Saturday, February 15, 2014

Survival Gardening Tip: Keep It Simple

Comment by Site Admin: This article is about how to care for gardens if there ever was prolonged state of emergency with a grid down situation.that

by David Goodman

Photo credit: Clearly Ambiguous.There’s an endless search on for the easiest way to garden. The fool-proof method. The no-work approach. The incredibly productive strategy.

Here’s a sample of ideas you may have encountered:

Self-watering Earthboxes, Tower Gardens, Plastic bottle hydroponics, Gutter gardening, Trash-can potatoes, PVC pipe gardening, Straw bale gardening, Gardening in bags of soil, Olla pot irrigation, 4-season greenhouse gardening, Strawberry barrel gardening, Dripline irrigated rows   …and lots and lots more

Now I’m not going to condemn all these methods. Many of them are quite clever and may be perfect for your area, particularly in your in a marginal food-growing area. My main problem with most of them is that in a grid-down situation, or in a post Peak Oil scenario, or even during a time of runaway inflation or a shipping strike or some sort, you may get stuck.

The ideal survival garden is dead simple, and a lot of these methods purport to be easy short-cuts to growing your own food. The concern is, however, that the methods are too complex or driven by outside inputs to work well in a crisis.

Before I go further, let me say this: if you’re growing your own food, however you’re doing it, you’re better off than the many people who aren’t growing anything at all. If it takes an irrigation system divided into carefully timed sectors and automatic sprinklers to keep you producing edibles, that’s a lot better than doing nothing.

That caveat aside, I have some worries.

Let’s pretend you’re on city water and electricity. Let’s further pretend that you’ve set up the coolest danged tilapia-raising/cabbage-growing/self-filtering aquaponics system this side of Star Trek. What do you do if the power goes off… or your access to easy water dries up?

This isn’t a hypothetical question. I have a friend who raises tilapia and salads in a greenhouse. It’s cool as heck and totally worth seeing. Yet on two separate occasions, he’s lost a bunch of his fish because of minor flaws that weren’t caught until it was too late. At one point his aeration valve locked up while his pump continued to empty water from the system. Overnight, a tank drained and by the time he saw it the next morning, he had a bunch of dead fish.

This is sad but not life-threatening right now. But if those fish were needed to feed the family because there were no other options left, he would have been in big trouble. Sometimes one little problem can really mess up a complicated system.