Monday, December 10, 2012

“I’ll Just Grow My Own Food”

           Ever hear anyone say this? My reply is, “Have you ever tried that before?” Growing food is not easy. It is labor intensive and requires, at minimum, seeds, space and water. Oh boy, is that making it much simpler than it is.
            Let’s set up a survival scenario. Society has collapsed due to economic troubles, natural disaster, or some outside military influence. Let’s say the worst part is over. The physically weak have died off and order has been restored to some degree (at least regionally). Your limited stored food preps have held out. But there is no deliver trucks rolling to the grocery store which has long since been cleaned out. You still have a few months worth of food, but you need another food source soon to augment it. You can forage around for food, but there are a lot of other people foraging, as well. And how well do you know your edible, wild plants? (That’s a whole other blog entry, I promise) Do the work now so you don’t have to become an “overnight expert.”

Seeds. What kind of seeds should you buy? Well, you should buy a variety of seeds that are shown to do well in your climate and in your soil. You need some fast growing seeds (like radish or other green, leafy that can be edible in as early as a month), some seeds for sprouts (alfalfa sprouts can be ready in a few days) and some seeds that provide more substantial sustenance including essential vitamins and minerals (like, kale or corn).  Instead of giving you a long list of seed to look for, I will bow to the masters that have already done the work for you. Remember 2 vital things: heirloom or organic seed is best since you will want to save some of the next planting and you need to store your seed in a cool, dry place.
            You may need to fertilizer, too. Luckily, that is easy to come by since you make it yourself. Also, composting is a good idea. And, of course, try to choose seed that you will actually eat. A five gallon bucket of okra is nice, but if no one is willing to eat okra it is useless. Sure, you might feel differently if you are starving, but why not plan ahead and get something you like.

Space. There is dirt everywhere, right? Well, not all dirt is equal. You will need fertile soil for your garden and lots of it. A lot of bare ground is bare for a reason. It has been drenched in herbicide or is completely devoid of nutrients for plant growth. Neither is going to give you much edible plant material. How about if you live in an apartment? Sure, the building has land, but you don’t own it and will have a tough time defending it from foragers who see a meal. Containers would be a start, but you are not going to get super yields from a small container garden on your patio. It takes a lot of space to grow enough plant material for you and your family to live on. Of course, any food will be helpful. A community garden would be even better since you can share the burden and defense of it.
            Let’s summarize: You need to find space close to where you will be living. It needs to be secure, either behind a fence or hidden to some degree. The soil needs to be good for growing (are there plants already growing on it?). There needs to be at least 8 hours of full sun each day.

Water. Pure and simple, plants, like us, need water. Growing plants need a lot of water. Maybe you’ve heard of dryland farming. Don’t rely on the clouds to give you all your water. You need access to plenty of water. A hand pumped well, a canal, a reservoir, or even city water if you still have it. Sure, some areas get lots of rain in the growing season, but you can’t count on it. Rain barrels attached to your rain gutters or some other catchment system would help augment any shortages of water.

           We call it “Prepping” for a reason. If you have never grown a large garden, you had better start now. There is a lot of knowledge that can only be learned from doing it. Pledge to grow a small garden in your back yard this Spring. You have plenty of time to prepare over the next couple of months. I recommend people build raised beds in their yards since they are much easier to tend. Research the types of seeds you can grow AND that you would likely eat. Ten healthy Kale plants are beautiful and nutritious, but if no one eats kale you just wasted a lot of time and resources.

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