Thursday, October 9, 2014

Starting a garden from scratch!

Starting a garden from scratch!

I received some negative email about my comments on seed banks and seed vaults. So I am taking some time to talk about starting a garden for those who bought or are thinking of buying a seed bank or seed vault.
This will be a high level overview that I happen to use.

The grand plan, know what your objective is before you start.

There is an old saying that “if you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there”. It never pays to react out of panic or fear. You need to figure out why you want a garden. For this posting I will assume “I want to produce calories to supplement stored food”. So fist a few questions.
How much time can you devote to your garden?
Time matters because some plant require a lot of time planting, growing, and harvesting. I have seen many gardens fail during the heat of summer because people just did not have the time to take care of them. If time is a factor than you will have to plan within your time limit and to look for ways to reduce time you have to spend like using mulch to reduce weeding and automatic watering.

What plants can grow in you location?
My grandmother grew a peanut plant in Alaska and a friend at work is growing a pineapple plant in the office. But just because you can does not mean you should. Assuming we are high calorie gardening we want more calories out than the calories we have to put in. If possible we want to focus on plants that are easy to grow. So it is important to focus on plants that can grow in your area. Now you can extend your plant by starting indoors and transplanting. That is why I included a posting on manual transplanting tools. You can also use green houses, cold frames, and low tunnels to extend the growing season. Again the key is to not expend a lot of energy to start early or extend the growing season.

Of the plants that can grow, what plants do you want to grow?
This is important because if you want to grow X, Y , Z do you need to buy a group of seeds that only have ten percent of what you really want? I have found that it is best to buy exactly what you want to grow.

What diseases are common for the plants you wish to grow? How can I deal with those diseases? Should I consider only disease resistant plants?
Where I live we have blights that impact tomatoes and potatoes. So I have to factor this into my calculations when planning on growing these crops. It also means that varieties subject to blight may not be a smart idea to grow in my area.

What insects are problems for the plants you wish to grow? How can I deal with those insects? Should I consider only insect resistant plants?
I love squash and so do a number of insects in my area. So I have to cover, or trap crop, or grow varieties that are resistant to these insects.

Know your soil.

Soil is the key to healthy plants. Good soil is teaming with life. Much of industrial farming is about growing plants on life support. Without the herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, etc. you just will not get a crop. High Calorie Gardening is an organic approach that depending on a living soil that can support crops. So can you answer the following?
What are the soil conditions required for the plants I wish to grow?
How do I provide the ideal growing conditions for the plants I wish to grow?
What changes to I need to map my soil? This starts with a soil test.
What are my alternatives for amending my soil?
Where can I obtain the amendments I will need?

Now you can bank soil. This can be done with mulching areas the will be used for future gardens. One can put in cover crops to build soil structure and organic content. You do not have to actively grow crops to build soil. You can focus in building structure and life living in the soil.

Know your sunlight and shade levels.

Commonly a successful garden will need a minimum 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight.
What are the lighting requirements of the plants I wish to grow?
You can find the angle of the sun at different latitudes on the internet. You can use this to determine the angle of the sun during the growing season. This will let you know how many hours of direct light you will receive in the area you are planning your graden.

Know your water sources.

What are the watering requirements of the plants I wish to grow?
How will I water my garden?
If you are depending on rain fall with no backup than you need to know your average rainfall during each month of the growing season. If you get to much you may have to create hills or raised beds. If you get too little you may have to create a secondary water supply so you can irrigate.

Mark it out and map it out.

All plants will take up space. You should have an idea at this point on what area you will put your garden. It may be advisable to use some software to map out the garden. In a prior post I showed you how I can take seeds per 100 foot row and go to expected yield in pound per 100 foot row and then go from pounds to calories per pounds to get total calories per 100 foot row or X amount of seeds. There are garden planners available that can help you plant our your growing area. One tip is to create some 100 foot rows of plant you want to grow so you can than adjust your growing space and compare to the 100 foot row. This will allow you to compute the calories you would get as a percentage of the 100 foot row.

Gardener’s supply pre-planned gardens

Think about how you will harvest and store what you produce.

Calories do not count until they are consumed. So are you going to can, dry, freeze, root cellar, etc.
Each method will require different skill and likely different equipment. So do some homework and identify and learn how to harvest and store your food.

Well this has been at a high level.
In future postings I will revisit these items. It should give the people who are planning to buy seed banks and seed vaults an idea of how I approach growing plants for food. Please comment with your ideas and suggestions.

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