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More than any other preparation, I believe what you have between your ears will be most important.

For many of us, there is a feeling that things will not be so comfortable soon, to put it mildly. I feel like I am being drawn into gaining as much knowledge about certain things, almost like I don't have much choice in the matter.

So, while most of us can afford the luxery of failed crops in the garden, let's begin to taking learning seriously. We have that luxury now, and the knowledge will not only help ourselves but as we pass it down it will benefit all future generations.

Here are the "laws of the garden":

Save Seed- Above all else, every gardener should save at least several varieties of seed from year to year. If you need to start with something easy like peas, and that's all you do, that is perfectly fine. But plan on learning more until you are saving the majority of your seed.

This allows varieties to adapt to your location, over the generations, until your variety is the best it can be for your garden. They will outperform seed of the same variety grown in a different climate.

This will also preserve genetic diversity in our food (especially when saving rare varieties). With 96-98% of all commercial vegetable varieties having gone extinct in the last 100 years, will help ensure the survival of not just ourselves, but humans in general.

Plant many types of each variety- You will not truly know what variety of squash, for instance, works best for your location unless you grow out a number of different types at the same time. I am constantly amazed that some rare variety outperforms the standard variety that everyone else uses.

Plant the same variety in many locations- I want to learn the most from my plants, so I need to provide a way to do that. If I grow my peas in one area, that only tells me how they grew in that particular soil/micro-climate/watering schedule/etc. But if I grow my peas in a little section in the greenhouse, another in the outside garden, another in some containers, some crowded in a deep bed and some more where they'll get neglected....now that will tell me something about those peas. I will definately know a lot more about how to grow them.

Watch what you weed- Don't go crazy weeding until you know what your weeding. If I don't recognize a weed, I let at least one grow to maturity so that I can identify it. A lot of the weeds in my garden are edible. By deciding that I want to learn more about what naturally grows in my climate/location (i.e. the weeds), I'm also learning about foraging.

An example of this is Lamb's Quarter, a weed that I started pulling until I found out that it was edible. After a little research I discovered that Lambs Quarter was part of the pre-historic Eastern Agricultural Complex. It was domesticated as a pseudo cereal similar to quinoa (it's in the same family as amaranth), for its broccoli like flowering shoots and as a leafy vegetable similar to spinach and chard. Not bad for a weed I was about to toss without a second thought. Now it is allowed to take over certain nooks and cranny's of the garden. The same is true for a lot of "weeds" that I may be happy to have around as a hardy food supply.

Eliminate herbicides/pesticides-to truly learn from the garden, it needs to be done with organic methods. Having pests in a garden can be seen as a bad thing and some people may dump chemicals to make a dead zone. But, I don't think we learn enough from that. I want to know which varieties have a resistance to the pests (that's why we grow multiple types at once). Those chemicals also kill beneficial life. You want your garden full of life and diversity which will make it healthier in the long run. Who knows, we may not have these pesticides forever. If we baby our plants now, what happens when their protection is gone? Or when pests develop a resistance to the pesticides? I want to know that I'm breeding for the strongest plants I can, with the most natural resistance.

Document everything- I have a little black notebook that enters the garden with me all the time. Dates of plantings, transplants, blooms, harvests, etc. are essential. I map the garden as a back-up to the name tags in the garden. Soil conditions, weather, any info on breeding projects Im working on, info on bugs or weeds, etc. Basically you need to document as much as possible. I also take a camera to document what everything looks like on certain dates.

Pay Attention- This should go without saying, but it is so easy to go through the motions without actually noticing what is going on in your garden. I take a loupe (magnifier) in my pocket whenever I go into the garden. I can see the stamen and pistol better in the flower when pollinating, I can see what pests are really doing (are they sucking or munching or just hanging out), I can see how disease effects vegitation, etc.

I'm sure there is a lot more that I could mention and a lot of this is probably a no brainer for some of you. Above all, it comes down to deciding that you really want to learn. Once you do that, the doors are flung wide open....the knowledge is there for you to take.
 

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All of that is why those "survival seed kits" are nothing but packs of false hope. As you mentioned, it takes experimentation and experience to have a successful garden. A person can't just stick a bunch of "whatever" variety of seeds in virgin, unimproved dirt, with no experience, and expect it to grow food. And without practicing saving seeds, even if it did, it's probably not going to the next season.
 

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Document everything- I have a little black notebook that enters the garden with me all the time. Dates of plantings, transplants, blooms, harvests, etc. are essential. I map the garden as a back-up to the name tags in the garden. Soil conditions, weather, any info on breeding projects Im working on, info on bugs or weeds, etc. Basically you need to document as much as possible. I also take a camera to document what everything looks like on certain dates.
Your entire post is OUTSTANDING - THANK YOU!

The part I've quoted is something I need to get MUCH more serious about. I told myself to document everything, and I have been TERRIBLE about it. I hadn't even planned on recording as much detail as you do, but all of it makes a lot of sense to do. I'm going to make a lot more effort to do this.

Do you have a certain kind of notebook or set up that you like best, or do you just enter notes?

All of that is why those "survival seed kits" are nothing but packs of false hope. As you mentioned, it takes experimentation and experience to have a successful garden. A person can't just stick a bunch of "whatever" variety of seeds in virgin, unimproved dirt, with no experience, and expect it to grow food. And without practicing saving seeds, even if it did, it's probably not going to the next season.
I can't tell you how many times I've had the same thought when I see those "kits" or when people here and elsewhere mention that they buy seeds and throw them away every few years. If you're not planting seeds and learning the process, they're not only false hope, but a waste of money. Learning to garden after SHTF is a very bad idea.

Everyone, at minimum, should have a few tomato plants in containers every year, if nothing else, and should try starting them from seed.

Everyone should start plants from seed indoors under a light, see how leggy they grow, and then watch most of them die in the hardening off and later transplanting process. It's just not that easy.

I got lucky and have decent soil, but it's in its first year of gardening, and my neighbor's soil, which is well built up over the years, is much nicer. We planted tomatoes from the same nursery around the same time (my seedlings were still too small and I lost a bunch) and his plants are much bigger and healthier.

Now I'm contending with cucumber beetles.

All the years of reading and studying have helped me with doing my first big garden, but not as much as actually growing a few veggies every year and after having done a lot of ornamental and herb growing. One doesn't even know the right questions to ask until things in the garden start happening.

And I stood outside on a windy day last week in my garden and watched the wind thrash those plants and was reminded about how quickly it can all go to hell.

I hope this post gets bumped up regularly, because a lot of people need to read it. Even very experienced gardeners can gain from the OP's wisdom shared.
 

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All of that is why those "survival seed kits" are nothing but packs of false hope. As you mentioned, it takes experimentation and experience to have a successful garden. A person can't just stick a bunch of "whatever" variety of seeds in virgin, unimproved dirt, with no experience, and expect it to grow food. And without practicing saving seeds, even if it did, it's probably not going to the next season.
I agree with you - to a point.

I bought the Baker Creek Large Northern Seed Package last year. I paid $99 for a giant selection of heirloom seed. I started hundreds of seeds in seed trays, choosing about 20 varieties out of the package and planting about half of most of the varieties I chose. My reason for doing this is so I can see what we like to eat, and what REALLY will grow well in our garden. We have been gardening for several years, so I would like to be able to start saving our own seed.

Some of the seeds grew, and some did not. Some are doing REALLY well. Others are just kind of limping along. If someone does buy one of these packages, I recommend that they start growing the heirloom seed NOW. Otherwise, if you wait until after SHTF, you may not get any vegetables after a whole season of gardening.

If you start using the package of survival seeds now as a learning tool, it can be a good thing. Just don't bury it in a mylar bag in a hole in your back yard and expect it to save your life later.
 

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Good post DaggerD, hopefully many will start gardening. It takes a lot of time with a lot of failures.

As for me, been doing it for about 25-30 years.
 

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Do not forget the MOST important item in seed/sowing/growing.... fertile soil.
It it the base that determines your success or failure in a grow season.
It will not matter that you have superman seeds, if your soil is weak and nutrient deficient.

Heavy doses of rich compost will boost your soil, and hence boost your root intake.
The true success in a plant's harvest starts with the soil... an often overlooked piece of the puzzle.
 

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Do not forget the MOST important item in seed/sowing/growing.... fertile soil.
It it the base that determines your success or failure in a grow season.
It will not matter that you have superman seeds, if your soil is weak and nutrient deficient.

Heavy doses of rich compost will boost your soil, and hence boost your root intake.
The true success in a plant's harvest starts with the soil... an often overlooked piece of the puzzle.
That is where it all starts, the soil. If you have balanced, fertile soil, you will have less problems with disease, pests, etc... I don't feed my plants, I feed my soil and the soil takes care of the rest.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Do not forget the MOST important item in seed/sowing/growing.... fertile soil.
It it the base that determines your success or failure in a grow season.
It will not matter that you have superman seeds, if your soil is weak and nutrient deficient.

Heavy doses of rich compost will boost your soil, and hence boost your root intake.
The true success in a plant's harvest starts with the soil... an often overlooked piece of the puzzle.
I agree that the soil is as important as the seeds, and I am always trying to improve my garden soil. But I think it is still vital to find which varieties do better in poor soil, or clay soil (like we have), etc. Different varieties do better in different conditions and while I still have the luxery, I need to find this information out.

One of my goals is to have the seed of the best varieties around incase the shtf and my friends and local population needs to start growing their food. They won't have time to ammend soil. But if they have access to a variety that does better in the local soil types, they will be much better off.

But in general, I totally agree. Gardening begins and ends in the soil. We are all really just dirt farmers.
 

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That is where it all starts, the soil. If you have balanced, fertile soil, you will have less problems with disease, pests, etc... I don't feed my plants, I feed my soil and the soil takes care of the rest.
Yep, the most overlooked piece of the gardening puzzle for sure.

The seed has all the architectural makeup to grow, mature, and provide a harvest. But it needs water, sun, and a source of nutrients.
As gardener's we make plant location to receive the sun, careful to provide irrigation, but many times place a smaller emphasis on the nutrient conditions.

The three main methods:
- Add chem fertilizer and the plant responds at the soils expense. Chems leach soil's natural nutrient base drastically.
- Allow natural clay/soggy/dry/etc soil conditions to remain, and plant limps along. Full plant potential is usually not reached.
- Amend soil with organic based materials, and both the plant and soil respond. Plant growth is usually at maximum capacity, with a harvest to match.

Plant same seeds in those three different conditions.
In most cases, the organic and chem plants will excel...the untreated soil plants will not.
The chem soil will be depleted and must receive additional chems to continue the following year.
The organic based soil will only become better with each passing season of treatment...reaching a point of nutrient heaven.

Seeds are only 50% of the puzzle...make good seed selections.
But not applying the effort to condition the soil will only help to lower the harvest ceiling, and insuring the condition to exist the following year.
Soil building takes time, the effort needs to start asap...on your first fall.
Good seeds and hard work deserve a soil base that will be up to the challenge.
 
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