Letter Re: So You Think Starting a Garden Will Be Easy After

Greetings Jim & Hugh:

I read with interest the SurvivalBlog postings “So You Think Starting a Garden Will Be Easy After TEOTWAWKI” by Dr. Prepper and was very happy to see a modicum of analytical insight on the concept of growing a garden for sustenance. Too often the “idea” of having a garden lulls us into a feeling of self-sufficiency, while the produce derived from this garden would be woefully inadequate for proper family sustenance, if the S truly HTF. Of course, growing one’s own food in any capacity is admirable. However, Dr. Prepper’s analysis of caloric necessity derived from one’s garden on a day-to-day basis was eye-opening and helpful.

I wanted to perhaps offer some additional experience of my own regarding the maximization of a garden’s food-producing potential from the standpoint of someone who has constraints on the amount of area to devote to planting a high-yielding garden (ie: semi-urban environments and small property area). I simply do not have sufficient room to grow multiple 50-foot rows of beans and corn. While caloric output from a garden is an essential consideration in its ability toward self-sufficiency, it is not the only vector of importance. Sometimes, simply the production of large quantities of food in a limited space might be of the important survival consideration. What follows are my own thoughts and conclusions based upon my own gardening experience, with emphasis strictly on the maximization of food output from the smallest amount of area to work with:

1) Emphasis should be given to root-type vegetables when working with a limited sized garden. Carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas, and parsnips are easy to grow and can be densely planted, offering foods which are readily amenable toward canning the excess once harvested. Of these, beets and turnips have the greatest “bang for your buck”, since both the roots AND the greens are edible and nutritious.

2) While Winter (ie: hard) squash were touted in Dr. Prepper’s articles as a good source of caloric value, I wanted to also mention the value of summer squash (ie: green and gold zucchini, crookneck, et cetera). In contrast to winter squash, whose plants require a LOT of area to grow and meander, summer squash plants maintain about a 3-4 foot spherical radius per plant, making them ideal for a limited area setting. Additionally, each plant can continuously produce a HUGE amount of food throughout the season (especially if the fruits are allowed to achieve large size). Lastly, although the prevailing wisdom seems to argue against it, summer squash IS amenable toward canning in my experience, allowing for the safe storage of excess harvest for the leaner months. My own observations are that summer squash plants BY FAR out-produce the amount of food produced by winter squash plants.

3) Dependent on the species and growing season, tomato and cucumber plants can produce the densest harvest per square foot of almost any other plant. Additionally, excess tomatoes can be canned, whole or as sauce, in order to preserve the nutritive value for the winter when there is no harvest available.

I mention these points not to disagree with the well-thought-out article by Dr. Prepper, but rather to offer additional insight (based on personal experience) into how one might go about maximizing food production from one’s garden in the event of TEOTWAWKI, when one’s life (and the lives of family members) will truly be dependent upon what sustenance can be derived from the loam which is beneath us. -SF