Planning a Post-Apocalyptic Garden
By Jim Cobb
(Originally posted here.)
Granted, gardening isn’t the sexiest topic when it comes to post-apocalyptic survival, but this is a vital skill. Just because you ordered all those nitrogen packed heirloom seeds doesn’t mean you’re all set. There’s a lot more to it than just plunking the seeds into the ground and waiting for the sprouts to come up. You need to learn what grows in your area and what doesn’t. How can you improve the soil to make your crops grow better/quicker/bigger? How can you tell the difference between a plant and a weed? Here’s a hint on that–if you try and pull it out of the ground and it comes easily, it is likely a plant and not a weed.
You don’t need acres and acres of land to start a garden either. There are several methods of gardening you can try if you don’t live on a large tract of land.
Square Foot Gardening: This is a fairly popular way to maximize what space you have. There are several online and offline resources describing it in detail. Essentially, it entails segmenting your garden into “boxes” and planting certain crops in each box. This method is particularly useful if you have some amount of land you can devote to a garden, such as a smallish backyard.
Container Gardening: For those without much land at all with which to work, invest in some planter boxes or other planting containers. You might be surprised at how much you can grow in these containers. They are great if you have a patio or deck but not much yard.
Stealth Gardening: This isn’t the greatest plan but it is better than nothing. The idea here is to plant crops on public land, such as national forest areas or parks, hiding the plants in and around native shrubs and bushes. You don’t want to plant a ton of stuff all in one spot. Instead, you spread it around–a tomato plant here, some peppers over there. This can be fairly labor intensive in that there will likely be a lot of walking involved as you inspect your goodies. Plus, you run the risk of someone else seeing your ‘maters and taking them home. There is also the chance that the native wildlife will take advantage of your generosity. Of course, there are potential legal pitfalls to doing this before an apocalyptic event. Consider yourself warned and act accordingly.
As for seeds to store, yes you should invest in heirloom seeds. Most of the veggies and fruits you buy in the store are genetic mutants (comforting thought, hey?). The seeds from them will not germinate as the fruits and veggies are sterile. Heirloom seeds are true strains, meaning they will germinate and the seeds grown from them will be viable. Do some research now and determine what types of plants will grow best in your area, paying particular attention to ones that won’t need a lot of TLC. Also, it makes little sense to grow stuff you won’t eat now. But, you should get a wide variety of veggies–peas, beans, lettuce, peppers, broccoli, radishes, cauliflower, cabbage, various berries, and even corn all come to mind. Consider planting a few fruit (apple, pear, peach, etc.) trees if you have the space. Do it now as some varieties take a few years before bearing decent fruit.
Odds are pretty good you won’t be able to live off just what you can hunt, fish, or trap. You are going to need the fruits and veggies for a well-balanced diet. If you think gardening isn’t sexy, try scurvy.