For some gardening is a hobby while for others it is a supplemental food source and it is necessary to ensure the family eats well all year around. Health concerns are another reason people are turning to backyard gardening. It seems that more and more you are hearing about a recall of produce because of bacterial contamination, bagged and washed lettuce, green onions and cantaloupe among others have been on the list. You simply do not know how the food has been handled and processed, what pesticides and fertilizers have been used and in the case of washed and bagged lettuce, it is obvious the safety controls in place do not work.
Gardening at one time was a skill passed down through generations. Families had land and part of that land was set aside for raising crops year after year. Everyone was involved and in many cases, vegetables were a cash crop. People had what was called truck gardens or market gardens.
Families raised enough products for daily consumption and set aside surpluses for canning, pickling and selling at market. Some people simply set up roadside stands while others “trucked” the product to town to sell. The traditional garden was a row garden and in later years, green houses were used to extend the growing season. However, people began to move to the cities for various reasons, mainly for job opportunities, and family truck gardens became less in numbers, while commercial operations expanded.
The Pendulum Has Swung
Gardening is coming back and the reasons include economics, health concerns and a means to survive an extended crisis. Survivors of disasters soon found out that once the crisis struck they were on their own for the most part and many realize that they must become self-sufficient. Cities and towns have their own financial problems and there is not enough money to prepare for any type of disaster properly whether it is natural or manmade.
People for the most part are dependent on the infrastructure in place so that during a crisis many are helpless. There is nowhere to go to get supplies and the few days or even a few weeks of supplies stockpiled are not near enough. The average grocery store receives a delivery of products every 24-36 hours. They do not have the space or the money to inventory large amounts of product, they essentially order as the product is being removed from the shelves. This means that when a crisis does strike the store shelves will be emptied in a matter of hours.
Develop Your Own Food Source
You do not need large expanses of land to provide for your family. Of course, if you have the land then that is ideal for your situation but suppose you live in an urban area, or even in an apartment. Hydroponics is one option along with Aquaponics for those with limited space or simply do not want to till up their yards for a traditional row garden.
Hydroponics is the growing of plants using only water, growing plants that would otherwise be grown on land or in soil. You can raise practically any type of plant using hydroponics. Vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, carrots, cucumbers and lettuce among many others can be raised using the hydroponics method.
You can use PVC pipe by cutting out holes for the plants to rest in. Use small plastic pots to suspend the plants and make sure there are plenty of holes in the pots for the roots to grow through into the water. Water is continually flowing through the PVC tubing and thus across the suspended roots. The roots absorb water, oxygen and nutrients as the water flows across them. The water is typically collected in a small holding tank where a small pump is located. Here is where you would add nutrients or drain the tank for fresh water periodically.
You can make a hydroponics system as big or as small as you want using various techniques. The roots are suspended in nutrient rich water, which means you do not need soil but a medium to help hold the plant in place such as clay pellets or gravel. It is recommended you provide a means to aerate the water (air stone or bubbler) to provide dissolved oxygen to the plants.
You can grow plants from seeds by placing them in the growing medium, such as gravel or clay pellets. Water by hand until the roots can reach the water or set up a system where the water is diverted using small tubing so it flows over and through the pots containing the seeds.
Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture, which is the raising of marine life such as fish, shrimps, snails and so forth. An Aquaponics system is self-contained where you raise marine life such as fish in a tank and then have a hydroponics system in place so the water from the fish tank is used to supply water and nutrients to the plants.
Fish need a clean environment and when you raise fish in an aquarium, you need to clean the water continually. However, when combining the two systems the plants and growing medium will filter and clean the water for the marine life and the waste from the fish or other species provides nutrients to the plants. An Aquaponics system will supply you with fresh vegetables and fish on a continual basis, so it is considered a renewable and sustainable food source.
Again, the system can be as big or as small as you want. However, you must have a large enough growing bed to filter and clean the water for the number of fish/marine life. While on the other hand, you need enough fish and their waste to provide enough water and nutrients to the plants. You can expect one pound of fish will equal between 12 and 15 pounds of produce.
Keep in mind the fish for your system must be ones that can breed in captivity, get along with others and are species that everyone in the family will eat and is a variety that can be obtained in your area to replenish the tank if needed.
Until you have gone through a few cycles where the fish mature and breed, you may have to add fish to account for some that simply will not live. An Aquaponics system is designed for people to develop a long-term food source in the event of a major catastrophe where traditional sources of foods are not available.
To extend the growing seasons and to protect the marine life from the elements you can use a green house or other structure to house your system. If natural light is not available, you will need to provide artificial lighting for your plants and this includes your hydroponics systems as well. You must have a system in place to provide energy to power the growing lights in the event of a power disruption.
You will a system in place to preserve your surpluses or have a market to sell your product. During an extended crisis, your fish and vegetables can be used for bartering.
You should also consider a plan to supply electricity to your system once the power goes out. Solar is ideal because it does not rely on fuels that will be in short supply. Along with the solar system, you will need batteries that can store energy for times when there is not adequate sunlight and for evening hours. Generators can be used in conjunction with a solar system, but if you were to rely entirely on a fuel-based system, you will eventually deplete any stored fuel supply.
For gardens to be considered renewable, you must be able to harvest the seeds from the plants so this means you must use heirloom seeds/plants. Hybrid seeds will grow a plant but will not produce a seed to continue the lineage of the plant. Seeds from heirloom plants can be harvested and stored for years to ensure you always have a food source.
Traditional gardens are excellent ways to grown produce but in some situations, the soil may become contaminated or depleted of nutrients because of overuse. If possible, consider and incorporate all three methods of gardening so you can raise your own food under any circumstance.
It will take up to a year to develop a growing system to where it would be considered renewable. You cannot wait until you need the food, you must always have a plan in place to replenish your food supply as it is consumed.