Food Production

This page goes hand-in-hand with the
Saving Seeds,
Square-Foot Gardening,
and Root Cellaring pages.

First, our food-production needs will be determined by the severe conditions imposed by the polar shift. Some of those conditions are addressed in the first part of this page: "Initial Parameters."

Second, we'll review a few popular books and videos on the market, with an eye toward extracting information most applicable post-shift. Information that I deem most noteworthy will be highlighted in blue.

Third, we'll pull in key points made on the Troubled Times food section. This section can appear overwhelming at first, and with all due respects, it can stand some condensing. The way I see it, the most important of these points involve saving seeds and growing food in a hydroponic system.

Fourth, between now and the shift I will pepper this page with insights gained from actual backyard gardening -- whether from my garden or yours.

Finally, we'll start to develop a food-production strategy, throwing out those ideas that simply won't fly under post-shift conditions.

Initial Parameters:
From the hundreds of varieties of possible plants, we need to pre-select vegetables that:

  • Mature in the shortest time and are generally prolific.
  • Offer the highest nutritional value.
  • Can withstand the least amount of lighting.
  • Offer higher yields with less space.
  • Display higher-than-average disease resistance.
  • Are the hardiest amid adverse conditions.
  • Store well.
  • Create strong seeds for replanting.
  • Offer superior seed longevity.
We should concentrate on cultivating those few plants that meet the above standards. We shouldn't waste our time on saving seeds that won't tolerate the difficult conditions ahead. My eventual goal is to create a chart to help determine which plants best meet the above criteria.

From the book "Solar Gardening" by Leandre and Gretchen Poisson.
This excellent book illustrates how it's possible to grow vegetables year-round in most any climate, using protective devices the authors designed themselves. Some of the information presented here duplicates other gardening information on this site, but that's inevitable.
  • In France around the time of Louis XIV, walls would surround a garden area to help protect crops from wind and cold, creating a microclimate. French maraichers used dung from Paris to generate heat in the soil.
  • Walls or fencing can help retain heat from fires. This point is also mentioned in survival books.
  • Cool-hardy crops are those that can withstand some frost. These vegetables will germinate in cooler soil temperatures and will grow well in reduced sunlight, having shorter photoperiods than the heat-loving crops. Cool-hardy vegetables tend to have shallow root systems because they originated in damp climates. We generally eat the leaves, stems, roots, or flowerbuds of this group of vegetables.
  • The authors say they always have a variety of living vegetables in the garden and a variety of vegetables in storage. In late spring, summer and fall, the bulk of the foodstuff is fresh. In winter the bulk of the diet comes from stored produce, enlivened by the dozen or so fresh vegetables that the solar appliances make it possible to grow in these months.
  • The distilled water contained in fresh vegetables is more important to our health than it is given credit for.
  • New Zealand spinach is a leafy green vegetable with an extremely prolonged harvest period, making it the star of the summer greens.
  • For their variety and versatility, the leafy vegetables represent the most useful crops of all for a year-round living harvest.
  • Planting for fresh-harvest crops is usually done more frequently and in smaller amounts than planting crops slated for storage.
  • Solar cones are helpful in hardening plants off.
  • If you see little or no condensation on the sides of cones, you know itís time to water.
  • The key to planning a storage harvest lies in knowing how long a vegetable will be out of season, as well as how much you would expect to eat of that crop during that time period.
  • The appliances provide plants with physical protection from hail, wind, insect damage, or animal predators.
  • You can dig drainage ditches on the perimeters of an open bed to draw off excess water. Wet soil can be cool soil, so solar appliances can make growing areas warmer and drier before planting.
  • Dry wood ashes are a good source of fast-acting potassium. Apply only a sprinkling. Quickly-available phosphate comes from bone meal.
  • Feeding the soil is a continuous and indispensable gardening activity.
  • In general, seeds that are soaked overnight germinate in less than half the time they would normally require. Theyíre easier to plant, because they absorb water and grow larger. But carrot, lettuce and parsnip seeds tend to clump together when soaked. You can mix these in wood ash. The ashes provide an important source of potash and help discourage root maggots. Spread the ashes lightly, though theyíre not good for potatoes.
  • After seeding, you can punch down a hole with your fist. This helps ensure greater contact with the soil, helps retain moisture, and helps you remember where the seed is planted.
  • Deep loose soil encourages roots to grow downward versus outward.
  • Seedlings planted between established crops do not perform as well as those grown all by themselves.
  • The authors plant heat-loving vegetables when the soil feels warm to the touch 4 inches below the surface, though a soil thermometer is certainly more reliable.
  • Early Indians referred to the staple crops in their diet (dried beans, flint corn, and winter squash) as ďthe three sistersĒ and planted them together in their fields. When eaten together, these crops provide the perfect nutritional balance needed to fuel our bodies.
  • Tomatoes can grow in the same spot for several years in succession with no apparent problems. But generally, you donít want to plant the same crop in the same place for at least three successive years.
  • Younger plants especially cannot compete with weeds for nutrients and moisture.
  • French marais method of pruning melons:
      1) Before transplanting, prune back the young melon plant to two shoots.
      2) Once the plant is well established in the garden, prune back the two stems so that each one has four leaves.
      3) Prune off any lateral shoots as they grow.
    This radical pruning not only discourages melon vines from growing all over the garden, it encourages the plants to ripen a few better fruits closer to the main stem.
  • Manure tea: Put several shovelfuls of fresh manure in a large container such as a 55-gallon drum and fill it up with water. Allow it to steep for a few days, replenishing the water as you use the tea. Add fresh manure every couple weeks.
  • If we leave beans or peas unpicked, the plants will stop blossoming as soon as the lowest pods have matured.
  • Leaves of Swiss chard, collards, lettuce, and spinach are best harvested from the bottom up. As long as we donít damage the stem or uproot the plant in our picking, these leafy vegetables will continue throwing out new leaves.
  • With dehydrated vegetables, you can extract a few at a time from a container without affecting the keeping ability of the unused portion.
  • The ballpark temperature in a root cellar should range between 35 & 45 F.
  • Dehydrated vegetables rehydrate in soups and stews as they cook.
  • When weeds first start appearing, thatís when the soil is warm enough to germinate short-season, cool-and-cold-tolerant greens such as corn salad (mache) or mustard greens. The authors do not recommend soaking seeds when planting in the colder months.
  • Use any less-than-perfect vegetables for fresh eating and reserve the soundest and best for long-term storage. If you still have green tomatoes that have not yet been touched by frost, wrap them in newspaper and transfer them to the root cellar to slowly ripen.
  • Large storage harvests are not as important in moderate-temperature zones as they are in colder zones. In milder zones, succession planting is the key to continuous harvests, so soil maintenance becomes more important.
  • Thick mulches discourage good germination.
  • Water is the best medium for absorbing and storing heat, although it will give its heat up faster than rock will. Moist soil is a better heat-storage medium than dry soil.
  • Plants prefer diffused light.
  • Since mulch can harbor insects, remove and compost it at the end of the growing season.
  • If you can reduce the temperature swing between day and night, youíll enhance the uninterrupted growth of plants. (Some might dispute this and argue that plants need a "sleep period" every day.)
  • If you use a cone-shaped device, the most useful and material-efficient size is 35 inches in diameter. The bottom edge has to be pushed into the soil in order to seal it. If any air leaks into the bottom, it will create a chimney effect, venting out moisture and letting in cold air. On cold nights, stuff the top vent to prevent heat loss.
  • The authors go on to classify vegetables into three major categories -- heat-loving, cool-hardy, and cold-tolerant. Within each category they further break down the vegetables into the length of their respective growing seasons.

    Heat-loving vegetables
    These are defined as ready to eat in less than 60 days. They produce well in hot soil and air temperatures. They are minor crops but are important in succession planting. They cannot withstand frost and are best when eaten fresh.
    Amaranth grown for greens begin their harvest period when the plant is about 40 days old.
    The Chinese asparagus pea is a quick producer -- 35 days for greens and roots, 50 days for pods and roots.
    Mustard greens are ready to harvest in only 45 days.
    These are the major summer crops in northern and moderate growing zones. They begin to produce from 60 to 90 days after planting.
    Beans -- they all perform better when direct seeded rather than transplanted. They grow poorly when they are partially shaded.
    Cucumbers -- when transplanting seedlings, be sure to take up the soil surrounding the roots. This is easy to do if you soak the seedlings with water before digging. If using a trellis, which is recommended, you can prune the lowest lateral branches. This will encourage higher growth. The best trellis to use is welded wire held up by metal or wooden posts. The French maraichers pruned cucumber plants radically to confine the vines to the allotted space.
    Peppers -- slices of raw peppers dehydrate well for storage.
    Summer squash -- harvest most of them as small as possible, while the fruits are tasty and tender. Some people like eating dehydrated zucchini as ďchipsĒ.
    Sweet corn -- Donít place fresh manure directly against stalks or stems. If any book tells you that sweet corn can be dried on the cob, donít believe it.
    Tomatoes - ripe tomatoes dehydrate well.
    Dried beans -- a source of protein, most require over 90 days to mature, though some varieties mature in as little as 60 days. To harvest for seed, pull up the whole plants once the pods have dried and hang them in a dry place until you have chance to shell them.
    Dried corn -- the varieties are more resistant to insects and diseases than sweet corn.
    Melons -- need warm soil for germination.
    Onions -- these are a major storage crop.
    Sweet potatoes -- Grown from cuttings. To get one to sprout, submerge it halfway in a pan of water about a month before planting time. In a few days it will send out shoots. When the shoots reach about 6 to 9 inches in length, pick them off and put them in water to encourage root growth. Once the shoots have developed small roots, you can transplant the slips into the open garden.
    Winter squashes and pumpkins -- they take up so much room you should plant them on the edge of the garden or in a plot of their own. Pumpkins should always be direct-seeded.
    Jerusalem Artichokes -- these produce five times as heavily as potatoes

    Cool-hardy vegetables
    -- These can withstand light frosts, and they grow well in the spring and fall seasons. Ideal air temp ranges between 50 and 70 F, and the ideal soil temp ranges from 50 to 65
    Short-season (these harvest 30 to 60 days after planting)
    Beets -- harvested beets store for several months in a root cellar.
    Mustard greens -- considered a main crop vegetable in China, where they are planted in succession. Good candidates for dehydration.
    Chinese turnips -- reach maturity 35 to 70 days after planting. They take up little room.
    Radishes -- some red radishes mature in as little as 20 days. Plant them almost anywhere in the garden, except with other root crops. They do not store for very long.
    Spinach (also considered a cold-tolerant vegetable) -- its seed can germinate in soil temperatures as low as 35. Can withstand prolonged freezing, but prefers cool, not cold conditions. Raw spinach leaves dehydrate very well.
    Upland and Garden Cress -- these do not require the shallow running water of watercress. They are pungent and quick-growing.
    Mid-Season (Take 60 to 90 days to mature.)
    Beets -- can be considered a main storage crop.
    Cabbage -- when mature, many varieties will withstand hard frosts. Transplants well. The authors consider the larger storage-varieties of cabbage a major part of their yearly food supply. They find that red cabbage stores better than other varieties.
    Carrots -- the best place to store them during the colder months of the year is right in the ground, under a heavy layer of mulch. To protect from mice, you can install screened barriers 8 to 12 inches deep into the ground. Or a little windmill will help deter small animal pests that live in the mulch by causing vibrations in the ground.
    Cauliflower -- will perform well in cool, wet summers.
    Fava beans -- an important crop in areas where the growing season is too short to produce other kinds of shell beans.
    Florence (bulb) Fennel -- stores well for several months in a root cellar. Hard to propagate for seed except in warmer climates.
    Lettuce -- the seed can germinate in temperatures down to 35. Transplants well. If high wind or rain threatens a ripened seed stalk, itís best to bring the seeds inside or to shelter the seed stalk.
    Rutabagas -- store well.
    Turnips -- great combination of calories, protein, dietary calcium, iron, and vitamins A & C. The nutritious greens are ready to harvest in about 40 days.
    Long-season (requiring more than 90 days to reach maturity)
    Cabbage (storage varieties) -- they keep well in the root cellar if taken up roots and all. Keep them wrapped and physically separated in case one starts to spot or rot in storage. Many of the long-season cabbages are resistant to freezing.
    Cardoons -- are hardy enough to withstand several frosts.
    Celeriac -- stores well and makes a good substitute for celery in the wintertime.
    Celery -- will store for a few months in the root cellar as long as any rotten stems are kept removed. Dehydrates well.
    Irish Potatoes (storage harvest) -- the Norland Red variety produces an early crop for fresh harvest, yields a heavy storage crop later on, and keeps beautifully in the root cellar. The authors have planted their own seed stock of Norland Red for ten years and havenít noticed any decrease in quality or vigor. The Yukon Gold variety keeps well in storage.
    Asparagus -- if the bed is well prepared, it can produce for 20 years or more. It needs its own permanent spot, in full sun.

    Cold-Tolerant vegetables
    These can withstand not only an occasional frost, but can survive even longer periods of freezing, resuming their growth when the temperature increases.
    Short-season -- all of these are considered minor crops. On average, theyíre ready to eat 45 days from planting, so you can grow several succession crops. They donít require much space. They are by definition fresh-harvest crops, not storage crops.
    Mizuna -- produces beautiful greens in the colder months of the year, when few other plants are growing. You can begin harvesting outer leaves about three weeks after planting.
    Mustard greens -- the plants produce greens in about 45 days on average. Ideal outside air temp is about 60.
    Roquette (arugula) -- begin harvesting the leaves almost as soon as they are visible, about 25 to 30 days after planting. You can plant it early and often for a continuous fresh harvest. If you keep the leaves cut back, it will continue producing small leaves for several months.
    Turnip greens -- some varieties will produce quickly, and in quantity.
    Other crops in this category include Chinese broccoli and corn salad
    Mid-season -- these crops provide the bulk of fresh foodstuffs available for harvest throughout the winter months. These are the real staples of winter menus. They mature between 60 to 90 days from planting. In order to overwinter successfully, these crops must be nearing maturity at the time of the first hard frost in the fall. They can withstand severe frosts. Some of them will enter suspended animation -- a frozen but undamaged state -- reviving and starting to grow again as they gradually thaw out in the spring. They will of course need substantial protection from the elements.
    Carrots -- will grow over the winter so long as the crown of the plant is protected from freezing.
    Collards -- though they prefer full sun.
    Dandelion -- very cold-tolerant
    Escarole / Endive -- extremely cold-tolerant.
    Flowering cabbage (flowering kale) -- just as hardy as kale or collards. Will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 45.
    Kale -- easy to grow, itís the star green of the winter garden. Almost all varieties are extremely cold-tolerant.
    Lettuce -- several varieties will winter over, staying in ďsuspended animationĒ and will start growing again when the weather begins to thaw. Romaine varieties donít grow well in winter months.
    Oriental radishes -- some grow to the size and shape of beach balls! They germinate quickly and are easy to grow. All Oriental radishes are edible in every stage of their growth, from the sprouted seeds, to greens, to roots of any size, to the edible seedpods. They also store well in damp sand in the root cellar.
    Spinach -- treat like winter lettuce.
    Swiss chard -- more freeze-tolerant than spinach or lettuce, but it is a slow grower by comparison.
    Brussels sprouts -- in warmer regions, you can harvest them throughout the winter. The plants donít produce very heavily for their size.
    Leeks -- extremely frost-hardy and can be harvested any time it is not frozen solid. They provide good nutritional value for the space they take up, and they are fairly easy to grow. Wonít cross-pollinate with other members of the onion family.
    Parsley -- Hamburg (root parsley) is a variety that's extremely hardy, and after the greens have died or frozen back in the fall you can still dig up the root for use in soups and stews.
    Parsnips -- can be a significant winter crop.
    Salsify -- this root crop doesnít store well.
    Bunching onions (Welsh onions) -- are extremely cold-tolerant.

    My thoughts:
  • Seedlings will get hammered by outdoor conditions.
  • We'll need an experienced person responsible for charting start times for all vegetables.
  • We'll also need a person familiar with isolating plants grown for seed -- a real seed-saving pro.
  • Old tires can possibly provide wind protection for seedlings.
  • For the time being, we can use store-bought vegetables just for the experience of storage in a root cellar.

From the book "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible" by Edward Smith.
(I recommend it highly):
This one sells for $24.95.
  • Whenever a plantís growing space gets wider or deeper or both, its growth improves. The roots get room to stretch and find the nutrients and moisture they need. For instance, carrot roots can extend 1.5 feet (45cm) wide and 3 (90cm)feet deep, contrary to a popular belief that the root system is much smaller.
  • Walking on soil exerts as much pressure as 10 pounds per square inch. Thereís no room for the roots to thrive. Donít walk on your gardening beds!
  • Smith recommends loosening the soil to a depth of 18 inches, but that is a lot of work.
  • Raised beds minimize walking space, so you can grow more vegetables in less area. Veggies can be grown closer together and water usage is decreased. (By growing veggies closer together, we may be able to reduce our lighting needs in the aftertime.)
  • In a traditional row garden, you can grow about a dozen beets in a 4í x 1í space. In a 2í x 2í raised bed, you can grow 44. (This can have enormous implications in the aftertime!)
  • There are no vegetable plants that thrive in deep shade. For best results, you need at least six hours of sun a day. (Here's where we run into problems.)
  • A forged-steel shovel is more durable and will last longer than a pressed-steel type. This is not a minor consideration, since we'll need tools that will last forever.
  • By loosening subsoil you increase its capacity to store and receive water. Worms can enter the area more easily.
  • Once prepared, allow your beds to settle for a week before planting.
  • When you buy a seed packet, watch out for the designation ďF1Ē, which stands for "first filial generation." Seeds collected from these hybrids usually produce weak, inferior plants. (This topic is well-discussed on Troubled Times.)
  • Lettuce is a cool-weather crop that does not like hot weather. (Sounds like a post-shift winner.)
  • When people plant in rows, the traditional thinking is to plant only one type of vegetable in each row. But thatís not how nature works. Nature likes to mix things up. In other words, you can mix different types of plants in one 4' x 4' bed. However, itís well established that certain types of plants donít get along with each other, and charts are available to tell you which ones. On the other hand, there are some types of plants whose proximity to one another are beneficial. Americans Indians practiced interplanting for generations.
  • Whenever a plant matures and bed space becomes available, plant something else that can mature in the time left in your growing season. (This is called succession planting, and it will help maximize our post-shift resources.)
  • Donít grow the same type of plant in the same spot two years in a row. You can even go three or four years before planting the same thing in the same spot again.
  • Planting instructions on seed packets are based on row planting. Little data is available for the proper spacing in raised-bed gardening. But in general, donít let leaves overlap. Thin them if necessary. Donít worry about the roots mingling. Theyíll do just fine.
  • Seeds require the right germination temperature, and most diseases are soilborne.
  • Seedlings require 12 to 16 hours of light a day. (Ouch!) Protect them from drafts. Keep your lights about 3 inches (7.5 cm) from the top of the plants. Smith also mentions fish fertilizer, and this may be one type of fertilizer we can create naturally post-shift.
  • Donít handle seedlings by the stem. Once stems are damaged, they usually donít recover. Handle the seedling by the leaf.
  • The smaller the seed, the closer to the surface it should be planted.
  • When watering, keep your beds moist but not soggy.
  • Plants such as cucumbers, pole beans, peas, squash and indeterminate tomatoes (the ones that grow tall) take up more garden space than they need to. You can free up a lot of precious space by using a trellis. Also, the quality of your yield should improve. (Trellises are simple to build, and after the shift they can help maximize our growing space.)
  • With loose soil you introduce more air, which increases the activity rate of certain bacteria, and this releases soil nutrients.
  • You may not need to add fertilizer during the season. It agitates the growing cycle. Plants prefer smooth growth patterns, not the jump-start that fertilizers can give them mid-season.
  • More yield is lost to mistakes in watering then anything else. Remember that vegetables, like humans, are mostly water. Nutrients pass through the soil to the plant through a film of water surrounding the tiny root hairs that grow from the plantís roots. If the film of water is not there, the nutrients donít get to the plant. In addition, compost increases the soilís ability to hold water. So does loosening the soil. Also, put the water where the roots are, and remember that mulch also holds water in.
  • Donít wait until your plants wilt before you water, and donít ever skimp on water during the germination period. Be sure youíre getting water down at least six inches (15 cm). Water your entire bed, not just the area around each plant. Avoid watering the leaves, and youíll save water too. Get a device such as a watering wand, which gets down beneath the leaves. Water on the leaves increases your chances of disease.
  • If you find less than 10 worms in a soil sample that 1íx1íx7Ē (30x30x17.5 cm) thatís bad news. You can never have too many worms. To keep them happy, mix in plenty of compost. Itís their favorite food, and itís also the best food for garden plants. Worms donít like it too soggy either. Just moist.
  • Compost also helps stabilize soil pH at the level most plants prefer. Keep at least a half-inch layer on growing beds at all times. Itís not that expensive. It can also inhibit plant diseases.
  • Use mulches to maintain soil and air temperatures.
  • By intermingling the odors of plants, diverse planting can confuse unwanted insects. Ironically, it seems to increase the number of beneficial insects. Too much spacing between plants can also attract pests, so the closely-planted method can in itself repel them.
  • Herbs have been a part of gardens for thousands of years, yet somewhere along the way they've become (unfortunately) separated from vegetables. They can help ward off pests while attracting butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects. For instance, you can freely interplant dill around the garden to help keep insect pests under control.
In addition, Smith presents informative details regarding individual plants:

  • Asparagus: A perennial, asparagus beds can remain productive for 15 to 20 years. You can harvest from the garden the second spring after planting.
  • Bush Beans: Make small plantings every 10 days. They grow along well with most any other vegetable, except onions. In cool regions, shell beans are a good substitute for lima beans.
  • Pole Beans: These produce more pods per plant than bush beans, but require a support such as a trellis or teepee.
  • Broccoli: Contains antioxidants and may help ward off certain cancers. Broccoli is a heavy user of nitrogen.
  • Brussels Sprouts: One of the hardiest vegetables in the garden, they survive fall frosts and light snowfalls. They take a long time to grow (about 100 days).
  • Cabbage: Easy to grow, does best in full sun. There are ways to make one plant produce more than one head.
  • Cauliflower: Can be finicky.
  • Chinese Cabbage: Easy to grow.
  • Cucumbers: More productive and of better quality if grown on a trellis, and of course it takes up less garden space this way.
  • Arugula: A salad green that can make it through winter in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. The plant is small, with a compact root system, so it's easy to grow in containers.
  • Claytonia: Also called miner's lettuce, it's freeze-hardy and easy to grow. Does not perform well in the heat of summer.
  • Garden Cress: Some varieties go from sowing to salad bowl in less than a month. Will grow just about anywhere, and the seedlings will emerge in as little as two days.
  • Radicchio: A type of chicory that's been popular in Italy for many years. Tolerates cold and frost very well. In a cold frame, you can harvest it all winter long in all but the coldest of climates. Seed longevity is five years.
  • Parsley: An herb that's full of vitamin C, carotene, iron, and chlorophyll. Takes three or four weeks to germinate, can take a little shade, but will produce all summer, well into the fall.
  • Sage: A perennial that helps repel pests and supposedly has restorative health benefits.
  • Kale: Easy to grow and hardy enough to harvest from under the snow. It even survives most winters without protection. Low-growing varieties such as "Vates" are more frost-hardy than tall ones.
  • Kohlrabi: A fast-growing cousin of cabbage and broccoli that stores well in root cellars.
  • Leeks: Gentle on the digestive system.
  • Lettuce: North Pole lettuce has been known to survive outdoor temperatures of minus 20F (-29C). All lettuces are easy to grow. You can make succession plantings every 10 days or so. Lettuce germinates and grows best in cool weather. As the weather warms, you can add more heat-tolerant varieties, such as crisphead.
  • Onions: Stockton Reds are suitable for northern regions, and they store well. First Edition onions also offer longer storage times. Buffalo onions are more successful at growing from seed. Short-day varieties, such as Vidalia, require less light, though still up to 12 hours a day.
  • Peas: The Super Sugar Mel variety of sugar pea (also called snap pea) offers good disease resistance plus early and heavy yields.
  • Peppers: If you pick the fruits at the green stage instead of letting them ripen to red, the plant goes right on setting new fruits.
  • Radishes: Over 200 varieties are available. Can be stored for months in a root cellar. You have to grow them fast and harvest them fast. As you harvest these cool-weather crops, they leave behind loosened soil and space for other plants to grow.
  • Spinach: Germinates and grows well in cool weather. Frost tolerant, high in vitamins and minerals. Instead of sowing one large planting, you'll get more and better spinach if you grow a series of small succession plantings spaced a week to 10 days apart. Germination is less uniform in warm soil. Indian Summer is a fast-growing, high-yielding variety with excellent flavor. You can enhance the productivity of each plant by harvesting just the outer leaves, letting new leaves regrow.
  • Zucchini: Zucchetta Rampicante, an heirloom vine variety from Italy, will produce prolifically for the whole season. Zucchini grows quickly, and pick when four to five inches long. "Spacemaster" zucchini is nicely prolific. Saffron (a straightneck summer squash) is both compact and prolific. Horn of Plenty, a crookneck squash, is compact and can produce for months. "Sunburst" is a prolific pattypan-type of squash. On the whole, squash is healthful, with lots of fiber, vitamin A, and beta-carotene. Winter squash keeps best if it is cured before being placed into storage.
  • Sunflowers: In three to four months they can produce lots of nutritious, flavorful seed.
  • Swish Chard: A single planting goes on producing until there's a really hard frost, with almost no work along the way.
  • Tomatillos: Easy to grow and hardier than tomatoes, more resistant to pests and diseases. The De Milpa variety stores well.
  • Tomatoes: Brush the plant lightly with your hand twice a day to promote short, stocky plants. This helps promote a hormone called cytokinin, which produces thicker, stronger stems. Pruning is highly recommended for indeterminate (tall) varieties. This directs growth to the main stem. Set your stakes or trellises at the time you plant, so you don't disturb the root systems. Determinate tomatoes don't have to be pruned, but use a low, cage-type support. Indeterminates have a higher foliage-to-fruit ratio, which results in higher quality fruit as well. Indeterminates will produce more quickly, you'll lose fewer, and you'll get more yield per square foot of garden. The Oregon Spring variety is good for cool climates, producing large, flavorful fruits in about two months.
  • Turnips: They like cool weather and have a seed longevity of four years.

Important points from the video "Hometimes Vegetable Gardening":
This video is available at the Scranton Public Library, and some important points include:
  • One square foot of garden space can produce about one pound of veggies
  • Vegetables need plenty of light, as if you didn't know that.
  • Cool-season vegetables include lettuce, carrots, and radishes.
  • Radishes and lettuce grow relatively quickly. (Right away they meet two of the above conditions.)
  • The video skims over the topic of "succession planting," where a new row of plants is seeded as soon as the old row is harvested.
  • Radishes and lettuce don't fare well in heat.
  • Pole beans keep producing well after you pick the first batch.
  • Indoor plants need about 12 hours of light a day.
  • Cherry tomatoes ripen faster than regular ones.

From the "Yardening" video series:
Here's some good info from the video "How to Design & Build a Vegetable Garden." Part of the "Yardening" series, it's hosted by the knowledgeable Jeff Bell and is also available at the Scranton Public Library:
  • Veggies need six to eight hours of sunlight a day.
  • Raised beds can increase productivity by 40%.
  • Raised beds drain water more quickly.
  • 200 square feet of raised-bed space can yield 400 pounds of vegetables. This contrasts sharply with a point made in the above video, which claims a yield of but half that.
  • A pH level of 6.0 to 6.5 will provide the most nutrient transfer from the soil.
  • Earthworms produce their own weight in fertilizer every day. You should see at least three or four of them for every pound of topsoil.
  • Trellises can increase productivity by 50%, and they do not of course take up additional garden space. This will be a major consideration when efficient lighting methods become a life-or-death issue.
  • Drip-irrigation systems can increase yield up to 30%.
  • Mulching saves water and cuts back on weeding.
  • Black-plastic mulch can extend your growing season by three to four weeks.
  • Cool-weather plants include cabbage, broccoli, onions, and carrots.
  • Warm-weather plants include tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, and pole beans.
  • The most nutritious plants include broccoli, green peppers, peas, and spinach.
  • The most productive plants include tomatoes, pole beans, peppers, and summer squash.
  • Beginners should grow no more than 15 to 20 different types of vegetables in the first year. I'm going with about 10.
  • Most seeds will last up to three years if stored properly.
  • Rotate your crops every year, and to do this, you need to keep records.
  • The two most important aspects of a successful garden are:
    1) Design
    2) Soil conditions
  • You can never go wrong with lots of humus.

From the video "How to Grow Warm-Weather Vegetables"
This is also part of the "Yardening" series and hosted by Jeff Bell, an author and gardening researcher. The video is endorsed by the National Gardening Association (USA):
  • Summer crops include tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, and corn.
  • Spring & fall crops include peas, spinach, broccoli, and cabbage.
  • Each seedling gets its own individual container. Try not to let your seedlings get rootbound (reaching the end of their container and then turning back inward -- hey, that what an STS does!). Start your seedlings about six weeks before they go outside.
  • Your best soil temperature is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius).
  • With trellised plants, the leaves get more sunlight and are less prone to disease.
  • Pole beans produce food all season long. They produce two to three times as much food as bush beans.
  • Determinate tomatoes reach two to three feet (0.6 to 0.9 meters).
  • Plants need one inch per week of rain, which translates into one-half gallon of water (just under two liters) for ever square foot (0.3 square meters) of the garden.
  • Drip irrigation (hoses under the mulch or soil) increases productivity 20% to 30% and lessens your chances of disease.
  • Pests tend to show up on the underside of the youngest, most tender leaves.
  • A good strategy is to control pest problems rather than trying to eradicate them.
  • Another good way to prevent disease is to allow no piles of rotting weeds or refuse near your garden.
  • Good soil fosters stronger plants more resistant to disease.
  • You can cover your plants with a layer of fleece if insect control gets to be a problem.
  • Post-shift, we may be able to build insect traps that contain a lure and a sticky surface.
  • If and when you find a diseased plant, yank it.
  • Pick your eggplants when shiny, before they grow dull.
  • In general, pick your veggies young and small, rather than oversized and/or mature. They are often more nutritional when younger.
  • Keep your pole beans and cucumbers picked so they keep producing more.

From the video "How to Grow Cool-Weather Vegetables"
This is also part of the same "Yardening" series:
  • With proper plant protection, you can extend your growing season by up to three months. This will give you three seasons in your garden: spring, summer, and fall.
  • Easy-to-grow crops include peas, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, onions, and radishes.
  • Growing seedlings indoors will give you an 8-to-10-week jump on the growing season.
  • You can save garden space by growing seedlings indoors during the summer and transplanting them after the summer crops are out. This is called "succession planting" and will allow you to grow up to three crops per year for every 1' by 1' section of the garden. And when you grow seedlings indoors, you can time things so you have something to plant as soon as another plant is harvested.
  • When you transplant, handle the seedling carefully so as to minimize damage and loss to the roots.
  • Seedling containers should be at least 2" tall with a drainage hole in the bottom.
  • For your seedling mix, don't use any soil from the outside garden. This will minimize your chances of disease.
  • If you cover your seedling trays you help retain essential moisture.
  • If you provide flourescent lighting for your seedlings (very effective), the lights need to be turned on 14 to 16 hours a day.
  • Water your seedlings lightly but often. Once they're transferred to a pot, you can water them less -- maybe once a week.
  • Start feeding them once their "true leaves" appear.
  • In the outdoor garden, aerate the topsoil without bringing up the sub-soil.
  • Soil temperature is more important than air temperature. Black plastic mulch can raise soil temps in early spring by some six to eight degrees. In the summer, you can lower this temperature by applying straw or hay mulch over the plastic.
  • If you can find plastic covering with air bubbles, the kind that protects boxed items while being shipped, you can hold even more heat. This covering would be placed over your garden in canopy fashion. You'll need air slits so you don't fry your plants, however.
  • Most seeds will not germinate below a soil temperature of 45 degrees-F, and you don't want to introduce transplants until the soil reaches 50 degrees.
  • You can make a good plant protector by cutting the bottom out of a plastic milk container and placing it over the plant. In the daytime, just screw off the top so you don't overheat the plant.
  • If you make a canopy or covering from fleece, you can add an additional three degrees of warmth to your plants, allowing the soil to absorb additional heat. This can also give you two to three weeks of additional harvest time.
  • If you don't plant in rows, you can sow your seeds 30% to 50% closer than the seed packet tells you to. This information complements the ideas mentioned in the Vegetable Gardener's Bible, which is highlighted on this page. Jeff Ball calls this method "intensive planting." He says your individual plants will be smaller, but overall you'll get more output.
  • To help carrot seeds germinate faster, keep them in a glass of water the night before planting.
  • Don't transplant in the middle of a hot sunny day.
  • Plants can absorb liquid fertilizer 20 to 30 times faster than powder.
  • Reduce your watering in the spring and fall. Just go 1/2-inch to one inch weekly.
  • Jeff Ball says the best time to water is in the morning so as to reduce overnight moisture on the leaves. This will help reduce the chances of disease.
  • How far away should you rotate your crops from one season to the next? Ball suggests moving them to a new bed. The following year you can plant them in an even different bed before returning them to the first bed the following year.
  • Pick broccoli before you see the yellow blossoms.
  • You can pick cabbage when it's the size of a softball. You can pick carrots when they're about one inch in diameter. Ditto for beets.
  • For lettuce and spinach, harvest the leaves when they're two to three inches long, and keep harvesting them until the plant goes to seed.
  • By adding four to six weeks of growing time on both ends of the season with proper covering techniques and by effectively applying the succession-planting method, we'll reduce the need to store as much food.

And one more yet from the 'Yardening' series:
Here are some valuable points from 'How to Grow Plants in a Greenhouse':
  • Gardening expert Jeff Ball mentions "the greenhouse principle," namely: Maximum light in, minimum heat out.
  • Indoor plants need air circulation, or else you'll get a layer of stale air over every leaf.
  • The ideal indoor humidity is 50% to 60%.
  • You water in the morning (less chance of disease this way) and vent during the day.
  • Soil needs to drain well yet retain moisture at the same time.
  • With too much water, roots will suffocate and rot. They won't carry sufficient oxygen to the plant, and the leaves will wilt and decline.
  • To help minimize diseases and pests, keep your growing area clean.
  • Check for pests every two to three days.

From the video "Gardening Naturally":
Produced by The Learning Channel (TLC), this video is also available at the Scranton Public Library:
  • If the soil is suitable, you can easily stick your hand down into it.
  • Water your plants before transplanting.
  • Proper planting depth is about three to four times the size of the seed.
  • The bigger the pot you grow your transplants in, the better. This facilitates better root growth.
  • Here's one for a dummy like me: "Determinate" plants = "not tall." These include carrots, spinach, and beets. I'm going with more determinates just to avoid the hassles of trellises, at least for now.
  • Variety of plants is healthy.
  • By inhibiting sunlight, close-growing plants help prevent weeds.
  • Carrots grow slowly, beets grow fast.
  • When selecting a shovel or spade, watch out for breaks in the grain on the wooden handle. That's where it may break.
  • Use linseed oil to keep your handle supple.
  • A handle made of ash (wood) has a nice spring to it.

From a great video called "Square Foot Gardening"
Hosted by Mel Bartholomew, the subtitle of this one is "All the Basics" and it contains highlights from his PBS television series. Again, it's available at the Scranton Public Library. I've seen the book of the same title listed on the Barnes & Noble website for $15.25 (I refuse to buy from Borders because of the way these scums treated a friend of mine.) Square-foot gardening can be an efficient solution when it comes to conserving space and reducing the size of our future growing areas. How much growing space we think we need may be based on outdated assumptions that Bartholemew and others have attempted to dispel.
  • Forget all you know about single-row gardening. That's just a holdover from full-scale farming.
  • Square-foot gardening produces the same yield in 20% to 25% of the space.
  • It reduces the need for weeding, watering, and peat moss by 75% to 80%. It can reduce your time and cost by the same amount.
  • One 4'x4' block of space (1.2 x 1.2 meters) is enough to feed one person a salad every day of the year. This is quite a claim, and it can have enormous ramifications for our efficiency needs in the aftertime. (I'm not sure if by 'year' Bartholomew means a 365-day year, or just the growing season.) If true, it could reduce our lighting and energy requirements considerably. It can also impact the size of the structures we need to build. If we can produce the same yield in but 20% of the space, look at all the work and materials that saves us. I realize we won't garden with the same old methods, but it's the principle that intrigues me -- that we can often do more with less.
  • Don't plant where puddles form. Obviously you've got poor drainage in that spot.
  • Soil is easy to improve. Don't worry so much about what kind you have.
  • Spread your peat moss 1" to 2" (2.5 to 5 cm) thick.
  • Apply one-half of a coffee can of fertilizer per 4'x4' block.
  • Never walk on your soil.
  • Divide each 4'x4' block into 16 squares, and plant a different crop in each square.
  • Sow seeds in each 1'x1' (0.3 x 0.3 meters) space according to the size of the plant. For instance, a 1'x1' space can support: 16 radishes, 16 carrots, 9 beets, 9 bush beans, 4 heads of lettuce, 4 parsleys, or 1 head of cabbage.
  • Vermiculite is the best medium for seed germination, before you transplant to potting soil.
  • Keep seeds away from sun, moisture, and from your pocket too.
  • After transplanting, use sun-warmed water from a pail. Avoid cold water from a hose.
  • Don't let plants grow over their 1' x 1' boundaries.
  • Grow leaf-lettuce, not the difficult head-lettuce.
  • If stored in a cool, dry place, seeds can last for 5 to 10 years.

From Bartholomew's book "Square Foot Gardening"
Many of his tips can be applied (hopefully!) to a post-shift situation, and key points of the book are presented here.

For now, that wraps up our look at some books and videos. Next, let's pull in some material presented in the Food Section of Troubled Times:

Size of growing area
Right away I see an inaccurate assumption made by one contributor to Troubled Times, the kind of misassumption that can get us into trouble before we even start. The assumption is that we need 144 square feet of growing space to feed one person per year. According to some calculations, this would require 2000 yearly watts of electricity using halide bulbs. But if the intensive-growing methods of square-foot/raised-bed gardening live up to their promises, you can feed one person with but 32 square feet of garden space per year. A commensurate reduction in wattage gives us a need for but 444 watts per year per person -- over a fourfold reduction. So you can see, don't read Troubled Times like a lemming -- think for yourself too. Besides reducing our energy needs, smaller growing spaces mean our shelters can be that much smaller too, saving us tremendous amounts of work.

In addition, let's stop fooling ourselves and start accepting the likelihood we'll be eating a lot of insects and worms after the shift. In many cases, they'll be our only source of protein. As for the joys of consuming worms & insects instead of Big Macs, I'll probably post that topic on the Outdoor Survival page due later this summer. Eating worms and insects will supplement any vegetable diet we can grow, thus further reducing our space requirements for gardens as well as the shelters they would require. Additionally, some survival books remind us we can live reasonably well by eating but a fraction of what we currently consume, and studies suggest leaner diets can help us live longer.

Growing for seed
As important as gardening will become, so will the need to save seeds from one season to the next. Sometime this year I hope to find a good book or two on just that topic so I can present the highlights on this page. Apparently the easiest types of plants to grow for seed are known as annuals, because they mature in a single year. These include such popular garden vegetables as peas, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, melons, squash, corn and spinach. Biennial vegetables -- such as carrots, onions, celery, cabbage, turnips, and beets -- are a little tougher. They take two years to produce seed and therefore (in many parts of North America) must somehow be "stored over" during the winter. Root cellars or other cool areas, including covered pits dug deep in the ground, will all do this job nicely for most crops. Most biennials will produce seed in the summer of their second year. We'll save all seeds, no matter how old they get. Correct labeling will become a high responsibility, and labelling will occur as soon as seeds are picked so as to not mix them up during the drying process.

Avoiding cross-pollination
One problem that can dilute the quality of seeds is when plants within the same family cross-pollinate. The end result is the growth of plants that are decidely inferior. The easiest way for the beginning seed grower to avoid such problems is to concentrate on self-pollinating vegetables such as lettuce, okra, snap beans, soybeans, lima beans, escarole, peas, and tomatoes.

Self-pollinators don't lose vigor from their natural inbreeding, so we can safely save only one plant's (or a single fruit's) seed from them if we wish. In addition, there are ways to minimize or prevent the crossing of varieties. One is to grow only one type of squash of each species, one kind of onion, eggplant and so on. Another technique is to cage plants we want to collect seed from. Cages must be screened with material that wonít allow pollinating insects to enter. Another more labor-intensive but reliable technique is to hand-pollinate plants from which we plan to save seed.

During the growing season we need to examine our seed crops regularly, culling any plants that seem sickly, deformed, or not true-to-type. This process, known as roguing, strengthens the strains. We need to rogue biennial root vegetables again a second time just prior to storage.

Which seeds to save
We'll save the seeds from those parent-plants exhibiting the qualities we desire. The earliest-growing pea pods, for instance, can be marked by tying a scrap of colored yarn on the vine, a sign that says these pods should not be picked. When the pods are completely ripe and dry, we can pull the vines and hang them in a dry spot. When the pods are brittle, that's the time to shell and store the peas.

To collect bean, pea and other legume seeds, leave the pods on the plant until they are "rattle dry." Keep an eye on the pods, as some varieties split and scatter the seeds when dry. Pick the dried pods and place them in a well-ventilated area at room temperature. When the pods are completely dry, remove the seeds.

Most people select plants that display desirable traits such as short harvest time, hardiness, productivity, and resistance to pests. In effect, weíll be developing our own strains, and chances are these plants will become better adapted to the strains of a post-shift environment. With most cross-pollinated crops, we need to save some seed from five or more individual plants, even if we need only a small amount of seed. If we repeatedly pick the offspring of just one plant, over time the inbred seed will most likely run down, losing vigor and become more susceptible to disease or other problems.

If we grow tomatoes, we'll mark the strongest plants and leave them on the vine until they are overripe, but pick them before they spoil. This will entail cutting the tomato and removing the seeds. Some pulp will inevitably come along for the ride. Then we need to soak the seeds and pulp in water for about two days or until they start to ferment, but not long enough to sprout. An accepted technique is to then separate the seeds from the pulp by rubbing, and to dry them quickly by spreading them out thinly.

As mentioned, carrots, radishes, and other biennials will not produce seed until the second year of growth. These can be left in the garden over winter under a heavy mulch, or they can be dug and stored in damp sand in a makeshift root cellar for spring replanting. If theyíd be in the way of future tilling or succession planting, we can set off a separate area for seed production. When the seed head is almost ripe, a effective method is to tie a paper bag over it to collect those seeds that would otherwise fall to the ground.

In addition, when choosing which seeds to save, we'll eliminate hybrid plants right off the bat. Hybrids are created from two different parents in a special selective process unlikely to be duplicated in natural random fertilization. Plants grown from the seeds they produce will not duplicate the good qualities of the original specimens. In fact, they may be greatly inferior. Except for some frankly experimental ventures, seed savers work with open-pollinated (also called 'standard') varieties. These can be bred true-to-form by naturally-occurring pollination. Seed for sustainable gardens needs to be from the old, reproducible strains, with the parent plant selected from the best.

When to save the seeds
For example, seeds of tomatoes, peppers, melons and winter squash are ready for saving when the fruits are ripe and ready to eat. Peppers are the easiest. The seeds are mature after the peppers have changed color to their final stage of ripeness. Cut the peppers open, scrape the seeds onto a plate, eat the pepper, and let the seeds dry in a non-humid, shaded place, testing them occasionally until they break rather than bend. Spread the seeds evenly over the surface and stir twice daily to ensure even drying. Donít allow them to clump together. We canít dry seeds on paper or some similar material -- they'll stick like glue. Also, we canít dry seeds near a fire or any place the temperature exceeds 95 degrees-F.

Seeds need to be picked when theyíre dry, not green. Green seeds may contain incompletely developed embryos or may lack sufficient endosperm (stored nourishment) to survive until planting time. Green seed is also more likely to spoil in storage. Even seeds that look and feel dry should be air-dried for up to a week before packaging. Large seeds like beans and corn benefit from several weeks of air-drying before storage. Some people believe you can place seeds under a lamp (regular incandescent or fluorescent light) to hasten the drying process.

Storage of seeds
Seeds can be stored in tightly-capped small bottles, coffee cans, or perhaps in the plastic canisters designed for 35 millimeter film. They should be stored in a cool, dark spot, with low humidity. Most seeds then need a "rest period" of one to several months before they will germinate.

The likelihood that seeds will germinate successfully decreases with time. Seeds of corn and onions can be stored for two years; peas and beans for three years; tomatoes, four years; cabbage and spinach, five years; and beets and squash, six years. This information is widely available in gardening books such as ďThe Vegetable Gardenerís Bible,Ē mentioned above.

Additionally, seed-storage tips can be found at the ZetaTalk Teams site. When replanting seeds, always save a bunch, just in case the crop goes bad. If so, you can replant.

Seed-borne diseases
Certain diseases such as bacterial spot are known as ďseed-borne.Ē If such trouble arises, and they will present themselves as blights in the garden, we can consider heat-treating the seeds to kill the bacteria. A 20-to-30-minute soak in boiling water is effective. Keep stirring the seeds, then drain and dry them well. However, this should be considered a method of last resort. Seeds are alive -- every one contains a living embryonic plant -- and exposure to moisture and heat will shorten their life span.

Sources for seeds
In stores, look for seed packets that say "heirloom," which is simply another term for non-hybrid seed. Also look at the seed packets closely, and if there are any numbers that say "F-14, or F-anything-else" (I will resist the temptation to comment further!) these are hybrid. Any mention of the word Ďvarietyí is also a clue that the seeds are probably hybrid, although some packagers may use the word to denote certain types of non-hybrids. Another reliable way to know if youíre getting a non-hybrid seed is to know the actual name of the plant. For example, the corn seed named Hickory King is a non-hybrid plant that produces non-hybrid seed.

Unfortunately, non-hybrid seeds seem to be rapidly disappearing from commercial catalogs, ensuring business every year for seed companies that make more money from selling proprietary hybrid and protected plant varieties. However, one source for quality, non-hybrid seeds is:

    J.L. Hudson
    Route 2, Box 337
    La Honda, CA 94020

Hudson sells only open-pollinated seeds, so when you save seed at the end of the season you'll be sure of growing the same variety next season. I looked for a Hudson web site, but didn't find one.

However, a good site that lists sources of heirloom seeds is The Heirloom Gardener's Assistant.

You can also purchase non-hybrid seeds from the Ark Institute.

Another source of non-hybrids is B&A Products of Bunch, Oklahoma, which also sells a variety of preparedness items.

By the fall of 2001, I need to turn my attention to indoor hydroponics. Hydroponics requires as little as 10% the space of traditional farming, with 10% as much water. If the hydroponic water is recirculated, water use is dramatically less. Vegetables can supposedly be grown faster as well. Advocates of hydroponics claim that an area the size of a large back yard can supply 100 people with fresh vegetables for one year. Also, the crops supposedly grow relatively pest-and-disease free.

Reportedly, four heads of lettuce can be raised in the same amount of space required to grow one head of field lettuce. Hydroponics requires a lighting system, with lamps that emit three different wavelengths of light (red, far red, and blue) in a proper ratio to stimulate photosynthesis. It is reported that lettuce and basil thrive in these systems. Watercress, apparently high in nutritional value, may also do well.

Hydroponic crops are grown in tanks or beds. If we intend these beds to survive the anticipated earthquakes, they should be constructed of wooden frames lined with heavy vinyl sheeting, as one contributor to the Troubled Times food section recommends. Pipes or other fittings should be plastic for increased flexibility and ease of repair after earthquake damage. A description of a hydroponics experiment is available at the ZetaTalk site.

As for the nutrient solution, it is suggested that rainwater carrying traces of the predicted worldwide volcanic ash will provide an excellent growing medium, though wormwater has also been proven to be effective. We won't have access to fancy chemicals in the aftertime, though apparently we'll have to pay stricter attention to pH balance than with a soil-based method.

A few more ideas generated by the Troubled Times food section:
  • It may be possible to extract calcium by boiling animal bones. In addition, the marrow may contain protein. Also, animal blood can be used in broths, and apparently it's highly nutritious, as are animal organs. Is it getting stuffy in here, or is reality beginning to set in?
  • Proper food storage may become a priority, if we get that far. One technique may be to dry certain vegetables over a fire before storage. Three key types of food preservation are smoking, air drying, and freezing. I'd like to find a book on the topic.
  • Fish parts can be used as fertilizer.
  • We should realize that with soil contamination and air degradation, we may not be able to effectively garden for a couple years. In that time, our diet may consist mainly of insects, worms, and frogs.
  • If we choose a soil-based growing method, we may wish to stock up on plenty of vermiculite, a great medium for nurturing freshly-planted seeds.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dandelions rank among the top four green vegetables in overall nutritional value. Other grasses, herbs, and weeds may provide nutritional value, if we can find them or cultivate them.
  • Because of the low nutritional value of mushrooms, we may be better off leaving them alone. Who wants mushroom poisoning for nothing? However, some varieties may contain protein and vitamin D.
  • If someone knows how to make booze, they are more than welcome to tag along, ha ha.
  • For crops that can be stored over winter either in a root cellar or in the ground, we should try both methods to see which works better in our region.
  • A thriving community may need members familiar with the proper care of farm animals, including chickens.
  • A natural food source for fish in ponds or tanks is algae grown from sewage effluent. If raised in a controlled environment, fish farms can complement a hydroponic system, and the term for this is 'aquaponics'.
  • Because of the medicinal and nutritional value, we may want to grow pine trees, especially since forests may be destroyed during the passage of the 12th.
  • Because of the high mineral and vitamin content, we won't throw out the water we cook with. When possible, we'll eat raw vegetables so the nutritional value is not lost in cooking.
  • The needles, inner bark, and sap of pine trees are especially nutritious. A vitamin-C-rich tea can be made from the needles. I've tried it, and it's not so bad. Rose hips also are high in vitamin C.
  • We may need to find people familiar with the use of the bow & arrow as well as other types of hunting. While we're at it, experienced fishers won't hurt, either.
  • Many garden books advocate the use of plastic tarps for mulching and protective covering, but these will likely fall apart from exposure to the elements.
  • Snakes and frogs are edible, and they may be plentiful.
  • Earthworms must be washed, and if necessary boiled, to purge their system before we eat them directly or crush them for cooking. Yummy. By sticking a fair-sized board or branch in the ground and then whacking it with a tire iron, causing it to vibrate, you can possibly encourage worms to head toward the soil surface.
  • As with earthworms, most insects are edible and contain protein. They should be plentiful post-shift, and cooking information is readily available on the Internet.
  • An asparagus bed can keep producing for at least 10 years. Some people say 20.
  • If there is any food item I would stock up on, it's vitamins, particularly the "mega" type. These may also have a long shelf-life.
  • A Troubled Times contributor suggests that buckwheat is a high-protein grain. (See the 'Protein' icon.)
  • Sprouts can be grown in low-light conditions. One book on the topic is "Sprouts: The Miracle Food" by Steve Meyerowitz. The drawback appears to be that you're not producing any new seeds as you consume the sprout. To benefit from sprouts, therefore, we'd need to stock up on large amounts of seed ahead of time.
  • Some people recommend locating a survival site away from current farmland, because of soil-depletion concerns. The soil in current wooded areas may be more rich, and we should be able to transport it to our gardening areas -- that's if we don't opt for hydroponics. Another likelihood is that many forest areas will be destroyed during and immediately after the shift, possibly leaving behind them a fertile growing area. In addition, we can add wood ash to soil to enhance its mineral content.
  • Water purification will involve boiling and filtering. A proven method is to vent steam into a separate container, a process that will remove most foreign substances from the unpurified water.
  • Effluent from human sewage can be run into a holding tank to grow algae. The algae is then fed to fish.
  • As human or animal waste can carry disease, food grown in soil fertilized in this way should be well cooked.
  • A highly-recommended book is "Permaculture: A Designers' Manual," by Bill Mollison, available at Barnes & Noble's web site.
  • We will create worm bins.
  • If we are lucky enough to locate near the new western coastline of the Atlantic (the odds are good, though the coastline will vary for a few years) we'll be able to harvest ocean life such as fish and seaweed.
  • Composting will become a daily fact of life. However, I am not sure whether human waste products are recommended for compost piles. One part urine mixed with three parts water apparently makes an effective liquid fertilizer for plants, and plants absorb liquid fertilizer up to 30 times as fast as powders.
  • We need someone who can determine the practicality of growing and consuming soybeans (and other beans as well), which apparently have a high protein content. One source of soybean information is the U.S. Soyfoods Directory.
  • Given all the variables and unknowns, now we can further appreciate the need to stay in touch with other survival groups after the shift.
Food Production strategy
For now, let's realize that in addition to gardening space, we need to allocate space for the growing of indoor plants before they reach the garden, whether it be soil-based or hydroponic. We also need storage areas for plants that must be either stored or wintered over for replanting in the spring. In addition, we need to consider "cold frames" and other types of methods -- including makeshift greenhouses -- for growing vegetables during winter months. Also, we need to get our heads together and determine which plants and seeds to carry with us, and we need to develop planting schedules well ahead of time. We can't wing it.

Now it's onto a gardening plan and actual planting . . .

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