Thursday, March 19, 2015

Blog Series: Survival Gardening for Self-Reliance: Tips and Tricks

Part Three: Finding Balance With Your Survival Garden

We both know that fresh fruits and vegetables are among the best natural fuels. The way I see it, your emergency garden could someday be your main food source. Careful planning today will give your family a nutritional advantage in a crisis, so fill your emergency kit with the heirloom seeds that will yield the best nutritional balance.

1. Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Spinach and Kale

These four vegetables are the leaders in vitamin A, an essential nutrient for healthy vision and a strong immune system. It is also essential for cell growth, bone metabolism and reproductive health. Cantaloupe and leafy greens are also top sources for vitamin A.

2. Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and Strawberries

Serving for serving, all of the above provide your family with more vitamin C than an orange. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron and produce collagen, a protein that supports skin and bone health. Even your brain needs this essential vitamin to stay healthy and effective. Other good sources of vitamin C in your garden include green beans, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, peas, cabbage, zucchini, cantaloupe, raspberries and watermelon.

3. Collards, Asparagus, Dried Beans, Potatoes

B vitamins relieve stress, boost your mood and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. All of these functions are especially critical when you are dealing with a crisis. Additional plants that yield big B benefits include chili peppers, beets, corn and broccoli.

4. Lima Beans, Swiss Chard, Kidney Beans, Beet Greens

Red meat is a good source of iron, but greens and dry beans provide plenty of this essential nutrient too. You need iron for healthy blood. Iron fuels your metabolism, helping it convert calories into energy. Include legumes and leafy greens in your emergency garden plan so your family has a renewable source of iron.

Of course, you also need minerals like calcium and potassium in your diet. The great thing about fresh fruit and vegetables is that they provide the minerals you need to stay strong. They are also the best sources of dietary fiber.

Now that you know what to grow for a balance of nutrients, you are ready to draw up a diagram for your emergency survival garden. I’ll walk you through it in my next blog. With seeds and plan at hand, you’ll be prepared to weather whatever crisis comes your way!

Pooling resources is an important part of getting prepared. We’d love to hear your ideas about garden planning. Please post your comments below!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Blog Series: Survival Gardening for Self-Reliance: Tips and Tricks

Part Two: Choosing Seeds for Your Survival Garden

As I pointed out in my last blog, planning for a survival garden takes a different mindset than planning a yearly pea patch. Selecting the right seeds could make the difference between feeding your family in a crisis and seeing them go hungry.

When you put seeds away in your emergency garden cache, you have to choose carefully. You want seeds you can depend on to produce a safe food supply, seeds packaged for long term storage and seeds that are easy to grow.

      1.      Heirloom or Engineered?

I recommend sticking with heirloom fruit and vegetable seeds, even though hybrid seeds developed in labs are far easier to find. The word “heirloom” on the seed package is one way to identify an older cultivar that is true to its heritage. In general, an heirloom variety predates the mid-20th century when hybrids began flooding the market. In the truest sense, an heirloom seed is one that gardeners have passed on through the generations because it is a reliable producer and a hearty strain. This is just the type of fruit or vegetable you can depend upon in an emergency.

      2.      Open-pollinated?

Open pollination is a trait that makes heirloom seeds the best choice for survival gardening. This means that wind, birds or insects fertilize them as nature intended. Open pollination produces viable seeds that you can save and replant year to year for an ongoing source of food. Most hybrid varieties do not produce viable seeds, and manufacturers do not recommend saving or replanting those seeds.

      3.      Shelf Life

Because you are purchasing seeds for your survival seed supply, longevity is a critical issue. Look at how the seeds are packaged and their expiration dates, if available. Heirloom seeds designed for getting prepared should not come in paper packets, and they should stay viable for several years. Look for specially packed, airtight foil seed pouches that keep the contents fresh over the long-term.

      4.      Are They Easy to Grow?

I like a challenge just as much as the next guy, but I don’t gamble with survival seed selection. Experimenting with exotic plants might be fun (?), but I want dependable, robust fruit and vegetable varieties I can count on in an emergency. I recommend choosing tried-and-true varieties that will work in your climate and with the type of soil you have. If in doubt, call the company for advice.

If you’re with me so far, check back soon for Part Three of this survival gardening series. We’ll talk about choosing plants that provide your family with the best balance of nutrients in an emergency.

Do you have any tips when it comes to choosing survival garden seeds? How about advice about the best varieties to grow? Please leave your comments below – we’d love to have your input!