When the topic of preparedness comes up, there is a statement that is almost guaranteed to come up from the unprepared… “I’ll just garden when food runs out.” And then they continue to say that they have seed they’ve been storing for 5 years in their garage. And more often than not, this same individual has never gardened and wouldn’t know where to start.
If you are one of those that have made this statement, I’ll let you in on a little secret… You’ll Starve To Death!
Yip, if you’ve never gardened before, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening when the time comes.
First of all, anyone who has done any vegetable gardening will agree that gardening isn’t just a motion like making your bed or taking out the trash, it’s a skill that is learned through trial and error over many seasons. Beginning gardeners may quit out of frustration the first time they try it. Others get extremely lucky and have a bountiful harvest the first time they try it by sheer dumb luck. But most often, in the beginning you have some success and a bunch of failure. Some of the reasons are:
Type of soil (too sandy, too much clay, too acidic, etc.)
Seasons (what to do to protect your garden in various weather conditions, what to plant and when)
What grows good/bad together
Quality of seeds (stored seeds do not have a high percentage of sprouting, particularly ones stored in high heat over long periods of time)
Watering amounts and frequencies
When to harvest
How to propagate your own seed supply
How long from planting seeds to harvest time
How to store your harvest
First of all, you must know what kind of soil you’re dealing with in your backyard. What changes need to be made in advance to prepare that soil to be able to support a garden. Bad soil makes it nearly impossible to reap good produce and is extremely wasteful in resources such as water, time, effort.
What kinds of plants do you plant during which months of the year? This changes based upon elevation, temperatures, etc and must be known for your specific area. For instance, you don’t plant winter-type plants in the middle of the summer in Arizona. There is a time and season for all plants and knowing this in advance is extremely important.
There are also certain vegetables/herbs/flowers that compliment one another when growing side by side or together. There are also plants that hinder each other’s growth. Do you know and understand these?
What kinds of seeds do you have? How long have you been storing them? What percentage of them will sprout or are they all bad? Are they heirloom seeds which will allow you to harvest seeds from this season to use the following season?
How much water do your plants need? When is the best time to water them and how often? This all depends on the season, your climate, the soil and the type of plants in your garden. And in tough times, water may be very limited so you’ll want to know how much you need and not waste.
What about when you should harvest your plants. This seems kinda silly, but for those who are just starting out, it’s a big deal. If you pick too early, it may not be ripe or you may miss out on the potential growth. Or if you pick too late, you could miss the time and it may go to seed or get a bitter taste or even spoil without you realizing it. So when is the optimal time?
And how do you continue to supply yourself with new seed? Remember, if times are bad, you most likely won’t be able to go down to the local nursery and buy more seed. You’ll have to know how to get them yourself. If you’re starting out with hybrid seed, you may not be able to gather seed for the following year. And if you have heirloom seeds, where and how do you collect and store seeds? Where do you get seeds from carrots, lettuce, broccoli, etc. etc.? Sure we can all figure out how to get them from tomatoes, squash, etc that have seeds within, but what about the others? If you’re just starting out when “food runs out” then you’re going to be in for a big surprise and wonder where the seeds are.
What about the time frame from planting to harvesting? Do you know how much time that takes? Will you be sufficiently prepared to plan ahead so that you’ll have a consistent supply of food coming in?
And if you don’t plan correctly and your harvest comes all at once, how will you store this food? Will you simply feast for a week and then either run out or have it all spoil? How do you store your produce so that you can eat it throughout the year?
This article is not a “how-to” article, but just some thoughts to get you thinking about gardening and how it isn’t something you just do. It’s a skill that is learned by do-ing over and over again, learning tricks, what works, what doesn’t work, etc. So if you’re one of those who say you’ll garden when the food runs out, change your mindset today and garden before it runs out so you’ll eat and live instead of starving to death… especially if you have a family to look after as well. Better yet, make it a family activity and teach your children as you learn yourself!
Enjoy the journey!