When your goal is feeding yourself and your family in a crisis, you have to plan ahead. Earlier in this gardening series, we talked about buying heirloom seeds packed for long-term storage. We discussed choosing a mix of fruits and vegetables for balanced nutrition. Now, armed with your gardening know-how, you are ready to draw up a strategic garden plan.
Selecting the right space
Keep in mind the basic needs of plants when choosing a good space for your garden:
- Full sunlight
Site your garden to the south of buildings and away from trees that cast shade. Most heirloom fruits and vegetables do best with 6-8 hours of full sun per day. Place the tallest plants, like sweet corn, at the northern edge of your plot, so they don’t cast shade on shorter plants.
- Good drainage
Consider soil and slant when selecting your garden spot. Healthy plants need good drainage. If your soil is mostly clay, for example, you should prepare your site by bringing in better soil. Don’t plan to plant in a hollow where rainwater collects and sits, and don’t put your garden at the base of a bare hill where a heavy rain could wash away your hard work.
Your plants need a consistent source of water throughout the growing season. Take this into account when choosing your garden site. In a crisis, you may have to source rainwater or creek water, so you should have a plan for making that possible, and ideally have the components, such as a cachement system, in place.
Once you have chosen your garden spot, figure out how much space you have to work with. If you are planning a big garden, remember that the larger it is, the more work and water it requires. The biggest plus of a large garden, of course, is the big harvest. Plan a garden as large as you and your family can reasonably manage.
To make the most of the space you have, you could:
- Grow upward instead of out – plan to trellis peas, beans, cucumbers and melons. Trellising improves yields, makes harvesting easier and saves horizontal space.
- Combine plants to maximize space. For example, combine corn, squash and beans. The beans climb up the corn stalks while the squash spreads below.
- Plant new rows of certain crops every few weeks to expand your total yield of food. Crops like radishes complete their growing cycle quickly, so plant more rows throughout the summer to have a continuous supply.
Drawing it up
Use graph paper or garden planning software to draw up your emergency garden plan. Start with the outer dimensions, and then decide how to divide up your space – in a grid, in a series of rows, in hills or in groupings of plants.
Don’t forget to give each plant enough room to thrive. Check the spacing requirements for each variety as you plot your layout. Also, include pathways so that you can easily reach your plants throughout the growing season.
Are you interested in seeing some sample emergency garden layouts? If so, let us know, and we will post some in the coming weeks!
Illustration for article: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Square_foot_gardening#/media/File:Square-foot-gardening.jpg