Gardening for survival

Kprime
By Kprime on Sat, Jul 6, 2013 - 2:11am

I started a garden last year with the goal of raising and preserving enough quality food, with enough variety, to survive with minimal retail food acquisition.  I am midway through my second year. I live in zone 8. I have sandy to sandy loam soil.

My first year, I started an irrigation system with the goal of using drip irrigation throughout the garden.  My area averages 40" to 50" of rainfall per year (October through October).  We are currently in a multi year severe drought.  I have access to drinkable well water and city water.

I was late starting my first year because I broke ground late. I then spent about a month running my irrigation system, breaking more ground from solid grass/weeds, adding composted manure (which I bought), fertilizing and liming my garden area of 5500 sq ft.

My first year was all experimental.  It was designed as a learning experience.  I planted corn, tomatoes (4 kinds), peppers (6 kinds) melons, watermelons (2 kinds), purple hulled peas, cucumbers, carrots and bell peppers (neither of which made it), crooked yellow squash, zucchini, and more corn (G90).

I made a major mistake the first year.  I wrote about this mistake on the Gempler’s website.  This is what I posted. (The kit mentioned in the first paragraph is the LaMotte Model EL - Garden Kit)Model EL Garden Kit

I retired to a small rural property and started a 6000 sq ft garden. I bought this kit my first year, but did not use it. Scanning through the instructions when it first arrived, I thought it looked too time consuming/complicated. I was in a hurry that year

So, 1st year I used quickie tests, rapid tests, and a cheap electronic ph meter. Long story short, those cheap tests totally mislead me with horribly wrong readings. I over limed my soil thinking ph was in the 5 range.

The second year when my plants were slow to germinate, I sat down with the LaMotte kit and spent the afternoon testing my garden, rose bed and cannas beds. I was astounded when my garden showed a shocking ph of 8+. That dreaded purple ph. My roses and cannas were between 6.5 and 7, but then, I did not lime them last year. I applied heavy sulfur to the garden and reseeded most sections. I have sandy loam soil. I applied a 16-8-12 fertilizer according to the test results and included instructions/suggestions. At first test my soil was trace nitrogen, high phosphorus, very low potassium. One month later the ph was a beautiful grey/green, 7.0 ph. Nitrogen was high, phosphorus moderate high and potassium moderate high. I am looking forward to lower ph next year.

I ran many of the tests twice, per section, under varying collection conditions. The results were perfectly repeatable. I was amazed. With the cheapy tests, every time I ran a test, I got different results. My confidence in these LaMotte tests is very high. Just take your time and follow the directions. The testing is not complicated, just tedious. I spent 3-4 hours doing my 1st series of tests. But, that included all the time I spent washing test tubes to prevent cross contamination of the results. All in all, getting accurate, repeatable results is so worth the investment of time, money, and effort. It's nice to know all the time spent tilling; planting, hoeing, watering, hilling, etc is not wasted by shooting myself in the foot with the wrong soil amendments.

 

10 Comments

Kprime's picture
Kprime
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Joined: Oct 28 2009
Posts: 5
Preserving

The first year we blanched and froze enough corn on the cob for my wife and I to eat corn weekly for two years.  We made a two year supply of bread and butter chips, frozen yellow peppers, tabasco peppers, whole tomatoes, tomato sauce.  We have more extensive plans for this year which I will write about in my following posts.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
sleep, creep, & leap

Sounds good. Congratulations on a good first year. Our garden is much smaller and we are increasingly depending on permacuture techniques to increase yeilds. OUr first, second and thrid years followed the traditional sleep, creep and leap pattern. Not much the first year, more the second, and an explosion on the third once we got better at it and the soil amendments really kicked in.

Thanks for talking about soil testing. That's huge; I wish more people did that. We used our local cooperative extension service.

maceves's picture
maceves
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Joined: Aug 23 2010
Posts: 281
water, water...

I thought I was getting pretty good with tomatoes in the last two droiught years.

Now with the incessant rain I am starting to get some problems----fungus, split fruit, and strange bugs.  Just when you think you understand how something works...

I was gone for a week and asked a friend to water while I was gone if it didn't rain.  Apparently that is some kind of joke.

Kprime's picture
Kprime
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Posts: 5
Thots triggered by Water Water

We’ve had severe drought the past 3-4 years.  We are still short of rain this year but not as bad as the past 3 years.  The weirdness we have this year is the cool temperatures.  I don't think we have been above 100 more than 3-4 days this year and its mid July.  I remember years with 100 degree weather in March.  Despite good intentions to start early this year, I started late again.  Too many things on the to-do list.  Turns out that was a good thing because many first plantings were lost this year. Folks from around the area stop by to discuss gardening.  While I am just out of town, my rural road has it’s share of passers by.  My wife often hears from them on facebook. 

I had a visitor stop by several weeks ago to discuss how I run my garden. He noted that he and many he knows have had to replant.  I did replant my corn this year.  My May 1st corn planting did not germinate. My June 1st corn planting looks awesome.  It’s over 6’ tall and just tasseling out. Everything else was planted late and is in awesome shape, except my potatoes.  We have canned several rounds of Dill Pickles.  We have put up some frozen Purple Hulled Peas.  Our tomatoes are in the large green stage and our bell peppers are gorgeous. We are fixing to make some chow chow and freeze some batches of Bell Peppers.  Our yellow and zucchini squash are running amuck and we are making some squash relish tomorrow.  I just started a late Dill planting this week and plant to start a fall cabbage row.

Back to the water story; I started tilling early last year, but then I side tracked to put in an irrigation system.  I ran a 1” looped main around the entire garden and installed 16 taps around the garden. The irrigation system is separated from our main waterline by a double check valve. (I was a licensed irrigation installer in my early years.)  Due to time constraints last year I ran large sprinkler heads and soaker hoses along with the occasional row flooding in the corn rows. I got some 18” drip line and laid it in amongst the tomato rows and some of the corn rows.

This year I fleshed out my system with 1/2” drip irrigation lines; many using 18” spacing and some with a 12” spacing for the drip heads. They run about 1 gal per hour.  I installed the drip lines before planting. That created a nice serendipity: the drip spacing helped with my plant spacing.  For example with an 18” spacing, I simply planted my Okra seeds right at the dripper.  In the corn rows I placed the seed every drip head and spaced 2 in-between for a 6” spacing. In the peas and beans it was 1 per drip head and 1 in-between for 9” spacing.  It makes a very effective “plant to stand” system.  “Plant to stand” means plant the plants you aim to have and dispense with thinning later. It saves a step.

I used ¼” dripper with 6” spacing, running ½ gallon per hour per dripper.  I ran a non-dripping ½” poly feed line and teed out with 8 drip heads on the ¼” and formed a circle around my squash, cantaloupe, and watermelon plants. I use the same system with my rose bushes. Drip irrigation with grass clipping mulch creates a stunning weed free garden.  Further it cuts your water usage down to about 20% of what you would otherwise use.  Putting it in before planting also allows you to bury the line with the seed which reduces evaporation.

 

Kprime's picture
Kprime
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Posts: 5
Thank you

Thank you.  I am reading through many of your posts as I have time.  lol, summer time is busy.

Kprime's picture
Kprime
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Joined: Oct 28 2009
Posts: 5
rain

I have not had to battle a problem with too much rain.  This extra cool summer has slowed down the growth of most plants in my garden.  Still, they are growing.  I have had fewer problems with insects this year but I don't know why.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
welxome, kprime!

Where are you gardening? Peakprosperity gardeing has members in Vietnam, Canada, the Pacific NW, rura NY, Virginai, Louisaiana, Texas, California, North & South Carolina and more.  I'm in the Carolina Midlands, and we got a lot of reain and had a late frost, too, I covered the early plantings with inuslating pine straw mulch and we did not lose any early plantings.

Salish Region's picture
Salish Region
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Posts: 2
We are gardening In the NW

We are gardening In the NW

We have a 5 year old 3 acre garden/orchard on Whidbey Island in the Puget sound. This year we have a new green house under construction and a new composting/mulching station. Also many new raised beds that I haven’t got a chance to plant. We planted late this year and are a bit worried about growth. And we have had some grain experiments fail. Also our water source had to much iron and was stunting bean growth, so we just hooked up new water… Maybe in another 5 years I will feel like I know what I’m doing….

Nathan

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
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Posts: 1988
welcome

Yes, Nathan, the learning curve is immense, but at least you hav a start on it. Keep us informed, and thanks for posting.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 2247
Useful link

KPrime, thanks for your post.  I have so much to learn about amending soil.  The LaMotte kit you described for testing the soil sounds like a great idea.

I also wanted to share a website I happened on today that seems to have a lot of helpful information on planting, preserving and preparing food at: http://www.harvesttotable.com/  . I found it when looking for info on soil amendments for my tomato plants, which seem rather lackluster this year.  I'm not sure if the soil is the problem, or too much rain.  We had so much rain this spring/early summer that there was major flooding, lawns had standing water and gardens were soggy.  Our beans don't seem to be doing as well this year either, and we (my gardening neighbor and I) suspect that maybe all the rain may have taken a toll on them, too.

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