This is to pass on a few of the things I have learned having a very large garden vs the small gardens I had in years past. There is no comparison, and in a long term SHTF scenario, only very large gardens offer any possibility of feeding you. Travel, house guests, and work and other commitments has resulted in my not keeping up with my new garden this summer. All I’ve done is hoe it up about a month ago and today I went out with a sickle knocking down the weeds in about half of it, the weeds mostly being knee high crabgrass. I’ll do the other half tomorrow or Monday and then call it a season as far as maintenance goes. In a long term SHTF scenario, the garden would have been the top priority and I’d of been out there every day maintaining it, but even then there would be other work to do too such as hauling water to the house and generating firewood for the coming winter.
So what have I learned?
– You can catch up with maintenance in a garden that only a few hundred square feet. You can’t with a garden that is more than 12,000 sq. ft., especially when crabgrass takes over given how thickly it grows.
– Weed fabric is a must. Good quality UV coated weed fabric is expensive when you need a lot of it but the labor savings will be enormous. Not a big deal that my not keeping up with the garden this year will have lessened the yield. Post-SHTF it could be a life or death matter. The cheaper weed fabrics will break down on you in as little as a year, not unlike tarps left out in the sun. Post-SHTF you likely won’t be able to buy new stuff every year.
– Whatever string beans are going to climb up needs to start near ground level and offer many paths from which to grow upwards. I had never grown string beans before and jerry rigged something that started about a foot off the ground,and without enough upward paths relative to the number of plants.
– You can’t get in to weed things very easily if the rows are too close to each other. I made this mistake with carrots, onions, and beans. The spacing worked for the plants, just not for me being able to easily weed. Next year’s garden will have uniform 3′ rows being I am buying 3′ wide weed fabric. My only weeding will be in a 6″ space between the weed fabric rows where the plants will be.
– The nasty smelling deer-rabbit stuff I sprayed to keep deer & rabbits away did not keep rabbits from chomping on my cabbages. A 2′ chicken mesh fence subsequently added did keep the rabbits out. I also had some partial chomping (not sure by who) on sunflowers, zucchini, and a couple other things so I need to work on that too for next year. At a minimum there have been deer, rabbits, and turkeys in the garden.
– Part of my grand experiment was adding wooden stakes next to each variety of what I planted, labeled with a permanent marker with the specific name of what was planted there. This was going to then tell me what varieties did well and which ones didn’t. The permanent marker on wooden stakes promptly washed off into something unreadable after it rained.
– Pick up the rocks that surfaced over the winter before the weeds start to grow. I could have just gone in with my push mower (for the rows spaced appropriately) instead of the sickle, except that when I planted I didn’t take the time to remove this past winter’s crop of rocks. The crabgrass was so thick that there was no way of going in with the mower and not hitting lots of rocks. As it was I kept hitting them with the sickle.
So, despite the above, this has been a great experience because of all that I learned during a period in which it doesn’t matter how much or how little I get out of the garden. I would add for anyone who thinks they’ll do a large garden post-SHTF, the initial breaking up of the sod is a huge amount of work. My garden was first turned over in the fall of 2013, then rototilled again in the spring and fall of 2014 and then rototilled 3 times this past spring to ready it for planting. It takes a lot to really break up the sod into garden quality soil
A lesson learned last year with the greenhouse was that I needed a shade cloth. I am happy to report that has worked very well. Though the greenhouse has electric lights and outlets, I purposely did not add exhaust fans being I wanted the greenhouse to be functional in a grid down scenario, and it just got too hot in it last year. Nothing has died in it this summer with the shade cloth in place, Concerning the shade cloth, buy it pre-cut and with grommets. I thought I’d save money by buying a remnant last autumn and then cut it to size and add grommets myself. That was a lot of work.