When the harvest fails

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 - 10:50am

As I have shared earlier, we took a year off of active gardening due to serious repair work to our house. Frankly, it got me thinking about all the reasons one might not have a crop and the most useful responses to them. Here are the main causes a crop might fail I can think of.

  • Bad seeds. You solve this by using fresh seed every year. Ultimately, the best option is to learn seed saving. Note that saved seeds are 80% viable in year two. This is important if you lose a crop and want to replant it next year.
  • Drought/heat wave. Rain water can  be harvested. Wells can be dug/drilled. Permaculture ridges and berms can channel rainwater to your plants and mulch can retain moisture. You can solve heat (up to a point) by experimenting with shade cloth, and experimenting with various heat-tolerant plants.
  • Late freeze/Early Freeze. You can use a high or low tunnel of clear plastic to make a greenhouse, and if it's a small bed you can even cover it with an old quilt for the night. Keep your eye on the weather forecast, and consider getting your own forecasting equipment.
  • Flooding. We had a lot of that last October here in SC. Recently, my husband over-zealously watered our potatoes and they rotted, so Gardening Learning Curve is another problem. Drainage, here, is everything.
  • Hail Damage. Kind of hard to predict. If it happens to a mature crop, you can glean, but it might just wipe you out.
  • Tornado. Kind of hard to predict. If it happens to a mature crop,  it might just wipe you out.
  • Insects/Diseases. Your number one defenses are to grow things that do well in your climate and make the soil as healthy as possible. Trying to grow something exotic will be much more likely to cause problems.
  • War/Civil Unrest. If the SHTF, your annuals garden will be despoiled by hungry people. Count on it. However, they are not going to do anything to your perennials except strip the fruit in season, and they will not eat your seeds (remember, your seed is viable for years.)
  • Nuclear fallout. I've heard it suggested that you can cover your soil with plastic which will catch the worst of the fallout. So have some plastic available and cover it if, God forbid, such a thing should happen.

Our perennials are producing. We canned enough last year for this year and have a lot of dehydrated things. We will can this year, but it will be from the local State Farmer's Market - a huge agricultural produce market, not a little boutique "farmer's market" full of overpriced silliness. And we have seed for next year; the above list makes you realize, I hope, that having seed and food for at least two years  is pure common sense.

35 Comments

robshepler's picture
robshepler
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Farmers Markets

Just to clarify....We run a couple of little "boutique" farmers markets, we are priced competitively with organic food in the grocery stores and we sell out at every session. We are in a low income area that can not afford boutique pricing.

We are working with the state to accept Snap benefits, they also have a program called "Double up food bucks" that allows people to double their benefits with fresh organic food.

Our state just gained the title of the highest incidence of food insecurity and child poverty, we are working our bums off with a local food coalition to tackle that.

No offense taken, each market should be looked at on an individual level and not painted with broad brush strokes!

Love what you do Wendy, thanks for doing it!

Rob

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sand_puppy
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Farming a plot in a community garden

Thanks for the pointers about the many perils of gardening, Wendy.

My neighbor suggested we rent a plot in a community garden several miles from out house.  But the likelihood it would be raided by others during true emergencies made this an unreliable post-SHTF strategy.

Planting fruit and nut trees and berry bushes in the yards of all MY NEIGHBORS increases MY food security.  They are less likely to raid my yard, have a foot in the door of gardening, and have at least heard the concept of supply chain disruption, just in time inventory systems and food security.  And we may find we have surplus to share and trade.

 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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various types of farmer's markets

Good point, Rob's helper. Not all Farmer's Markets are alike in all parts of the USA, or the world.

My experience in "downstate" NY was that they sold overpriced local produce near my town hall to folks with vouchers on public assistance and it died due to all the paperwork the vendors had to do and the wait to get paid.

Here is SC there are mostly local farmer's markets that are really "craft fairs" with an occasional baker or person who sells a few vegetables trucked in from FL or CA. Then there are the State Farmer's Markets, which have trucked in produce that we do not grow here and a HUGE selection of things we do grow in-state. The cost is half of what you'd pay at the flea market fruit and veggie market and a quarter of what you'd pay at the supermarket, but only if you buy by the bushel or that case. It's a great resource for home-canning.

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Michael_Rudmin
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Don't forget the pickup truck stand

One thing I've seen is the pickup truck stand that sells Sam's Club / Walmart watermelons for fifty cents over the Walmart price.

Or the roadside stand that sells to tourist suckers at thrice supermarket.

Or the man who grows his own in his garden, and you can see it growing.

Or the man who grows his own, but it is on a site that had been submitted for superfund cleanup. Cleaned (they mix it with a small amount of concrete powder and stabilize it) or not, it's still highly toxic.

Indeed, not all farmers markets are equal.

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Tractor based farming v "Market Garden"

This is getting interesting!

I understand the consumer view of wanting value for ones buck. In the US we have the least expensive food in the world and we spend the lowest percentage of our income for it.

We chose the market garden model as it uses no fossil fuel to grow our food. It is a step towards sustainability and powered down future, we grow about an acres worth of mixed veggies. It is all HAND LABOR. We do get what is to me an amazing amount of food. That said we still need the highest prices we can get to cover the cost of what we do, it is the hardest work I have done for the least amount of money.

I follow a number of organic growers on facebook, most of them are using tractors and tillage. Tillage to be sure is not as good for the soil, but they get more work done......because of gas and diesel fuel.

This group more than any, understands what a powered down future could look like. Are we willing to support a sustainable farm model? Should we be asking the method of how our food is grown?

Our community has jumped in in a big way, we have the type of following that really warms ones heart. We sell all we can grow at the prices we ask, largely because it is fresher and higher in quality than anything that can be found or trucked into this isolated market.

Our business model is like Singing Frogs Farms without the good weather.

Tractor or garden model, are you willing to vote with your wallet?

robshepler's picture
robshepler
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Let's talk about the real cost of our food.....

In the US, about 5% of our food is organic, we only grow about 1% of that domestically. How important is locally produced food? One would think that we should be spending our money locally rather than sending it on a one way trip out of country.

The best case scenario when the time comes is to each grow 100% our own food. On our journey to growing for market we had a BUNCH of failures and unrealistic ideals of how much we could grow in a small space. The time to learn how to do this is before we need to, most of us won't. I think this makes small local farms look very important, the time to cozy up to a good grower is before you need to.

I am hoping to poke a bit at our collective thoughts on what food costs.....What is the collective cost of our industrial food system? Do we count the rising incidence and cost of cancer? How about the outflow of nitrate run offs into the Gulf of Mexico?

If transportation shut down tomorrow we have three days worth of food on the grocery store shelves. As Wendy points out two years worth of food is a very good idea, but what then? Can we acquire the needed skills to produce enough food in that time?

We are learning, in our second year our sales were 7 times that of our first year, this year we are on track to double last years sales. Picking up these skills has not been without failure!

I have seen a couple of comments about the expense of local food and I would like to challenge that and promote some discussion. Isn't it better to sponsor local (healthy) food right now before we need it?

Thoughts?

Rob Shepler

 

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Local Market Gardens

For almost all locations in the U.S., the vast majority of food is shipped in from California or Central/South America.  This situation creates an unacceptable dependency upon other locations and the ability to transport food long distances.  Should there be a long-term interruption in the ability to transport food, produce petroleum-based fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides, or utilize needed mechanization on factory farms, the local results would be catastrophic.

The solution, of course, is to reduce that dependency by growing more food locally, and by using a Market Garden approach that would similarly minimize the need for mechanization and fossil fuels.  We do not need to grow all of our food locally, just enough to support the local population during a long emergency.

We also need to adjust our traditional thinking of always selecting the cheaper option.  Producing food locally and without mechanization may likely cost more than that from a large factory farm, but the additional cost is more than compensated by providing needed food security.

This dependency and the potential catastrophic effects on our population need to be recognized as a threat to our national security, and should become a priority supported by federal, state and municipal funding, and removal of onerous regulations.  As Rob Shepler highlighted, there is a significant learning curve to growing food without mechanization - and you want to begin learning well before a crisis occurs.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Local food, cost

Keeping the cost of local food down can be done in several ways.

One already mentioned is to patronize local growers if you can afford them. Economies of scale will only be a factor if enough people buy into the concept. CSAs are at the forefront of this.

Until that trend tips over into the mainstream, you can do several things. Tell your local supermarket that you want local food. Spend the extra, like I do, for milk from a local dairy and/or on at least SOME organic produce. He's a list of things that have the worst problem with contamination, you might want to start buying those as organics and note that meats and dairy top the list!

Patronize stores that buy local. Example: a supermarket chain called Bi-Lo near me gets as much produce as they can from local buyers, which they define as our state and three other neighboring states.

Patronize stores that handle organic produce. I'm a big fan of the Aldi supermarket chain that has a very nice selection of fairly inexpensive organic foods. It's an international chain; the brother of the guy who started Trader Joes (in Germany) runs it. They are very, very green and have been around a long time - I first visited an Aldi in Reins, France, in 1978.

And for the ultimate in affordability grow it yourself, which starts of small but at this point is a larger and lager part of our nutrition. PLEASE grow as much as you can, and continue to improve so that when things get tough, you can share the how-to with others.

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Food miles v food feet.

Thank you BBrady, you get the magnitude of our food problem!

I worked in the packaging industry as a commissioned sales guy for 25 years, many of my customers were food companies. It is truly a JIT industry, if we missed our dock time my customers were in danger of shutting down their lines. Off the truck, through the line, and on to another truck for nation wide distribution. Very little on hand inventory.

Small growers can not afford to lose 30-40% of their profit margin by selling wholesale, we need to sell direct to the consumer and cut out the middle man. Profitability is still a close thing even though our farm is paid for. We are in zone 6, we earn most of our income in two months. We have put up many thousands of dollars for high tunnel greenhouses to extend our season, our growing conditions are not ideal.

The average age of the American farmer is 59, that should scare you a bit.

Many of our young growers are facing the roadblocks to entry. We old farts have taken our money out of the equity markets and have invested in tangible assets like Adam's favorite REIT, organic land......

Think about that for a minute. We are driving up the cost of our own food, and making it harder for our kids to become farmers because of the way we invest. Kids coming out of college with student debt have a hard time qualifying for loans, even if they can qualify they have to go big with tractor based farming to come anywhere near a profit. Some are making it by putting in ungodly hours, some are giving up.

Food is a big sleeping giant of a problem if we have a hiccup.

CSA's are a good start, they get the farmer some income early in the season when the costs are highest. Food hubs are working in some areas. Traditional methods of distribution and retail will not work long term in sustainable agriculture, there is not enough profit for the farmer.

California is in a long term drought, the Ogallala aquifer is under stress, I have farmers near me that can no longer irrigate with well water, our soils nationwide are in terrible shape, beekeepers are struggling with losses, people are getting sick from our industrial food system, we have issues.

Long term we have to go local with our food. Snuggle up to a local grower, go help them pull some weeds, pay them a reasonable price so they can make their mortgage payment.

 

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Waterdog14
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Learning to farm and thinking of Venezuela

I've had highly productive backyard gardens every where I've lived, for 25 years.  But "farming" or "market gardening" on a larger scale is a whole new experience.  Rob is correct - there is much to be learned. 

For example:  My summer squash froze on June  about 14th and 15th (darn, average last frost is June 9th, and what about climate change!  Guess I'd better leave the row covers and walls-o-water on longer next year.)  Ants, how can ants kill an entire broccoli plant?  Is this baking soda really  working on the ants, and what do other organic farmers do?  Aerated compost tea, do I have time to build a brewer when I'm too busy planting, weeding, watering...  But ACT is the microbial elixir for plants, can I afford not to build the brewer now?  Hey, the neighbor flood irrigated and now my currents are in standing water.  Will they survive?  Oh, now the water table is dropping, they look pretty healthy.  Here come the deer...

Farming is fun and a lot of hard work.  I constantly use my science and engineering background, but in a more wholistic way than ever before.  Our goal is to feed a lot of people AND to encourage others to have a "kitchen garden" at the very least.  Grow your lettuce, chard, and kale.  Come to us at the Farmers Market for fresh produce that requires more growing space, care, or expertise.  But everyone should try, fail, practice, and keep on growing.

People in Venezuela are currently facing food shortages.  The government is encouraging everyone to grow food.  But it can take an entire season to grow certain crops, and several years to learn to grow food successfully.  I think of Venezuela sometimes when I'm out on our little farm.  I think of my community, and our own vulnerabilities.  And I've told everyone who will listen that our farm is about more than healthy, local, organic food.  It's about post-peak oil and developing food security.   

Our farm is not profitable yet.  In Year 2, we are still planting perennial fruits and building our infrastructure.  And acquiring knowledge.  It is possible that the farm will never repay our financial investment, but if (when?) our money system breaks down, the farm will feed us.  May we never have to experience what Venezuela is going through...  

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Bytesmiths
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Markets differ!

Our local market has a "grow it, bake it, or make it" policy that requires all things sold be 51% grown locally (or in the case of crafts, made locally), with certain exclusions (such as sugar, cocoa, etc. that are not able to be produced here).

But even then, there is a huge problem. Our market is in an "L" shape around a local park. It is administered by the local Parks and Recreation Commission (PaRC), who enforces the rules. It is bounded by a small strip mall, whose business owners also "own" the parking spaces directly in front of their stores, which they rent out to anyone who will pay, regardless of what they sell!

There is no signage or other differentiation between the PaRC vendors and the "rental" vendors, So, across the aisle from someone who is required to "grow it, bake it, or make it" might be someone selling silver from India or even produce from California.

The locals know the difference, but to the tourists, it's just one big market, and they either think WE don't grow the food we sell, or worse, think those in the "rental" aisle actually grow what they import — which they often sell for less than the locally-produced stuff.

This has been going on for years, with many complaints and battles, but little hope of resolution. Sigh.

robshepler's picture
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BBrady's picture
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Food Security

The Big Picture issue here is Food Security.  When the majority of food consumed anywhere within this country comes either from just one location (California) or from Central/South America, then you have a vulnerability (and I'm not even addressing the long-term drought being experienced in California).  When the average distance that food is shipped from the farm to your grocery store is 1,600 miles, then you have a vulnerability.  When much of that food production is dependent upon petroleum for the production of fertilizers and pesticides, then you have a vulnerability.  Interrupt the flow of petroleum for the distribution or production of food, and then you have a BIG problem.

The best way to develop food security is to reduce dependence upon locally imported food sources and imported supplements.  That dependence can easily be reduced by supporting the development of local organic farms, and by encouraging individual families to augment their nutrition through home and community gardens.

Local organic farms that minimize the use of mechanized labor will never be able to financially compete against the large industrial farms, and so the only viable solution is to subsidize local farms through supportive regulations and government incentives.

Although I am not a proponent of a federal or state government interfering in the marketplace, subsidizing local farms does come under its primary jurisdiction of protecting its citizens.  Because it seems to be human nature to consistently choose the easiest option, people will continue to buy their food from the cheapest source - even though it may perpetuate their own vulnerability.  Governments are the only legal entities that are able to extract revenue from its people to perform needed services and responsibilities.  Since the vulnerability of our food system is an issue of national security, then the people's taxes should also be used to support local farms.

For the cost of just one F-22 fighter aircraft (estimated by Wikipedia at $339 million each), think how many local farms across America could be created and supported.  How about a couple dozen M2 Bradley fighting vehicles (at an average cost of $3.2 million)?  I come from a military family and very much appreciate the importance of a strong military for national defense, but it seems our leaders have focused on the traditional need for expensive weapons system to support the military, and have left the people exposed to a simple, inexpensive vulnerability through the interruption of our food system.

If you awoke tomorrow morning to the news that terrorists have blown up a major feeder pipeline in Saudi Arabia or that the Strait of Hormuz had been blocked, what do you think would happen to the world supply of available oil? And then what would be the consequential effect on the production and distribution of our food system?

Certain crops (such as corn) are already subsidized by the government.  What is the harm in subsidizing local market farms?  More important, what would be the benefit?  Let's get this needed conversation started before it's too late.  Your comments and input would be appreciated.

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"Sovereignty," not "Security"

I think "food security" is over-rated. It generally mean government-provided access to food.

I prefer the term "food sovereignty," which means "control over the food supply."

They sound similar, but are often at odds. With food security, the government can decide which food you receive. Indeed, they can cite "food security concerns" as justification for not allowing you to produce certain foods! I'm thinking "raw milk," bad, while you can buy raw oysters from the back of a pickup truck. And now they want to keep all animals out of crop fields, in the name of "food security!"

Contrast this with food sovereignty. If you have that, you have the right to produce your own food, of your own choosing.

I don't want a subsidy. I just want them to keep out of the way while we feed ourselves and our neighbours.

robshepler's picture
robshepler
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Food safety modernization act

FSMA is on it's way!

There are more regulations coming at us that will increase the cost of what we do!

I also have a beef with local meat. I raise some lowline angus cattle. If I want to sell a small amount of beef to a local customer I must use a federally inspected meat cutting facility, there are none located in my state!

I can sell a live steer to a couple of people who can have the meat processed locally but not everyone in our community can lay out that much cash at one time. It is a type of economic discrimination if you look at it that way.

This is cattle country and 99% of it gets shipped out of state to the concentrated feeding operations to eat government subsidized corn. Into the industrial food system they go! Our community then makes a two hour round trip to the nearest grocery to buy it back. That healthy grass fed beef that we sold, now is full of omega 6 fats from the GMO corn that they have been fed.

The example above shows how entwined we are in regulations and food miles. Common sense says eat what you produce, but the law makes it very difficult to do so.

I have had issues with our local state health inspector, she was overstepping  and not allowing local restaurants to buy from local growers. Regulators will regulate, and she took herself so seriously as to not allow pot luck dinners at the local church. She compromised by having everyone sign release forms. Just flat silly.

Rather than subsidize small growers, perhaps we can quit subsidizing the big ones. Ethanol has been a big looser from the start.

This is a BIG issue with lots of powerful companies involved that employ lots of lobbyists. If we are going to get to any meaningful amount of local food we need to make some noise and remove some roadblocks.

BBrady, so well put. Let's keep the discussion going! 

 

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Waterdog14
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Food Sovereignty vs. Food Security
Bytesmiths wrote:

I think "food security" is over-rated. It generally mean government-provided access to food.

I prefer the term "food sovereignty," which means "control over the food supply."

Hmmm, in my community, the term food security doesn't necessarily mean government involvement.  Many individuals and nonprofit groups are working on food security, including churches, food pantries, a local non-profit community gardening group, and backyard gardeners.  "Food security" is generally (but not entirely) directed toward helping low income families get food and learn to feed themselves.

Not having considered the phrase "food sovereignty" before, I had to look it up:

Quote:

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agricultural systems

True!  That's a large part of the "food security" concept.  But food security has a more acute or urgent component.  Food security allows us to eat if the Kroger (or Safeway or WinnDixie) trucks stop running.  At that point, it may not matter if the food we are eating is culturally appropriate.  Starving people will eat bugs, grass, weeds, pets...  In an ideal world, we would work toward food sovereignty to develop skills and infrastructure for a resilient (and secure) local food supply.  But food sovereignty seems more idealistic, whereas food security seems more desperate and urgent.   Thoughts, anyone???

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Grass Fed Beef

Rob,

I have a friend who raises grass fed beef on the side. I have purchased half a beef from her on 2 occasions. She uses a local butcher with a mobile "kill" truck for the processing. The beef is more expensive than feedlot beef, but worth it in my book - all grass fed, no corn fattening. Now, corn fattened beef tastes sickeningly sweet to me.

I asked her how she does her marketing. She has a computerized list of customers and advertises on craigslist (for free.) She projects a few months in advance how much beef she'll have available for slaughter and then sends out a mass e-mail (with everyone in the "blind copy" box so other e-mail addresses won't show up to the receiver.) The butcher will work with the customers to produce custom cutting/packaging down to 1/8 of a carcass. The butcher charges slightly more for his efforts on smaller quantities. It is first come, first served with a 10% nonrefundable deposit required. She and the butcher get completely paid before any meat goes home with the buyer. She keeps a waiting list for those who are willing to take meat that someone forfeits - at a 10% discount (the nonrefundable deposit from someone else.)

It still can be a large outlay for someone on the financial margin, but it works well for people who have a small freezer and enough financial acumen to take advantage of it. I don't have a clue what regulatory hurdles she or the butcher have to cross.

She isn't getting rich off this, but she likes seeing a few cows in the pastures who keep it trimmed. She has mostly loyal repeat customers who often refer others to her.

Grover

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When The Harvest Fails, Disruptions Natural and Real

I'm just ingesting my first cup of coffee, so if this sounds early morningish, I apologize. Its 6:13 AM.

The reality is this should be one of the most important questions any home owner or renter asks themselves, but sadly it remains untouched by a lot of people.  I am going to touch on a couple of different aspects of this.  One of the things that opened my eyes to needing to start to grow my own food, and a lot of it, was watching the Crash Course.  Peak Oil was (and remains) a concept that more than anything else could impact how we all survive.  If the cost of shipping bananas or oranges is just too much, then we won't be getting them up here in Vermont for a while.  When we moved from Burlington, we specifically started to look for properties that had some land.  Literally I started to think of my retirement as what I could do as far as the land goes and what I could do with it.

Gardening the way I wanted to, using virtually no fossil fuels, and growing foods that will last longer than one harvest became a major focus of my green education/learning curve.  I should point out that while in college I can remember visiting a living history exhibit and found the gardens that were mentioned fascinating.   I can remember monopolizing the tour guide's time, asking questions about the HUGE garden that was on display, being worked by the people at the exhibit.  They were using 18th century tools and trying to produce enough food for a family of 5 for a year.  I can't remember the exact proportions, but all I remember was that the garden was enormous, and they also had built a very big cold cellar.

For me, the issues with gardening and prepping are complex enough, I have made major forward thinking decisions that have caused me a lot more work, but I know in my heart they are the future, and people may not be able to make 21st century type choices like this for much longer anyway.  I HAND tilled the entire garden, going after weeds with my fingers, being on my hands and knees, in the morning before school and on weekends.  On one level I kept asking myself what the hell I was doing, on another level it just felt right.  This April and May, there were some mornings when I was out in the garden at 5:15ish, and I was up early enough, pulling soil....the bats had not gone in yet.

But I did it.  However, I have also learned that it is very hard to get a garden going, successfully, without some use of fossil fuels.  For example, we have groundhogs, rabbits,  and deer in the area.  I did put up a little fence of chicken wire and plastic mesh, but this is an example where the use of fossil fuels was necessary.  I want to do things in a green and down to earth way, but I am not stupid.  I guess getting a dog and keeping him outside near the garden would be a good 18th century way of keeping pests away from the valuable harvest?

Sorry this is so long, but I am finding that if you use space correctly, you can grow a hell of a lot more than you think.  I am growing squash across my lawn (won't have to mow as much!) and I am growing a ton of beans....both pole and bush.  I have found that if stored correctly, some squash/pumpkins will keep well....deep into the winter months....last year we had some that were fine into March/early April.  In a true problem situation, squash might be boring, but I'd eat it every meal to stay alive, feed the family.   Same thing with the dry beans.....my garden is not as big as I would like it, but I planted a lot beans....they should store well.

Okay, time for my second cup of coffee.....thanks for the topic and responses.

 

Jason

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Bytesmiths
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Good work, Jason! Jbarney

Good work, Jason!

Jbarney wrote:

if you use space correctly, you can grow a hell of a lot more than you think.

Where are you getting your inputs? Squash and pumpkins are notoriously heavy feeders!

This is often the Achilles Heel of high-output gardening: high-inputs.

We used about eight cubic metres (yards) of our own goat manure for our small commercial greenhouse  operation (with some small field crops), which required about six acres for pasture and hay. The hay was harvested with a diesel tractor, unfortunately.

Getting fossil-sunlight-free inputs is going to be tough. Purchased organic inputs (bone meal, blood meal, greensand) require global transportation systems and industrial meat or fish production. Own-source inputs require extensive cover-cropping and/or hay making, both of which are possible without diesel tractors, but which are extremely labour-consuming in such a case.

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When the harvest fails

I have been at my site long enough to see multiple crop failures. My personal strategy is to plant a variety of annual crops.  If one crop fails, I have others to back fill. I do save enough seeds to last multiple years of starts.

For perennials, I increasingly see erratic weather in winter and spring. I plant multiple varieties of each perennial crop. For example, both early fruiting and late fruiting peach varieties. If a late cold period kills my early peach blossoms, the late bloomer may still bear.

I bracket my growing zone. I am in zone 7, so I make sure all my perennials can tolerate both zone 6 and zone 8 conditions to provide a hedge against unusual weather conditions.

Re: 'Squash and pumpkins are notoriously heavy feeders!'

I let them grow in my compost pile. Once they have finished fruiting, the vines do not have far to go!

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Good list, Wendy

...of the foods that have the worst problems with contamination. 

I don't know why, but seeing "coffee" on there with all the other foods I regularly ingest,just felt like a low-blow.  No, not coffee too!  Would you believe that when I first took the red pill, and realized we may need to depend on ourselves for food/sustenance if/when TSHTF, one of the first types of plants I bought were coffee plants!  I now have ~6 coffee plants in planters indoors (which really need to be transplanted in bigger pots) that have just produced another -wait for it- two (2) coffee beans.  That makes a grand total of 4 coffee beans over their lifetime.  Hmmm, not looking good for the coffee addiction! 

...But it does prove there's a chance....

P.S Great thread!

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
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try tea
Quote:

one of the first types of plants I bought were coffee plants!

I have a Camilia sinensis v. sitka, a cold-adapted tea plant. They are good for zones 9-11; we are in zone 8+. It's been sheltered next to the south wall of the house, and hasn't done much in several years. I think this is the year I try to propagate it via cuttings.

I tried seed, and they are miserable. They take a long time to germ and have a short lifetime. You have to poke them with lots of tiny holes, and watering is very picky. I got 0% germ on a couple dozen seeds I bought. How do these damn things propagate in the wild?

So I'll try cuttings next time. I can't see having an indoor source of caffeine!

cestorke's picture
cestorke
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coffee substitute

THe invasive herb, cleavers or bedstraw, has many medicinal uses. It is said that the seeds can be dried and lightly roasted and taste somewhat like coffee. Won't help with caffeine addiction. The Vietnamese stuffed mattresses with it (bedstraw) and used the leaves for tea.  It is a very destructive plant if left alone because it climbs everything and suffocates bushes.Hundreds of seeds per strand. Plant Can be used in soups, but is bitter eaten raw.

cestorke's picture
cestorke
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coffee substitute

THe invasive herb, cleavers or bedstraw, has many medicinal uses. It is said that the seeds can be dried and lightly roasted and taste somewhat like coffee. Won't help with caffeine addiction. The Vietnamese stuffed mattresses with it (bedstraw) and used the leaves for tea.  It is a very destructive plant if left alone because it climbs everything and suffocates bushes.Hundreds of seeds per strand. Plant Can be used in soups, but is bitter eaten raw.

Tall's picture
Tall
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Camellia sinensis- caffeine from tea

I grow C.sinensis in USDA zone 7 in sun and shade, in protected and unprotected sites. Bytesmiths are you in the UK? UK zone 8 is similar to USDA zone 7 I believe.

It does quite well here once established. It may benefit from winter protection on the coldest nights in open sites in zone 7 while getting established.. I have not tried to grow it from seed, although the birds have established a few additional bushes for me!

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Camellia+sinensis

Oliveoilguy's picture
Oliveoilguy
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Tea

Link suggests a neutral to acidic soil ph. What is your soil like?

 

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
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Posts: 221
Tall wrote:I grow C.sinensis
Tall wrote:

I grow C.sinensis in USDA zone 7 in sun and shade, in protected and unprotected sites.

That is quite heartening! I need to transplant our tiny specemin to a better location, and start some cuttings.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Thanks for the suggestion, Bytesmith

 I do like tea as well as coffee.  But unfortunately I live Zone 5 (which actually has temperatures closer to Zone 4).  If I was in Zone 9 I'd try it in a heartbeat, though!

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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When broccoli crop fails (does not produce heads)

I had mentioned on another thread that I planted some broccoli seedlings that I had sprouted indoors 2 (yes two) years ago, but never got around to planting.  So they spent 2 winters in my window, and surprisingly did fine.

The transplants did well in my garden except for one very important thing: they have not produced broccoli heads.  The plants are big and healthy, the leaves are magnificent.  But no heads at all.

On researching the potential causes, one typical cause is planting the broccoli when the weather is too hot (they are a cool weather plant).  That could be the reason here.  Or maybe the fact that they survived as seedlings for 2 years stressed the plants.

But what I wanted to share with folks here is that, in the process of researching why broccoli plants don't produce heads, I learned that broccoli leaves are edible!  Per http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/broccoli/broccoli-not-forming-heads.htm

If you still have no head on broccoli, eat the leaves. High in nutrition as well, the leaves can be sautéed, stir fried, or added to soups. Okay, so no broccoli heads, but growing the plant wasn’t a waste either.

-This was actually very welcomed news.  If they are a tasty (vs bitter) green, I will be encouraged to try growing broccoli again, knowing that the consolation prize is an edible source of greens.

Has anyone here ever eaten broccoli greens before, and have any insight into what they're like?

[Sorry about the duplicate quote below; it doesn't show up in the Preview Window, so I don't know how to get rid of it!]

If you still have no head on broccoli, eat the leaves. High in nutrition as well, the leaves can be sautéed, stir fried, or added to soups. Okay, so no broccoli heads, but growing the plant wasn’t a waste either.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Broccoli Not Forming Heads: Reasons Why My Broccoli Has No Head http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/broccoli/broccoli-not-forming-heads.htm

Grover's picture
Grover
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Broccoli Leaves

pinecarr,

I find the broccoli leaves to be similar to kale. The stalks are also edible but can get tough. Eventually, the toughness becomes woodiness. If you can't slice them without a saw, consider them for the compost pile. Slice them thin (1/4" or so) and steam or saute them. If you taste bitterness, use a splash of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt.

Grover

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
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Posts: 221
Oliveoilguy wrote:Link
Oliveoilguy wrote:

Link suggests a neutral to acidic soil ph. What is your soil like?

We're quite acid here in the Pacific North Wet. Plus, we spread coffee grounds on it and our blueberries.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Posts: 2259
Thanks for the tips, Grover

"If you can't slice them with a saw.." - too funny!  But point taken!

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
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Joined: Jun 25 2014
Posts: 922
We like brassicas, period

We seldom get real heads on our brocolli, and often get mini-heads on many of our non-brocolli brassicas. We eat it all. Especially a favorite as a salad leaf is our winter rape. Normally, our salad leaves are bitter, while our rape leaves are sweet. Your mileage may vary, but it's all good.

Chow down.

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
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Posts: 221
"chicken planted" flowers are good!
pinecarr wrote:

Has anyone here ever eaten broccoli greens before, and have any insight into what they're like?

Yea, I eat all sort of brassicas, especially the spicy yellow flowers from the "chicken plants" that sprout up wherever we've been dragging our chicken tractors. My guess is mustard seed in the feed.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1988
The Year Without a Summer

Here is an article on the infamous "Year Without a Summer" -1816 - and how it impacted history. It was the result of a very large volcanic eruption. Effects were different in various parts of the world: floods in China, no monsoons then floods in the dry season in India, snow in the summer in the eastern USA (Appalachians), and crops reduced from 80 to 90% off normal leading to food shortages and soaring prices.

I try to have enough seed for at least two years ahead so I can plant the next year if this one is a wash.

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