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How to garden in January


Per last week’s column, this will be the first part of a series on prepper gardening. And no matter how long this series is, it won’t be long enough. After all, we’re going to survey a topic that has been the single greatest pastime of humanity since its beginning. And for much of human history after the decline in hunter-gatherer cultures and the rise of agriculture, virtually all gardening was “prepper” (meaning food was grown by its direct consumers for use and storage, and little or no food was available if the local consumer didn’t grow it).

Lecturing about gardening options is every bit as contentious as presenting an opinion about religion, politics or the best gun. With a gun, you buy one, practice with it and reach some level of proficiency. But with gardening, no matter how good a farmer you are and no matter what kind of professional advice you receive, you will have failures. This is because gardening is rife with factors outside of the control of the practitioner. Gardening isn’t rocket science. I wish it was. Rocket science is repeatable. If you have the right equipment and the correct physics, you go to the moon and back. But as a prepper gardener, you’ve got a whole bunch of external factors that can ruin you – and those variables are unpredictable.

Is prepping the right thing for to do for Christians? Or should we just be trusting in the Lord? Learn about that balance in “Be Thou Prepared” by Carl Gallups – “Equipping the Church for Persecution and Times of Trouble.”

Nevertheless, gardening for self-sufficiency is possible or we wouldn’t be here. Despite all the potential pitfalls and disappointments, there’s absolutely nothing like looking out over your garden at harvest time and seeing the bounty that can feed your family and others.

Garden plan

Of necessity due to space constraints, I’ll be providing links to outside sources for additional information on various subjects. Last week I also introduced the concept of WWF, which stands for Water, Warmth (from the sun) and Fertilizer. Keep this in mind.

So let’s get to it. Grab a pencil; it’s the most powerful tool you can wield in January.

We’ll begin with that most favorite of hard-to-answer questions: How much garden space do I need? Go read this article. It puts it together nicely.

Notice how this author says it might be possible to garden sustainaby on an urban lot, but then diminishes his statement by mentioning eating worms. Well, this link highlights some folks who not only grow enough to feed their family of four on their tenth-acre suburban plot, but also manage to sell around $20,000 of surplus produce per year.

A few caveats: The family does this amazing gardening in southern California, where the first “W,” warmth, is a sure thing; and where the second “W” is provided via piped water from places far away. Also, gardening is pretty much all they do. Still, it’s a remarkable achievement, and it shows that you can grow a lot of food in very little space if your conditions are right and you can put the time into it. We’ll look at intense gardening concepts in a later column.

For now, let’s talk about your garden layout. If you live in a city, your options are limited. But even if you can’t grow a completely self-sufficient garden, there are a couple of very good reasons to grow a garden anyway. The first is simply learning to garden, even in limited space, means your “prepper value” increases. If the time ever comes when you need to bug out, being able to efficiently garden will be an asset to those who might consider letting you in, and a more valuable skill than just being able to use a gun.

Second, if things go south, they might not go too far south, and having a “victory garden” à la World War II can supplement the meager rations that might be doled out by the government. And of course, growing some of your own food can be good for your wallet as well.

Options for the urbanite gardener include gardening co-ops and community gardens, although those choices can be fraught with perils all their own, both political and in terms of security.

But let’s imagine a better scenario for our first prepper garden. Let’s say you live in, at a minimum, a spread-out suburb or on a rural residential lot. After some thought, you’ve decided you can dedicate a 100 by 100 foot plot of land for your garden (just shy of a quarter acre). You’ve made sure it has a good southern exposure, because experts agree garden plants need an average minimum of six hours of sunlight per day to thrive. Bear in mind that facing south isn’t the same as solar exposure if there are large trees, buildings, or geographic features like hills or mountains in the way.

Your future garden space will also need a water source, preferably close by. Sure you can run a hose from the tap on the side of the house, but the longer the hose, the less water gets to your garden over the same amount of time. For example, a 100-feet-long garden hose five-eighths inch in diameter under a pressure of 40 pounds per square inch will deliver around 11 gallons per minute (gpm) at the garden end. Double that hose length to 200 feet, and the water volume will drop to five and a half gpm, meaning it will take twice as long to deliver the same amount of water to your thirsty plants. There are ways around this, however, and we’ll cover those when we get to water concerns later.

Deer garden fence

Finally, while you’re penciling in your garden, you need to think about its defense. There are a lot of pests out there that want what you’re growing, and they range from humans and deer all the way down to microbes. But during our planning stage we’ll go “macro” by penciling in a good fence. Fencing needs are pest-sensitive. For instance, my garden is ringed by eight foot high wire woven fencing suitable for the deer with a four foot field fence addition along the bottom for cattle and a skirting of chicken wire for rabbits. And of course you’ll need to consider gates. A walk-thru gate is just fine, unless your wheelbarrow won’t fit through it. A wheelbarrow gate is great unless you want to get a small tractor inside. The small tractor gate is fantastic unless your pickup is needed to haul away garden waste. And when things get busy in the garden, a gate on one end may not be convenient for getting to the other side. I solve this problem by putting gates on all four sides of my garden.

Check out some options in the WND Superstore preparedness department. New products of all kinds being added regularly for all your prepper needs – from informational books, movies to shovels, water purifiers, and food from soup to nuts!

Finally (for today), if you’re new to this whole gardening thing, once you’ve laid out your garden on paper, divide it into quarters, because for your first year of gardening, you’re only going to plant a 25 by 25 foot plot. Why’s that? A few reasons.

One, a failed sixteenth-acre garden is far less discouraging than a failed quarter-acre garden. Two, you’ve got to learn to walk before you run, and a large garden can definitely have you running. And three, having a well-established success in one portion of your garden will give you the desire and impetus to expand, while also providing you with the room to experiment with other garden layouts and methods.

So you’ve got that garden space in your mind, your heart and on paper. Good! And it’s only January.

Next week we’ll figure out, depending on your location and soil types, just what it is you should be growing. We’ll also look at how you can amend the soil, if needed, to increase your produce repertoire.

Until then, stay warm, think garden and keep getting prepared.

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