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Survival Gardening Takes Practice

November 8, 2013

Any of you who are experienced gardeners will recognize these simple truths.

 (1) It takes practice to become a successful gardener.

(2) Gardening skills developed in one location will not necessarily transfer to another location

(3) Even the most experienced gardeners have bad years

 Let me address these statements one at a time:

 (1) It takes practice to become a successful gardener.

 It never fails to amaze me that perfectly intelligent and rational people think that they can read a book about gardening, buy some seeds, and think that they will be able to produce enough food to feed themselves and their family in an emergency.  If you told the same person that they could read a book about golf, go buy some clubs, and then provide for their family by becoming a professional golfer; they would say that you were crazy.  Making things grow is a pretty complicated skill set.  There are so many variables.  Even commercial farming operations, which try to carefully control all the variables possible, still have disastrous years.  I would say that it takes a minimum of three years of gardening, in the same location, to come anywhere close to understanding how to cultivate a successful garden, and it will take that long or longer to get your soil built up to the condition that you want.  You will probably need to turn in compost and mulch.  You may need to add crushed limestone if the soil is too acid.  Remember, survival gardening will mean organic gardening.  Commercial fertilizers, soil amendments, and insecticides will be hard to come by in a post catastrophe world.  My advice would be to start gardening now.  If you don’t learn how to garden before the collapse, you would be wise to have several years of food storage so that you don’t starve during the learning curve.

 (2) Gardening skills developed in one location will not necessarily transfer to another location

When I first started gardening I lived on the Texas Blackland Prairie.  The soil was black, heavy and very alkaline.  We received about 35 inches of rain a year.  I only gardened there a few years, but I was starting to get comfortable with my gardening.  Then I moved to East Texas about a hundred miles away.  Sandy loam soil, very acid, and about 45 inches of rain.  Hardly anything that I learned on the prairie did me any good in the Piney Woods.  For one thing, the plants that were hardest to grow in the alkaline prairie soil were the easiest to grow in the eastern acid soil, and vice versa.  Fortunately I moved from West to East and the elevation was about the same, so there wasn’t a huge difference in temperatures or planting dates.  If you move North/South, or change elevation by more than a hundred feet it can make a big difference in planting dates and length of growing season.  Other local gardeners and your local feed store owner can be a big asset in choosing the crops and varieties that will grow best in your location; and how and when to plant them.  So the best thing to do is practice gardening where you will be trying to produce your survival crops.  This may not be possible; but you should, at least, be aware of the differences that you may encounter when you move.

 (3) Even the most experienced gardeners have bad years

 I have been gardening and raising fruit trees for years.  This year we had a late frost and I did not get one piece of fruit off of any of my ten fruit trees.  No amount of experience could have overcome this.  Just ask a Florida orange grower.  Some years it doesn’t rain enough, some years it rains too much. One year the coons got in my corn field and wiped it out.  One year the deer cleaned out my pea patch.  These things just happen.  An old neighbor of mine used to say, “Plant enough for yourself, then plant some for your neighbors, and be sure and plant enough for the bugs.” The best plan is to always have a year’s worth of food and two years worth of heirloom seed stored.

3 Comments
  1. Alan permalink

    Those things you wrote sure are true. As a gardener myself, I can attest that it is quite hard to plant crops for yourself and your family.

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