Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gardening for TEOTWAWKI

A few posts back, a reader asked about gardening and non-hybrid seed procurement. Here's my take on the subject:
  • If you aren't currently gardening and we have a massive global food shortage in the next few years, you will probably starve to death. I'm not being dramatic, it is just a fact. You've seen how people clamor for food in a localized shortage (Haiti, the tsunami areas, etc) and that is when the whole world is working together to get them food. Now imagine what would happen if all of the countries of the world are facing massive food shortages. No one will be coming to bring you food.
  • Gardening has a learning curve to it and it also has a time lag which means if you want to eat from your garden, first you need to start gardening (and experiment...and not expect to harvest a lot to begin with...and work...alot. Then experiment some more and figure out why some of the stuff you planted didn't grow. Repeat.), then you have to wait for your garden to produce (some things grow fairly quickly, other items take months), then you have to learn how to process your food via canning, freezing, pickling, etc. for future use.
  • To be completely self sufficient, you need to start with a good assortment of seeds and then you need to learn how to save seeds from what you produce to plant the next season. This is where non-hybrid seeds come in as some vegetable seeds that you buy at the store often only come in hybrid varieties. Here's a good explanation about why you want to use non-hybrid seeds:
  • Then there is the whole natural disaster possibility. Farming, and on a smaller scale, gardening, is particularly susceptible to all kinds of natural disasters that can wipe out your entire crop including floods, freezes, drought, blight, animals and bugs eating your crops, etc.
  • Another thing to worry about is how you will protect your crops. If there is such a food shortage that your neighbors are literally starving, the little fence around your garden won't keep them out. Then what will you do?
  • For a number of reasons, it won't be feasible to grow all of the plants you need to sustain yourself. Think of all of the foods that you eat. Could you grow all of these plants? Growing a variety of grains (wheat, oats, rice) is difficult for many reasons, including the fact that some may not grow well in your climate, the amount of land you would need to grow these grains, and the amount of processing they would need after harvest. Other things you have come to rely on such as coffee and spices may not even grow in your area. Because of these things, you may need supplements to cover all of the nutrients you wouldn't get from your limited garden.
  • Most people don't have the land needed to grow enough to feed their family year round. I like the 'square-foot-gardening' theory but when it comes to production farming you need land. To harvest the ton of food you may need, you need land. Five acres, ten acres...hundred acres... Oh yeah, you also need the people to do the work, thus the large farm families of decades past.

Here's some things to do:

  • By all means, start gardening even if it is only tomato plants on your apartment balcony. At least you will learn something about growing your own food.
  • Consider other types of gardening such as sprouting seeds, growing mushrooms in a closet, hydroponics, etc.
  • Learn how to forage for food in your local area (this is a good skill to know but not a complete solution to food shortages because everyone and their brother will be out doing the same thing).
  • Stockpile supplements and vitamins.
  • Practice putting food up for future use. Canning, drying, pickling, freezing, making jam...all of these valuable skills are really not that difficult with practice, unfortunately doing these things is not nearly as common as they were in years past.
  • Learn how to trade your produce with your neighbors. This will allow you to bring in a wider variety of produce than what you could grow yourself.
  • Consider sea vegetables (seaweed, kelp, etc).
  • Find local sources of fruit and vegetables. Join a CSA or a co-op, go to u-pick farms, check out local ethnic market and vegetable stands, etc.
  • And the obvious: stockpile at least a year's worth of food (canned, frozen, dried, etc).


  1. Insight, great stuff as always and much thanks!

    I'm well aware of the issues that are bearing down on us (hence why I asked), and I'm happy to get some ideas from your post.

    One other item that may be a good subject to discuss, seeing as its just after the first of the year, is getting in shape physically for the New Year. The most valuable individuals in a SHTF scenario are those who are the most physically capable.

  2. Ryan, Excellent suggestion! Check today's post.