The Survival Gardening Thread

DanielH

Ostrich
Moderator
Orthodox
I know there's a farming thread, but I figured this could be used for small scale gardening used to get you and your family the calories and protein needed to survive the next few years. Most of this knowledge comes from David the Good, who runs a survival gardening blog, and has published many books on the topic which I have read and implemented over the past two years. My first recommendation if you're new is his book "Grow or Die."

What to Grow
This depends on your climate, but in general terms you will want high calorie crops. From cold to warm climates the best things you can grow are potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams. They grow reliably and provide plenty of calories. Things like wheat and other grains are going to be too time consuming to process for the average home gardener, and you cannot grow as many calories in a given area, although they may be good to give to chickens.

Another thing to look into is what did native farmers and pre industrial revolution farmers grow in your area? In much of America, the Indians were growing a rotation of corn, squash, and beans. Corn is extremely high calorie and there are varieties suited to almost wherever you may be. Many squash varieties store very well, several months, enough to last through a winter. Beans are high protein and fertilize their own soil, as they have a symbiotic relationship with a nitrogen producing soil bacteria. Beans are also the single easiest thing to grow in my experience.

When to Grow it
It is difficult to answer this in blanket terms but consider several plants you would like to grow, and figure out if they prefer hot or cool weather. Carrots and potatoes prefer cool temperatures, meaning early and late plantings. Potatoes can be planted even before the last frost in the late winter or early spring. Some things like beans, peppers, and tomatoes prefer hotter temperatures, although the last two do not provide a good amount of calories. Also, try to find local heirloom varieties which are adapted to your climate, but don't panic if you can't get the perfect variety.

Fertilizing
Fertilizer prices are skyrocketing, which will result in skyrocketing food prices in 2022 that will make 2021 look like a time of plenty. Fortunately, you have everything you need to fertilize enough food to feed yourself already. Urine is very high in nitrogen, and also has some phosphorous and potassium, essentially everything plants need to survive. If you dilute 1 part of urine in 5-10 parts of water, you will fertilize your plants as you water them. Of course you want to avoid getting it on anything you will eat, but at the same time, leaves absorb nutrients well, so keep this in mind. Depending on the soil you could use a high concentration every week or two or even less frequently, or you can dilute it more and use it with every watering.

Worm Compost & Compost Tea
Worms produce essentially an extremely dense fertilizer that will not burn your plants like chicken manure would. It has several benefits over normal manure - it deters plants by containing a chemical which dissolves chitin, it has a natural plant growth hormone, and it is a probiotic which overwhelms disease causing microbes. Cultivating worms is more complicated than using your urine but it can be used to turn even sick and dying plants into thriving plants in my experience. I've written more on this topic here on the farming thread, with more posts underneath it.

Fetid "Swamp" Water
In a pinch you can fill a barrel or a large bucket with any sort of organic matter - weeds before they go to seed, tree bark, intestines/meat trimmings, fish bones & heads, get creative. Then fill it up with water. It's going to smell awful either way, so anaerobic might be the way to go, just put a lid on it and wait a few weeks. Then scoop some of that water into a watering pail and fertilize your plants with it. May need to be diluted. You can also literally use swamp water.

Traditional Composting
Less complicated than you think, and you don't necessarily need to hot compost it or turn it regularly, although that helps. Just try to avoid putting weed seeds in it especially if you're cold composting. Try to alternate between brown (wood, dead leaves, sticks, cardboard, paper, i.e. low nitrogen materials) and green layers (plant trimmings, manure, green leaves, etc.). David the Good has written a book on this which I am essentially summarizing here.

Humanure
This is the one method I have not tried which David the Good has written about. I pray it never gets to that point.

Irrigation/ Watering
In a total collapse scenario you don't want to be watering your crops constantly, and that's not what humans did before the industrial revolution anyways. If you simply space your plants out more, the roots will be able to spread out farther to cover more soil volume. In the northeast I've had squash, potatoes, carrots, beets, and more grow with only infrequent watering during droughts, or even not at all because they had plenty of space. This has the added advantage of producing plants with more nutrition - if their roots can cover more area, they can soak up more nutrients in the soil.

Don't let that discourage you from high density gardening however, with high density you will just need to water and fertilize more. There's nothing wrong with it besides that, and it may allow you to enclose your garden more easily if pests are a concern. A raised bed may also help save your back and allow you to totally determine your soil composition. Look into rainwater catchment systems, your roof probably covers 800+sqft, if you do the math, that's almost certainly enough water to irrigate all of the crops you need to feed you and your family as long as you can catch it.

___
I'm interested to hear about your survival gardening experiences and whatever tips you may have, and I'm especially interested to hear how people may have incorporated chickens and other animals in their garden, as that is something I don't have experience with. Every bit of food produced relieves some strain on the supply chain and there is nothing wrong with making mistakes.
 

ItalianStallion9

Woodpecker
Protestant
Rain barrels capture rainwater, and if you buy one with a screen they filter out junk coming in. Clean the gutters and put one under the spout. It's good to water gardens but also good for emergencies (can boil/filter it).

 

NoMoreTO

Hummingbird
Catholic
In having a garden last year, the one thing that caught me by surprise in particular was the effort come August/September in canning all the food. You have to be prepped with mason jars, you need one of those big pots to can them. A machine to do the vaccuum sealing for things you don't plan to can. Grow your garden, but be ready for the harvest. It's likely that you won't be able to eat it "in season". I actually had this feeling last year that it would be less work to just buy large quantities off of local farmers "farm fresh" in season and focus on canning. Still I think it is important to have your own garden and it is just a good wholesome time.

Last year I grew:
Carrots - went well
Beans - went well, pickled them
Tomatoes - had so many, couldn't process them
Onions - came out small but good.
Peppers - came out well
Corn - pretty hard actually
Zuchini - super easy, had a ton. Plant two plants, one in case the other dies, otherwise you'll have more than you need
Aubergine/Eggplant - good to have one
Beets - grew ok, but I don't like beets!
Herbs

Next year I'd like to do squash. No corn. Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beans.

Sometimes there is an emphasis on growing from the seed. It's a good process to go through, and to learn how to save your seeds but don't hesitate to buy a plant already started at the local nursery.

The feeling of eating food out of your own garden is fantastic. We made some salsa and it is mind blowingly good, and you just have this feeling where you know it's incredibly healthy for you.
 
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DanielH

Ostrich
Moderator
Orthodox
In having a garden last year, the one thing that caught me by surprise in particular was the effort come August/September in canning all the food. You have to be prepped with mason jars, you need one of those big pots to can them. A machine to do the vaccuum sealing for things you don't plan to can. Grow your garden, but be ready for the harvest. It's likely that you won't be able to eat it "in season". I actually had this feeling last year that it would be less work to just buy large quantities off of local farmers "farm fresh" in season and focus on canning. Still I think it is important to have your own garden and it is just a good wholesome time.

Last year I grew:
Carrots - went well
Beans - went well, pickled them
Tomatoes - had so many, couldn't process them
Onions - came out small but good.
Peppers - came out well
Corn - pretty hard actually
Zuchini - super easy, had a ton. Plant two plants, one in case the other dies, otherwise you'll have more than you need
Aubergine/Eggplant - good to have one
Beets - grew ok, but I don't like beets!
Herbs

Next year I'd like to do squash. No corn. Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beans.

Sometimes there is an emphasis on growing from the seed. It's a good process to go through, and to learn how to save your seeds but don't hesitate to buy a plant already started at the local nursery.

The feeling of eating food out of your own garden is fantastic. We made some salsa and it is mind blowingly good, and you just have this feeling where you know it's incredibly healthy for you.
Yeah we had too many tomatoes this year, a lot went to waste even after making pasta sauce and salsa. Investing in canning gear is a great idea.

Same experience with the corn for us, they were turning out good and then the squirrels got em. Figure you have to do a lot of corn if you're going to do corn. We did I think 4 zucchini plants - way too much, and planted them too close to each other so we ended up doing a lot of pruning. Were giving them away and getting real creative with eating them. Did two butternut squash plants, next year I'd like to switch those numbers and do 4 butternut squash and 2 zucchini, since the butternut squash stores better.
 

EndlessGravity

Pelican
Protestant
Another thing to look into is what did native farmers and pre industrial revolution farmers grow in your area?

Where I am we have many people move down from the north and try to grow things like they're still living there. They'll do this for decades too without realizing there's a better way. It's hilarious.

In the South, you almost cannot screw up sweet potatoes, okra, black eyed peas, and a few others. One of our beds needs to be de-sweet-potatoed right now from the summer...they're like weeds.

I also grow a wild tomato that produces all year in the South and grows like a bush. Meanwhile my neighbors from the north are angry their Beefsteaks aren't working out. They say they hate the South because of it. LOL
 

Pointy Elbows

Kingfisher
Orthodox
Do you recommend heirloom seeds or just buying seeds annually? If you use heirloom seeds, what practices do you use to harvest and store the seeds properly before the next planting season?
 

DanielH

Ostrich
Moderator
Orthodox
Do you recommend heirloom seeds or just buying seeds annually? If you use heirloom seeds, what practices do you use to harvest and store the seeds properly before the next planting season?
Saving seeds is pretty easy*. Just keep them in a cool, dry place, but even a room temperature location should keep them good for a year or two.

Of course, as far as survival gardening, I have to recommend seed saving and using heirloom varieties tailored for your location. You may think a variety is good for your area, but maybe you have different soil pH, or you have sandier soil or soil with more clay. For that reason it is a good idea to save seeds from season to season, so that they can adapt to your garden, and don't be afraid to cull weak plants.

*There may be some more concerns with avoiding crosses, plus you want to make sure they don't get too inbred by growing plenty of a given species with the exception of beans and peas and some others which are more than happy to inbreed.

Can't go wrong with beans, corn, squash, and potatoes, they're fairly simple to seed save and will keep you alive.

I've used this site for seeds before and have been happy with their product: https://www.rareseeds.com/
 

Sargon2112

Woodpecker
Protestant
Last year, we grew zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, tomatoes, cantaloupe, cabbage and okra, successfully. We tried to grow sweet corn but the plants made it to about a foot tall and seemed to just stall out and wither.

Our neighbor was gracious enough to use his tractor and subsoiler to plow a garden area for us on our land, garden is about 30 X 60 ft. The guy is in his 70s and lived here all his life. He's a wealth of good information on gardening.

Going to add carrots and potatoes next time around, plus the same stuff from last year. Last year's seeds were just Home Depot seeds, so I'm hoping for better results this year with the rareseeds seeds. Especially with the corn.

i don't have a tractor yet, but I will be getting one when I find a decent used one. For now, I bought an old Bolens GT-14 with a tiller attachment for 100 bucks . I used it last year to till and I get out there once a month or so with it to keep the ground from packing/ getting too hard before spring.

We are in hardiness zone 7, in the NW corner of SC.

Any suggestions or advice from more experienced gardeners is greatly appreciated!
 

WildMonke

Chicken
Other Christian
Here's a few book recommendations for you. I have probably read 50+ gardening books and recommend these for people who are serious about survival gardening:

1) John Jeavons, "How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible in Less Space Than You Can Imagine"
bookcover.jpg

So popular it's often just called "How to Grow". The methodology detailed is called "Biointensive" which is a way of growing a great deal in a small space. The magic of this book is the tables that detail various seed rates, yields, etc. for homestead scale production.

2) Steve Solomon, "The Intelligent Gardener"
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I'd describe this as a more "advanced" book for when you have your feet wet. The idea is to increase the actual nutrient density of the food you grow. Very practical advice, though you can lookup his "mix" online without understanding how and why various aspects of the fertilizer work. This book provides the details.

3) Carol Dieppe, "The Resilient Gardner"
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Like David The Good's work, and Steve Solomon's "Gardening when it counts" - this is a very practical guide that tells you how to grow corn, beans, and squash, plus a few other things like mustard and ducks.

4) On YouTube, I recommend the RED Gardens channel.

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5) Mittleider Method
If you don't care at all about organic or nutrient density, you can use the Mittleider Method of gardening. It works, but I would describe it as "conventional ag on a garden scale". Others have compared it to hydroponics in the soil. The main website for this method is: https://growfood.com/

Edit:
Two more for you guys.

6) Will Bonsall's "Essential Guide to Radical Self-Reliant Gardening"

9781603584425.jpg

Now this guy is serious about self reliant gardening. Lots of tips on growing grain and other staples that you won't find anywhere else.

7) YouTube Search Jim Kovaleski
This guy has a really cool method of harvesting grass with a scythe and using it to mulch plants - he calls it "grass fed vegetables". This could work on a homestead scale very well.
 
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Grow Bag

Pelican
Catholic
I've got sprouting broccoli that I'm harvesting now, which is nice. They got hit by the winter storms that damaged a few, will have to look for a more sheltered spot. It's a lot of work keeping the cabbage butterflies off the plants, but home grown sprouting broccoli is nutritionally rich and tasty, so it's worth the effort. Swiss chard did OK, but kale didn't do quite so well. I've got some, but it didn't thrive. Still got a few leeks left, so they'll go in again as they're pretty easy to grow and are good in soups. That's the thing is having a bunch of vegetables for the winter months to make soup with. I had a few parsnips late last year, so will likely sow more this year for winter soup. And carrots did well, but being raised I thought I could take liberties and thin them as and when, consequently they got hit with carrot fly. This year they'll get netted to keep the things off.

To create space in the plot I'm going to grow my potatoes in containers this year. That'll hopefully take care of the slug problem too. Slugs man, what do you do? I wish I could keep a few ducks to control them, but I can't where I'm at. If I had a smallholding I'd keep a bunch of ducks for eggs, meat and slug control.
 

DanielH

Ostrich
Moderator
Orthodox
To create space in the plot I'm going to grow my potatoes in containers this year.
I'd love to do this, seems like a great way to maximize output for a given area. Are you going with normal pots and if so what size? Our kale did great but strangely they were probably hit worse by pests than anything else in our garden.
 

Grow Bag

Pelican
Catholic
I'd love to do this, seems like a great way to maximize output for a given area. Are you going with normal pots and if so what size? Our kale did great but strangely they were probably hit worse by pests than anything else in our garden.
I'm going to use empty compost bags I think. Another thing I'm going to think about implementing is hanging containers to maximise space and minimise pests. Due to recycling bins I can get hold of a lot of plastic milk containers that I can hang from a line. I've got such a small plot it makes sense to go vertical:cool:
 

NoMoreTO

Hummingbird
Catholic
I recently joined a local "preppers" group for lack of a better term. They have some serious gardeners there and talk about group gardening alot. I think. I am expecting to be very busy this year and might not garden too much, but linking in with these people will be a big help. Essentially you can come and help at specific moments and not be caught up in the day to day hoeing and weeding. This is helpful because last year the weeds got away from me, and I was over loaded with vegetables to can and eat at the end of the summer.

The lady will basically care for the garden for a reasonable fee each month for everyone.
 

john_Jea

Robin
Other Christian
I have been watching Ice age farmer since I saw him recommended on this forum, I enjoyed his talk here with David the good on survival gardening. (Note: This is part 1 of 2).


 

john_Jea

Robin
Other Christian
I'm currently trying to get some trees cuttings to root, I got a big plastic tray and filled it with sand mixed with a little bit of soil and manure, I think I might have gone a little overboard with the manure, hopefully it wont burn the roots. I shaved of the bark at the bottom of the branch and dipped some in honey water and stuck others in my mouth. Honey and saliva are supposedly both rooting agents.

I would like to plant a little shelterbelt of trees to shelter animals and a barn that takes on a lot of wind. Buying trees that are around 2m tall is pretty expensive so I'm going to try to grow them my self.

I need around 150 trees and ideally I'd like to them to reach 2m height before planting them to their spot. Any ideas how to efficiently do this.
 
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