Survival Food Gardening

All posts tagged Survival Food Gardening

By Theresa Crouse – SurvivoPedia

People strive for independence from big government for different reasons. Maybe you’re a “traditional” prepper who is worried about, and preparing for, a future disaster. Until then, you may be perfectly happy living with all of the modern conveniences. On the other hand, you may be seeking to be self-sufficient today and in the future.

Some people do this because they’re concerned about the planet. Others may do it in order to be able to feed themselves without depending on the government or grocery stores. Maybe you’re worried about all of the chemicals used in commercial farming. Or maybe it’s a combination of all of these.

I consider myself to be resilient. The old analogy “watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves” applies here. I’m taking care of myself and my family today in ways that will insure that we will be able to take care of ourselves in the future, even when fragile food systems may fail. Survival is built into everything I do – I just call it being self-sufficient, present, and forward-thinking.

There are many reasons you may want to be self-sufficient, or resilient, but many of the basic tools and knowledge that you need will be the same regardless of your reason. And I’m here to tell you that as long as you have a little space, you can grow enough food to survive.

Continue reading at SurvivoPedia: Are You Making These Steps To Resilience?

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Grow Food All Year Long: Recycled Patio Door Greenhouse Project

By Linda Holliday

In the 1960s, my father spit out the word “plastic” as if it were poison. To him, anything made of a substance other than real wood, metal or glass was junk. Now, I understand.

Our first greenhouse was entirely plastic, a snazzy do-it-yourself kit Darren ordered online for about $1,600. He eagerly awaited the day the UPS truck showed up with the soon-to-be mega-veggie-growing house. Like a kid at Christmas, Darren ran out to help the delivery man with the boxes, thinking they’d weigh a ton. His expectations were high.

building a greenhouseAlthough he later called it a “toy”, Darren built a foundation for the 8’ by 12’ greenhouse and filled the north wall with black 55-gallon barrels to retain heat. The plastic shivered in the wind. Within two seasons, the windows were cloudy.

We’ve learned a thing or three since then.

Rather than building a stand-alone greenhouse of plastic, you can have a sturdier, less-expensive and warmer greenhouse of real wood, metal and glass by attaching it to a south-facing wall of your home or other building.

Using some scrap material, old sliding glass doors and windows, and as few purchased supplies as possible (cinder blocks, wire cloth, 2x4s and roof tin), we built such a greenhouse last fall for about $400. All winter long, it provided more than enough greens for our heaping, twice-daily salads, and cost a fraction of that plastic model.

The finished greenhouse measures 15-1/2 by 5-1/2 feet along the south side of our unheated porch. Attaching it to the house, we used less materials and the greenhouse needs no artificial heat. The temperature in our part of the Missouri Ozarks rarely gets below 0, but, on really cold nights, we set the pail of woodstove ashes in the greenhouse for extra warmth. A few 1-gallon jugs placed on the stepping stones absorb heat during the day. But, that’s it – no electric or propane heat required.

So far, these no-cost methods have kept the greenhouse at a perfect temperature for spinach, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, greenhouse_squareradishes and bok choy. The plants generate enough oxygen to compensate for that consumed by the glowing embers. I’ve heard, too, that a few candles will produce enough heat to keep the tender plants from freezing, although we haven’t needed to try that trick.

From the Ground Up

Our project began with a sketch, followed by marking the site and digging a level base. Shoveling by hand took almost two days. I thought we’d keep the excavated dirt for greenhouse soil, but it was mainly clay and rock, so was used elsewhere.

Once the ground was smooth and level, we built a foundation of cinder blocks topped with 5-inch x 5-inch beams. We banked the blocks on both sides with some of the excavated clay to keep them in place during construction.

greenhouse_dirtloadTo keep out moles and other dirt-digging rodents, Darren “sewed” together two pieces of quarter-inch hardware cloth by weaving a wire along the edges of two pieces. The wire-cloth base may not be necessary in all parts of the world, but, here it is absolutely the difference between us crunching on spinach or crying over our empty salad bowls. The wire covers the entire floor and extends about 8 inches up the walls. We know it works, as mole tunnels girdle the greenhouse, yet no varmints get inside.

We added plastic (oops, there’s that word again) landscape edging along the inside of the foundation at soil level, but only because the edging was given to us and will help keep wet soil away from the lumber. It is certainly not mandatory, though.

From Doors to Windows

Next, the 2×4 studs went up, followed by rafters. Darren put on the tin roof while I painted the interior walls glacier white, snow-blinding bright. With a roof overhead, we headed to the woods with a wheelbarrow for topsoil, which we mixed with some of last year’s compost. We shoveled it in about 8” deep, adding flat rocks from the yard for stepping stones. Then came the sparkling clean glass. Dad would be proud.

greenhouse_nearlydoneWe carted home our used sliding glass patio doors from a junk shop for $10 each and $5 for a window, although I have heard of people just giving them away. Check with glass shops, contractors or online (freecycle.net or freecycle.org) for used doors. Also, non-frosted shower doors make great entry doors.

Our used patio doors are about 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall, the perfect size for three along the south face and one on the west. The east side has a homemade wooden door and another used window, about 3-feet wide and 6-feet tall. The old porch window opening is now a very handy, narrow doorway leading from the porch into the greenhouse with only a scruffy wool blanket as a door.

Recently, we added a shelf, the wire kind used in closets, to hold trays of seedlings. It’s up high enough to not shadow the plants below. We also lined the wall behind the shelf with aluminum foil to reflect even more light onto the seedlings.

An old 70-gallon stock tank we found for $20 in the local thrift store sits under a downspout where, in winter, it stays full of nutritious rainwater. All I have to do is dip in my watering can. I let the water warm up to the greenhouse’s ambient temperature before watering so the plants aren’t shocked by ice water.

Year-Round Usefulness

greenhouse1_insideOur first glass greenhouse here, a lean-to Darren built along his shop in late 2011, supplied us with delicious, organic greens from mid-December until May. By the time it got too hot in the greenhouse to grow food, our raised beds outside started producing.  So, the greenhouse became a large and super-efficient compost bin. We kept it damp with rainwater, and in just 2-3 weeks our peelings and whatnot became compost – many weeks ahead of the outdoor compost pile, and without rodents.

Our new greenhouse has been staying cool enough, I think, for tomatoes.  Well, I’m giving it a try anyway.  I had enough leftover seedlings, so I planted five in the greenhouse this morning.  I’ll post an update this summer about that experiment.  If it works, we’ll have fresh tomatoes all winter.  I understand tomato plants will keep on growing until they freeze.  We’ll see.

Even if you hire someone for the actual construction project, round up some used windows or doors for a real greenhouse. They are inexpensive (sometimes even free) and surprisingly available. Our challenge was joining a square and level greenhouse onto a very un-square and out-of-level old porch. Perhaps you will have a less tetragonal starting point.

The best part of projects like this for us is being able to do all if it ourselves, keep recycled building materials out of landfills and put ourselves another leap toward self-reliance.

Secret Garden of Survival: How to Grow a Camouflaged Food Forest – Review

By P. Henry

I have seen the advertisements for Rick Austin’s book, Secret Garden of Survival on a lot of blogs in the prepping community, but had not really considered it much. There wasn’t any reason that I passed it by, but I guess something didn’t trigger me to find out more about this book until last week when I stumbled on a glowing review from another source. Now, my curiosity was peaked so I went out to Amazon to check out the book further.

The premise of this book is that it will teach you how to grow a camouflaged food forest and this really caught my attention for several reasons. The first was the basic concept of having food growing in your yard that doesn’t look like a garden. One of the thoughts I and obviously Rick has had is that having a garden of nice pretty rows is an invitation to theft. I don’t have a tall fence around my property; neither do many of my neighbors. It is really easy to see who has a garden in their backyard and this could be a prime target by unscrupulous or simply starving people in a grid-down situation. To have your food somehow less obvious would be a natural advantage.

The second reason I was interested in this book are the concepts that Rick uses of a food forest and how to take advantage of nature. By using Permaculture concepts, he discusses how you can grow your food in guilds. Each guild has various layers each complimenting and benefiting the other layers. His approach uses foods planted not in rows, but probably more like how you would find them growing in the wild. This was a great idea in my opinion. I am sure that has something to do with the frustration experienced in our garden this year with weeds.

Lastly, the food forest concept mentioned in the book Secret Garden of Survival isn’t so dependent upon watering and changing all of your plants every season. This is Permaculture and your plants aren’t annuals. By planting fruits, berry producing shrubs and ground cover, you only have to worry about them the first year. One of the issues I have with gardening at least this year is how much work is wasted. Every year we have to plant, mulch, weed, fertilize, weed, water, weed and then pull it all up and do it over again. Since I have refused to use any weed killer in my yard since about 3 years ago, the battle with weeds seems more frustrating I guess but lately I have been thinking about why we fight this battle of the weeds. Surely, nature has a reason for weeds and my weekly waste of time continues to be futile. There has to be a better way.

On to the book review…

The Secret Garden of Survival is 112 pages and there is at least one photo on just about every page. Richard covers wide array of topics from how to prepare your land for planting a food forest to Permaculture guilds, grey water systems, rain water collection, planting, pest control and harvesting. There isn’t any one subject that is covered to the point of too many details and this book was a quick read. I think it took me a couple of hours to blast through it.

What I liked

I really like the concept of a food forest. I think this is simply brilliant and maybe it says something about my laziness, but if I could have the years, time and money I had invested in our current and past gardens I would completely redo everything like Rick mentions in this book. I think the concept makes perfect sense and it boggles the mind when I think of so much wasted time I have put myself and my family though with the traditional approach. Having food that comes back year after year seems to be a perfect model for anyone who wants to be prepared and this book has given me a ton of new ideas for our yard.

Now, does that mean you shouldn’t have a garden? No, quite the contrary; having a garden is such an important item to cross off your list, but if you have the time (2 years ideally), patience and land to start a food forest, that is what I would do. Would I get rid of my garden entirely? No, but I would scale it back a little and let the food forest do most of the heavy lifting.

What I didn’t like

I’ll just be honest and say that I don’t think this book was worth the cost I paid. I paid $19 on amazon and was pretty surprised that the book was as thin as it is. Some people paid even more. It’s my fault I know for not reading the details, but I just assumed it would be more like a manual. As it is, this is a great introduction to the concepts I mentioned above, but there are so many other things he could have put in this book. There were plenty of photos, but it was very short on the details of actually planning your guilds and displaying charts and graphs. Also, there were quite a few typos and the images weren’t high quality. Some were so dark it was difficult to make out what the author was trying to highlight.

If you are looking for a really good introduction to the concept of a food forest with photos from someone who has actually done it, this book may be for you. If you are looking for a resource book that you will refer back to time and time again because it is such a wealth of information, I might suggest a different book. I’ll admit that this was probably all because of the price. If this book was maybe closer to $6 I wouldn’t have felt as much disappointment, but I do think I was expecting more “how to” information and this book, while showing me something new I hadn’t considered, left me wanting more. Now I will be looking for a new resource that goes over the topics that Rick spurred my interest in. I’ll let you know if I find something better. – The Prepper Journal