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Old 02-18-2018, 07:27 AM
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Default How Prepared Are You Really To Live Off Your Gardening Skills Alone?



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The grid is down long term. Industrial production no longer exists. There is no more buying cheater / shortcuts to grow your food like starter plants, seeds, fertilizer, soil, mulch, no city water or electricity, no gas for tillers... everything that we currently purchase to grow food is no longer available other than possibly thru barter.

Don't bother with all the other realities such as mass die off, looting provisions etc that would come in such a scenario. Just stick to an HONEST evaluation of your actual level of survival gardening skills.

Things to consider:
How many seeds do I have on hand
Do I know how to start from seed
How skilled am I at saving seed
How will I water and feed the plants
What do I know about soil management
If I'm utilizing solar set ups for power, am I prepared for when the parts fail
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Old 02-18-2018, 07:28 AM
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For my part, I fully admit it would be a challenge to grow enough to meet my families' needs. I already use stripped down methods, and my volume of growth is, IMO, pretty meager. Part of that is due to the smallish garden plot I have which could be expanded. But part is also lack of skills, knowledge, experience, and the time to spend getting better at it. I have trouble growing tomatoes and potatoes in bulk for instance.

My wife even commented that it "seems like everybody else grow a lot of tomatoes". My reply was... "yeah, but how are they doing it, and what products are they dependent upon to achieve that volume of growth?". I also remind her (and myself as well when garden envy sets in) that most gardeners aren't growing food with prep skill building in mind, to be able to feed their families using methods like the pioneers, which is what we, as preppers and self reliant folk, would be faced with in a long term, grid down situation.


I'll add more thoughts as others chime in.
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Old 02-18-2018, 08:23 AM
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Having what I have on hand, if SHTF tomorrow, I could plant a 2018 crop. From seeds saved from last years harvest, excess seeds that were never planted, & starting material, I'm good. I don't water my garden, no commercial fertilizers, and don't have to buy vegetable plants. I would not be able to plant everything that I've enjoyed growing due to location, and weather. Some vegetables take two growing seasons to produce seeds.
We have the equipment to can & process everything we raise.
I too believe it would be a challenge, with everything going on around you, it would be hard to devote 100% to a survival garden. Even with my experience, it will be hard to do.
I would plant every inch of space available & then some. Any extras or abundance could be traded for necessities.
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Old 02-18-2018, 02:00 PM
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Depending on where you live, you really need to try and get in more than one planting. We're in Virginia and the last two seasons we got in a good three plantings. and are still using cabbage and green beans from last summer and fall. And our plot is only 20 x 20.

No we didn't plant any tomatoes - don't go over big with us. Beans, Squash, cabbage, peppers and turnips for the most part.
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Old 02-19-2018, 11:07 AM
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Depending on where you live, you really need to try and get in more than one planting. We're in Virginia and the last two seasons we got in a good three plantings. and are still using cabbage and green beans from last summer and fall. And our plot is only 20 x 20.

No we didn't plant any tomatoes - don't go over big with us. Beans, Squash, cabbage, peppers and turnips for the most part.
Would you mind sharing the type of cabbage and green beans that work for you ? I'm always looking for good varieties to try in my area (Colorado) ... I've not had much luck with either.
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Old 02-19-2018, 01:14 PM
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If "poof", it were to happen today?

I would be back to wandering hunter-gatherer style and semi-nomadic gardening.

I do know where it could be done in my area, I just would not want to. Definitely a "hard scrabble" life.
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Old 02-24-2018, 09:08 AM
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Having the skills and supplies needed to garden is wonderful and can produce many years of food if you preserve from a good year.

Problem is, no matter how well you can garden you have to have weather that will allow for a good garden. We have gardened the same for many years and some years we've had great weather and lots of crops. Others, the weather has been so hot and dry everything burned up or it has rained so much everything rotted.

And even if you have a few years of food preserved a couple bad years of gardening is going to deplete your supply pretty quick.
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Old 02-24-2018, 09:34 AM
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This thread has renewed my interest in an idea I started to explore a couple years ago.

Is it possible to purchase fertilizer/plant nutrients in a form that could be stored long term without losing potency? Ideally it would be something that's dry, in the form of flakes, chips, granules or whatever. I suppose it could also be in liquid form, though that would not be the best kind of thing for me, personally, because I live in a cold climate, and I'd need to worry about freezing of the liquid and bursting of the containers, unless I stored the stuff someplace that doesn't get below freezing temp - and that might be a difficult thing to accomplish.
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Old 02-25-2018, 08:53 AM
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This thread has renewed my interest in an idea I started to explore a couple years ago.

Is it possible to purchase fertilizer/plant nutrients in a form that could be stored long term without losing potency? Ideally it would be something that's dry, in the form of flakes, chips, granules or whatever. I suppose it could also be in liquid form, though that would not be the best kind of thing for me, personally, because I live in a cold climate, and I'd need to worry about freezing of the liquid and bursting of the containers, unless I stored the stuff someplace that doesn't get below freezing temp - and that might be a difficult thing to accomplish.
Rock dust, DE, various meals (bone, blood, kelp, fish), epsom salts, borax etc. The more biological the meal, the shorter the life span, but you can still store it rather long term. The mineral amendments are just that, minerals. If not leached, they will store long.

I am not familiar with length of storage, so I cannot/should not comment.

I give my dogs bones. When they are "finished" with thicker soup bones, I bury those in the garden and/or compost heap. I have been doing that for years. When I find a bone while working in the garden I could not tell you if it was a bone I buried last year, five years ago or longer. Except; some of them (obviously the older ones) show significantly more decomposition than others (the newer ones). That, to me, is one way to "store" fertilizer.

I also dig (deep - pushing three feet) most of my grow areas occasionally (perhaps every 3-4 years on a rotating basis, one or two areas each year). I bury branches from my tree trimming. Most of what I bury is no bigger than two fingers in size. Anything bigger generally goes into the wood pile. When I get back to an area and dig it again, I can usually identify pieces of wood, not sticks/branches. This, too, is a way of "storing" fertilizer.
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Old 02-25-2018, 06:39 PM
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... Is it possible to purchase fertilizer/plant nutrients in a form that could be stored long term without losing potency? Ideally it would be something that's dry, in the form of flakes, chips, granules or whatever. I suppose it could also be in liquid form, though that would not be the best kind of thing for me, personally, because I live in a cold climate, and I'd need to worry about freezing of the liquid and bursting of the containers, unless I stored the stuff someplace that doesn't get below freezing temp - and that might be a difficult thing to accomplish.
In our area, the feed store chains [Blue Seal and Perco] offer contracts to local farmers to become franchises. Under those contracts they will drop a 40' shipping container in your dooryard, and fill it with a wide selection of their products. As you sell the product, they will come around every week to re-stock your container. Livestock feed, grain and fertilizer has to be rotated back to company warehouses that are humidity controlled. If it is left too long in a remote location it will rot.

There was a Blue Seal franchise in Lincoln [a town between you and I] that had to be shutdown due to mold.
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Old 03-23-2020, 02:17 PM
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Depends on the year
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Old 02-18-2018, 08:06 PM
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I would very much like to grow all my own food, but I am a realist, and I'm pretty sure that's never going to happen.

For one thing, I just started learning how to garden. Last year was the first year I got serious about gardening.

Also, I'm in my 60s, so there is a limit to the energy I can devote to gardening.

And, I live alone, so there is nobody to share the workload.

All that said, I have set a goal that I think is achievable over the next couple of years. I might even achieve it this year. That goal is:
  • I want to produce and preserve a year's worth of tomatoes, potatoes, and applesauce for myself. For me, a year's worth of each of these foods is enough so I can eat the particular food with at least one meal every other day or so.

  • I want to produce and preserve a year's worth of onions for myself. I'm not sure what this equates to, in pounds or bushels or whatever.

If I meet or exceed these goals during the next couple years, I'll set some additional goals. But I don't think I'll ever be able to produce all my own food, even though I own 30 acres, much of which is tillable.

I do have pretty good food-preservation skills, as I've canned lots of applesauce and tomatoes and green beans during the past several years. And this year I will attempt dehydrating.

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Originally Posted by Velvet Elvis View Post
My wife even commented that it "seems like everybody else grow a lot of tomatoes". My reply was... "yeah, but how are they doing it, and what products are they dependent upon to achieve that volume of growth?". I also remind her (and myself as well when garden envy sets in) that most gardeners aren't growing food with prep skill building in mind, to be able to feed their families using methods like the pioneers, which is what we, as preppers and self reliant folk, would be faced with in a long term, grid down situation.
This is something I've thought about a lot.

For example, last year I had great success growing tomatoes in Earthboxes. An Earthbox is a container-gardening system marketed to inexperienced gardeners. It is pretty much idiot-proof. The Earthbox company sells the container, the watering system, the fertilizer, and even the soil. If you follow the instructions that come with an Earthbox, you almost cannot fail.

I plan to grow tomatoes in my Earthboxes again this summer, and I am about to order my Earthbox supplies for the 2018 growing season. But of course, in a survival situation, it's unlikely I'd be able to purchase Earthbox supplies.

As I gain experience as a gardener, I'm going to try to decrease my reliance on commercially available gardening supplies, but doing so will definitely be a challenge.

I won't be using any hybrid seeds, BTW, and I do plan to save seeds every year.

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If I'm utilizing solar set ups for power, am I prepared for when the parts fail
This issue is a conundrum. I am off the grid, and I can store spare parts for my solar-electric systems (e.g., cables, extra panels), but storing extra batteries is a very big challenge, because batteries don't have very long shelf life.

I do have a manual water pump, but using it to water a garden entails carrying water from the pump, which is in the basement of my house, to my garden. [EDIT: The process of using the manual pump to get water to the garden would be much easier if there were two people involved. The spigot on my manual water pump is threaded so I can attach a garden hose to it; then I could run the garden hose out a basement window and down the hill to my garden. Then, one person could be in the basement, working the handle on the pump, while the other person could be in the garden, pointing the end of the hose where water is needed.]
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Old 04-01-2018, 12:46 AM
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I would very much like to grow all my own food, but I am a realist, and I'm pretty sure that's never going to happen.

For one thing, I just started learning how to garden. Last year was the first year I got serious about gardening.

Also, I'm in my 60s, so there is a limit to the energy I can devote to gardening.

And, I live alone, so there is nobody to share the workload.

All that said, I have set a goal that I think is achievable over the next couple of years. I might even achieve it this year. That goal is:
  • I want to produce and preserve a year's worth of tomatoes, potatoes, and applesauce for myself. For me, a year's worth of each of these foods is enough so I can eat the particular food with at least one meal every other day or so.

  • I want to produce and preserve a year's worth of onions for myself. I'm not sure what this equates to, in pounds or bushels or whatever.

If I meet or exceed these goals during the next couple years, I'll set some additional goals. But I don't think I'll ever be able to produce all my own food, even though I own 30 acres, much of which is tillable.

I do have pretty good food-preservation skills, as I've canned lots of applesauce and tomatoes and green beans during the past several years. And this year I will attempt dehydrating.



This is something I've thought about a lot.

For example, last year I had great success growing tomatoes in Earthboxes. An Earthbox is a container-gardening system marketed to inexperienced gardeners. It is pretty much idiot-proof. The Earthbox company sells the container, the watering system, the fertilizer, and even the soil. If you follow the instructions that come with an Earthbox, you almost cannot fail.

I plan to grow tomatoes in my Earthboxes again this summer, and I am about to order my Earthbox supplies for the 2018 growing season. But of course, in a survival situation, it's unlikely I'd be able to purchase Earthbox supplies.

As I gain experience as a gardener, I'm going to try to decrease my reliance on commercially available gardening supplies, but doing so will definitely be a challenge.

I won't be using any hybrid seeds, BTW, and I do plan to save seeds every year.



This issue is a conundrum. I am off the grid, and I can store spare parts for my solar-electric systems (e.g., cables, extra panels), but storing extra batteries is a very big challenge, because batteries don't have very long shelf life.

I do have a manual water pump, but using it to water a garden entails carrying water from the pump, which is in the basement of my house, to my garden. [EDIT: The process of using the manual pump to get water to the garden would be much easier if there were two people involved. The spigot on my manual water pump is threaded so I can attach a garden hose to it; then I could run the garden hose out a basement window and down the hill to my garden. Then, one person could be in the basement, working the handle on the pump, while the other person could be in the garden, pointing the end of the hose where water is needed.]
Just a thought here but, what about adding a soaker hose to the end of the first hose and lay it through the garden. That way you could be at the pump, and the garden is being watered.

Also, do you know of anyone that you could barter with that may have skills that you don't?
Since you have the acreage, for both gardens & livestock but unable to accomplish sustainability on your own and I'm sure there has to be someone that either has those things, or the knowledge/skills to do them but not the space.

You could offer the land in exchange for a portion of what they produce be it meat, fruit, veggies, etc
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Old 02-18-2018, 08:18 AM
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I would say zero percent prepared. To survive off a garden one would have to plant a lot of high yielding carb crops (squash/potatoes/corn) and I am not growing any of that.

Corn takes up a lot of space, isn't as easy as it looks, and each huge stalk usually only produces 2 small ears. I don't really like squash. Would like to grow potatoes one of these years, but they are so easy to buy it is not on my list.
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Old 02-18-2018, 08:52 AM
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Not at all. I'm a miserable gardener. Much, much better with livestock of all kinds. I'm probably gonna die of protein starvation. Or I guess I could barter.

I have had a congenital condition that has kept me from doing much leaning over (kinda a must do when gardening) or lifting stuff. I had surgery last year that went a long way towards correcting that so hopefully this year I will be able to at least give a garden an honest effort. I'm looking forward to it.
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Old 02-18-2018, 10:18 AM
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Not at all. I'm a miserable gardener. Much, much better with livestock of all kinds. I'm probably gonna die of protein starvation. Or I guess I could barter.

I have had a congenital condition that has kept me from doing much leaning over (kinda a must do when gardening) or lifting stuff. I had surgery last year that went a long way towards correcting that so hopefully this year I will be able to at least give a garden an honest effort. I'm looking forward to it.
With livestock being a source of manure, you might be able to trade with the gardeners. Meat, eggs, manure in exchange for fruits, veggies, and grains.
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Old 02-19-2018, 08:55 PM
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Not at all. I'm a miserable gardener. Much, much better with livestock of all kinds. I'm probably gonna die of protein starvation. Or I guess I could barter.

I have had a congenital condition that has kept me from doing much leaning over (kinda a must do when gardening) or lifting stuff. I had surgery last year that went a long way towards correcting that so hopefully this year I will be able to at least give a garden an honest effort. I'm looking forward to it.
Container gardening so you can have the garden at the height(s) you want. Both hanging and sitting containers. The sitting containers can be put on top of blocks, tables, deck railings, etc. The hanging containers can be hung with a pulley to raise and lower and needed. The wand-type watering thingees with the adjustable angle heads that fit on hoses are great, too. I also like drip irrigation for everything except Earth Boxes.

As far as gardening ability, I can grow basic veggies in containers (bell peppers, hot peppers, onions, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, parsnips, garlic, horseradish, celery, lettuce, etc.). Not so good with the potatoes.

I can also grow basic culinary/medicinal herbs and flowers (mint, spearmint, chocolate mint, foxglove, citronella, marigold, basil, caraway, chives, dill, fennel, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, thyme, etc.) in containers. Foxglove does a lot better in the ground, though. Along with sunflowers.

Strawberries, and blueberries OK in containers, too. I've had little luck with apples, pears, peaches, etc. ... the extension thinks it's a pollination issue, so we're working on encouraging/enticing bees and butterflies into the orchard with lots of flowers. That should also help the raspberries and grapes (not in containers).

Now I understand why orchards don't mow the wildflowers down

I can pretty much forget about everything else., except I'm going to try again with potted citrus one of these years. I'd also like to try growing ginger and cinnamon. Nutmeg is probably out of the question, though

Maybe I can trade with BadgeBunny, as I am a terrible rancher
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Old 02-20-2018, 12:42 PM
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Container gardening so you can have the garden at the height(s) you want. Both hanging and sitting containers. The sitting containers can be put on top of blocks, tables, deck railings, etc. The hanging containers can be hung with a pulley to raise and lower and needed. The wand-type watering thingees with the adjustable angle heads that fit on hoses are great, too. I also like drip irrigation for everything except Earth Boxes.

As far as gardening ability, I can grow basic veggies in containers (bell peppers, hot peppers, onions, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, parsnips, garlic, horseradish, celery, lettuce, etc.). Not so good with the potatoes.

I can also grow basic culinary/medicinal herbs and flowers (mint, spearmint, chocolate mint, foxglove, citronella, marigold, basil, caraway, chives, dill, fennel, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, thyme, etc.) in containers. Foxglove does a lot better in the ground, though. Along with sunflowers.

Strawberries, and blueberries OK in containers, too. I've had little luck with apples, pears, peaches, etc. ... the extension thinks it's a pollination issue, so we're working on encouraging/enticing bees and butterflies into the orchard with lots of flowers. That should also help the raspberries and grapes (not in containers).

Now I understand why orchards don't mow the wildflowers down

I can pretty much forget about everything else., except I'm going to try again with potted citrus one of these years. I'd also like to try growing ginger and cinnamon. Nutmeg is probably out of the question, though

Maybe I can trade with BadgeBunny, as I am a terrible rancher

This thread isn't about general gardening with all the assistance of modern convenience products like wands for watering. How would you provide pressure for such a thing in a grid down scenario, or do you have a gravity feed system set up?
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Old 02-20-2018, 08:17 PM
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This thread isn't about general gardening with all the assistance of modern convenience products like wands for watering. How would you provide pressure for such a thing in a grid down scenario, or do you have a gravity feed system set up?
12V pump pulling water from the pond to an ICB tote up on blocks that will gravity feed to the raised beds.

I only have it half assembled, but it's basically the same setup as the setup I have for my water pump for my house.
Even have the same charge controller.
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Old 02-21-2018, 05:34 AM
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This thread isn't about general gardening with all the assistance of modern convenience products like wands for watering. How would you provide pressure for such a thing in a grid down scenario, or do you have a gravity feed system set up?
I do have a way to gravity feed water and hook into the drip irrigation system and two regular hoses (one for inside and one for outside). The Earth Boxes have a water reservoir that is easily filled with a hose or pail with a spout. I can also hand dip the well and tote the water about 25 feet if I have to (or use a small wagon and dog). Or (re)charge the well back-up battery using the bicycle w/generators so the electric well pump works, or change over and pump into the house or fill the reservoir. One of these days I'm going to rig up a couple of treadmills for the dogs to charge the battery in case electric is out for an extended period (7 big ones, so lots of paw power available, and they're running around anyway

Still looking for batteries that have a very long shelf life to prep for when this one gives up the ghost. We had the battery back-up system put in when the pump had to be replaced because of all the power outages we get (sometimes multiple days in the winter because of ice, and sometimes several hours to days in the summer due to thunderstorms/tornadoes).

The good thing about container gardening is it doesn't take a lot of watering, especially the Earth Boxes with mulch covers and reservoirs, and properly adjusted drip irrigation, pot covers/saucers to catch/reclaim drippage for the other containers. Covering the water reservoir fill area with a balled up plastic bag between refills significantly reduces evaporation and the need for refilling.

There are enough containers to grow what my family needs (veggies, fruit, herbs, flowers/medicinals), plus some extras, and a lot of the recharge kits and bales of great soil that were bought insanely cheap at a nursery's going-out-of business sale One of these days I'll figure out how to recharge using compost I just wish dog poop wasn't too hot to use for gardening (without composting)

If it gets really, really, beastly hot, I can always move things around into the shade, or put up an old parachute as an awning/shade for a few hours.

Minimizing the water needed for gardening is good for any number of reasons... the environment, possible drought, contamination, water table issues, or rationing/restrictions, waste not/want not, and it's a lot less work, now and if grid down

It's nice to be able to learn and build when parts are readily available/cheap and modern conveniences are around as a back-up, but even nicer to have cheap, efficient low-tech set up that's easy/familiar to switch over to and use if electric out temporarily or grid down.
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