by Jason Ross
Yes, it’s true. I’m an organic gardener primarily because my Old Lady insists on that foo-foo, Whole Foods bullshit.
At the same time, if I’m gardening like my life depends on it, then I have no choice. A SHTF world demands that I learn to garden like a long-hair, Grateful Dead-listening, Mother Earth News-reading hippie.
Organic is the ONLY thing that will exist in a world without complex manufacturing. It does me little good to garden in a way that relies upon Miracle Gro, Round-up and chemical insecticides because I’d be screwed in a post-Home Depot apocalypse.
With that said, I do enjoy knowing that every inch of my garden, yard and surrounding forest has been kept pesticide-free. My kids can pluck my strawberries and snap peas and pop them right in their mouths. No rinse required.
There’s a lot more to learn when gardening organic. Chemical solutions are easy. Organic solutions are nuanced — varying a lot depending on location, climate, soil and garden type. On top of all that, many organic solutions are bullshit, so it takes years of experience to separate the wishful thinking from the downright effective.
Here are the basics of proceeding with an organic garden:
Round Up is the devil. I just spent an entire winter and many man hours growing and applying organic bacteria to eliminate the tiniest amount of Round Up that had made it into my compost. I lost about a third of my garden’s productivity because the “topsoil” I had imported to fill my raised beds had a slight amount of Round Up in the mix, probably from nearby fields where it was scraped.
Even with a few parts per BILLION, the weed killer (I’m assuming it was Round Up) caused many of my more sensitive plants to show obvious stress, reducing their size and torching their productivity. The leaves of my tomatoes, rhubarb, squash and cucumbers looked burned around the edges.
The next year, after applying an organic cocktail of bacteria that consumes hydrocarbons (petroleum-based compounds,) my grow beds produced perfect plants. No more leaf-burn.
Since vegetables are so sensitive, it’s imperative to remove ALL chemicals from your lawn, orchard, garden and landscaping in order to eliminate the risk of tainting your soil.
My favorite way of dealing with weeds in the garden is to plant my veggies in grow beds, where I control the soil. In my experience, weeds never really become a problem when I control the soil. If my soil is well-composted, I can generally ensure that there will be few weeds.
I’m sure that there’s an army of tie-dyed eco warriors pontificating on the evils of Miracle Gro. As a prepper, I do prefer to rely upon natural methods first, and additives later. I can always procure manure and create compost. If I rely upon the “miracles” of modern technology, I’m going to find myself in trouble.
What’s more, compost is an excellent provider of slow-release nitrogen. Plus, good compost provides the structure for nutrients and water — holding them suspended for the roots of veggies to tap.
However, if I start my compost the day the SHTF, then it’s not going to do me much good. I need to start my compost months, if not years, in advance.
Since compost won’t help my veggies much in a pinch, such as when my plants start showing stress due to lack of minerals, I also like to have organic liquid fertilizer. My favorite, proven, organic liquid fertilizer was invented by the grandson of Alexander Graham Bell — the founder of Turbo-ganic.
Turbo-ganic never spoils or loses it’s effectiveness, so it’s OK to stockpile indefinitely.
Killing Bugs and Disease
Nothing marks a Grand Wizard of Organic Gardening like organic pest control. It’s the hardest part.
Holding back insects, such as aphids, squash bugs, snails and such will lead you down fascinating paths of wizardry, to be sure. You will have your own special pests depending on your region, climate and chosen veggies.
For example, I’ve learned that planting marigolds under my ‘maters absolutely wipes out tomato aphids. I’ve also learned that diatomaceous earth has proven useless EXCEPT with squash bugs, which are the champion A-holes of my particular garden. I’ve had some success with chrysanthemum and garlic potions against cabbage and broccoli aphids. And, I’ve had tons of fun learning how to become a ladybug and mantis rancher. Alas, I’m still getting my butt kicked by leaf mold (and I relish that challenge this coming spring.)
Without the inter-web and all the tips and techniques for organic gardening, I’d be screwed in my crusade to defeat my garden enemies. Seriously, there’s no such thing as a book that covers organic solutions to every climate, region, plant and pest. Your only hope and mine is to learn to master the buggers BEFORE the internet goes away.
Consider survival seed kits… (I rub my face in exasperation.) Yes, I have one of those too, somewhere in my storage.
Here’s the trouble. While our survival seed kits are probably heirloom (meaning they can be reproduced from seed), and while our survival seed kits MAY have been properly preserved, the sad truth is that the “germination rate” of stored seeds plummets with time. Unless you buy survival seeds new, every year, your seeds will not germinate at the rate you’d hope. And, after a few years, they won’t germinate at all.
But, you’re still miles ahead of the seeds you buy at Home Depot. Many of those seeds are hybrids, which means that they will likely produce lovely veggies, but they are incapable of producing off-spring. They’ve been hybridized to be incapable of producing viable seeds.
Again, organic farming comes to the rescue. Heirloom seeds can reproduce, assuming that you know how. Stay tuned for an upcoming Combat Gardening episode that’ll teach how to reproduce your prized veggies.
Alas, we come to the moment where I preach, yet again, about survival gardening. Organic gardening, compost creation, pest control and learning to re-plant your own garden… they all require the ReadyMan to work his garden every year, even if it’s just a small one.
Look at it this way, it’s cheaper than therapy and you can’t eat therapy.