We recently published an article titled Got Food? For How Long? and received some very thought provoking comments from the PlantLady. She is an experienced gardener and provides us some very good advice. We‘d thank her for taking the time to share her experiences and we would like to share what she had to say.
This very subject is why I became a market gardener. Not to make money – although that is very nice – but to practice growing large quantities of food. Have always been a serious gardener (ok, maybe obsessed), but more on the ornamental side as I had always hoped to have a small nursery after retirement. With the way things are now, food is far more important. And
while I am the person the master gardeners call with questions (hence the PlantLady moniker), had no idea of just how much to grow, how many seeds it would take, which crops would provide the most nutrition, which crops to grow when for a balanced diet, timing of planting and harvesting, which crops store easily without refrigeration or canning and just how big the garden needed to be. During my 6 years of elder care, studied everything I could get my hands on to try to figure all this out. Guess what? There is no way to know without actually doing it! Every location is so different as far as weather, general climate, water availability, soil structure and fertility and available resources…and all these factors change constantly. What worked last week, month or year may be totally wrong for the now.
So two years ago worked up new ground and started practicing. Last year I started selling at market. This year I doubled the size of the garden and sold at market regularly, added a second location for selling closer to home and started really keeping track of what I grew when, how much I harvested, how much I sold, how much I donated, how much I preserved, etc. Keeping records is necessary…you may think that you will remember, but there is just too much you need
to know. And, heaven forbid, after the Darker Ages arrive…what if something happens to you – the only person that knows everything needed to produce enough food? Your family will be oh so grateful to have a written record of how much of each crop is needed, how many seeds to plant to get that much, when each crop needs to be planted and harvested, how to time things so you have a steady supply for fresh eating, how to time things so crops for preserving ripen at the best times (ie. for making pickles, you need cukes, dill, onions, garlic, peppers and apple cider vinegar simultaneously) how to best preserve each crop, how to save seeds and breed crops to best suit your location, provide the largest harvest, resist disease and insects and suit your taste.
Then there are the infrastructure needs…do you really want to be starting a garden by digging sod by with a stick? No way – that needs to be done now with power tools. And you need to stock up on good quality shovels, hoes, rakes, wheel hoes, GLOVES – enough for many people. Do you want to wake up one morning and find your only food for the next year has been decimated by
deer/rabbits/coons/strangers? Heaven forbid – get fencing now while its available and learn how to set sturdy fence. While things are still available, plant as much perennial food as you can – fruit trees and berry bushes, nut trees, asparagus, rhubarb, horseradish, etc. And stock seeds…I get twitchy if I have less than 5 years worth on hand. Also get animals while you can, unless you plan on being a vegan in the coming Darker Ages! Not just for needed food, but also for their manure to keep your garden fertile. Green manuring is ok for the now, but how are you going to cut, chop and incorporate those easily by hand? Easier by far to turn under composted manure and bedding. Get what you need to extend the seasons so you can grow more food – cold frames, hoophouses, low tunnels.
The only real way to know what you actually need is to do it. What are you waiting for? You can do it…start now!
PlantLady – continued
I am an excellent gardener, but am just starting on trying to figure out just how much food I need to produce to feed my extended family and how I am going to manage this feat with just what we have here in the way of natural resources, equipment and plant and animal stock. Trying to get a sustainable cycle set up before conditions get too much worse, because once the trucks stop running, it will be very hard to impossible to get anything.
There is a lot more to it than you might think, especially when your very lives will depend upon your success. When what you eat is what you grow, you find that you don’t plant a garden once and harvest it once. You will be constantly planting and constantly
harvesting – because of course you will be wanting to constantly eat (hehe). People I talk to are amazed that I don’t “put in” the entire garden Memorial Day weekend then harvest as it ripens. There are spring, summer, fall and winter crops possible – even here in the far north. I plant stuff most every month except Oct., Nov. and Dec. and we and the goats and chickens eat out of the winter salad garden under low hoops all fall, winter and spring. And I never plant a crop just once or all in the same location…I plant some for early cropping then wait a while and plant more for midseason, then wait a while and plant some for late. Aside from extending the harvest period, your entire crop of something isn’t vulnerable all at the same time in the same place. Plus, that way you don’t have a years worth of a crop all at once to preserve – you can spread the work out over a few weeks or months. Johnnys Selected Seeds website has some awesome planting charts for each seasons crops and succession planting – an invaluable resource.
And folks, first you gotta have land with water that will grow food, or you don’t have much of a chance to survive the coming Darker Ages. Nobody wants to hear this or think about it – but its true. Every time I read about someone planning on surviving by growing enough food on a city lot or in pots here and there, I want to cry – because that just isn’t going to work. Once the trucks stop running, its up to you to feed your family. And to grow enough food you need land. If you don’t have land, if you are real lucky, you might get taken on by someone with land and the infrastructure to grow food as a slave, serf or the like – just for the chance to be fed anything. If you aren’t lucky, you and your family will starve without the means to produce the food you need.
The upside is that growing your own food now is about the smartest thing you can do, even right now, with prices for everything rising so quickly. Every bite of food you can produce is one you don’t have to buy. And infinitely better, safer and fresher than anything you can buy anywhere. A lot of what we learn on our prepping journeys is very useful and perhaps critical to know “at some point”. But am I going to drag out the book “When There Is No Dentist” now? No, I will go to a dentist while I can. But growing your own food is great even in the “now”…saves money, you get a better product and you can afford to store more. Plus, you will be gaining the knowledge, equipment and stock you will need to survive the coming hard times.
Let’s all go plant something edible!
There are a couple of things PlantLady brought up that I’d like to comment on. So far I have begun a notebook with maps of my garden from year to year for adequate crop rotation. I also have a notes on what I planted. What I don’t have is information about when and how much I planted, or how much I harvested, all of which is vital information if we plan to truly live off of what we grow. This is one of the points PlantLady discussed that really hit home with me.
Planting in succession for a steady harvest is another thing I have not done. I have always just ‘planted’ the garden. Now that we have the greenhouse up and running, I have given much more thought to planting crops more than once. This will be the beginning of my learning experience in this realm.
We have given much thought to alternative ways of storing food such as canning, drying, curing and cool storage, as in a cellar. All of these skills are still in their infancy for us, but we have begun this process.
Saving seeds? I have done a very poor job of this. For me, it is always easier to order seeds. How will that help me at TEOTWAWKI? Obviously it won’t and I need to get very serious about having my own seeds to plant instead of someone else’s.
I can’t agree more about preparing your ground now, if you have some. Turning a garden with shovel instead of a tractor or tiller is backbreaking work, not to mention new ground is not very fertile and will grow a limited amount of food until it has been worked and enriched.
Why am I pointing out our short comings in gardening and raising our own food? Because we are all in this together and can learn so much from each other. I find PlantLady’s comments very, very encouraging. They are also inspiring me to learn more and do better. Please share your ideas, experiences and thoughts with all of us so we can learn even more.
I know the opening lines of Got Food? For How Long? were rather harsh. A friend of mine said she opened the article expecting a nice Thanksgiving thought, not me saying get with it or you will starve. Hard? Yes. True? Unfortunately, very true. The incredibly, unbelievable events taking place all over the world on a daily basis make learning every possible survival skill of the utmost importance. Please heed PlantLady’s advice and start growing something edible today. Yes, in December. Somehow, somewhere in your house, on your porch, somewhere, start growing something edible today.
Until next time – Fern