Monday, April 9, 2012

Survival Gardening

First off, I'd like to congratulate my friend and her husband, who grew the winning giant pumpkin for a local contest. It weighed in at 276.5kg (something like 607.something lbs). Good job!

Now, I'd like to discuss something I've been studying up on lately: survival gardening. Before you look at me askance and ask how many guns I have, I'll tell you this: I'm not crazy (and I don't own any guns). In fact, you'd have to be pretty foolish to NOT consider survival gardening. I'll lay out my reasons:

1. Food prices are approaching the realms of outer space. Seriously, some things are not worth buying anymore, they're just so expensive.

2. Surely you've all seen the poo-flinging going on about pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs. Though I hate to go into the politics of Monsanto and all, there's no doubt that it's all bad news. Not only do pesticides kill off the pests, but they also kill off the beneficial insects: the predator wasps, the humble honeybees. You also end up with things like Round-up resistant canola oil crops, and GMO corn that kills off everything that takes a bite out of it...and is then processed into just about EVERYTHING.

3. Organic vs Non-organic. Yeah okay, so the actual organic label is starting to mean nothing fast. Right now though organic is super expensive; why buy organic when, for hardly any cost to you, you can have your own organic produce growing with relatively few issues?

4. Big Farma (haha, yeah...) has been buying up the little seed companies, and Monsanto for instance, is putting patents on whole crops. HUH? Yeah, if they think you've got their strain of seed growing, they can sue you to a pile of dust. You're thinking "Holy Crap" about now, but there's more: Most hybrids don't have viable seeds that you can save, and if they sprout at all, won't breed true to type. I'm not a plant scientist, but I think the second generation will grow, and the third generation will be sterile, or something like that. When buying seed, always go heirloom or open pollinated.

I'm sure there are other reasons, but those are some big ones to consider. So, if you're a beginner gardener, like I was when I first moved to Tasmania, I'll give you some ideas as to how to start your "survival garden".

A good place to start is with culinary herbs.They smell great, make great borders in urban and rural environments, can be grown in pots, and can be planted at vacation homes and bug out locations alike.  Woody shrubs like rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, and marjoram are hardy and need little water, except to get them established. You can grow them from seed, but I prefer to buy the started plants. I have planted them as a border in front of our house.

Rosemary and lavender, two highly aromatic herbs, that put on growth fast. I chose a rosemary that didn't need a lot of watering to survive, and the lavender proved to need just as little.
Another great herb to grow is chives; they germinate well from seed, and grow in large clumps which can be divided and planted again as the plant grows bigger. Basil is another plant that grows wells from seed, and although it's a tender annual, you can collect seeds from it, and I have seen it reseed.

Other herbs you might consider are medicinal herbs. Try varieties like German chamomile, purple coneflower, and lavender. I've had success with all of them.

I'll suggest some easy to grow veggies here.

You can't go wrong with green beans and swiss chard.
Green Beans: This includes bush beans and pole beans, although I've had better luck with the pole beans so far. You can't go wrong with green beans. Stick the seeds in the ground, give them something to climb, and depending on long your rows are, you'll have them coming out of your ears in almost no time at all.

Zucchini/Summer Squash: Most summer squashes will grow prolifically, and you can do just about anything with them. You do have to make sure they are watered well, placed in a sunny location, and they can grow to be large plants. Some of you may also have to be on the lookout for squash beetles as well. Otherwise, get em in the ground, and you will be rewarded.

Spinach/Swiss Chard: Perfect dark leafy greens. I had a variety of spinach called "perpetual", and I've got more than I can eat growing (indeed, more than four adults can eat!) And my Swiss chard is completely voluntary. I swear, it's like outer space chard, because the plants are enormous. Large, paddle shaped green leaves, thick white stalks. Either way, you can't beat it as a leafy green veg.

Fruits are a little harder to manage, as many don't have room for the majority of tree fruits (apples, pears, peaches, etc). There are dwarf varieties of tree fruits, and you're welcome to investigate them, but I'm going to take you a slightly easier route, and suggest bush and low growing fruits.

Strawberries: You really can't beat a fresh strawberry. Good soil, water, but not to much, and sunshine is about all you need. They grow very well in pots.

Bush berries: Some of you may have room for blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and currants, and if you do, I say grow them. Brambles can be planted just about anywhere and will grow with little attention. Blueberries, though needing acidic soil and a few years to get established, are prolific bearers of fruit. Currants are also heavy fruiting.

Grapes; once you have them, you almost can't get rid of them.
Grapes: Last but not least. If you can get some grape vines, you'll have yourself a good source of fruit, juice, and even wine. They also take a few years to establish, but some varieties bear heavily, and everyone is sure to enjoy them.


  1. Hi Neko! How are you doing? Send my regards from Alaska to the "group"!


    1. Hey there! I was wondering how you guys were doing. Do you have a new blog set up yet?

  2. I left the addy over there...same one, but all new address and name, so its no longer traceable by the old stuff, and, apparently, not by my name above either, lol! Which is weird. I would have thought that it had transferred properly.

  3. Yeah, I tried clicking your name above, but it doesn't take me anywhere, so I'll have to look for the link again. Everyone says hello back, at any rate!


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