From our good friend and partner Dr. Rich:
We all know that building a survival stockpile isn’t enough, if you’re not ready with a sustainable source of food as well. No matter how big your stockpile is, it’s eventually going to run out. When that happens, you’ll need to eat won’t stop. So, you’re going to have to have a way of producing your own food. That’s why so many of us have a vegetable garden.
But, the question is, how well is your vegetable garden doing? Maybe to be even more specific, is it producing enough food for you to live on? If so, that’s great; but if not, why not?
I have a few years of gardening under my belt and I’ll have to say, the first couple of years weren’t all that productive. I’ve got a great collection of dried herbs that I’ve harvested, but that’s not enough to live off of. But now, finally, my garden is producing abundant food. The previous years haven’t been a waste, because I’ve gotten my garden to the place it needs to be.
You see, the most important part of any garden is the soil. If you don’t have good soil, then it really doesn’t matter what you do, you’re not going to have a good harvest. The soil provides everything your plants need, except sunlight. So, if you don’t have good soil, your plants will suffer.
So, what makes good soil? First of all, it needs lots of organic material in it, so that the decomposition process can continue, providing the plants with the nutrients they need. If you depend upon chemical fertilizers and ignore natural ones, not composting and adding the finished compost to your garden, it will always be lacking something.
Some people just use organic matter from plants in their gardens, but that’s not all your garden needs. Healthy soil also needs to have animal wastes in it, as they provide nutrients that may not be readily available from just composted plants. Compost some animal waste along with your plants and you will have better compost to fertilize your garden with.
Cover crops are a great way to add nutrients to the soil, especially nitrogen. Legumes do a great job of adding nitrogen. Mixing legumes with grass works well, as the grass adds a lot of biomass to the soil, while the legumes are pulling nitrogen out of the air and adding it to the soil. Turn the cover crops under, before planting for the year.
Your soil also needs to be the home of a goodly population of worms and other burrowing insects. They are the ones who are changing the organic matter in your garden into nutrients for your plants. At the same time, their burrowing through the ground creates passageways for the water to travel through, allowing it to reach the roots of the plants. Soil, without subterranean insects turns hard, not allowing water to seep through it. Plants will wither and die, from lack of water, even if it is raining every day.
Take the time to check the pH of your soil. While it’s not usually a problem, soil that is too acidic or too alkaline will inhibit plant growth and can even affect the taste of the fruit of the plants. Check your soil at least once a year, before planting. If necessary add material to the soil to balance the pH out.
Make sure there’s enough mineral in the soil as well. By minerals, I’m referring to sand, silt and small clay particles. These minerals will provide necessary nutrients to the plants, as they gradually break down. They will also help prevent the soil from clumping and becoming hard, naturally providing passageways for water to seep into the soil.
The sand or perlite in your soil will create air passageways as well. When they aren’t used for water to get into the soil, they will allow air in. Subterranean insects in the soil need this air to breathe or they die. This is a common problem when soil becomes hard and compacted.
Investing time and materials into your garden’s soil will help ensure a bountiful crop from your garden. Your plants will be healthier and bear more fruit than ever before. That can turn a small vegetable garden into a large survival asset, as it will be providing enough food for you to live off of. But don’t wait until you need that garden to survive, start getting your soil ready now; it will take time to get it to where you want it to be.
We’ll talk again soon. Until then, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.