(This installment concludes the 3-part article series.)
In Part 2, we discussed the variety of foods you may want to plant when vegetable gardening. Plant what you like to eat, but also be aware that different foods have different caloric content. If you want to preserve food as a hedge against a grid down, you may want to grow a variety of high calorie foods like corn, beans, potatoes and peas. We also looked at two popular methods of preserving food, freezing and canning (although you may want to experiment with dehydrating and pickling as well).
If you already garden, this article will have seemed basic, even shallow to you. You have as much or more experience than I do… and I could probably learn from you. But if you have little or no experience, then the one thing I leave you with is if you decide you want to raise your own food, then get to it! Don’t wait. Gardening requires a learning curve. It’s not quite as easy as planting a few seeds in the ground and harvesting watermelons next month.
Stuff happens, things go wrong and you have to back up and try again – and the weather will not wait. I’m high on talking to others with experience because they become a ready source for what to do when things do go wrong. And, gardeners in your area will readily relate to what foods grow best in the soil around you, the best times to plant what vegetables, and how to take care of gardening problems.
Who can you get to plow and till that 20′ x 30′ garden plot you’ve decided to have? Pretty hard to do that with a spade. What do you do when cut worms invade your tender squash plants only a few inches high and they all die overnight? Ever heard of red spider mites, shy bugs, cabbage caterpillars? These common garden pests are ready to completely destroy all your hard work unless you know what to look for and how to combat them.
It’s not just bugs or blight that present challenges. Rabbits love tender bean plants and deer are an ever present reality you may have to deal with if you live in a rural area. Three or four raccoons can wipe out a patch of sweet corn in a couple of nights. When your garden is dry because you’ve had no rain in two weeks, when is the best time of the day to water and what’s the best way to do it?
Canning is hard work. It can also be dangerous if you’ve never used a canner before. Not to mention, if you do not follow safe canning practices, you can make yourself seriously sick by eating improperly canned food.
Gardening is work, and the larger the garden the more work is required. As your vegetables mature and if you have planted more than you will actually eat during the growing season, you’ll have more work preserving all that food. But the payoff is rewarding. If you are still on the fence and not sure if you want to jump in, let me share with you some perspective about the payoff. That is, the advantages to raising a home garden, even a small one.
You will learn a valuable skill that you can use to benefit you and your family. Once you gain gardening knowledge, you can increase your skill levels year by growing year. Knowledge and skill is something no one can take away from you.
You can start small and expend as your knowledge and experience grows. The smaller garden you have, the smaller upfront cost you will have. A shovel, a hoe, a rake and a garden hose is really about all you’ll need. Larger gardens require more of an investment, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money up front to have a small garden.
Raising your own food is a great family experience. If you have kids, get them involved. The lessons learned and the time shared is great for building stronger families and learning together. Plus, you save money by growing your own food and not spending as much at the grocery store.
Talking with others about gardening can expand your social circle giving you the opportunity to make new friends. And, you may find like minded “prepper” friends even though they may not think of themselves as a prepper.
Home grown food tastes great, and there are health benefits as you get more physically active in preparing your garden spot, planting and harvesting your own food.
I began this series by asking a simple question. If the grid were to collapse today… now, right now… how long could you feed your family? All our food storage will eventually run out, it’s temporal. So what’s the answer? For me, it just makes sense to grow my own food as part of a resupply effort. The advantages I’ve listed above are always present for new or experienced gardeners, whether or not we ever experience a grid down. But for those concerned about food resupply in a grid down, there are additional advantages;
Growing and preserving your own food will increase your current long-term food supply. Sure, keep a full pantry, buy Mountain House or other long-term food, have a stock of MREs, Mylar seal rice and beans in 5-gallon buckets, and do other long-term food storage efforts if that is what you want to do. But, growing your own food and canning your harvest can be (and I believe should be) the next step in your food storage program.
Knowledge and experience in growing your own food is not only valuable now, but will be a vital skill in a long-term grid down situation. Gaining expertise now brings a confidence level that you can – and you will – provide for your family in the future.
If the worst happens, you will not have to depend on the government or anyone else for your daily sustenance. You’ve planned ahead, you’ve gained skills, knowledge, and expertise, you know what to do and how to do it – you are prepared.
The point of this article is to encourage you to think long-term about food storage and food resupply. Everyone’s situation may be different, but we all have to eat. Learning how to feed ourselves should be part of our long-term strategy. If you’ve thought about raising your own food, please start now. I don’t want to discourage anyone, but it takes time to learn and time to do.
Many a time during the growing season my wife will say, “… go get what you want for dinner out of the garden and I’ll cook it.” And 90 minutes later, we are eating fresh green beans with new potatoes, fried summer squash, sliced tomatoes and golden queen sweet corn all from our garden. Priceless! And, when the harvest is over and all the canning is done, to see row upon row of canned goods on the shelves in my basement pantry is quite a feeling. That’s a quality of life I’m proud to share with my wife… and the best form of food insurance that I know of.