Dear Editor, I just wanted to add some thoughts regarding your recent article on starting a garden now. I grew up in the Midwest, and our family had one and sometimes two gardens. We grew a variety of vegetables, and we canned and froze whatever we didn’t eat. After I moved away and eventually moved into a city, I got out of the habit of having a garden. My travels took me from Iowa to Minnesota, back again, and eventually to Texas. This year my wife and I decided to grow a small garden. We have a home in the Houston area. I thought, “How hard can it be?” Wow! I had forgotten. For one thing, we needed to till the ground, and I didn’t own a tiller. We marked out a 15 x 25 foot section for our first try. I went off to a local hardware store (Home Depot) and rented a tiller for the day. The ground is mostly a clay and sand mix with a thin layer of topsoil. It was covered with grass (and weeds). I got beat to death!!! Still, I managed to till it up. Winter ran long this year with frost up until almost March. (We had a long winter for Houston, thanks to global warming.) We went to various stores to pick out plants and seeds. Heirloom slicing tomatoes, a roma-grape tomato hybrid, jalapenos, cayenne peppers, habanero peppers, green peppers, green beans, peas, sunflowers, some radishes, some leaf lettuce, onions, and a cucumber were all planted. We may be adding pineapple to the mix, and we have a lemon tree growing as well.
Okay, here is where we get to the reason why it is good to plant NOW rather than post SHTF. I learned and relearned a lot! I didn’t have enough room for all that stuff. I had crowded it. Some crops didn’t grow well in that soil, and some things grew wild! It is so much better to learn that NOW. If we have a TEOTWAWKI situation, will we bug out or stay in? I still don’t know. It will depend a lot on just what the threat IS. I will have the option of staying, if we want to. Green beans and peas grew, but we need a lot of space to make them practical. Onions didn’t work, but radishes did. I am not sure why. I thought maybe it had to do with the soil being bad for root crops, but the radishes did fine. Oddly enough the jalapenos did poorly, but all of the other peppers did well. We are going to tinker and try different vegetables going forward, as we try to learn what we can grow and what we want to grow. Yes, we can add nutrients and conditioners and grow about anything. Yet, we mostly prefer to grow what WILL grow easily and then only add minimal fertilizer as needed. Another aspect that not everyone in the nation deals with is that here we have two growing seasons, so we will be starting our second planting in a couple of months. Again, some vegetable will likely grow better in the second season than the first. (By the way, in a true TEOTWAWKI situation, think about doing some gorilla gardening. I meaning that some public green spaces could probably be planted in some vegetables without anyone else being particularly wiser. For example, along a creek or drainage ditch I wouldn’t plant tomatoes, as that is too obvious. However, I bet you could plant beans or wheat, and as long as you spread it out a bit and didn’t have huge patches,.there is a good chance that most people would never see what was in plain sight.
Okay, so the garden has gone well and now you have more vegetable than you know what to do with. Well, this has turned into a blessing in a surprising way. My wife has been skeptical about my attempts at prepping. Slowly she has been coming around. After all, everyone in our area prepares for Hurricane season. So I was starting there and tacking on extra here and there. My wife is a wonderful cook! We are both foodies of sorts. This is where the garden has actually been a surprise blessing, My wife has decided she LOVES canning! I know, if we HAD to can 100 of jars for survival, the fun would go out of it. For now, we have canned salsa from our tomatoes, tomato sauce to be used for spaghetti and other dishes, and bread and butter pickles from a recipe borrowed from a TV chef. A new favorite is cowboy candy– a candied sliced jalapeno that is yummy. Since we don’t HAVE to have this to survive, we sometimes give vegetables and canned goods to friends and neighbors. We marvel at how good everything is. We had forgotten how great a dish can be when the vegetables are all home grown. Sauces that had been “ok” from the store POP when made with your own ingredients.
The bonus for me is both gardening skills and canning skills are being practiced, and if we fail or mess up in some way, it doesn’t REALLY matter! How much better to make mistakes now when lives are not on the line. Also, I am gathering the tools for gardening and canning NOW, at my leisure, while they are relatively cheap! I am learning (relearning) what works and what doesn’t, and I am eating better than I have in years! Talk about a win-win. – W.H.