It is Planting Time – Part 3, by L.R.

(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).

Additional Thoughts

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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;

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.




10 Comments

  1. Q: If a cup of salad has 100 calories, and a cup of “three sisters” has 400 calories, how many calories does a cup of lard have?

    A: 1840 calories (16 tbsp)

    Gardening can provide micronutrients and carbs, livestock provides protein and fat (and the bulk of your calories). You are going to need both to survive.

  2. I’ve killed more plants than I’ve harvested over the years. I agree, there is no better way to learn that to just start. And find a mentor! Most gardeners are teachers. They enjoy passing on what they know to someone who really wants to learn.

  3. There’s nothing quite like eating food you have grown yourself. I just tilled my garden Monday, amended with peat moss, azomite, sulpher (for pH), fertilizer, deep watered and set up the hoops. Tuesday planted a couple hundred green peas. Waiting for soil temperature to come up before planting the rest (waiting for my back to stop hurting, too). My tomato and pepper and basil starts need to be carried out into the sun every day, and returned to a warmish room inside for evening. Keeping an eye on the ten-day forecast to see when they could go in the ground…May 15 is our “supposed” final chance of frost. Some people up north keep multiple flats of starts planted in successive weeks in case their first planting gets killed by frost.

    The point made in the article about the “learning curve” is so important. When I first moved to the American Redoubt, I was naive about the amount of work and knowledge/experience required to have a healthy garden. It’s a LOT of WORK. And if you make a mistake based on ignorance, all that work can vanish overnight.

    When I moved up here I took a four month garden class offered by my local university extension, and was astonished at how much I didn’t know! I highly recommend the value of classes and educational books about the subject, but there is just no substitute for getting your hands in the dirt. Homesteading is no joke and can’t be learned by thinking about it. Those 5 pounds of heirloom seed you bought for your preps aren’t going to save you if you don’t have a couple of years of experience to go with it. And good luck living on green beans and Swiss chard. You’ll need protein in hard times, so get used to caring for some kind of livestock at the same time you are honing your gardening skills. At the very least, keep some chickens as a reliable source of eggs.

    You will be amazed at how your new capabilities improve the quality of your life. Wish I had started twenty years ago….

  4. L.R. in the article, = “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.” ~~> SurvivalBlog has some articles about using a rototiller. The one recently mentioned ’tilling the soil for a 3rd time to mix in the Chicken Manure.’ ~ A very good description of the need for working the soil repeatedly, to achieve good garden soil. [Plus, the description reveals a good moral character.]

    A 20′ x 30′ would be a bit much for one day’s work using a Spade Shovel, with my City-Man, gut. … A person has to spread tasks out over a period time. The soil needs to be turned at least 2 or 3 times, and raked too for quality garden soil. (+It’s good to turn the soil at the end of the growing season. In my area, a mid-winter soil turning is helpful too, as the Winter-Rains compacts the soil.)
    …… In this comment section, ~Once A Marine, advocates ‘Lasagna Gardening’ ~ which is a soil building method, without all of the heavy digging. I think it might be worth a try.

    There was earlier comments in this series about ‘Edge Gardening’ on a city lot. I’ve done that too. … One year I successfully grew Potatoes in ~bags (on an edge spot), for the ‘edification’ and NOT so much the potatoes. … I’ve also grown, pole-beans, tomatoes, cucumbers (& some other things) along the stretch of soil between a driveway and a fence). It worked out real well.

    Good ideas and advice are on SurvivalBlog. Gardening is a learned skill, that develops over a lifetime. Generational help is always needed. SurvivalBlog has numerous articles on developing Homesteading Skills; that can also become good family activities.

  5. A tool that really helps till the soil quickly w/o a motor or noise is the broadfork.

    http://www.themarketgardener.com/broadfork

    It also makes getting out weeds that propagate by root quickly and easily. I have lotsa quackgrass that will reproduce from the slightest piece of root left in the soil. A shovel cuts the root and leaves fragments. Broadfork get the whole thing.

    Um, it is also a lot cheaper than buying or renting a tiller.

    Carry on

    1. My heavy clay/rock soils would laugh at a broadfork,until a lot of sand/humus/compost is turned/rototilled in(with a lot of ph balancers) and the clay broken up(and rocks into the pile) it was hard to grow much.

  6. Read Steve Solomon’s book, The Intelligent Gardener. You’ll learn a lot. And this is coming from someone who’s been gardening for years.

    It especially addresses mineral and other soil component balances. Testing and then fixing problems. Too often overlooked by gardeners who figure that if they just keep adding compost all will be well.

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