I just want to say upfront, this article is not all inclusive by any means. I am not a master gardener, and there is so much information out there that can be gathered and much of it is at your fingertips right now, so use the time we have left wisely. I realize that everybody’s definition of how much you are going to eat is different. I am just using examples here.
When you were in school and found out about a test coming up, did you start studying as soon as you could or did you just cram the night before? I would hope that you started studying as soon as you could, instead of waiting until the last moment. That is what this posting is all about: not studying for a test but about you feeding your family when the curtain goes down or the flag goes up, whichever analogy you choose to use. So, how do you plan on feeding yourself and your family? If you are a crammer, then you will be behind the proverbial eight ball when it comes to feeding your family after everything falls apart. If you’re the one that started long before it was necessary then kudos to you. When it comes to feeding your family after the fact, you don’t want to be trying to figure it out; you want to already be ahead of the game.
This article’s main concern is gardening long term. Do you know how much to grow? Do you know what grows best in your area and what doesn’t? I live in zone 5a, according to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Go to the website and figure out which zone you are in, if you don’t know already. Do you know how to preserve what you grow? How do you plan on getting protein, if you have no animals?
Do you have seeds? I use heirloom seeds, but there are arguments both ways. This is my personal preference. How will you get a garden going if you can’t till up the ground? Do you know how to turn a yard into a garden?
If you don’t have a roto tiller or the gas for it, how will you turn that spot into a garden bed? You can do it by taking a shovel and digging the sod off. You can do this by watering the area well for several days to make it a little easier to work, but be careful not to water so much that it is soggy because the soil will compact and be difficult for plant root growth. Then you will need to dig the area you want plant and remove the top layer along with grass and weeds. You may have to replace the top soil or add amendments to the soil to insure good growth of your garden. This takes a lot of physical work. Will you be able to do it? Remember some things are easier said than done. You can also use newspaper, cardboard, or plastic to get your area ready to plant. Just place layers of newspaper (something most people just throw away and can be found in large amounts if you look around). Just use the black and white print copy though, or place the cardboard or the plastic over the area. Then you will need to cover the first two with biodegradable material to hold in place. The plastic you can place any material on to hold it in place. These options take several months to kill the grass and weeds by keeping sunlight out. When you remove the covering, you are ready to plant. In the case of the newspaper you will be able to leave it in place and plant through it as it decomposes. Now that you have a garden plot, you have to plant your seeds or your plants that you started. Do you know what you will plant? Do you know how much you need to grow to feed your family?
Do you know how to start your own plants from seed? Can you make your own seed pots? I have been making my own seed pots for several years now and will not go back to buying them. The only cost of making my own seed pots I have is the cost of buying my PotMaker. (You can search these by just typing in The PotMaker or use this link for wholesale prices). You can make your own seed pots using the newspaper that so many people just throw away. Over this last winter I cut enough material to last me for the rest of my life and still have some left over for my children to use once I am gone. So it doesn’t take a terrible amount of time to cut the material. You can do it while watching a movie. After you master this one, you can look around your house and figure out how you might make a little larger one to transplant into so that you can have an even bigger plant when it comes time to plant in the garden. I have done this and had full size tomato plants to plant in the garden when planting time came. I had my first tomato that year a full six weeks earlier than I have ever before. It takes a lot of work to do this.
Do you use soil or seed starting medium? I have found a local company near me that makes a great seed starter that hasn’t failed me yet and it goes a long way. I wouldn’t use soil because it will compact down during watering and your plant will die off. If you use just soil I suggest adding some kind of medium to it so that it isn’t susceptible to that compacting.
Plant what you and your family will eat. When the TEOTWAWKI, you won’t be able to waste all that energy growing something that nobody wants to eat. You need to know now what your family will eat. It will do no good to have 50 pounds of some vegetable that the family will not eat. Now that you know what your family will eat, how much do you need to grow to get through to the next season? Figure out how much each person will eat of each vegetable and fruit. Let’s use carrots as an example. How many will you need to grow to feed your family? The way I figure out what I need is to figure out how many I will eat each week, then multiply that by 52. This is only an example of the amount I plan on eating. Let’s say I plan on eating three carrots per week, and then I will need to grow and harvest 156 of them (3×52 weeks). Just because I need to harvest 156 carrots, that doesn’t mean I will only plant 156 seeds or 160 or even 170 seeds. I will plan on planting at least 300. I will do this because not every seed planted will grow. Let’s say I plant 300 seeds and get an 80% germination rate. That will give me 240 carrots. Of those, if I lose 10% for some reason, I will lose another 24, which brings me to 216 carrots. That gives me an extra 50 carrots to use early or use for barter. Now you have to sit down and figure out what your family will eat, and how much of each fruit or vegetable they will eat. That is how much you will need to grow. You may find it difficult to grow all that you think you will need, but if you have like-minded neighbors, maybe you can get together and each grow different crops and then swap for what each other needs.
Now with that said, my suggestion is for you to plant twice as much as you think you will need. The reason I say this is because of the season we had here this year. If I did not have a larder already and things went south this fall, I would be in deep trouble real soon. What happens when you only plant what you think you will need and the weather turns cooler sooner than usual, or you get an early or late frost? Maybe a storm wreaks havoc on your garden, you have a particular harsh pest problem, or maybe the crop doesn’t produce as you planned. Maybe you have a wetter season than normal. The reason I use these examples is because all of these happened to me this year.
We had a heavy late frost, so I was a week behind getting the garden started. My potatoes hardly produced at all, and the potato bugs were the worst I have seen in years. Right now I don’t use any chemicals in my garden, but I will use whatever I need to use to make sure my family is fed after TEOTWAWKI. The tomato worms were horrible this year also, but I was able to keep ahead of those so the tomato crop was doing fine, until we had a storm that was so severe that it knocked power out for almost a week in some areas. It knocked down over 1000 power lines in our area, so you can imagine the affect the winds had on the garden. Then about three weeks after this storm, we had three days of late fall weather, which many of my plants decided was the sign to go dormant a full four weeks early.
So why do I say grow twice as much as you think you will need? What will you eat through the winter, if you lost big portions of your crops one season and there is no store that you can shop to get what you need? If you grow twice as much as you need, put it up. Then, if any of these things or a combination of these things happen, you will have a backup to supplement what you can salvage from your garden. If you have a great growing season and you put up enough for your family, then you can use the extras to barter with to get things you might need or want.
If you don’t have animals, how will you get your protein? You say you will just go hunting or fishing. Well, that would be a great idea if you were the only one thinking like that, but there will be millions of people with the same mindset. Game may well be hunted into extinction if the trouble goes on for too long. People will be hungry real quick, considering that the average home only has three days of food on hand. I’m not too sure I want to be in the woods with so many people carrying guns, with many of them not even sure what to do or how to do it safely. You can grow beans to substitute for protein until you can get some meat. You should be storing meat in some fashion right now so that you are able to still have some meat protein. Dry beans, such as great northern, kidney, navy beans, et cetera are great for protein and will also give you plenty of fiber.
Okay, so you’ve grown your garden. Now what? Do you know how to save seed from your harvest for the next year? Do you know that it takes two years to get carrot seed? I know that, but I have yet to harvest a single seed. I am still practicing that while I have the time. Do you know how to store your produce? Do you know how to can or dehydrate? Do you know how to make a root cellar to keep it fresh longer into winter? There are many good books out there on all of these subjects. Check them out at the library, and then buy the ones that you like or think will help you the most.
- Ball Blue Book
- Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth
- Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel
- Dehydrating Bible by Jennifer MacKenzie
These are just a few of the books I have in my library. There are many books out there. So, like I said before, check them out at your local library before you buy them. I have researched many books this way. I would not have been able to afford buying all of them just to find out I won’t use them. There are also many great articles in the archives on this blog. Don’t be afraid to search them out and read them.
Here are some seed companies that you can use to get stocked up. I have personally used all of these in the past and can say I am happy with their service. DISCLAIMER: I receive no compensation of any kind from any of these companies. I share these to help others find what they are looking for.
- Seed Savers Exchange
- Tomato Growers
- Territorial Seed
- Vermont Bean Company
- Main Street Seed and Supply
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company
- Burpee Seeds
There are others. Just do a search on the Internet and find the ones you want to do business with. You can also go to your local garden center, local hardware, or one of the big box stores to get your seed.
Start stocking up on seeds, pest control items, fertilizers, tools, and knowledge now before it is too late. Practice these things now, while you can still eat if things don’t work out for you. You don’t want to be in a disaster situation and have to learn all these things while under pressure. I have been gardening for a while and I am still learning things each year of what works and what doesn’t. Gardening is not easy now, and it will not be any easier after TEOTWAWKI, but like anything else in this life, it will get easier the more you do it. Gardening can be fun and also relaxing. So get started now, while you can.