Survival Gardening

Gardening to live, or at least to not go hungry, or “Survival gardening”, is something few people in the modern western world would ever contemplate.

After all, why should we? The shops have always been there for us. Whenever we need food, we just go and buy some, and we guess we’ll always have money to do so, right? Things like hyperinflation and/or economic collapse could never actually happen to us, especially here in the western world. That sort of thing only happens in, poor countries, banana republics with corrupt governments, doesn’t it?

Besides, we have people in place to prevent that sort of thing from happening. And, if it does all go wrong, our caring governments will be there to look after us all, and feed us all – that’s what we pay them for! Right?

So, is the concept of survival gardening worthy of our attention, or it is just a waste of our time contemplating and learning such skills that we might never need?

A world in turmoil?
As each day passes, the world, in general, seems to be getting madder and heading further into a tailspin. We’re already in the grips of economic recession and many are suffering the consequences of austerity measures. Every day we hear whispers of news that make us raise an eyebrow and wonder about the security of our financial futures.

The tsunami devastation in Japan in March 2011 gave us a clear reminder of the power of Mother Nature and how natural disasters can and do occur at any time. Obviously, a survival garden won’t fare well if it’s hit by a tsunami, but in the wider scope, these naturally occurring events can and will cause disruption globally to all manner of supplies, including our rather delicate food supply chain.

If you are living in the US, COSTCO has started advertising survivalist and preparedness supplies in the form of #10 cans of freeze-dried foods, food storage, and rotation systems, among many other items.

Until recently, items like this were only available in highly specialized stores. Now there is significantly increased demand for such items as more and more people contemplate hard times ahead and start to prepare accordingly by investing in items they feel will bolster up their security and safety.

Of course, it’s not just man-made events that could bring about a need for survival gardening skills. There are many different potential scenarios and reasons to be prepared including one that NASA has warned of; Solar storms and CME’s from the sun. Scientists are saying that such threats could potentially disable or destroy the electronic infrastructure of the planet, plunging modern civilization back 100 years in technology.

It is a very real threat and has taken place before. The last time it happened was in 1859 and it became known as the Carrington Event. At the time, the telegraph was our most sophisticated technology. During the event, telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed, some in spectacular style, with telegraph pylons giving off sparks and in some cases giving telegraph operators electric shocks. Studies have shown that a solar storm of this magnitude occurring today would likely cause widespread problems for modern civilization. There is an estimated 12% chance of a similar event occurring between 2012 and 2022. [see here]

It’s ironic to be writing an article about survival gardening whilst snowed-in at our house. Many locations currently are in the grip of what feels like a mini ice-age! In fact it’s only been a week, but there have already been widespread reports of panic buying, and fights breaking out over food. Some shops are rationing bread, milk and eggs.

Preparedness and Self Sufficiency
We’ve always been an advocate of preparedness and of not relying on “the system” wherever it’s possible to be independent of it. We think a measured degree of planning ahead to cater for unforeseen (and especially foreseen) predicaments, is a sensible and reasonable move. It ensures you are covered for a wide variety of things if they hit, such as economic crisis, or any kind of breakdown or interruption in the extremely delicate “just in time” infrastructure we rely on so much.

We believe survival gardening skills should be a part of everybody’s preparedness concept. It is putting into practice the art of providing food for yourself and your family, without dependence on the supermarkets for your continued existence and survival.

Learning the knowledge, and more importantly, gaining the experience of growing and foraging for your own food will stand you in good stead should the worst happen and you find yourself relying on your own efforts to feed you and yours.

Many people may feel they’d need to move out of the city to a piece of land to become self sufficient. But for many by following some simple green steps you can achieve a degree of self sufficiency in the city.

We are also big fans of foraging for wild food. Edible plants and other wild foods, including edible weeds like dandelions, and Stinging Nettles are all around us and can be used in all sorts of ways to supplement our food and medicine supplies. Why just rely solely on your garden when there is so much to be had in the nearby surroundings? All it takes is a little knowledge and practice to arm yourself with these valuable and potentially life-saving skills.

Delicate Infrastructure
In the years between 2000 and 2010, UK was virtually brought to its knees by fuel protests. The truck drivers arranged a mass blockade of the major fuel terminals and the resulting chaos that ensued shone a very bright light onto just how delicate our society and infrastructure really is.

The protests lasted for about 4 days, and in that time, the supermarket shelves became empty, and people were panic buying. This was just a minor disruption, nobody starved, but it was a sobering lesson in just how dependent we have become on our delicate infrastructure, and on our supermarkets providing us with food.

What would happen if some other kind of disruption brought our finely-tuned infrastructure to a halt? Perhaps for a considerable time? How long would it be before getting your hands on food, something we all take for granted right now, becomes a matter of urgency and survival? Well if the fuel protests were anything to go by,no more than two before people would find themselves queuing in bread lines and relying on others for their very existence.

Growing survival food Requires Experience
If it was to be a long term thing, then people would be turning to their gardens to grow their own, only to discover that survival gardening is not as easy as they thought it might be, especially if there is limited space, in which case the right choice of vegetables would be essential to provide the highest sustenance and yield per square foot.

Having a good stock of the right kind of seeds is also vital! If you think you are safe with all the seeds provided by the big seed companies from their glossy catalogues, think again! See my article on buying seeds here.

More and more people are now catching on to the idea that these scenarios which at first glance seem impossible, when looked at more closely, do appear to have potential to become reality, and therefore merit further investigation. Those who do make the effort to look a little deeper, and scratch beneath the surface, usually tend to be shocked at what they find.

By entering into the practice of growing your own food now, you are to all intents and purposes, learning the art of Survival gardening, even though you won’t actually think of it as that – after all, it’s far too much fun! But whatever label you give it, it could be one of the best moves you’ll ever make.

Learning the process of survival gardening gives you valuable life skills and the experience of growing your own food.

Now is the time to learn, so you can gain experience and learn from your mistakes, when the supermarket shelves are there to supplement you after you find out it’s not as easy as you first though it might be.

Waiting until a crisis starts, leaving it to a time when you actually need food before attempting to learn survival gardening skills, could be costly.