Often the first hurdle to growing your own food is figuring out what to grow. My personal focus is on protein, fruit, vegetables, and greens.
My view is grains are better grown at a commercial scale because they store well, are inexpensive to purchase, and are too time and space intensive to do on my own. Plus they aren't essential to good health. What is essential are proteins and micro-nutrients, and both are better grown and sourced locally.
For protein, my main focus are my backyard chicken eggs. I love how letting them free range eating bugs and weeds can yield protein. That is the power of nature and creation. Taking something that chickens love to eat and using it to create something that humans love to eat.
I'm also interested in goats and in particular for making yogurt and cheese but sadly my local area does not allow them even though I live on a lot that is plenty big enough to house one, even just a Pygmy breed. I'll need to work on a farm relationship instead for this I suppose.
I also like beans as a protein source because when combined with a grain they create a complete protein. And some varieties like soy beans are complete proteins all by themselves. I also like nuts and seeds. I've had great success with sunflowers - both as sprouts (which by the way is a complete protein) and growing the full size flower. I'll share some tips to come on that.
I haven't tried nuts yet. I have a row of pinion trees in my yard which is totally awesome because they supposedly make pine nuts, but I haven't seen any nuts form in the pine cones yet. Maybe a couple years more. That goes for other types of nut trees as well. They take a lot of time to develop and a lot of them can't handle the extreme weather we get in Colorado.
For fruit, I am still working on this for myself. I've done a ton of research on what works best for my climate along with what I'd personally like to eat and have narrowed it down to a few plants. I've planted a some that haven't worked out - gooseberry, currant, hardy kiwi.
I have two plants that are now heading into their second year and nearly didn't make it through the winter - a concord grape and a hardy fig. We'll see if I get any fruit from them this year.
Service berry is high on my list and will jump on the opportunity once I find a good cultivar at a fair price (or ideally a trade out). I use frozen blueberries in my diet a lot and think service berries might be a great local substitute. Elderberry also interests me for its strong medicinal/antioxidant properties. And I'd like to research strawberries as well but from a reputable source who knows Colorado's soil and climate.
My yard also had some apple and peach trees but they got overgrown and are difficult to rely on because we tend to get a late freeze in Colorado that kills the flowers needed to produce fruit. Because of how expensive fruit trees are and how easy for now it is to find decent organic fruit at stores and seasonally from local markets, I've opted to put this lower on the priority list for now. I'll tackle berries first.
I've been experimenting with veggies for several years now and have hit and miss success. Again the weather in Colorado is tricky. There are very few things you can plant and just let grow. The soil needs amending or the moisture levels aren't right or the evenings are too cold or the daytime is too hot or the plant gets destroyed with hail. Very tricky climate.
My focus is on cold hardy plants like snap peas, radishes, beets, and the broccoli family (kale, cabbage, etc.). I am also experimenting with a new way to grow my favorite summer plants like tomatoes and peppers in a self whicking tub. If it works, I'll be sure to share that method.
I am also keenly focused on perennial vegetable plants. There is nothing quite like planting something once and being able to harvest year after year. My biggest success so far is the Walking Onion. It grew super well right in poor clay soil with very little extra watering and now I have an endless supply of delicious green onions right in my side yard.
I've also got a tea garden going with various mint varieties, chamomile, thyme, sorrel, and lovage. I'll be sure to share how that develops.
I love greens and they are so easy to grow. Just find a good bulk seed source so you can keep growing again and again. My favorite way to grow is in containers and tubs. It is much easier for planting and harvesting than in a garden bed. They can also be easily grown indoors or on a window sill even during the winter. I'll be sharing tips on that as well.
My go-to is spinach since I find myself gravitating towards that because it is so versatile (smoothies, salads, sauteed) but I've never met a green not worth trying. This includes weeds. You may already be growing food and not even know it. My two favorite edible weeds are dandelions and purslane. These plants are packed with nutrients and grow everywhere. Be sure to give them a try!
This is just an overview of some of the ways to get started and focus your gardening efforts. Be sure to start with your personal diet and eating habits. Grow something you will actually eat and enjoy. Be sure to start mall and simple at first. It is too easy to get overwhelmed by all the options and varieties. It is more important to have accomplishments and be able to handle the occasional setback. I look forward to sharing my own successes and failures on this blog for years to come.