Spring is upon us! Let the gardening begin! Starting a survival garden is one of the crucial steps towards preparedness success. The only way to gain this skill is to start in normal times before you need the food you grow to survive. Get through the learning curve now, and you’ll succeed, even when everything else fails.
Gardening is not as easy as throwing a seed into any random soil. Here is a guide for container gardens and also raised beds. I have tested all of these principles and this is what has kept my plants healthy and productive.
Begin with 1 brick of Coconut coir, put this into a large 55 gallon container and begin adding water. It will start to break down as you add more water. It takes an incredible amount of water to turn it into a fluffy consistency so don’t give up, just keep adding more water until it is all broken up.
Then add 1 large bag of ORGANIC garden soil. Mix well.
Add 1/2 of 5 gallon bucket (orange ones from home depot) of pine straw.
Add as much compost( cow manure) as the container will hold and mix it all up.
Now you have the basic mix for any container.
Obtain containers, use the biggest you can fit in your space and drill 1/4 inch holes ALL over the bottom and some on all 4 sides.
Remember soil needs to breathe!! Do not add anything to the bottom of the container. Fill up the container to 3/4 full. When it rains you don’t want the water just splashing out of the container!
Now mix in worm castings, no such thing as too much, it won’t hurt or burn the plants like “chemical” fertilizers!! It adds the micro nutrients. Also you can add some green sand, it also adds micro nutrients. You are feeding the SOIL organisms.
Depending on the plant’s pH requirement you will “drop” the pH with azalea ORGANIC soil acidifier, a little or a lot depending on the plant.
Now, add BALANCED ORGANIC fertilizer to the top 6 inches. It will “seep” down so don’t worry about the bottom. This is adding the MACRO nutrients, N-P-K. Nitrogen, phosphate and potassium.
Planting Seeds and Gardening
OK, now you are ready to add the seeds. But first:
ONLY plant heirloom or open pollinated seeds. You WANT to be able to save these seeds for your next planting and hybrid or GMO ( Gross Monster Offensive) seeds will not breed true. “Organic” is just the METHOD of gardening ie. NO CHEMICALS were applied while growing the plant, it isn’t a type of seed.
If the seeds are tiny, like carrots go ahead and follow the planting guide as to how far apart and how many. If they are a bigger: make a micorrhizae paste with some powder and a little water and throw the seeds into the paste.
Plant the paste covered seeds according to their guide and cover with soil.
If you are planting tiny seeds cover them up then mix the micorrhizae powder into some water, add some humid acid to the water also and sprinkle it over the soil. Kills two birds with one stone!
If you used the paste and have now covered the seeds with soil, mix humid acid into a watering can with water and pour that over the surface.
Now MULCH the entire surface with pine straw.
Water the surface everyday to keep the soil moist.
When the plants grow bigger TRY to ONLY water the soil NOT the plant leaves. Watering leaves and stems may contribute to DISEASES like fungus.
Keep the leaves as dry as possible. You can’t stop the rain, but you CAN water the soil only.
You need to REALLY water the soil deeply, this may take as much as 3-5 minutes per container, or 5-8 minutes for a raised bed if you are hand watering. Surface watering may make you feel better but the deep roots are still thirsty! Water is for the deep roots not the surface soil.
Spray the plants lightly with 1 cap full of neem oil to a spray bottle of water very few days to PREVENT pests and diseases.
Other treatments to keep pest away and treat diseases: Dr Bronners castile tea tree or peppermint soap in water with a few drops of tea tree essential oil (and some neem oil), garlic/ water, baking soda/ water, hydrogen peroxide straight ( aphids), or organicide oil/water.
There are hundreds of methods of organic pest control, I find prevention is the best so spray that neem oil/water very few days, especially if it rains ( it washes away).
Learn about companion planting to help chase away harmful pests, it’s not 100% effective but anything helps.
Organic matter in the soil helps keep nematode infestations at bay. Compost, worm castings, green manure (cover crops between planting) are all helpful. Planting marigolds (french variety is best) can also be an effective nematode prevention.
Before you plant read about it first. The more you know before you start the healthier the plant will be. A healthy plant is a happy plant!
Micorrhizae fungi (ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT STEPS for healthy plants!!) is a beneficial microorganism that attaches to the root system. It is a symbiotic relationship. The roots “feed” the micorrhizae carbohydrates and in return the micorrhizae “feed” the roots water and nutrients the roots ordinarily could not reach. The micorrhizae is the trucker that goes out and gets the food and water. It also competes for nutrients with “harmful” microorganisms and WINS, keeping your plant healthier.
Humic acid or substances are broken down organic matter that “stores” the water and nutrients until the roots decide that want it. It is the “storage facility”. Humic acids holds water and nutrients and prevent leaching during heavy rainfall. Awesome for any area with torrential rains!! Also terrific for areas in a drought, the humic acid will keep your plant roots moist and more drought tolerant.
Both of these work together to help the plant become:
• 1. More drought tolerant
• 2. Less watering dependent
• 3. Healthier
• 4. More disease resistant
• N= Nitrogen is essential to proper functioning of plant metabolism. It increases the protein content of food crops and is needed by most leafy vegetables, foliage plants and grass. Nitrogen gives plants their dark color and helps the growth of leaves and stems.
• P=Phosphorus is the most important nutrient in root formation, creating good fibrous root stems. It encourages blooming and seed formation, helps plants resist disease and increases the vitamin content of plants. Lettuce, potatoes, carrots, for example, require good reserves of phosphorous.
• K= Potassium (Potash) stimulates flowering and makes fruit tastier by converting sunshine into starches and sugars. Tomatoes, strawberries, beans, peas and flowering plants require especially high levels of potash.
Micro nutrients are found in several natural amendments and you should add these also. Greensand has over 30 micro nutrients and worm casting have over 60 micro nutrients. Others include kelp meal and glacial rock dust.
pH- In South Florida our soil is alkaline ( above 7.0). It is nearly or as some say, impossible, to create true acidic soil here. The quantity of acidifiers would be astronomical to even begin to lower a “yard”, let alone a huge plot to a tolerable pH for most plants to thrive and be healthy. Farmers have their soil “trucked” in and spend large amounts of money to replenish it every year. This is another reason container and raised bed gardens are so popular. However, if you do have the perfect soil for growing edible plants, you will save lots of money and effort!
Plants cover crops after harvesting and removing old plant matter.1- 2 weeks before the next planting dig into the soil and FLIP the cover crop over so the greenery is buried. Plant your new seeds into the ground after the cover crop has decomposed.
Good “cover crops”/green manure unclude:
mustard, buckwheat, rye, ALFALFA, CLOVER, comfrey ( although I would plant this one in a more permanent place and just pick some leaves and bury them with the flipped cover crop). Planting potatoes with fresh or dried comfrey leaves provides a calcium source.
Green manure keeps beneficial microorganisms alive ( remember them!), the plants absorb nutrients that would have been leached by rain, they improve the stability of soil particles, and add nutrients back into the soil for the next plants to absorb.