over medium heat.
  • Stir intermittently to prevent a skin from forming.
  • Once it reaches 180°F, remove it from the stove.

Cooling the Milk:

  • Let the milk cool to 115°F (46°C).
  • Speed up the process with an ice bath if desired.

Adding Yogurt Culture:

  • Mix 3.5 tablespoons (52g) of store-bought yogurt with a cup of the warm milk.
  • Pour the yogurt mixture back into the warm milk and stir gently.

Fermentation:

  • Pour the mixture into two pint-sized jars and lightly cover with a lid.
  • Place in a warm area (110-115°F or 43-46°C) for 6 to 12 hours.
  • Options for fermentation: use a fermentation station or create a makeshift incubator in the oven.

Straining (Optional for Greek Yogurt):

  • For thicker Greek yogurt, strain through a chinois or mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth for one hour in the refrigerator.

Make Soda with Fermentation

What you’ll find in this video:

  • Water kefir is a naturally fermented soda that can be made with various flavors.
  • It offers the health benefits of yogurt but in a fizzy beverage form.

Getting Water Kefir Grains:

  • Purchase water kefir grains (dehydrated)
  • Activate the dehydrated grains by combining them with Demerara or brown sugar and water.

Making Water Kefir:

  • Strain out the grains and discard the activation liquid.
  • Prepare a new sugar water batch in a jar using 1/4 cup water plus 2 tablespoons (78g) of sugar.
  • Add activated kefir grains and let it ferment for 24-48 hours at room temperature.

Flavoring Water Kefir:

  • Flavor the kefir with various ingredients like fresh fruit, fruit juice, extracts, or flavored waters.
  • For sparkling lemonade, add lemon juice and zest. For grape soda, add grape juice.
  • Allow the flavored kefir to ferment in flip-top bottles for 1-3 days, burping daily.

Safety Tips:

  • Be cautious of potential explosions during fermentation; place bottles in a safe area.
  • Label all bottles for easy identification.
  • Once bottles are fizzy, close them, refrigerate, and enjoy a homemade fermented soda.

Further Resources

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Unfortunately, food doesn’t grow on knowledge alone. 👇

Growing food at home takes consistent planning, action and reflection. And you don’t need to go at it alone in 2024.

I'm currently building the yesroots community for a small group of people who want to grow food and connect to each other.

I'm not sure what this will look like yet, but the idea is to equip you with in-depth trainings so you can plan, create and run your own home farm, all while living your normal life.

On top of that, you would be held accountable to your growing plans, to make sure that you follow through, even on the grey days 😉

If you don’t want to go at it alone in 2024, enter your email below & be one of the first to know about the yesroots community of home farmers.

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The Future is Homegrown