Good Advice from the Plant Lady

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.
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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 

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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!


PlantLady

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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

31 thoughts on “Good Advice from the Plant Lady

  1. And thank you, very much.Reading Carol Deppe's book \”The Resilient Gardener\” gave me a whole new outlook on gardening for hard times. How to grow the most nutrient dense foods in the least space, that are easy to store without modern refrigeration or canning. Will be growing a lot more potatoes, corn, dry beans, squash and eggs next year. Already have the garlic planted – should get around 400 heads next summer…love garlic!PlantLady

  2. Tennessean:I am only about halfway to having as much ground under cultivation as what we will need…but I am only two years into \”big\” gardening. Didn't want to take on more than I could handle to start with. This year doubled the garden size, and will more than double it next year. Will have about 45,000 sq. ft. under cultivation within a year or two (God willing)…not counting the orchard areas of 50 or so fruit trees. Planting resistant to disease fruit trees is very important – we are organic and don't spray anything.I agree, Carol Deppe's book is a treasure – really made me rethink things in terms of most calories and balanced diet grown in the least space possible…because when the hard times are here, we won't be able to devote all our time to the garden…there will be laundry done by hand, cooking, preserving, firewood harvest and processing, guard duty, etc.PlantLady

  3. GREAT POST – Thank you Plant Lady and Frank and Fern! A good place to start learning and continue growing would be calorie dense foods…I quote…“Calorie” refers to the energy that is found in food we eat. Calories are essential for human life and are in all food to some degree. Calorie farming produces a complete diet in the smallest space possible by focusing on special root crops that are calorie-dense and yield well in a small area. These specific crops are: potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, leeks, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, and salsify. A farm with 30% of its area in special root crops maximizes its area-efficient production of calories and can grow a complete diet in the smallest space possible. ~~from Ecology in Action Grow biointensive websitePotatoes are easy grow in a pot just about anywhere, then branch out from there. ~Sassafras

  4. B.B. – whoever you are – bless you! You made my year by sending a link to this unintended post to SurvivalBlog…and they used it! I am just walking on air. I was just thrilled that Frank and Fern thought enough of it to post it here, but for SurvivalBlog to also think it was worthy enough to link to…Oh, my. So pleased that someone is willing to listen…PlantLady

  5. We have about 20,000 sq ft of veggie plots. One needs 8000 sq ft to feed one person for one year. I suggest a Jang Clean Seeder as a wise investment. Only one that really works. I suggest growing green and shelly dry beans on horse fences. We keep careful records on yields and do our own field trials of cultivars. The best book out there is \”The Resilient Gardener\” by Carol Deppe. We have a root cellar, mostly used to store seeds and dehydrated tomatoes and peppers. One of my goals is to have extra seed to share with neighbors when the time comes. We have a 24 hp Kubota with all the implements. I now subsoil the plots instead of plowing them, to break up the hard pan. Only plant resistant apple trees, like \”Freedom\” and \”Liberty.\” In our neck of the woods cedar apple rust and fire bight are major issues.Tennessean

  6. Dr. Mom: So happy to hear you have land – sure hope you can start living on it real soon. Will make it so much easier for you to survive and even thrive what is coming. It really takes a long time to get things set up so that you can thrive, so the sooner you can make the move, the better. I have been pretty worried for a while now that something bad was going to happen…but now it seems like we are right on the cusp of everything bad happening. The world economy is in a death spiral, wars popping up everywhere, violence rising and even worse – giving the powers that be the excuse they are looking for to de-arm us before everything really falls apart, honeybees – a main pollinator, dying off, avian flus killing off flocks of millions, PEDV wiping out swine, serious prolonged droughts in major food growing regions, wild weather swings…even here last Nov was the coldest and had the most snow on record while this Nov was the second warmest ever with the least snow. I gotta go plant more food!\”I like diversity because you never know what will really work.\” Exactly! That is why I stock such a variety of seeds, grow more than one variety of each crop, plant them at different times in different places, have three varieties of chickens, 50+ assorted fruit trees and many different varieties of each type of berry. Gives us a much better chance that something will do well.I have also gotten \”seed\” from the grocery store – and for those less prepared (without good stocks of seed) that would be a good last minute buy on that last trip ever to the store. I got my first blue potatoes that way…and discovered that blue potatoes can be somewhat perennial here. They kept going reliably for 5 years – had no idea that was even possible. So that was really nice to learn. Also got my first garlic sets at the grocery – about $1.50 for 2 lbs. The next year I bought some \”official\” organic award-winning seed garlic at $16 for 1 lb…and we can't tell the difference between them.Trying to decide when something is at the peak of ripeness is a real trick. It took us two years of keeping track of which apple tree we picked when to realize that we were picking two trees too early. They tasted good, the seeds were dark…sure seemed ripe. Then the third year we picked them two weeks later – and they were absolutely spectacular. Tree #1 when fully ripe tastes like it has been double dipped in caramel and Tree #2 tastes like cinnamon has been added. So now I don't harvest all of anything I think might be ripe…I harvest some, wait a day or two and harvest some more, and continue til they are gone. PlantLady

  7. Ilene: We really like garbanzos and lentils…but in the bean form (hehe). Going to try growing those this coming year, along with more varieties of dry beans.Fern's greenhouse is spectacular, isn't it? PlantLady

  8. Oops, forgot to mention I don't have a blog or any online presence except for here…just no time. I am quite certain Frank and Fern must be Superman and Wonderwoman in disguise to be able to find time, with all they accomplish, to provide us with this wonderful resource.PlantLady

  9. kymber: Sprouts can be a great idea…but I got really, really sick from \”store-bought\” sprouts one time, so I just cant eat those anymore. And I would rather let that tiny sprout grow up into a real plant to produce a hundred-to-thousand fold increase in the amount of nutrition produced.You can grow a lot of food in the north – I am in the far north (only western Canada, Maine and Carl in the UP are further north) and have been growing various lettuces, greens, chives, green onions, kale, beets, etc. under unheated low hoops all winter for ten years now. Check out Eliot Coleman's great must-have books \”The Winter Harvest Handbook\” and \”The Four Season Garden\”.Sprouts are a possibility to help with nutrition in a dire situation, but would hate to have to rely on them for a major food source. I would rather plan and practice growing food I prefer, so that I can instead rely on bacon, eggs, poached pears and toast for breakfast; salad, spaghetti, applesauce and garlic toast for lunch; salad, roast chicken, corn, baked potatoes, cornbread and strawberry shortcake for supper. Like I have mentioned, I am planning to thrive rather than just survive. That is why I am so passionate about growing my own food…the better I get at it, the better chance of thriving and helping those around me to also thrive. And I won't end up eating insects…nothing like the thought of eating insects for your main protein source to inspire all-out, full-bore gardening efforts! (hehe)PlantLady

  10. Junebug: Have been reading Jackie for years…she knows her stuff and is living the life rather than dabbling around the edges. That is what we need to do so we truly know what we need to be doing – and when.PlantLady

  11. Great post! Some things I am doing well and others I really need to tackle. I have been gardening for three years. It's small but a great learning experience. Just learning to recognize what a plant looks like through the entire process and when it is ripe has been a major hurdle. I try new things each year and keep track of the items that are successful in my area, particularly the plants that bugs seem to leave alone. I am an avid seed saver and have a ton of seeds. I occasionally like to go to the pricey grocery store to look at and buy unusual vegetables just to save their seeds. I like diversity because you never know what will really work. We own some property but don't live on it yet. We are in the process of trying to change that. I just hope things don't fall apart too soon.

  12. Oh, Debra, go play (work, I mean work) in your new greenhouse – how could you possibly resist? (hehe) I am so envious of those with greenhouses…and big barns. Oh, man, I have a serious case of barn envy. And I am putting up a cattle panel tall hoophouse for a greenhouse for next spring…almost like a real greenhouse (sigh). Far better than what I have now, tho'!I usually save the paperwork for evenings, after I am too tired to do anything but hold a pen and its too dark to work outside.PlantLady

  13. Nurse Claudia: You have the desire to keep a journal – that is the important first step. Just a little notebook with random notes to start with, and it will grow and organize itself as you find more things you want and need to know from year to year.And I am so glad you plan to get some hybrid seeds…I run into a lot of resistance from most preppers on that point. And then their eyes glaze over when I try to explain why…I have to work up a better explanation. PlantLady

  14. Jan: Awesome that you already have 3 years of experience toward feeding yourself! You can't buy that sort of hands-on experience and it will stand you in good stead no matter what may come while providing monetary, health and flavor benefits now. There never seems to be enough time when you have a big garden that produces most of the time. We had one of the warmest autumns on record here, giving me an extra 2.5 months of decent work-outside weather…and I am still not done with everything I want to get done before the snow is thigh-deep. I keep joking that I need about 8 clones – two for the garden/herbs/flowers, one for the forest, one for the orchard and berries, one for the hop yard and vineyard, one for the goats and chickens, one for food preservation and one as a housekeeper. I really need a housekeeper – really. This reinforces the point that just a couple people will not be able to do everything needed to thrive during hard times. It will take a fairly large group – the equivalent of the old-time large extended families – all living together and working together to make a good go of it. Sure would like to see more people making arrangements now to do so, while you have time to find out all you can about folks. I personally want to intimately know, like and respect the folks I will be trusting with my life through the apocalypse, rather than relying on whoever may show up! And yes, this will bring up some hard decisions…doesn't matter if you want your very best friend on hand, if she has a whiny boy lazy husband and nightmarish children. I gave up trying to maintain a semblance of a \”normal\” house. The only folks I have time to see nowdays all know what I am doing here, so they aren't surprised to see pails of apples, totes of tomatoes and paper plates full of drying seeds everywhere. Or having to move trays of drying peppers, bowls of berries and bowls of dry beans out of the way so we can have a cup of coffee. The former master bedroom is now my pantry. The dining room wall is two big stainless shelf units stacked with canners, 8 gal. stainless brew kettles, 8 gal. cheese pots, large stainless pots and roasters, grain mill, pasta machine, squeezo strainers, sausage grinder, dehydrator, scales, churns, 3 gal pails of rice, blue corn and walnuts. And the goats and chickens live in the front yard during the winter. Hey, its how we live…and it works for us. Although it would work much better if it was the size of a warehouse (hehe).PlantLady

  15. An awesome post from both Fern and PlantLady. We've downsized our garden and gone to raised beds 4' x 4' x 4' and have been narrowing down (and keeping track) of our succession plantings over the years. As far as seed saving goes, that's a given. Last year, because I knew our mail carrier gardens and cans, too, I gave him an assortment of my heirloom, non-GMO seeds for his garden. He said it was the best gift that anyone had ever given him. 🙂 Keep up the good work, Fern & Frank, and to Carl in 'da U.P, a: \”Yah, you betcha, eh?\” from Melissa in MI (Yooper at heart, always)

  16. Hi Sandy, nice to meet you, also. Excellent that you are gathering the equipment you will need now, while it is still available and affordable. I get most of mine from Amish auctions, normal auctions and yard sales – far more affordable and if you look for the real old stuff, far better built.PlantLady

  17. Bellen: Indeed, even when you have had a traditional garden for years, figuring out how to provide all your own food is a whole different thing. And I had a similar problem this year – I have had a winter salad garden for about 10 years now. Always seed in a shaded bed in late July to mid-Aug then the plants are at the perfect size before winter sets in. So hot here this year the greens I seeded just would not come up. So I tried again inside, but no luck there, just too darn hot. Thank heavens the speckled romaine I was letting seed was ripe far earlier than I thought and gave me 83 volunteer seedlings. A big part of gardening is learning how to roll with the punches and improvise!PlantLady

  18. Calidore: Thank you. Everyone who gardens has challenges – its just part of the whole. Even when you have been gardening for decades, Mother Nature seems to delight in tossing something completely different at you. That is why it is best not to plant all of something at the same time or in the same place…betters your odds of something working.PlantLady

  19. hey yooper…troll here…well, a northern troll (hehe). I am full of admiration that you even attempt to grow food there – that would be a real challenge!PlantLady

  20. Great post! And Kymber has a good point about sprouts. I make my sprouts in a glass canning jar. Right now I have a blend of adzuki, garbanzo and lentil in the works. I love the looks of your greenhouse. Hugs, Ilene

  21. Fern – another great article and thank you for sharing The Plantlady's great advice! she knows her stuff and like you say, it is always great to share and learn from each other.but one thing that i feel gets overlooked in the preparedness/survival community is sprouts!!! sprouts are incredibly nutritious and very easy to grow in any circumstances and in any situation. you can save your radish seeds, and better yet, amaranth seeds and then sprout them during the winter for incredible nutrition and food value! from everything i've read – you can pretty much sprout any kind of seed except for nightshades and kidney beans.we save as many seeds as possible, not just for planting the following year but for sprouting throughout the winter.here is a post that i did about sprouts: http://framboisemanor.blogspot.ca/2012/03/sprouts-sprouts-everywhere.htmlwe have a sprouting machine but in the above article i include links to people who sprout seeds using the mason jar method – it always blows my mind when diy'ers find ways of doing things themselves.but sprouts are really full of nutrition and if you don't have land or if you live in the far north, and are unable to grow food for several months due to lack of sunlight and cold – you can still grow sprouts. just something to think about. say hi to frank! your friend,kymber

  22. Thanks for another great column. If you are serious about learning to save seeds, you should go to Jackie Clay's website. You can find her through \”Backwoods Home\”. She is a no-nonsense lady who does it all! She has lessons in saving seeds. She and her husband actually have a small home business due to her success in seed saving. Check her out. I think you will like her. I tell my husband \”Jackie Clay knows everything!

  23. Fern, this was an amazing article. Our thanks for sharing the Plantlady with us. I was going to go get started in my new greenhouse today, but first I will start organizing a garden notebook with all the information from this article to begin using now. I, too, tried saving seed from the garden last year; and it wasn't a total success. There is a learning curve here also. I lost some to molds, and some were either under or over ripe. I pray next year is better. Blessings, Debra

  24. Super post-every year I tell myself to start a garden journal. I don,t . This year will be different. The multitude of seeds that I've saved are labeled/dated but no variety listed. Yes you guessed it- no record of when, where, or what. Johnny seed charts are a good tip-heck the whole post was eye opening! Will add a few hybrids this year too! Thanks again for all the time you spend sharing.

  25. Over the past 3 yrs I've been working on this just to feed myself. One thing not mentioned in most gardening articles is the TIME involved in planning, planting, caring, harvesting and preserving both produce and seeds. Saving seeds alone requires a lot of time and space and organization, as does all the other things mentioned. You can't plant enough to eat & preserve, you have to plant enough to save seed from and in many cases, it means you can't eat the produce. It's mind boggling. My house and porches are constantly cluttered but I've learned to live with it since I am awestruck at the all the things I can produce for free – just labor & knowledge. It's not hard, it's just a LOT to do. Jan in NWGA

  26. Fern,A great post, and thank you for introducing PlantLady to your Blogger friends. PlantLady had some great advice. Does PlantLady have a blog we can follow? My husband and I are slowly purchasing equipment to better assist with planting and maintaining our garden beds. Our ultimate goal is to have year round functional garden beds and a green house.

  27. Yes, another great post. I also have not been saving seed but have started with the easy ones – winter squash and peppers. I have been keeping a little garden journal noting the day's temps at sunrise and sunset, what I harvested, but not how much, what & where I planted. Have discovered that this year, despite recommended planting times by local standards, nothing I planted from mid-Oct to mid-Nov came up – it was just too hot. So, next year I'll be prepared. I'm also experimenting with crops that are 'native' to our area altho some are those that have been naturalized. Have planted Seminole pumpkins and am looking for a source of Everglades tomato seeds at a reasonable price. It's all a learning curve even tho I've been gardening for about 60 years.

  28. Frank and Fern,Thank you so much for your kind words and interest…and the opportunity to help others. Everyone is going to need help to get through what is looming on a short horizon. There is no way any of us can know it all and do it all – but the more we can know and can do, the better we will fare. You are providing a very valuable service to us all – thank you!Another thing I would like folks to know is why I stock seeds for more than one variety of each crop I grow, of both open-pollinated and hybrid seeds. It is safety in numbers – never rely on one of anything. Open pollinated seeds/plants produce replicas of themselves. Hybrid (crossbred) plants don't…store-bought hybrid seeds produce the expected variety, but the seeds those plants produce will not. They may resemble the variety grown, or the mother, father or older generations – or be something completely new (this is how we get new varieties). This is NOT a bad thing – it is a very, very good thing. It gives you a wider genetic stock to work with over time – more options for success. And over the ages, crop breeders and farmers have been improving the disease and insect resistance, vigor, yield, nutritional content and flavor through hybridization…this is immensely valuable genetic material to have on hand. Say you choose open-pollinated Golden Bantam corn seed to stock – what if that variety does not do well in your area or your specific garden? What if you hate the flavor or it doesn't keep well? What if the climate changes and your growing season gets longer or shorter, even short term, as happened in 1815 when the volcano Tambora exploded and resulted in what is known as \”the year without summer\” – many folks starved. If the trucks have stopped running, you are stuck with that one variety, and because it is open-pollinated it will only (mostly) make seeds that will produce replicas of itself. If you have more than one variety of seed, you can try something else. If you have a wide range of genetic material on hand with hybrid seeds, you can gradually craft your own varieties that will suit your climate, actual location (wet/dry, acid/alkaline, protected/exposed, fertile/poor, etc), taste, storage requirements, be resistant to diseases and insects prevalent in your area, etc. Its not as tricky as it sounds…you just grow lots of varieties, save the best plants' seeds (whether you are looking for best flavor, best vigor, best disease resistance, early ripening or whatever), plant those seeds, save seeds from the best resulting plants – and over time you end up with varieties best suited to you and your growing location. Folks have been doing this ever since agriculture began – it doesn't take a degree in genetics and botany…just common sense. No matter what you grow, some plants will do better than others. You just save seeds from the best plants, not the scrawny, or diseased, or insect-ridden or yucky tasting.And even though I messed up on when the speckled romaine seeds would be ripe, choosing the best plants to let seed worked. I started with a mix of romaine seeds – speckled, red, bronze, green, small green. I really like the speckled ones, but the plants all had differing amounts of speckling, from almost none to lots. I let the two most wildly speckled plants set seed in widely separated areas. The resulting 83 volunteer seedlings from one plant are all wildly speckled…just what I was hoping for…so at least that worked.I am really hoping we have a few more growing seasons to practice so I can figure out more – but things sure are looking grim. PlantLady

  29. Plant Lady has some excellent advice. I'm not to bad on succession planting of carrots and lettuce but dreadful at everything else and she is right – we do need to plant successions of crops so they do last the year, after all we don't know what will happen month to month let alone day to day. Thank you for another though provoking article Fern and it's nice to know that you have problems with your garden to. Makes you seem more \”real\”…lol. I'm going to sit down and work out which crops I need to plant extra of and how often I need to plant them. I'm also going to have a really good look at what seeds I have and stock up. Luckily I found an Aussie site that lists heirloom and organic seeds at very reasonable prices. Looks like I get to go shopping :-)PS I don't think your article \”Got Food? For how long?\” was harsh. It was the push I needed to tackle a job I have put off for far to long.

  30. another excellent post. I too have been very bad at seed saving. I know I have done many things wrong in the past resulting in moldy unusable seeds but I will try again next summer so long as the dodo has not hit the fan between now and then. Carl in the UP

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