Last week I talked to you about the fallacy of the four foot square garden idea, showing how it would take much more than that to feed yourself or your family in the wake of a disaster. Basically, I proposed the idea that you would need to be able to turn your entire backyard into a garden, in order to feed yourselves.
But few of us want to do that today. While we might want to have a vegetable garden in our backyard, we also want to be able to do other things. Besides, taking care of that big a garden is a lot of work, requiring more time than most of us can afford to put into our gardens.
So that means that most of us will keep our normal-sized vegetable garden going, with the expectation that we can always expand it, when and if we need to. There’s just one problem with that. If we wait until a disaster happens, before trying to expand our gardens, then our gardens really won’t be ready in time. Let me explain.
The most important part of any garden is the soil. You’ve got to have good soil, in order to get a good harvest. Poor soil either won’t grow much of anything besides weeds, or it will grow a minimal crop, not the kind of crop you’re going to need in a time where you’re depending on your crops to survive.
There aren’t many houses built on land that is highly fertile. Part of that is that the good, fertile land is used for farmland. But the other part is that much of our farmland has been depleted. It doesn’t have the nutrients needed for good farming. That’s why farmers add nutrients to the soil every year, right before planting.
So, chances are that the soil in your backyard isn’t ideal for gardening. I know that when we decided to start gardening I had to do some major work on our soil. It naturally has a high clay content in it, so it was compacted, wasn’t well aerated, and was not fit for growing anything. we had to add topsoil, compost, manure and other fertilizers to our soil, just to get it to the point where we could consider planting in it.
Even though we planted that first year, it really took a year for that mix to be read for planting. We didn’t get much out of the garden that first year. But by the second year, our soil was ready and the plants were able to grow well, giving us a good harvest.
Had that been a survival situation, we would have had to live for that first year off of our stockpile, with very little help from our garden. Fortunately, our stockpile is big enough for that, but if we could get our gardening into gear faster, we’ll be able to take advantage of what we are growing and stretch our stockpile over a longer period of time. That means having the soil in our backyard ready for gardening.
You can do this, without having to tear up your backyard and turn it into a garden now. All you need to do is to start adding things to your soil, giving it a chance to mix in to what you already have. You could start by adding a thin layer of compost, over your existing yard. While you’re at it, add a couple of thousand worms, as they are the main worker in breaking down that compost. Then give the yard a couple of months for the grass to grow up through the compost.
Next you might want to add a layer of topsoil, with pearlite mixed in. once again, you can spread it right on top of your existing lawn and allow the grass to grow up through it. Grass is hardy and will always try to push up through whatever you put over it, as long as you are putting it on in thin layers.
For your next layer, you might want to try some composted manure. That will add a lot of nutrients to the soil, really giving it a huge boost. After that, you might want to consider topping your soil with another thin layer of compost for the winter.
Do you see what we’re doing here? We’re adding everything into the soil, so that when the time comes, the soil is ready. Yes, you’ll still have grass there and will have to do something about the grass, but you will have good soil, ready for some high yield gardening. That way, your first year’s harvest will be enough that you can hopefully live on it.
When the time comes to turn your backyard into a garden, all you’ll have to do is break up the grass with a rototiller and clear out the clumps of roots. The grass stalks can stay, as they will compost back into the soil. As part of this, some of your good gardening soil can be dug up out of the pathways and added to the beds, turning them into borderless raised beds.
The other thing you should do, in conjunction with all this, is to start a compost pile or bin. Composting is one of the best ways of adding nutrients back into the soil. But it takes time. By starting composting now, you will begin to have a constant supply of compost to add back into your garden, or to use in your expanded garden when the time comes.
So there you have it; a way of preparing your backyard for gardening, without having to tear up your whole yard. Next week I’ll talk to you about stockpiling the right supplies to do with this, so that you are ready to expand your garden.
In the mean time, keep your powder dry and your survival equipment close at hand.