Recently, I was on Facebook and I saw a post in one of the gardening pages that I follow. The poster said something along the lines of if you plan to start a garden when the store shelves are bare, you are going to fail. And that really resonated with me. There are so many people that have no plan for if the store shelves go bare, or their plan is to use violence to take. And neither of two options will go over well, especially when there is another option. Today, I wanted to talk about when to start a garden and what should ACTUALLY go into it.
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Starting A Garden In An Emergency
A garden should not be started when you are in the middle of an emergency or crisis. But there are SO many people who think that they will start their garden when there is no food. What they don’t realize is that gardening is not only a skill, it’s a muscle that needs to be worked to ensure growth.
I talked in depth here about how to prepare for different emergencies, but one of the things I glossed over was the garden. I did that on purposed because I knew I would be writing this blog post. But the other part of it is that this is an entire blog post, if not series on it’s own. And really, are you going to read through a 5,000 word paper on emergency planning? No? I wouldn’t either.
When To Start A Garden
In my hippy, garden loving mind, there is never a bad time for a garden. Except for maybe deep winter. But that’s when you can start your seeds and repot your house plants, soooooo. In all seriousness, right now, is the best time to start a garden. Why? Because there is no pressure to grow food and feed your family, put away food for the winter, etc. There is no real fear of failure. Because if you’re green bean crop doesn’t do anything, you can still get some at the store.
Now is the time to start small and scale up. You can learn how to start seeds and save them. You can learn the actual skills, because it is a skill, of gardening. Growing food is not easy! Growing food on the scale of what you need to survive, is not easy! The learning curve of gardening can be very steep.
Right now, you have access to all the seeds your heart desires. You have access to the internet, social media, and YouTube to ask all the questions that you have. You can connect with your neighbors, friends, family and literally anyone else to gather skills.
You can lean on others right now to learn how to do this amazing thing. But that may not be the case in an emergency.
When NOT To Start A Garden
You should not start a garden when you are in the middle of a huge emergency like a job loss, divorce or death. That is not the time to learn a skill that you are going to rely on feeding you. Learning to can is not something you want to learn on the fly. Not just because you have to source the canners, jars, lids, etc but because if you get it wrong? The results could be dire.
Now, don’t get me wrong, necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes, the best way to learn is when your very livelihood relies on it. But why not take that risk out of it? Why not go ahead and start gardening now, when you’re not starving or facing crisis?
It takes TIME to grow things!
Another thing that drives me crazy when it comes to this mindset of waiting till there’s an emergency to take action, is that it takes time to grow things! Even lettuce, which you can usually eat within a few weeks, takes time to get there. The only thing that you could grow and eat within a few days is a microgreen but that still takes about 7-10 days.
But a tomato takes about 120 days. It’s the same for peppers, most melons, and winter squashes. There are some plants that only take 50 or so days like green beans, cucumbers, and summer squashes. But if you are hungry, waiting almost two months before you can harvest anything is a long time. And if you have no food, that can be death.
It takes more time if you have constant failures. In the 2023 summer garden, we lost almost our entire big garden to the chickens. The only reason we didn’t lose the kitchen garden was because it’s far more visible. If we were in the middle of a crisis, that lose would be devastating. Instead, it’s a major inconvenience.
Gardening Is A Skill
So many people think that you just throw some seeds in the ground and get a healthy plant that gives you a ton of food. While this is kind of true, there is a lot more that goes into gardening. It is in actual skill like carpentry, welding, plumbing, or animal husbandry. Sure, you can get it kind of right, but there is so much more that goes into gardening than you may think.
Depending on your growing season, you may HAVE to start tomatoes and peppers inside because your season is too short. Or you may have huge pest pressure in the form of horn and army worms, Japanese beetles or squash bugs. You may not know your frost dates and lose entire crops because you planted too early or too late.
These are all things that you learn when you garden in your area. Learning now is better than not learning until an emergency.
What To Grow In Your Garden
Another thing that I can’t stand, is these emergency seed packs that stores sell. Don’t get me wrong, any seed that grows an edible food is great. BUT what happens if you don’t like it? Or what if you are allergic to something? An emergency or crisis situation is not the time to find out that you can’t eat tomatoes.
There are two things to take into consideration when you are growing food: do you like it and does it store well?
Let’s talk about what you like to eat first.
I talk about what to plant in your garden here, but I want put in a few more points since we are talking about an emergency or crisis situation. You should be planting things that you like to eat. That’s a no brainer. But you should also plant things that you can at least tolerate as well. You should also consider what your animals need to eat.
Maybe you don’t love green beans. That’s okay. But can you tolerate them? Because beans are a great food that does a lot for soil health. It’s also pretty filling. If you don’t want green beans, but you have animals, you can still grow them for your animals and for the soil fixing properties.
One of the things we grow, that we don’t love, is tromboncini squash. This squash kind of sucks to be honest. It doesn’t really have good flavor or texture. BUT it is filling, easy to grow and store, and we can feed it to the animals. So we grow it. A few more examples would be beets, radishes, turnips, greens, and brassicas.
I don’t love any of these plants, but I know that I can feed them to my animals.
Does it store well?
This is the next “issue” that you should know about prior to a crisis event. Tomatoes do not store well on their own. Same with peppers, melons, and other summer vegetables. Most fall/winter vegetables store VERY well. So making sure that you know what to do with your harvests is going to be another huge hurdle if you aren’t ready.
Tomatoes and peppers should be canned to store the most effectively. Remember, in an emergency situation, you may not have power to work your freezers. Or heat to cook. Making sure that you know whatever methods you need to store your harvests is extremely important.
Another really important thing to learn NOW while you have the resources at the touch of a finger, is how to save seeds. In an emergency situation, you may not have access to new seeds. You may have to rely on saving seeds on your own. Again, this isn’t something you want to figure out with trial and error.
Plus, you can barter seeds if the worse case scenario ever happens.
Above, I said it is better to learn and build your gardening skills now, but the last point I want to make is your garden journals. One of the most useful tools a gardener has is a garden journal. In this journal, you write down all of the things that you and your garden did throughout the year. This includes things like soil tests, seed varieties, harvest weight, placement, and more. The reason it is the most important tool is because it allows you to track what is working, what’s not and all of the things in between.
Because we track the varieties that do well, pest pressures, and soil tests, it allows us to know what and WHEN to do things. This includes things like setting out beetle traps in May. Or starting peppers in February instead of March. All of these things are things that you pick up as you learn to garden in your area.
At The End Of The Day
It’s your decision WHEN to start a garden. But I highly recommend starting one before a crisis or emergency hits. Because you can walk into that crisis knowing that you and your family is fed.
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