This is a guest post by Seamus Finn and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.
First of all, folks, let me congratulate everyone reading this about your beautiful, green garden.
What? You don’t have one? What are you waiting for then? I know, some of you, like me, are living in apartments and don’t have a yard of their own available for agriculture. Others think they don’t have the time or the energy to start this project. Let me demystify this for you : first of all, most cities worth their name are the home of several community gardens that can be rented for 50$ a year or so. Second, gardening takes very little time and may be considered as leisure. Not counting the very first week of the project, you can invest as little as 3 hours a week (depending on the size) to have loads of fresh veggies and other yummies from the soil.
Now this article is not a “how to garden” because anybody can lurk a few hours on Wiki-whatever to learn how to harvest the fruits of the earth. It’s a “how to be efficient” when gardening. This summer’s going to be my fourth year as an amateur gardener and let me tell you, quite frankly and humbly, that on my very first year, my garden was the greenest, most productive 240 square feet of soil in all the 106 allotments of my community garden. Oh, it wasn’t my “fault”, I got lucky : I used to work at night, so I had to do things differently.
Now, some hints :
1.You can buy cheap seeds at a dollar store (you know which one!) for 99 cents a pack. They work fine, but expect a 75% success rate with these. Don’t buy seedlings unless you can’t find seeds : all the time a plant spends in a gardening store is charged to you when you buy it. Non-hybrid seeds are cool, but I suggest you keep’em stashed until SHTF.
2.You can buy natural fertilizer for 3$ a bag just about anywhere. Rabbit manure works best, because some “poop balls” are not disintegrated in the manure, and take time to dissolve in your soil. Don’t forget to put some peat in your garden, so the ground retains water and oxygen better. Don’t overdo it : 2 bags suffice for a 12×20 foot garden. Do the math.
3.Some plants take two (or more) years to be harvested (like asparagus, though it’s not always the case), some plants need VERY specific precautions to produce veggies (like Jerusalem artichoke, whose plant reaches 6 feet high and must never be topped off), other plants are more “parasite friendly”. Each plant should be studied so the gardener knows how to act specifically according to the plant’s needs. Internet is your friend, pals.
4.Plants with succulent leaves or high-water-containing fruits (such as spinach, tomatoes, squashes, cucumbers, etc) take more from the soil and require more water. Practice crops rotation and be wary of droughts.
5.Tomatoes are everyone’s favorite. Something might kill your plants if you are not careful enough : sunlight. Yes, you read well, sunlight kills tomatoes. Unless you water your garden an hour before sunrise or anytime after sunset, the very sensitive leaves of the plant can be harmed by sunlight reflecting through water drops. It’s not a certain-death scenario for tomatoes, but I’ve seen beautiful gardens lose many plants because the gardener watered at noon. Bad move. Anyway, most of the water evaporates when the soil is hot and the sun is high. Better wait a few hours.
6.Cucurbits (melons, squashes, cucumbers, etc, not pumpkins though!) are the urban gardener’s friends! When your garden is near a fence, use it at your advantage : these crawling plants are strong enough to withstand the weight of 10-pound-fruits on a “Frost” fence. Just make sure you place the flowers on YOUR side of the fence, unless you want to make your neighbor very, very happy.
7.Onions, garlic and leek plants are a natural repellent against crawling bugs, but won’t scare the hell out of bees and wasps. Plant around your garden and in some spots inside of it, and there is no need for pesticides.
8.Plants you should forget about : Jerusalem artichokes (too high), tobacco and potatoes (unless you want beetles all over the place!), Brussels sprouts and broccoli (doesn’t work well with other plants around), cabbage (too cheap in stores to give a damn!), raspberries and mint (they are invading plants, use a pot to contain roots if you want’em bad), “weeds” such as dandelion and clover (why in the world…???) and Sainte-Anne shallot (gives a lot of bulbs but needs to be replanted every year to prevent clustering).
9.Good surprise : Physalis (groundcherries or Cape Gooseberries) produce a LOT of fruits in a 2×2 bush-sized plant and keep on producing for months. The fruit is excellent, rich pectin (makes great jams or pies) and is easy to freeze or can. Plant 5 or 5 of these and you will harvest something like 15 pounds of the fruits in a good year.
10.Don’t overdo it. Plants can take care of themselves for a few days. Don’t forget to relax and enjoy the summer!
Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…
- First Place winner will receive - A $150 gift certificate for $150 off Wolf ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner. A Humless 2.5 Watt Portable Solar Panel courtesy of LPC Survival, Sopakco Sure-Pak MRE – 12 Meals courtesy of Campingsurvival.com.
- Second Place winner will receive – One Emergency Seed Bank (stored in military ammo cans) with over 33 varieties of non-hybrid garden seed courtesy of TheSurvivalistBlog.net.
- Third Place winner will receive - a one year subscription to Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and a copy of my book 31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness.
Be sure to read the rules before entering… This contest will end on September 9 2013