If you’ve been following me the last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about what we need to do, in order to be ready for gardening on a massive scale to provide for our families in a post-disaster world. In the first installment, I debunked the idea of feeding your family from a four foot square garden and in the second I talked about preparing your backyard for a massive garden expansion. But there’s another part of this that we need to do; that’s to make sure we’ve got the right supplies to make that massive expansion.
Even with your soil already prepared, scaling up your garden to the size you’ll need, in order to feed your family, is going to be a massive undertaking. You’ll have to dig up your grass, make planting beds and plant seed. Then, one you’ve got your seed in the ground, you’ll have to water it and weed it, so that you can ultimately harvest a crop.
You’re going to have a hard time doing all that without power equipment, yet the assumption we make today is that we won’t have the availability of electrical power to run equipment or vehicles to haul things around in. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t have gasoline engines or that they won’t work. Some cars may not work due to the electronics getting fried, but that won’t affect lawn mowers and other gasoline powered equipment. The bigger problem will be in finding gasoline.
So the first thing you need, so that you can run that power equipment, is a supply of gasoline. That’s a bit of a problem, because gasoline doesn’t store well. There are a couple of problems with storing gasoline, which I won’t get into here. But by and large, you can’t store it for more than six months. If you add extenders to it, you can store it for a year.
But you pretty much have to have that gasoline, unless you have four strong sons. So the thing to do is to rotate your gasoline stock. I do this with a 55 gallon drum of gasoline I have in my shed. All it takes to keep my gasoline fresh is to remove a gas can’s worth (5 gallons) every month and replace it with fresh gasoline. The gasoline that I remove, gets burned in my car, where it is mixed with fresh gasoline.
Another good thing to have, to go along with your gasoline stock, is octane boosters. That way, if your gas is a little old when the time comes, you can boost the octane, making it usable. Fortunately, those will keep for a prolonged period of time, as long as the can remains unopened.
If you don’t already have it, I’d recommend investing in a rototiller. While you’ll really only need to use it once, to dig up your grass and make your planting beds, it will save days of backbreaking labor with a pick and shovel. Then, after you use it to turn your yard into a garden, you can loan it to your neighbors, garnering good will with them and hopefully keeping them out of your garden.
I highly recommend using raised beds for your planting. Raised beds provide a number of advantages, all of which you will need for survival gardening. But that means having a way of raising the bed. There are two basic options for this. One is to build a stockpile or boards or bricks that you can use to bake a border, and the other is to build borderless raised beds, by just digging up the earth in your pathways and piling it on your planting beds.
Remember, you’ve already invested a lot of effort into preparing your soil and you want to get all the benefit of that work. So, as part of your garden preparation, making those beds, you really want your good topsoil in the beds and not in the pathways.
But you’re going to have to keep working on your soil, even after you start gardening. Any experienced gardener knows that a vegetable garden takes a lot of nutrients out of the soil. So, you’ll need to be able to put those nutrients back into the soil. Some of that will come from your compost pile, but it would be good to have some chemical fertilizers on hand as well.
Of course, you can buy bagged fertilizer at any garden center. But one of the most effective fertilizers is fish emulsion. While commercially available, it’s a touch pricey. As an alternative, if you eat fish, you can make your own. You can even can it, making it possible to store it for a prolonged period of time, without it going bad. Fish emulsion has more of the nutrients that plants need than just about anything else.
Finally, you need to put in a good stock of heirloom seeds. The question is how much seed? That’s a bit hard to figure out. But if you have a pretty good handle on how much seed you use in your current vegetable garden, all you need to do is to multiply that by the expansion factor, and you should end up with a pretty good idea.
Seed can be stored in the freezer, prolonging its life. Otherwise, each year that passes reduces the percentage of seeds that will germinate. As you want this for the long haul, it’s better to freeze it.
It’s also a good idea to start harvesting seeds from what you are currently growing. That will allow you to replenish and expand your seed supply. You can’t really have too much seed. Besides, like your rototiller, being able to share seed with your neighbors will help to keep them out of your garden.
So, start stocking up and get ready for a massive garden expansion. In the mean time, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.