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Tips For Sustaining A Survival Garden

February 27th, 2012

There are never any guarantees that our grocery stores will continue to be stocked full of food, or that a natural disaster will allow us safe roads to drive to the store on. Many emergencies are such that there is no time to start growing a garden, or just begin gaining experience at growing food. Perhaps that knowing this, you have already started a survival garden of your own.  But the only question remaining is, “how do I keep a survival garden thriving all year long?” Growing your own survival garden is similar to any other garden in terms of chores and maintenance, but do keep these points in mind:

Sustainable Plant Choices: A survival garden should include plants that are both nutritious and perennial.  It is also advantageous to choose plants with a long, repeated harvest. A survival garden that only requires daily and weekly tasks like fertilizing, mulching, pruning, weeding and watering is a far less daunting than starting a garden from scratch each season.  Also, while perennial plants need nurturing, they are also fairly forgiving for new gardeners, and when temporarily neglected. Good choices to include in your garden are: asparagus, root vegetables, beans, artichokes, horseradish and a variety of herbs.

Become An Expert! Do your research about each fruit, vegetable and herb you grow in your garden. Buy a few books or search online for instructions on the best techniques for proper planting, maintenance and harvesting in your garden.  There is no substitute to knowledge and experience to ensure your garden will thrive when you need it most.

Proper Planning: When including more plants in your survival garden, space should be optimized the best way possible.  Stagger and plant close together, and pay special attention to plants that have deep root systems. Plants that have deep roots (like tomatoes,) should be grown next to plants with less intrusive roots (like lettuce).  Take a look at our post on Companion Planting for more information on plants that grow well together.

Many survival gardeners also like to create designated areas for the variety of plants growing in their garden.  Separating and labeling medicinal herbs, vine vegetables and culinary plants may prove very helpful and accessible when in an emergency situation.

Seed Saving:  In an emergency, no one can afford to waste money or allow a garden to fail. In fact, some emergencies can last for more than one season or year.  Saving seeds from plants that are vigorous and thriving can ensure well-grown food years in the future.  To get the most out of your seeds, first be sure to never use hybrid or genetically modified seeds, as these will not be able to reproduce. Using non-hybrid seeds, also known as open-pollinated, allow you to reproduce the same plant and yield seeds every year.  Keep watch for vegetables and fruit in your garden that are free of disease, yield a high number of produce, and are the best looking (also – resist the urge to eat them!).  Mark that plant with a stake or ribbon. Allow the seeds to fully ripen before harvesting, and carefully place them indoors for drying.  A paper bag or clean newspaper will work just fine.  Once dried, store seeds in a labeled, airtight container or clearly marked envelope. Seed saving can only occur when non-hybrid seeds are planted. You can find a wide variety of non-hybrid seeds within Humble Seed’s The Producer- which makes the perfect survival seed bank.

Canning and Preserving: Preparing early and not waiting for an emergency to arrive is the key to survival. After each harvest, begin storing an emergency supply of food by canning your bounty and storing them in a dark room, food pantry or cellar.  Freezing food is not the best option for disaster preparedness, as there are never any guarantees that electricity will work.  Never canned before?  See our Canning And Preserving 101 post for an easy step-by-step guide to canning your produce.

Be sure to read our original post on Disaster Preparedness for more information and tips on survival gardening!

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Survival Gardening: How To Boost Your Disaster Preparedness

December 28th, 2011

It is as good a time as ever to begin your own survival garden for you and your family.  This year, increased food prices, economic uncertainty and recent record natural disasters have undoubtedly heightened our concern about the safety and availability of food. A desire for a survival garden may also be rooted in the fact that you crave fresh, organic and non-GMO vegetables, fruit and herbs year round. Or like our parents and grandparents during World War Two, “victory gardens” save money, while allowing commercially grown food to be directed to areas that need it.  Whatever the reasoning, survival gardens are easy to construct and following these additional suggestions can allow your family to eat healthfully from home.

How To Start A Survival Garden:  First, decide what your gardening goals are.  Are you looking to add a few more fresh fruits and vegetables to your weekly meals? Perhaps you want an emergency food supply? Or, maybe take it a step further and completely live off the grid? Whatever you decide, it’s best practice to begin by planning a 4-foot wide space for your garden.  You do not want it any wider or you’ll have some trouble planting, harvesting and weeding in the center.  You may make the length as long as you prefer, yet many like to begin with 4×12 feet and the opportunity to grow larger as need be. Pick a location that’s relatively flat and receives sunlight with some shade at certain parts of the day.

After you have found the perfect location, dig an area about 1 foot deep.  You may dip deeper to add more vitality to your garden, but keep in mind that you’ll need more soil to compensate.  Using sized pieces of wood, form an “L” at one end of the garden and use a power drill to set each screw in.  Do the same for all four corners until you have a sturdy rectangular shape. Fill in the hole with nutrient-rich, organic soil, leaving some space a few inches at the top.  Use compost periodically to boost the soil’s needs.

Deciding What To Plant:

Grow any type of fruits, vegetables and herbs you prefer, but do keep in mind that some plants are advantageous to grow together while others will literally steal nutrients from the plant next door.  Check our Companion Gardening blog post to see a complete list of companion plants.

Planting medicinal herbs and plants is a good practice for those who aspire to grow a garden for emergency purposes. Garlic, onions, aloe, cloves, anise seed and other herbs have proven medicinal qualities that could be helpful for injuries and other ailments in a crisis.

Emergency Seed Banks: Many of us want to be prepared in any type of natural or economic disaster, and creating your own emergency seed bank is one way to ensure your seeds are viable when you need them most.  Begin by selecting a wide variety of seeds that are non-hybrid heirloom and non-genetically modified.  Next, make sure your seeds are completely dry and place them in a vacuum-sealed bag.  A Mylar® bag may also be used to ensure tight sealing.  Then, place bags in an airtight, waterproof container or a compact storage case.  Carefully label your seeds and keep planting guides in the container as well. These simple steps will increase the lifespan of your seeds, while giving you more control and self-sufficiency over your food supply in a worst-case scenario.

Storing Fruits and Vegetables: Canning your leftover fruits, vegetables and herbs from your survival garden can prevent waste and can prepare you and your family for most unexpected emergencies.  Using mason jars and two-piece lids will suit you just fine for canning foods.  Make sure the food, cans and lids are sterilized before you label and place the jars in storage for later use.  Freezing food in air tight bags will also retain most of the nutritional value, while blanching vegetables before freezing can stop enzymatic activity that slowly causes the quality of the food to dissipate. Remember that freezing is better for short-term consumption, as a loss of power could mean the loss of your food if you do not have a backup generator.

Do you have a prepared food source for your family in an emergency? 

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Growing Debt and Growing a Victory Garden

September 20th, 2010

 

Humble Seed will often point out reasons why growing your own food is important, from the freshest foods possible to a sense of personal accomplishment, but there’s another necessary reason why so many families today are turning to gardening: debt.

Today’s economy has forced many families into picking and choosing where they will spend their hard earned money, and sometimes, it can come down to what bills will be paid versus what types of meals will be put on the table. There are families feeling the pressure to buy more processed foods, because they are less expensive. Sadly, processed foods can be very unhealthy. There are also families choosing to grow their own foods, because starting from seed is inexpensive, and the yields can be high—with enough vegetables to feed your family and more for an entire growing season. Aside from the expenses of getting your garden ready and maintaining it, growing your own foods can be very economical.

If you do not have the space or yard for your own garden why not partner with a family member, friend or neighbor and create a joint victory garden? Victory gardens were first created during World War I and World War II in order to minimize the pressure on the public food supply that was caused by the wars. They were herb, fruit and vegetable gardens that were planted at families’ residences and public parks. Today, with the slowly recovering economy and continuing frustrations with the way our foods are being produced and processed, the word ‘victory’ can be an inspiration for a better and more sustainable world. With the popularity of victory gardens growing, it’s clear that people are making informed choices about where they will spend their money, how they will manage to stay afloat during the bad economy, and what foods they will feed their families.

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