Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Quick tips for the SHTF garden

You hear this a lot...

"We are going to put in a garden on our property and grow our own veggies and fruit once things go downhill.."

"Just put in a garden and grow your own food in a small space!"

"Anyone can put in a container garden and have their own food once the SHTF, right?"

I have bad news for the novice gardener, it is not that easy to plant a producing garden if you have never done it before. What's more, there is no worse time to learn how to grown your own food if the poop has hit the fan.

So, the time to get started is now. It is summer in most parts of the country and there is no reason to not start growing at least some of your own food now. Be prepared: it will take some work and effort to get your garden underway and producing.

- The fastest way to start is with containers and already sprouted plants like the ones sold at the garden stores and big box retailers.
- Avoid using the black plastic pots the plants are sold in. They capture too much ambient heat which stresses the plant and evaporates the moisture in the soil faster.
- Replant only in high quality soil. I cannot stress this enough. Do not use any soil sold in a bag or worse, unfortified soil from the yard.
- To make your own potting or bed soil, use a high quality base soil for your area, add compost and vermiculite.
- Raised beds work better than planting direct into ground.
- Water in the morning. Water in the heat of the day burns off before it can help the plants. Water in the evening can produce mold on some plants.
- Water deeply container plants daily and raised beds a couple of times a week.
- Use natural fertilizers like fish emulsion and green sand. Make insect repellents from hot peppers and garlic.
- Work natural compost into your beds and containers often; it replaces the nutrients in the soil.
- Mulch beds using friendly bedding material like alfalfa grass. I purchased a bail at the local farmers market and had enough for my entire tomato bed.
- Grow what works local. For instance, tomatoes, corn and melons grow well in my area while asparagus, broccoli and lettuce does not. Post-SHTF is not the time to experiment with potential failed crops.
- Camouflage your garden space. Surround the borders of your yard with weeds, overgrown bushes and native plants. Grow food as landscaping. Grow herbs in the front or side yards where passersby will think they are wild growth or weeds.
- Fruit trees take 3-5 years or longer before they produce edible fruit. Plant dwarf versions now. If possible, put in large containers on wheels so they can be brought in during cold weather. I have a producing orange tree I keep in this manner and have done so for over 10 years.
- Experiment with seeds only after you have successfully grown from plantings. Start with small pots filled with top quality soil and replant in beds or larger containers. Herbs are best to start with.
- Corn is an excellent and fast grower, however it rapidly depletes the soil. Be ready to grown rye or another nitrogen replacement crop during cooler months in your corn patch.
- I have never had much luck with fruits or vegetables grown in doors. Maybe your experience is different.
- Certain food crops can be grown during the winter months like garlic, onions, and kale.
- Finally, don't bother gardening if you have not learned how to store your surplus with canning, drying and dehydrating!

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