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Posted by Jason Ross on

Easy Ways for Your Survival Garden to Fail

by Jason Ross

I’ve explained the concept of entropy to my children many times — especially when they do dumb shit like leave their passport in the seat back on a plane to Africa.

Entropy: how chaos rules the universe EXCEPT when human beings apply exceptional amounts of focus and discipline.

Gardens can teach a lot about entropy. Here are six ways that your survival garden can easily fail.

  1. Your Seeds Don’t Germinate. If you’re sitting on a “survival seed” kit, it’s likely that they’re not going to germinate or that they’re going to germinate at low rates.
  2. You Plant Dumb Plants. Yes, the body needs certain vitamins and minerals. Yes, good food promotes morale. But, many of the usual suspects in “good times” gardens don’t produce appreciable calories. Tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, peas, strawberries, cauliflower, broccoli, are loved by many, but don’t produce much in the way of life-support. I’d focus on the plants most-loved by the Native Americans — corn, squash (summer + winter) and beans. I would definitely add potatoes to that list.
  3. You Can’t Water. Just because you have a source of water doesn’t mean you can get it to your plants. If you’re pulling water out of a well or out of standing ground water near your home, you’ll struggle to get that water to your plants. Water pressure is ALMOST as important as having water at all. Think about hauling buckets of water while you’re trying to provide security for your family. It’s not going to happen.
  4. Your Plants Burn Up All Available Nutrients. In a world without chemical fertilizers, getting your plants the nutrients they need (nitrogen, calcium, iron, etc.) becomes almost impossible — unless you’re a Compost Master. This is especially true of high-calorie plants. They will consume the good stuff like a fat kid at the ice cream truck. You need a plan to keep your plants fertilized after Home Depot goes bye-bye.
  5. Bugs Hammer You. Unless you’re already good at managing insects, bugs require intense attention. And, if you make a mistake, like allowing squash bugs just one extra week to flourish (my mistake in 2015), it can knock your production back by 50% or more.
  6. You Fail to Collect Seed for Next Year. There is something to collecting seed for the next year. It’s not as easy as you might imagine. First off, you need to have planted “heirloom” plants in the first place. A lot of garden seeds from the nursery are hybrids and they won’t reproduce. Then, you need to know how and when to collect your seeds and how to hold them over until the next season. Stay tuned for a Combat Gardening episode on how to collect and store seeds.

I’ve harped on this many times; in order to beat these failure paths the only way is to practice gardening. You’ll never quite know the bugaboos in your garden until you plant and raise a few of them. 

Then (and only then) you could quite possibly feed your family and your animals in an emergency with a garden.

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