Practicing Survival Gardening – Kate at

Some of you know we make Gardens, raise seedlings, teach techniques, CO-OP one of our little neighborhood farm gardens and much, much more through Land Lubber Farms but enough of the shameless plug we always are in search for great articles full of golden treasures of knowledge to help explain valuable information to our readers and clients. Sometime you know what you know and forget that some folks just don’t know, so articles like this remind us that we don’t know it all and we wouldn’t admit it if we did!

This is an article from a Master Gardener of 26 years Kate Written for the folks over at The Survivalist Blog. Kate knows her stuff Amigo’s sorry just came back from Caribbean waters, that would be Matey’s with al due respect to our Spanish speaking Pirety types and you know who you are! For all those who cant seem to get past the 140 characters well SUCK IT UP! Enjoy the article, CHEERS!

Practicing Survival Gardening

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest

By Kate

Everyone knows that you need to practice your gardening skills now, before the world ends.  However, how are you implementing that practice?  Did you purchase your seedlings from a store? If you have bugs in your garden, do you reach for the Seven? If a plant dies, do you run to the store to get another one? Did you purchase commercial manure or garden soil to ‘plus up’ your soil this year?

As we all know, this isn’t sustainable. My idea of survival gardening is to take all necessary actions needed to overcome the need/desire to run to the store when I have a gardening problem. Running to the store won’t be possible when the world as we know it ends.  Survival or sustainable gardening takes work (and planning), a bit of knowledge you may not currently have, and a different mindset.  I propose a four prong approach for you to consider implementing.

I have been a Master Gardener for 26 years and I still have failures.  It is natural. For example, my tarragon seedlings all died this year.  My answer to that is to start them again or live without tarragon until next year.

So, the first thing I would like to suggest is to garden like your life depends on it. Someday it will!  If you change your mindset and act like your life depends on your actions – NOW, you will have the experience to do what is necessary to make your garden at least moderately successful when you are depending on it to produce.  Any vegetable or fruit I can’t produce myself, we don’t eat.  I do not run to the store to ‘make up’ for what the garden doesn’t produce.

Second, start your plants from seeds. Every year.  No need for peat pots, seed starting kits or anything that requires money.  I use a soda can as a ‘mold’ and make my own pots with newspaper.  I don’t even purchase the newspaper; I get the local biweekly newspaper for free at the end of my driveway.  (While I don’t consider this sustainable, I have a huge plastic storage bin filled with rolled up newspaper.  I probably have 20 years’ worth of newspaper pots stored in that bin.)  Seedlings can be fussy.  If you don’t have any experience starting them now, how do you think you will do it when your life depends on them?  Don’t forget the herbs and spices you need to cook with as well.

In addition to all the ‘usual’ fruit, vegetable and herbs found in most gardens, here `is a list of some other things I grow to improve the sustainability of the things I use:

Stinging nettle – Ok, so this is a weed and readily available most places.  I can’t find any near me!  I have read that you can cook it and eat it like spinach but I have not tried it.  I use it to make cheese.  It adds a different flavor to the cheese so it is something that you need to try now to get used to it.  (It isn’t THAT different, but different enough to notice.)

Luffa sponges – Eventually, all the sponges you have stored will wear out.  Try growing your own. In addition to using them while you bathe, they work well on laundry stains. (For counter/table clean ups, use cloth wipes.)

Peanuts – I grow peanuts every year.  They can be grown anywhere! They grow beautifully in tires (needed if growing in the north) or in pots.  There is even a fairly new variety that grows in clay soil!  I use them for cooking oil, roast some for snacking and make a small amount of peanut butter (for the dog to take her allergy medicine).

Sun flowers – While many people grow sunflowers, I grow varieties that are specifically used for oil.  (You will eventually run out of all the olive oil you have stored.)

Cotton – I am an avid quilter and store quite a bit of fabric.  However, that will run out someday.  If you live in the south, you should grow a bit of cotton. It is very hard to grow and has a long learning curve.  But, long term it is a very necessary crop. If someone doesn’t grow it, eventually we will all be wearing deer skin.

Woad – This is an invasive weed in the west, but it doesn’t grow near me in the hot, humid, acid soil south. It makes a lovely blue die for the cotton. Also, it makes a nice ‘bluing’ to get white clothes white in the wash (something that will be hard to do when everything is washed in a bucket).  It was a very popular herb grown in Europe in the middle ages.  In the 19th century, indigo replaced woad worldwide because it was readily available and makes for a darker blue dye.  Indigo doesn’t grow here; woad will grow quite well in pots, in neutral soil.

Dandelion – You may think I am certifiable crazy by growing dandelion.  Well, right now, it is not available wild anywhere near me.  I expect that eventually it will be when the county stops putting weed killer everywhere. I only have a tiny section and when it is ready to go to seed, I cover it so it only stays in that section.  I don’t use it now, but someday I may need it to make a mixed green salad with my spinach and lettuce crop.

Vanilla –Your stores of vanilla flavoring will eventually run out.  Then, your only other choice will be rose water.  Rose water was popular during colonial times because vanilla was not yet introduced in the colonies.  Thomas Jefferson brought vanilla to America (he was introduced to it while living in France). Personally, I have tried rose water and don’t like it.  However, getting the vanilla orchid to flower is very difficult. (Growing orchids in general isn’t easy.)  Practice now while you can afford to have failures.  If you can get the plant to flower – pollinate it by hand. Making vanilla flavoring is easier than making rose water, IMHO.

Tobacco – I grow wild tobacco. It is supposed to be stronger than cultivated types (I read that somewhere. Personally I would not know, I am a Mormon and do not smoke.) Nicotine is the best insecticide God ever made.

Think about what you use on a daily basis and try growing your own version from seed. And, after you grow it the first year, save seeds from it for future years.  It is the only way you will keep your supplies sustainable.

Third, you will need a way to keep the bugs off your plants.  Storing Seven or Malathion is fine, but what do you do when it runs out?  My suggestion is to definitely store some, but keep it for when you really need it.  Try growing your own insecticide instead.  It is much more sustainable and saves the chemicals for when you need them to save a crop from being a total failure.  How do you grow your own insecticide?  It is easy!  Grow red hot chili peppers!  Have you ever noticed that bugs don’t bother chili pepper plants?  Peppers are quite easy to grow and don’t require much work.  Dry the chili peppers and grind into a powder.  (I have a hand crank grinder and also use a mortar & pestle to make the powder.)  Then boil some water to make a ‘tea’.  The stronger the better.  Filter out any pieces before placing in your sprayer.  I have successfully used this on almost everything I grow such as green beans, strawberries, cotton and grapes.  If you have rabbits that eat your flowers or other garden plants, they won’t eat anything that is sprayed with this tea.  When I plant corn, peanuts and sunflowers, I sprinkle the powder directly on the soil. This will keep squirrels and chipmunks from eating the seeds before they get a chance to germinate.  Repeat after it rains.

Also, as mentioned above, tobacco makes a nice insecticide tea as well.  I only use tobacco on things that I don’t eat (for example, white flies on gardenias – if you don’t take care of problems like this, they will eventually infest your garden. Ask me how I know this!) and/or plants that don’t currently have any fruit on them.

If you are having a summer with frequent rain, you may have a fungus problem such as powdery mildew. Spray with diluted milk.  Use about 20% milk to 80% water.  Add a few tablespoons of baking soda per gallon of spray for extra help.  This does NOT work on fruit trees with fungus problems.  If you have apple trees (peach and plum too) with evergreen trees close by, I have a few other suggestions to keep your trees fungus free. That is information for anther post.


Lastly, make your own garden soil.  It is so easy and very necessary!  If you want your garden to feed you, it needs compost.  If you want to reduce the amount and type of bugs you must fight off during the growing season, you need compost. If you want the soil to retain moisture during dry spells, you need compost.  If you want to grow plants that have different soil requirements from your area, you need compost.  I can’t say enough about making your own. There is lots of information on the internet about how to make it so I won’t go into that here.  However, there are some things that most people don’t think about putting in the compost pile.  Things like dog/cat hair, paper (shredded), dryer lint, all pulled weeds (that are not in flower), freezer burned vegetables, cooked rice or pasta, crumbs you clean off the table after eating,  stale crackers/cereal, oatmeal, wine corks, pencil shavings, contents of the vacuum cleaner bag, and dead houseplants and their soil.  All of this stuff makes wonderful compost.  (While dryer lint and the content of the vacuum cleaner bag are not sustainable without electricity, the contents of your carpet sweeper is. You do have a carpet sweeper, don’t you?) Before you throw something out, ask yourself, “Can this go into the compost pile? “  Google it if you don’t know the answer.

Since compost takes time to make, you need to be making it now – before you need it.  Even the commercially available compost tumblers take time to decompose everything you put in it. Start making compost now and it will be available for the garden next summer.  You will need much more than you think.

Don’t just grow a garden, practice survival/sustainable gardening.  Someday your life will depend on it

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