Apocalypse Gardening: Better to seed than to starve

Where I am, we’ve just had a huge dump of snow. So, while far from looking like spring outside, I’ve been thinking plants anyway and starting some of my vegetables. And, as isn’t too unusual for me I suppose, I’ve been considering how this would be done in a less convenient world, like, say, a post-apocalyptic one.

My front garden (non-veg) August 2010 - it doesn't look much better yet. Can you see why I need to work on my gardening skills?

This year, I confess I’ve taken to even greater convenience than usual, using one of those little hydro-gardens with the UV lights, the seed pods, nutrient packets, everything supposedly ideal conditions for my little plants to grow, grow, grow. Usually I’m much more of a half-a-milk-carton-in-the-window kind of gal. However, I inevitably plant far more tomatoes than I could ever need (try like 35 plants), but then somehow never help my little plant achieve full productive status before the onset of the next winter, I figure I can use all the help I can get. Thus, the fancy little garden machine.

Of course, I can afford to experiment, and I have all the resources I need to use this little contraption and see if I do indeed get producing vegetables, or if I end up with hopeful looking seedlings that than suffer and die a pathetic little death. If these vegetables don’t work out, I can go to the nursery and buy someone else’s plants. Of course, I don’t want to do that for lots of various reasons, but if my family and I seriously depended on these vegetables for survival and sustenance, I could hardly be so cavalier about their survival, could I?

I live in a climate with a very short growing season, which is why it’s a necessity to start most crops a bit early, to give them time to mature to fruit bearing stage before the first frost (which could happen as early as the end of August).  So I suppose either way I’d have to be starting my seeds, but it would be a greater challenge than it is now.

So, what wouldn’t I have that would make life and seed-starting harder:

  • electricity
  • unlimited, perfectly balanced nutrient supplements for the seedlings
  • consistent house temperature – would they even be safe in the window?
  • fancy little gadgets like my garden device
  • perfect seed-starting mixtures (I’d probably have to try and make some myself, with whatever resources available: I don’t “grow” perlite, vermiculite, there’s not much peat around here, so I guess I have a bit of black dirt, probably some manure …)
  • guaranteed viable seed (without refrigeration and other almost guaranteed methods of preserving seed, other than tomatoes, new seed would be required each year – so my crop from the previous year better have been successful)

Even with these limitations, I could probably manage to grow a tomato bush or two (they really are that forgiving, or at least I’ve found them that way – trust me, it’s not my gardening skill). But dependent on the weather conditions and how the year pans out, would I really be able to produce enough to help feed my family through the season, and hopefully into the future with preserves? Or would I realistically be better off with hardier, more consistent food producers like apple trees and berry crops?

Well, I have the berries already – though they likewise have some growing to do before I’ll ever eat anything off of them; the domesticated versions have to be at least 3 years old before I can get anything from them, and the wild have been undergoing a disease-attack of some kind that kills them off before they produce – never mind that I’d be competing with all the birds and other animals.

Hmm. Guess this is just a good reminder of how fortunate I am. That, and how much I need to keep growing my gardening skills by leaps and bounds.

What about you: green thumb or black? Would your family survive? What foods could you grow?

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One thought on “Apocalypse Gardening: Better to seed than to starve

  1. a subject I ponder often not just because its the basis of my writing but because I dabble in food production myself, trying for the ethical/organic way if poss. immediatly tho there is a clash between ethical and survival – every creature out there wants the food as well – as you if a sudden influx of slugs decimates a crop I go to the village shop for replacements!!! my garden skills are okay I have been gardening for decades but without help I’m not sure in my own I would manage – community small scale farming would prob deliver just enough in bad years to keep some alive!!! in one’s own back garden unless its a huge plot enough for 12 months of a good year unlikely – (don’t forget you’ll have to learn how to preserve food without chemicals and electricty!!) a bad season zilch – top fruits and nuts would be a good way to go – large crops eventually and lots of goodies in the nuts – preennial crops better than the energy hungry stuff like tomatoes (short season = energy hungry)

    have fun:)

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