In yesterday’s article I introduced you to the whole idea of a survival garden, stressed the importance of supplementing your food storage with food you grow and I touched on the “heirloom” seed idea.
Today I will answer the five questions that I posed yesterday and provide a whole lot more information for you to grow your own food during an emergency, disaster and especially during a grid-down event.
So here are the questions that I listed yesterday:
- What exactly do you plant?
- Where do you plant it?
- What do you plant it in?
- What “kind” of seeds do you plant?
- How much do you plant?
Great questions, some of the answers you are not going to like. On the other hand, some of the answers will be easy. But knowledge is power, and power will help make the difference between success and failure during “grid-down.”
1. What exactly do you plant?
• Plant foods rich in calories and energy.
• Something that can grow quickly.
• Something that can grow in the conditions you have.
The first two of those items are pretty easy to understand and I don’t think you need me explaining them. The last item is a bit tougher to answer. So let me do it with examples:
a. It is summer – plant whatever you can outside, provided that you will have enough “growing season” let to harvest it. You can extend your growing season by using things like plastic sheeting, mulch, covering at night, heat/smoke pots, etc. The goal here is to utilize the outdoor space as much as possible.
b. It is winter – assuming you are in a cold winter climate, get your soil indoors. Place the soil in build beds or in pots, let the soil warm up a few days. Plants seeds and place the containers where they will get the most sun for the longest part of the day. If you are using pots then move the pots to stay in the sun as long s possible. Start with cold weather vegetables to get something go as quickly
as possible. Then start your regular season vegetables next according to directions on the seed packet. This way you will have vegetables ready to be transplanted outside as well as the stuff you are growing indoors. In areas that have more mild winters consider using “cold-frames” or plastic “grow houses” (a.k.a. green houses).
c. It is spring – follow the starting instructions that are on the seed packets. You lucked out, you can probably plant just like a normal growing season. But get it all started, either inside, outside, or a combination of both.
d. It is fall – you may be luckier than you think. There are many cold weather vegetables that can be grown throughout the winter in many areas of the country. But even if you are in harsh winter conditions, short of Alaska, you can still grow vegetables. Look over the “winter” in item #b above.
Remember, root crops will grow in colder temps. Crops like zucchini will produce a ton of food. Carrots are chock full
of energy. Lettuce and celery are low calorie foods and I wouldn’t waste my time on them. Tomatoes can be used on or in almost any dish. And potatoes saved a whole country from starvation; think the Great Famine in Ireland about 170 years ago. Potatoes can be grown in a large variety of ways. I think an article devoted to just growing potatoes is one I will do soon.
2. Where do you plant?
Once again, a lot of it will depend on time of year. That is addressed in the previous section. But let me talk about this item in terms of everything being planted outside. Well, first mistake. I don’t think you ever put all your eggs in one basket. Sure, you will plant the majority of your vegetables outside, but that is based on the need for as much space as possible. But I would look seriously as still planting whatever you can inside as well.
Threats are threats are threats. Wow, that was profound! But seriously I have gone over what the threats are during any emergency, disaster or grid-down before. No difference here in regards to gardening. I believe your #1 threat will still be violence. Think about it, people will be hungry, you will have a garden with food in it. What do you think the next logical step is in that progression?
So I believe that the #1 issue to address when deciding where to plant your food crops is “placement.” And I mean placement in terms of being able to defend it. You must be able to maintain security of your garden area or you might as well just give away all your hard work right up front. Standard security measure will apply; concealment, access control observation and ability to defend.
Best advice – people can’t steal what they can’t see.
Now, there are a couple other influences that come into play –
• Here in the desert southwest in the summer I would try and plant on the east, but especially the north side of the house, barn, shed, etc. I want to shade the cute little plants as much as possible so they don’t shrivel up and die. Conversely, in late fall, winter, and early spring I would plant on the south and west exposures to maximize the sunshine time. In your location figure out what is best for growing conditions.
• While it would be nice to use the best soil conditions you have, it is not necessary. Vegetables will grow in just about any soil imaginable, including sand. You just have to control the water and feed em.
And don’t forget you can plant vegetables in hanging baskets both inside and outside of the house. Use all the space you can, you will need the food.
3. What do you plant it in?
I touched on this a bit earlier as well. You can plant your veggies in pots, the ground, cold frames, or raised beds. I am a huge fan of raised beds. But most of that is due to the sandy soil here in the desert southwest. I have mixed up some great high-quality soil for my raised beds and they work great. But, in tough times I would plant in whatever I had available. Having some food in any growing conditions is better than having no food at all.
Something a little out of the box, if you have a serious abundance of water you might consider hydroponics. You can grow vegetables in a much more compact growing area using hydroponics. Just a thought.
4. What “kind” of seeds do you plant?
For me this is a no-brainer…whatever seeds you have!
Ok, now I will settle down a bit. But the point I was making don’t get your mind locked into a particular mind-set. Whatever vegetable seeds you have are good enough. Look at it this way…would you rather have some kind of food or any kind of food or no kind of food growing?
My #1 choice for you when it comes to seeds is “heirloom” seeds. These are seeds that have evolved naturally from nature, maybe with a little help from man. But these kinds of seeds will reproduce themselves. You can harvest the seeds from them before you eat them. You dry them and them store them for the next planting. The opposite of heirloom are “hybrid” seeds. These are genetically engineered plants to meet a specific growing or marketing need. The plants may have been engineered for scarce water, bigger fruit, smaller plant, or a fruit that is easier to pack for shipment to stores. But for whatever reason, hybrid seeds will produce hybrid plants. There is no guarantee that hybrid plants will produce a fruit with seeds that will grow another plant that will produce useable or edible fruit.
Years ago I use to plant a marigold garden each year. And each year I would make the design a little with colors, size, and varieties of marigold plants. All of which came from hybrid seeds. So one year I decided I would harvest the seeds from the flowers of the hybrid plants. Cared for them properly and the next spring I planted them. Whoa! Did I get some very interesting results. Some of the seeds produced plants several feet tall from plants that had only been 6” – 8” tall. Some produced no flowers, some produced colors that didn’t match the originals. And a few came up just as they did the first time.
My point is, about 80% of the second generation plants were very strange and didn’t match the first generation plants. When it comes to vegetables I don’t know what results you may get. But, any food is better than no food, go with anything you have.
Bottom line, go with “heirloom” seeds when purchasing your starter kits.
5. How much do you plant?
I could give a wise guy answer and say, “All that you can!” But, that could be seen as really rude, or overly simplistic. However, I would suggest that would actually be the right answer. You have to supplement your food storage, you must make it stretch as long as possible and you really need to be ready to take in folks. That all takes food, and plenty of it.
Now, a more informative answer would be figure out which foods will go best for your climate and time of year. Then work together with your family to see which ones they are more prone to eat. Then plant as much of those vegetables as you possibly can while planting seeds for seedlings for the next crops in the rotations.
As you calculate how much to plant…remember, to plant as much as you can. I am serious about that. You will need it for your meals, it can always stretch your food storage, you may take in additional people, you may need it to bribe people, you may need it for barter, etc. So the more you have the better off you will be no matter what else is going on.
Some ideas for your garden vegetables:
- Use a variety of veggies to make stews.
- Throw in a “snared” rabbit, squirrel, or other animal to increase the protein.
- Grill the veggies and serve it over rice.
- Grill the veggies and throw in some pinto beans and serve as burritos.
- Soups made with veggies are great, but lack protein and bulk which means they are also shy of calories. So thicken them up a bit and throw in beans and serve over rice.
- Pilot bread from Thrive, Mountain House, etc. are great additions to a thick veggie soup or stew. And pilot bread is cheap when bought on sale.
- Throw in meat flavored TVP into your veggie soup or strew to drastically increase the protein content.
- Tomatoes can be used red or green. The green ones can be fried, grilled or turned into a salsa.
- Onions are easy to grow, are drought tolerant and can add flavor to anything, especially wild game meat.
I would suggest you go with a local vendor if at all possible. If that is not possible here are three companies that I have done business with:
Starting composting anything and everything fit for garden use.
Have a plan on what you will plant when the grid goes down. Have the tools, seeds and all the other “hardware” you will need to garden. Most of all have the “will” to do it. Remember, you will eventually run out of food unless you learn how to produce it…and produce it and produce it quickly, don’t waste any time.
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