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Sunday, March 14, 2021

Gardening NOW and in an EMERGENCY

DID YOU KNOW>>The time to start preparing to grow your own food in an emergency is TODAY, not when the power goes out or fuel shortages have stopped the trucks from delivering food. 

Gardening is much more than simply scattering some seeds, watering them a bit, waiting a few days and then harvesting some food. It takes time to prepare the land, nourish the soil, purchase or save seeds and grow the seeds! 

You also need to do things that work, make some mistakes, realize the good and the bad, and learn from them to become a better gardener.

Goals for this month:
  • Acquire some emergency seeds and sprouting seeds.
  • Look for a space you can grow in
  • Make sure you have a source of water

Advantages of Growing Emergency Garden Foods NOW before an emergency:

  • Saves money now that you can use for other storage foods.

  •  Your grown products ARE stored and AVAILABLE in a crisis or food shortage emergency

  • Don't have to go to the store or depend on the food supply chain.

  • Food can be grown totally organic.

Steps you can take now to prepare to garden:

  • Find a place to garden - needs 6-8 hrs of sun/day. Can be a container, raised bed, flower bed or garden spot.
  • Make sure you have a good source of water.
  • Buy seeds - only non-hybrid/heirloom seeds! Buy from a catalog like
  • Prepare you soil. Add compost to increase nutrients. You only need to add 1-2 inches and don't till or mix in.
  • Start tomatoes and peppers indoors if desired.
  • Plant seeds based on planting calendar (see side bar)
  • Water every day until the seeds sprout, then drop back to 2-3 times per week, 45 minutes per time.
  • Maintain garden. Weekly light weeding is all it takes.
Watch these short videos for more info:

Tips For Gardening in an Emergency:

  • If you don't have garden space, talk with others about putting together a neighborhood or community garden.
  • Keep enough seed so that you never plant ALL of what you have. Save some of each harvested seed variety so that you always have extra garden seed on hand to plant and replace with the next season's harvest.

Frequently asked gardening questions:

Q: What tools do I need to store to garden in an emergency?

A: I use two things every day in my garden - a Japanese gardening knife and some garden gloves. They are easy to store and indispensable for any garden.   You can also store a shovel and rake for larger areas.

Q: Where should I put my garden?

A: My first rule is close to your home- out of sight, out of mind is true!  You also need to make sure your area gets enough sun.  Most vegetables need a minimum of 6 hours of sun, and if possible, have your garden facing the south for the strongest sun. Watch for trees overhead and the potential shade they will give.  Also make sure to keep the garden 20 feet away from shallow rooted trees  like maples and elms.  For good drainage, make sure the land is fairly level. 

Q: How should I prepare the soil?

A: One of my favorite quotes says, “If you treat the soil well – as a living thing – in return, it becomes unconditionally generous.” How do you treat the soil well?  By feeding it well, by not disturbing the very active fungal network that is the underground food chain for the plants, and by treading lightly.


  • For a new garden: 

  1. Till or turn over the soil 12 inches deep.  If it is the original soil, add compost, and mix in.

  2. Soak 1-2 days before planting

  • For an established garden

  1. Clean garden up completely at the end of the year.

  2. Add organic materials (leaves, straw, compost) 2 inches deep on top of the soil.  Do not mix it.  Don’t till or turn over your soil. This disrupts the fungal networks, depletes carbon and makes your soil have to start over building its food networks every year. 

  3. Once you have prepared the soil, place walking paths. NEVER walk on your garden soil, only on paths.

Q: When can I plant?

A:  The USDA has designated “hardiness” zones across the US.  These zones give you guidelines for when you should expect a frost, and the lowest and highest average temperatures in your area (see map below).  I live in Zone 5, so I have freezing temperatures until around the first of May every year, and starting again in mid-October. Figure out your zone on the map, then there are a lot of interactive sites online that will guide you on when to plant for your zone.  You can also ask at a garden center (not a big-box store - a real garden center).  They can give you guidance on when they recommend you plant for your area as well.  

Q: How do I plant?

A: There are many ways to plant, and they are related to how you are going to grow.  If you are using a measured system like the “Square Foot’ system, there are specific guidelines for each foot of garden space.  This is great for a small space.  For larger row systems, you need other methods. I’ve used all of these with great success.

1. Square foot - Poke your finger in soil to create a hole

2. Row – Use a Japanese Gardening Knife and make a line 

3. Place seed in hole and Cover with thin layer of soil equal to 3 times the thickness of the seed

4. Water gently every day until sprouts

Q: How far apart should I plant the seeds and transplants?

A: That depends on your seed and plant.  

  • Small plants like carrots, onions, radishes, greens, lettuce - spread across the soil thinly

  • bush beans and spinach- 1 inch apart 

  • pole beans, peas, beets, turnips, parsnips- 2 inches apart  

  • eaf lettuce and herbs- 4 inches apart

  • cucumbers (2 seeds per spot), corn, celery- 6 inches apart  

  •  broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers- 12 inches apart

  • Tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, melons  (all two seeds per spot)- 18 inches apart

8. How should I water?

A: Water daily until the seed sprouts.  Then leaf and root vegetables(lettuce, carrots, etc)  need water twice weekly while fruit and seed vegetables( peas, tomatoes) need water once weekly.   Each time you water you need to water for at least an hour.  Watering deeply and less often grows stronger plants.

Q: What is crop rotation?

A: Crops should not be planted in the same place two years in a row and crops of the same family should not be planted in the same place.

  • Never plant the mustard family (cabbage and broccoli) or the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes and peppers) in the same place two years in a row.

  • Beans and Peas are nitrogen fixers and will improve the soil.  Follow them with heavy feeders such as tomatoes and peppers.

Q: How do I control pests?

A: The most efficient form of organic pest control is healthy plants.  A strong, resilient plant is far better at resisting the effects of an aphid attack than a weak plant.  Spread plants of the same type throughout the garden.  If you plant all of one type together, the insect can find them easier and will be a bigger problem.  And make sure to remove diseased plants quickly, but don’t put in your composter.

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