Posted on October 07 2015
Chad Wade Goes Deep With Composting
One of the first things you learn in gardening is that your plants don’t simply grow. They require more love than a twenty-five year-old supermodel. Most guys think gardening is just a matter of putting heirloom seeds in the ground and watering them. If only that were true.
In a do-or-die gardening situation, you will struggle for every calorie. Wringing calories out of sun, soil and water is very, very difficult. Producing enough calories to even partially sustain your family requires years of experience and tremendous effort and planning.
Everything attacks your plants. Mold. Pests. The sun. Too much water. Too little water. And, even if you absolutely nail each one of those factors, tiny deficiencies in nutrients in the soil will send your precious plants into a tailspin.
Knowing how plants respond to sun, water, iron, calcium, nitrogen and pests takes time and experience. Anyone who thinks they’re going to figure out gardening AFTER the ‘pocalypse will be shocked to find their garden withering before it even begins to fruit. Gardening is a beast.
Simplistically, water and sun combine to make zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, squash and melons. But a gardener soon learns, there’s a price to pay for that miracle. Successful plants deplete the soil remarkably fast, especially if you’re practicing square-foot gardening – which is almost a requirement in a post-collapse world where survivors would be making every inch of ground count.
Post-apocalypse gardeners will be left scratching their heads at the total absence of fertilizers. With regular application of fertilizer, most soil deficiencies can be cured. But if Home Depot closes its doors forever, most of today’s gardeners will be screwed.
But compost can cover most, if not all, of the jobs done by chemical fertilizers. But the composting process can’t really be rushed.
As a Navy SEAL, I saw this problem coming a long way off, so I began to study the alchemy of natural fertilizer, otherwise known as compost. While I was still instructing at BUD/S in San Diego, I was studying composting with a bunch of hippies just up the road from Naval Special Warfare.
Bottom line: compost is a survivor’s fertilizer. Mastering composting is the starting point for gardening to survive.
Dealing with fetid kitchen scrap and horse manure may not be as glamorous as training with SEALs, but I knew that the process of composting usually takes months. I wanted to learn this stuff long before I needed it.
Any credible survival gardener must have a compost system already cycling when civilization goes down the crapper. Even if you’re not gardening, you should be composting. Otherwise, there’ll be no fertilizer. Shortly thereafter, your ground-planted seeds will wither.
If you think NOT having fresh food would be fine – that you could just endlessly chow down on your bucketed wheat and beans – you should try that some time. Try it just for three days. Then ask yourself, “How well would I fight in this condition?”
Fresh food not only extends your storage, it provides a huge morale boost. And a positive, committed survivor is worth three suffering, bedraggled survivors. Good, fresh food is a huge survival advantage.
ReadyMen think ahead. Composting, and gardening, require considerable forethought. Just having a freeze-dried bucket of heirloom seeds WILL NOT provide your family fresh veggies. There are too many ways for weak plants to die and almost all of your quick-and-dirty garden will ultimately fail in my experience. Fertilizer and compost are necessary for your plants to survive and they make it possible for your plants to produce prodigious amounts of calorie-laden crop.
Make sure your plants are hardy and resistant to the threats that will plague them. Start prepping by saving and composting your lawn clippings, sawdust, cardboard and kitchen scraps.
Start composting today!
Quick and Dirty Composting Basics:
- Save your Green. “Green” means kitchen scraps, fresh lawn clippings, coffee grounds and garden pruning waste. Start with a separate trash can in your kitchen for non-meat, non-dairy vegetable waste. Also, don’t put citrus in your “Green” bin.
- Add a bunch of Brown. Your Green will start going slimy quick, so you need to combine it with brown, lots and lots of brown.
- Make a pile. Even if you just pile up your Green and Brown in a pile in the back corner of your yard, you’re making a strong start. If the pile starts to smell rotten, you need to add more Brown.
- Be careful not to add bark chips from the dump to the compost pile. Any trace amount of Round Up herbicide (which is found in almost all city plant waste) will stunt your veggies. Know where your brown is coming from and don’t use Round Up anywhere on your property.
- Water your compost. Every couple weeks you should add water to your compost, making sure that it lightly sticks together when you grip it in your hand.
- Flip your compost. With a shovel or pitchfork, flip your compost every few weeks, mixing the green and brown and re-introducing oxygen to the pile. Even without a lot of science, composting will work if you have enough Green and Brown and if you keep the moisture about right. Flipping just speeds up the process.