There are many reasons to have your own garden. Growing and eating vegetables that you grew from scratch by preparing soil, planting seeds, weeding, watering and picking all yourself is incredibly rewarding.
Money can be saved as seeds are much less expensive than the corresponding produce. Fresh produce harvested straight from the garden taste better and is more nutritionally sound.
Another benefit of having your own garden is you control what chemicals (or lack thereof) are used during the growing process.
For those preparing for a long-term survival situation gardening is a necessity. Regardless of how much food is stored away it will only last for so long and will eventually run out.
Gardening is one of several ways to supplement a food storage program and provide vital sustenance.
If you’re interested in getting into gardening, this is the perfect place to start. In this guide, we’ll cover all of the basics: from soil types to plant varieties, from watering schedules to fertilizing techniques.
We’ll also talk about some of the concepts that are specific to gardening, such as companion planting and crop rotation. By the time you finish reading this post, you’ll be ready to start your own garden!
Gardening as a Survival Skill
Although environmental factors are the source of upcoming food shortages, individuals must prepare for them. The most effective approach to be prepared for food shortages is to grow your own food.
Food shortage will affect everyone, rich and poor; nevertheless, the less resourceful people will endure more severely than those who are ready.
Before a true emergency strikes, you should begin planning for food. Videos about how-to gardening for survival needs may take you from novice to green thumb hero with some practice on sites like YouTube.
If you don’t have a garden or if you do but haven’t cultivated it in a long time, this part will get you started again. Though it is possible to survive only on what you may produce oneself, most people should supplement their diet with gardening as part of a well-rounded food survival strategy.
When planning a garden there are several important steps that must be taken to increase the chances of having a successful and bountiful season. Gardening is not easy, and requires a lot of hard work.
Whether trying to develop a hobby backyard garden or serious food gathering source – it cannot be emphasized enough to start now and learn as much as possible. What follows are several of the basic steps to starting a garden.
What Can I Grow Where I Am?!
Start by drawing up a list of things you want to plant. Decide what you’d like to cultivate and where it will be planted.
You’ll need to think about the weather, sunshine exposure, soil quality, and drainage in your garden location.
Consider which crops are suitable for your region when designing your garden. Corn is a common crop in the Midwest, but it would not thrive in the humid Southeast due on its high humidity requirements.
Here are some basic pointers for growing crops in various regions of the country:
In the Northeast, cultivate cold-hardy vegetables like kale, spinach, and broccoli. In the South, consider growing tomatoes, peppers, and sweet potatoes.
Plant cactus fruits and veggies like prickly pear and cholla buds in the Southwest. In the Northwest, you can plant beans, peas, and squash.
Add fruits to your garden plan, in addition to vegetables. Fruits are a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants, and they may help you add taste and variety to your diet.
Apples, pears, and blueberries are all common fruits to cultivate in the Northeast. These plants are hardy and can withstand the bitter temperatures and steamy summers of this zone.
Peaches, plums, and figs are all grown in the Southeast. These fruits thrive in the hot, humid environment. Bananas, grapefruits, and lemons flourish in this area’s hot weather.
For the same reason, a varied diet is essential. First and foremost, it secures you access to a wide range of nutrients that are necessary for optimal health.
Second, it aids in the prevention of food boredom. When you’re confined to eating the same things every day, the urge to quit will grow stronger, and “menu burnout” can lead to frayed nerves.
You Can Garden in Almost Any Space
A “victory” garden can be started in a little plot of land or even on your balcony or patio using containers.
Choose crops that produce a lot, such as beans, peas, cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes, if you have limited area. You may cultivate larger vegetables like potatoes, corn, and winter squash if you have more room to grow them.
There are several plants that may be grown indoors, even if you don’t have access to outside space.
Potatoes and leeks are two excellent indoor crops that require little room and produce abundantly. Parsnips and carrots can be grown in 5 gallon buckets with a little dirt.
Other viable options for growing inside include herbs, grasses and other compact “leafy” plants. If you have some large buckets you can have more spinach than you know what to do with!
Even the most cramped prepper can benefit from racks or shelves with a few proper light fixtures for herbs and leafy, nutrient-dense foods like spinach grown entirely indoors. Because you don’t have a huge plot of ground, don’t give up hope!
Soil Nutrition, Irrigation and Fertilizers
After you’ve determined which crops are suitable for your region, prepare the soil in your garden for planting. Remember that adding organic matter such as compost to bad soil can assist improve it.
It’s crucial to keep track of the nutritional needs of plants that will produce fruit as you grow them. The majority of fruits require a lot of potassium in order to develop, so be sure to offer enough potassium sources.
Learn about your crops’ exact nutrient requirements and how to deliver those nutrients to the soil in the most efficient way possible.
If you live in a region with little rainfall, such as the Southwest, irrigate your garden as needed. If your veggies begin to wilt or die back, use an at-home testing kit to identify the problem and then fertilize them with a combination of compost and manure.
This will get your soil in your garden back into good working order for next year’s harvest.
Amending / Preparing the Soil
Having soil that is rich, loose and fertile will produce larger quantities and higher quality produce than having soil that is compacted and lacking vital nutrients. Soil testing kits are available at most local gardening centers. These test kits can tell what your soil is lacking and allow you to take corrective steps.
Garden soil needs to be loose to allow roots to burrow and spread to provide a secure footing for the plant. These roots also gather nutrients and water from the soil.
To make the soil as nutritive and usable as possible – compost can be purchased and mixed into the top 6 to 12 inches. Whether using a mechanical tiller or a shovel and spade the compost should be thoroughly mixed with the native soil.
Once the soil has been properly prepared the planting and growing can begin.
Gardening Tip: Do not walk on planting areas after tilling as that will compact the soil.
It is best in my experience keeping soil evenly moist is best. Drenching the garden every few days is not preferred.
Providing a light sprinkling daily or even more than once per day depending on climate should provide plants sufficient water. Plant monitoring and education on symptoms or too little and too much water is needed.
Using a layer of mulch around plants can help retain moisture. One drawback of mulch is watering time and volume may increase as the water which is directed to the plants must make it through the mulch first.
Gardening Tip: Rain water beats all! It has been my experience after a good downpour gardens will literally grow before your eyes. Although we have no control on whether it rains or not having a rain barrel is a great way to collect water for the garden.
Weeds are both frustrating to deal with and are a detriment to any garden. Weeds use the same water and nutrients as your growing vegetables thus they can impede garden progress.
For a common backyard garden this may not be a big deal. For a garden during a survival situation which is being depended upon to provide food for your family weeds are the enemy.
Weeds can be dealt with several ways with the simplest being pulling them out by hand when the ground is moist. A hoe can also be used to scrape small weeds up out of the soil.
Gardening Tip: In addition to helping retain moisture organic mulch can also help control weeds.
After repeated gardens soil will loose its nutrients. Fertilizers can be stored long term to help reenergize soil in subsequent seasons.
Make certain you know exactly how much to use of any particular fertilizer prior to use or plants can be “burnt”. Pellet or powder type fertilizers are often dispensed between plants and allowed to penetrate the soil to reach plant roots.
Gardening Tip: Common liquid fertilizers which can be applied by attaching a reservoir to the end of a watering hose are safe and effective.
Even a Hobby Garden is Valuable Practice
For the prepper a backyard garden is practice. It is practice for when the garden becomes truly valuable and life sustaining.
There are numerous aspects to gardening that will not be covered here but are nonetheless important to research and understand.
A few of these are:
- Protection from pests such as squirrels, rabbits, and birds.
- Dealing with insects.
- Starting seeds indoors.
- Plant disease.
- Guerilla gardening.
- Container gardening.
- Saving seeds.
- Cover crops.
- Fall/Winter gardens.
- Irrigation methods such as drip irrigation.
- Herb gardening.
- Gardening tools.
Gardening Option: Raised Beds
If gardening space is severally restricted or soil is very poor creating a raised bed garden may be the answer.
Raised bed gardens are simply a raised area of soil contained within some type of structured frame. This frame may be made of wood, concrete, rocks, or some other solid objects.
Raised beds provide several advantages over regular in ground gardens:
- Raised beds generally offer better water drainage.
- There is total control over soil composition and make up.
- Root growth is usually exceptional due to the lack of coil compaction.
- Raised beds can be built in areas where regular garden just cannot.
- There are ergonomic benefits to raised beds as they require less bending to harvest produce.
My preferred raised bed size is 4’ x 8’ though they can be built in any shape or size desired. Raised bed gardens are generally not built wider than 4 feet as it makes it more difficult to pick vegetables from the middle.
Bed depth can vary greatly though my preference is 8” to 12” inches. The deeper the bed the more room for roots to grow.
The raised bed should be filled with a combination of soil which provides nutrients and density which will be beneficial to the plant growing inside.
A successful combination of soil that I have used consists of equal parts quality top soil, gardening soil, potting soil along with native soil.
These components must be mixed thoroughly. There are alternate soil mixes that reportedly work fantastic in small raised vegetable beds. For more information just search the Internet for “square foot gardening soil mix”.
A soil test is recommended to determine adjustments that may be needed to attain the correct balance.
I have grown wide crawling plants such as cucumbers in small raised beds with success by using tomato cages and trellis’s. Since the plants have no room to grow outward then they must grow upward.
Many vegetables have hybrid varieties which have been created to grow in tight spaces. Although hybrid seeds are generally frowned upon by preppers and gardeners the reality is in a survival situation food is needed.
If hybrid varieties will provide that nourishment so be it. One of the drawbacks to hybrid seeds is their offspring has diminishing germination rates for future seasons.
Once a raised bed has been erected and filled with soil – seeds and transplants are planted. In my 4’ x 8’ beds I crisscross the bed with string to create a grid of 1 square foot squares totaling 32 squares. Within each square I plant whatever I wish to grow.
Watering a raised bed is different than a standard in ground garden. Due to the elevated stance of the raised bed water drains much easier thus requiring more frequent watering. If consistent monitoring and required watering is not performed there is a definite risk of loosing all crops.
Hold on to Your Harvest!
If you want your garden to flourish, you’ll have to put in a lot of time, effort, energy, and even tears.
It’s also probable that your garden will yield more food than you’ll be able to consume before it goes bad. As a result, preserving your harvest is critical for maximizing your profits!
When the weather begins to get colder, you’ll want to start planning how you’ll preserve your produce. Small fruits, such as berries, may be frozen or canned.
Larger fruits, such as apples, can also be dried in order to keep them for later use. Because root vegetables are robust and do not require refrigeration during the winter months, they are excellent choices for long-term storage.
Beans, peas, and other legumes keep well when properly preserved. Beans should be removed from their pods before drying them on a rack to allow for optimal airflow. After they’re fully dry, store them in jars or bags for later use.
Freezing is a very simple method to keep food for long periods of time. Wash and chop your fruit or vegetables, then wrap them in airtight containers or freezer bags.
Before sealing the bag, make sure there’s as little air left as possible, and write the contents on it with the date. The item will stay fresh for up to six months if properly stored.
It’s a little more difficult to can your haul than it is to freeze it, but it’s a tried-and-true “low-tech” technique that all preppers should master, and it’s an excellent way to store food for long periods of time.
A pressure canner and specialized canning jars with lids and rings will be required. When subjected to heat in the canner, the lids form an airtight seal that protects your food from germs while keeping it edible for years!
Start Planning Your Garden Today
All the reading in the world will never take the place of hands-on practical experience. Make some decisions on what you want to plant, how large a garden and where it will be placed.
Talk to neighbors and other folks who have experience in your area and learn from them.
Find out what varieties of different crops grow best and when seeds should be put in the ground. Visit your nearest farmers exchange and talk to the folks there. Tell them what you are doing and heed their advice.
Gardening can be extremely rewarding in normal life today. Gardening may very well be a lifesaver in a survival situation tomorrow.
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10 thoughts on “Getting Started in Gardening”
Really good article. Nice zucchini! Potatoes in the Homer Buckets?
Yup – potatoes in the buckets.
I am planning some raised beds for next spring so this article was great Thanks Rourke!
Glad you liked it. Let’s talk at the next meeting.
Good article! Did you cut the bottom off the tuckets for the potatoes or just drill holes for drainage?
Holes on the bottom and a few on the sides.
Thx – Rourke
Mr. Rourke, I feel like my upcoming post about gardening may not be able to keep up with the level of information you have published here. Very well done and lot’s of good information. Why only a few cherry tomatoes?
Brett – For us one of two cheery tomato plants give us more than we need.
Thanks – Rourke
The only thing I dissagree with is the watering. Short shallow watering encouges shallow root growth. It’ is better to give a good soaking less often than a little a lot of times.
maybe my opinion only, but if you have to excel in only 1 survival skill, you can get along as a mediocre hunter, ok at hiding, half-as*ed at making your own energy, pretty decent at personal medicine, and you’ll probably be just ok, maybe even surviving. If you don’t know how to grow your own food, you will probably be be a casualty-statistic. Start a garden. Now, even if it’s a container or 2. Read/learn about things like the square-foot raised bed concept. Read more and learn about centuries-old “off the wall” ideas like “hugelkultur”( http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/ ) and crop-rotation.
Like it or not, if TEOTWAWKI/SHTF, you ARE eventually going to become a farmer, or a dead-guy.