The Mitzels of The Prepared Homestead have a couple of videos on their Youtube channel about victory gardens. Their homestead is a colder zone in Idaho. They give a little history of victory gardens, how supply chains work and why you would have a garden yourself. In the part two video, they get into how to start, what to grow, how to read seed catalogs and so forth. If you aren’t familiar with the Prepared Homestead already, they have a lot of herbal and permaculture knowledge in addition to what they’ve learned homesteading.
Johny Mac at American Partisan talks about getting his 2020 garden started in The Kung Fu Virus 2020 Victory Garden. He’s in the cold zone 5, so while his dates for doing things may not apply to your zone if you’re in a warmer or colder zone, the things he does would be similar. You can find your zone on the USDA plant hardiness zone map, but you may also want to talk to a knowledgeable neighbor. You may live a micro-terrain that makes your garden area slightly warmer or cooler than what the official zone for your larger area is.
I am a man that believes in insurance so I invest in many different kinds; auto, boat, house, life, and food insurance come immediatly to mind. Yes food insurance and the way things are today with the Kung Fu Virus I am starting to wonder what will happen with food availability in the future. Well no worries, as I invest in food insurance by growing approximately 80% of our yearly need of vegetables in our garden.
I have written an article or two about this subject in the past and am being told to do it again by the good Lord. What I am going to share works for us in our area. I live in zone 5 which means that the last frost for my area is around May 21st. Nobody in my area plant above ground seedling’s till Memorial Day weekend because we have experienced frost up to that date. Just look at the photo header taken this past Saturday morning at 0700 hrs eastern.
Below ground vegetables like, carrots rutabagas, beans, etc can be planted around the end of April here. I reserve my raised beds, which I have three for early lettuce and radish crops because the raised beds soil is warmer and if there is going to be a frost I can cover those beds easily. The above mentioned vegetables I sow directly in the soil but because my farming season is so short, I start above ground seeds inside typically around St. Patrick’s Day.
I only use heirloom seeds and keep seeds from one year to the next. Folks in our group trade same specie seeds every year to keep the strain vibrant. I start out growing inside with tomato seeds then move to sweet peppers. The peppers seem to take the longest to germinate. Once I have those seeds started I move to cucumbers – Pickling and salad of course. I found the easiest way to start the seedling’s is to poke a hole is foam egg cartons, add potting soil, and place 1 to 2-seeds in each nook then cover with a light layer of soil. Then put the egg cartons in plastic trays under my growing lamps with cellophane over to keep the soil warm and moist which acts as a mini hot-house. Depending on variety, the seedling will start to show themselves after 7 to 14-days. Once the seedlings have sprung from the soil I remove the cellophane from the plants.
Once the seedlings have lost their baby leaves I transplant the seedlings into Solo cups. I do not know why but the plants like the Solo cups to grow in. I keep the cups year after year so I get my moneys worth. The bottom of the Solo cups I perforate with my pen knife so they drain. Once the seedlings have 2-sets of leaves I only water the plants from the bottom. Since I have perforated the bottom of the cups I keep about 1/2-inch of water in the pan and they self water themselves. Doing this helps to develop a great root system. By the beginning of May, I move my trays of plants to a makeshift green house outside. At night I have an electric heater that has a thermostat to keep the temperature in the green house at around 68 degrees F. By mid May I do not use the heater anymore and allow the plants to harden.
While this is going on I get the garden and raised beds ready for planting. In early April I rototill the garden. Once tilled I clean out the manure from the chicken coop. The manure collected in April is just enough to spread around the garden and till into the soil. Depending on the weather I hand turn the soil in the raised beds and toss my lettuce, radish, cilantro, and dill seeds onto the soil. The seeds are followed with a light raking to set the seeds. By Memorial Day we start to have fresh salads. If frost is predicted it is very simple to drag an old sheet over the plants to protect them.
Right after I plant my salad seeds, I plant potatoes and rutabaga seeds. I use the tire method for the potatoes to make taking care of them a lot easier. The rutabaga seeds get planted about 6-inches apart and 1/2-inch deep. Then I cover the rutabaga seeds with two sheets of 50# 48″x 8′ newsprint paper with slits in the paper to match up with each row of rutabaga seeds planted…
Perhaps you are having trouble finding seeds to grow your survival garden. Some food can be grown from the scraps of food that you may already have on hand. A Piece of Rainbow has the article12 Best Veggies & Herbs to Regrow from Kitchen Scraps. If you do an internet search for “gardening with kitchen scraps” you will get a good number of web pages with similar titles. A Piece of Rainbow’s pictures seemed to be the easiest to understand with links to more detailed instructions. If you need more ideas on what scraps to use, then go ahead and hit that search link.
For a survival garden, or what the pandemic intarwebz are calling a victory garden, you want calories first and a balanced diet second. You’ll perish from a lack of calories long before you succumb to the illnesses associated with various vitamin and mineral deficiencies. With that in mind, the heavy lifters of garden calories are potatoes, beans, squash, and grains. You can include sweet potatoes and yams with regular potatoes. While potatoes, beans and squash are all covered to some extent in the articles on kitchen scrap gardening, most of the options are for greens. Those are great for vitamins, minerals, and variety of diet, but don’t yield a great many calories. But if you’re only supplementing other food supplies on hand, then they are a bonus.
If you’re really relying only or mostly on what you can grow, remember that there are a lot more edible and nutritious parts of garden plants than just the fruits and vegetables that you see in the store. Melon and squash seeds are packed with protein and some fats. Watermelon rind has some vitamin C and B6 as well as fiber. Zucchini stems can be cooked like penne pasta. The leaves of many plants are edible. Even some plants considered weeds by many are highly nutritious, like purslane. And if you’re lucky enough to be plagued with dandelions, the entire plant is edible from flower to root.
Tuesday was rain, ice pellets, winds and sun. Wednesday was ice pellets, rain, wind and sun. Welcome, Spring. Despite the less than delightful weather, thoughts turn to gardens. We already had lettuce and pea seeds in the earth. Kale and rhubarb are already doing fairly well, and the berry plants are leafing. In these difficult times, more people are thinking about growing a garden or at least trying to raise some sort of food of their own because of supply chain grocery fears. Lovely Greens has a nice article on Growing a Rapid Response Victory Garden, focused on food that will mature relatively quickly – 30, 60 and 90 days.
You’ve just decided that it’s time to grow a vegetable garden, and not just any garden, a rapid response victory garden. Here’s how to begin and a guide to crops that will mature in 30, 60, and 90 days. Full video at the bottom.
It was just after five am and I was lying in bed, scrolling the news, Facebook, Twitter, everything. I’m not usually awake this early, but we live in different times. Seemingly overnight, our way of life has changed, and a lot of us are feeling anxious for ourselves, our loved ones, and the future. Then I came across a call for help: “…I wish someone would write an article about plants one could sow NOW that could produce food in the next 30, 45, 60 days.”
I could do that, so I’m up now and answering the call. It’s an entirely understandable question since folks are putting two and two together. Even if you have a healthy supply of food now, what will happen this summer? Will there be food shortages? Will my family go hungry? Maybe it’s time to revive the Victory Garden – to plan for the future, just in case.
For the moment, supermarkets are not out of food, but I have seen a couple of worrying signs. A health-food shop that I frequent is out of dried foods “for the foreseeable.” I’ve also seen one person reporting that crops are being abandoned in Kenya, though at the time, the country had only a single confirmed case of Coronavirus. It makes me wonder how less-developed places will cope with the virus, and with food production. Could we see imported food quietly disappear from our supermarket shelves? At least for part of this year?
I’m not an alarmist, but I’m sure I’m voicing a thought that many of us share. That’s why starting a vegetable garden now, even if you have zero experience, is something to consider. Even if a cure or vaccine is developed next week, or next month, having those plants in the ground will benefit your health and your table. Growing your own food is good for your physical health, nutrition, and mental clarity. From a psychological perspective, I believe that it will help you feel more secure. It does for me.
Before we get to what you can grow, I need to announce something else that is worrying. You’re not alone in wanting to grow your own food for the first time – online seed companies and seed suppliers have been inundated with orders. So much so, that many have closed because they are overwhelmed or sold out of seeds.
If you’re finding it challenging to source seeds online, you should try to get to a physical shop, if you can do so. I’ve not seen any local garden centers sold out of seeds yet, but that may change in the coming weeks. Hardware stores, and sometimes supermarkets will also have a small selection of seeds. You can also ask friends if they have any seeds or plants to share or organize a virtual seed swap. Seeds and plants can be posted or left on door-steps if people are self-isolating…
here are probably hundreds of books sharing how to grow vegetables, and I can’t fit it all into just a couple of paragraphs. Just remember that they are living things and will need light, warmth, nutrients, water, shelter, growing supports, and protection from predators and disease. Fruit and vegetables are just like animals – some grow in the tropics, and others live in temperate regions. You can fake those environments by growing crops in greenhouses or hydroponically. Pretty much all the details of gardening fit into these themes.
You should also familiarize yourself with your gardening zone, and which crops grow best in it. I go over zones and the earliest seeds you can sow every year over here.
Feel free to read my pieces on starting a garden, common gardening mistakes, and watch the videos I shared of how I created my allotment vegetable garden and home raised bed garden on YouTube (please subscribe too)…(continues)
As for getting seeds if you don’t have them… Some online resellers are out of stock because of the volume of people planting gardens for the first time. In some areas, seeds are considered a “non-essential item” that physical stores are not allowed to sell in person. Territorial Seed Company still has seeds in stock, but they are having shipping delays because of high demand. Seeds of Change appears to still have seeds and be taking orders. Burpee appears to have seeds. Wild Garden Seed appears to have stock Filaree Garlic Farm is still open; they’re a small farm specializing in garlic, shallots, asparagus crowns, seed potatoes, and sweet potato slips. Seed Savers Exchange is not taking new orders, but if you join the exchange you may be able to get seeds from other members. And, of course, if you live in an area where seeds are not considered a non-essential item, you may still be able to pick up seeds at a local store.