Here’s a little about myself. I work in law enforcement. I grew up in suburbia, was a Marine and outdoorsy person, yet I have never really, truly gardened. I can’t. I work full time and own a home (in a development). I have two children, who run me all over the place, and I have never had a green thumb. I do hunt, and I do that well. So, I figured how hard is planting some seeds in the ground and growing some vegetables. Well, my experience woke me up and am I glad that it did, because had I not started my garden last year, I would have had a rude awakening come the fall of civilization. I probably would have killed my family and wasted my money on my heirloom seeds. At least I’m learning now and not when it’s life or death.
So, last year I thought, “You know what, let’s start a small garden and see how we do.” I cleared a nice spot in my yard, ran the tiller, brought in some good planting dirt and some manure, bought my non-hybrid seeds, and starting my great experiment with my two children.
LESSONS LEANED YEAR ONE:
1. Put a stinking fence up. I planted tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, strawberries, mint, and some other odds and ends that I can’t seem to remember. Well, all my seeds began to sprout and grow. My children and I would water and weed the garden regularly, and everything began to look good. About 30-45 days into the experiment, it began. The animals began to eat all the stinking leaves off all my stuff. They struck fast and hard, and the next thing I knew most off my stuff was just stumps. Everything but the mint and tomatoes was gone. Those the animals didn’t seem to mind.
2. Do your research, and don’t listen to urban legends. Now, I did plant marigolds all around the outside of the garden, because someone said that rabbits don’t like those, and it would keep them out. I wanted to try to be as natural and use things that would be available during TEOTWAWKI. Well, I can now officially say that’s crap, and I actually watched a rabbit eat the cap off a marigold. So don’t listen to friends who claim that they have done “it”. Ask professionals and talk to the people at garden centers.
3. Weeding and spacing is very important. I found that no matter what I did, the weeds invaded and I seemed to underestimate the size my tomato plants would grow, too. I had trouble getting in the garden to pick my tomatoes without breaking stems. So be sure to leave yourself enough room for plants to grow and bloom.
4. Keep herbs separate and contained. My mint went wild and invaded everything. No matter what I did, it seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Also, no matter how much I cut and pulled it, the mint grew and grew and attempted to overtake everything.
So year one was a wash, although I had a huge load of tomatoes and mint. So, I could flavor my water with mint and eat a lot of tomatoes. Yeah. I would have starved. No! My family would have starved.
CHANGES AND LESSONS OF YEAR TWO:
I’ll start by saying that I began year two on a mission. I would plant and maintain a garden that we would have an abundance in order to practice some canning this year. I built raised boxes. These boxes where about four feet off the ground. I built two of them that where eight foot long, about two foot wide, and 18″ deep. I filled them with good soil and manure. I knew that I would stick it to those rabbits and have a huge haul this year. I also bought some chicken wire and stakes and was going to build an impenetrable garden fortress around my garden from last year. Well, that’s what I thought, anyway. Again, my garden has given me many learning opportunities.
1. Spacing is still important. My tomatoes still look like a South American jungle that I need a machete to get through. Although I have quite a haul of tomatoes growing, I am again having trouble getting to them without damaging the stems. I also have to be extremely careful when I tie them up, because I can’t tell which plant the stem is from.
2. Mint will still invade and take over everything. Last year I thought that I really took care of the mint problem, but guess what is back and back with a vengeance? I think it is trying to punish me for pulling it out last year. I did allow it to go semi-crazy this year because I dried some last year and used it for things. The animals don’t mess with it, and it has grown around my fence to sort of hide the fence. It has gotten so big it actually hides my garden and sort of looks like a weed that needs to be trimmed. So I figured that could be a good thing when trying to keep your garden on the down low.
3. Fences don’t make your garden a fortress. I came home one day and was admiring my strawberries that were finally growing and starting to turn red, when movement in my mint jungle caught my eye. A baby bunny was chewing on my berries. Arrrgghhh! I wanted to scream, but that wasn’t the end of my year two garden troubles. I still, to this day, have no idea how he could get through the wire, but he did.
4. Raised boxes don’t stop all animals from eating your garden. Last year most all of my garden was eaten, so I thought that this year I would transfer all those plants to my new raised boxes and outsmart the animals. Well, again the leaves started to find themselves being snipped off the stem, and once again my peppers and other garden delicacies were killed. I think, but I’m not sure, that it was birds doing this. I have never found evidence of animals or birds. There were just leaves laying there. So, I think maybe a net over the raised boxes is in order for next year. That would keep both birds and other critters out of my boxes. The funny thing is that the cucumbers and green beans are taking off and growing crazy, so far. Knock on wood that this keeps up.
Now I have officially decided that gardening is never, and I mean never, going to feed my family when civilization fails. I’m not giving up, nor do I write this with the wishes that anyone else give up, but each year is a new learning experience, and if you haven’t started yet, no amount of reading and research is going to help you to figure out how to garden. Practice, practice, practice. Get out and dig in the dirt, rotate your crops, do all you can to keep out the critters, and pray that you are bountiful. When all else fails, find your weakness and exploit it; make it your strength. As I mentioned above I hunt. I’m good at hunting, so I decided that I would attempt something new. Trapping.
Well, I’m not talking about trapping where I go out buy a license and traps and set them up out in the wood. I mean something that I have not read about on this site, but I figured that I would give it a shot. I have rabbits running around my house eating my stuff, so guess what I got? Yep. I got some box traps and set them up near my garden.
I baited them and waited, and wait I did. A month went by before anything went inside the trap, but bam, I caught some rabbits. I have four to be exact. Guess what I built myself? A pen, and now I am raising rabbits. I don’t know, but you know what they say about rabbits. So, before I know it, I should have a bunch of rabbits. This should give me some ability to barter and trade.
Now, what have I learned the last two years? Well, first, I learned that if you think you are going to garden to survive, you are probably out of your mind, and you will be dead within a year. Gardening is “guard” and “you need a lot of space to feed yourself and a family for a year”. Secondly, success only happen after repeated failures. I guess that in business, gardens, and everything else in life, you have to fail multiple times before you get it right. I’m two years in, and I know that it will take me forever to be able to sustain myself on a garden. Next, find the positive in everything that goes wrong. I have started a new survival tactic, because they were eating my food. So I created a food supply by losing one. And lastly, never under any circumstance give up. In a failed society, every little thing will help. Even if all you get out of a garden is mint and tomatoes, at least it’s something. By the way, there are no big box stores to get the stuff you need for a garden, so stock up now and attempt to find alternative methods.
Si vis pacem, Para bellum wertieinpa