Plan your summer garden now! In the winter
With the future of food availability unsure, Mhor recommends planning gardens now, and talks about how to do it.
By Raymond Mhor (the Kilted Prepper)
Photo by Daniela Crucez
It is wintertime, and for many of us, it is raining or there is a lot of snow on the ground. There is not much we can do outside per se, so why not look to next spring now as a good time to start planning your spring/summer garden? Why? Well, if you are reading this, I believe you know there is a lot going on in the world now. I am not trying to push scare tactics; this is simply where the world is. However, read on for the good news of how to best overcome these challenges! There are many things we can do to provide for our families.
Many things are taking place today that affect the food supply chain, and many places will have food shortages and possible famine soon. Inflation is destroying the dollar, and like it or not, it is not going away anytime soon. Even if it does, it will take years to recover from what has already taken place. The last huge recession took place during the Lyndon B Johnson era, and it took more than 14 years to recover.
On December 7, 2022, the retail technology platform Swiftly reported that 69% of shoppers said they were struggling to pay their grocery bills after months of persistently sky-high inflation. They also stated that 83% currently rely on some form of coupons or loyalty programs to put food on the table. This is all according to Swiftly’s “True Cost of a Grocery Shop” survey. The study also pointed to shifts in consumer behavior. 74% of those surveyed said they changed their grocery shopping habits in the past year, and 33% said they are now shopping in-store more than in years past.
Our dollar is not buying as much as it used to, and food is getting more and more expensive. My concern is that there will be people who will literally be priced out of the market for food, as we are beginning to see this already in some areas of the US.
Fertilizer is just the first domino with food that is creating several effects. The world’s fertilizer reserve was tapped out in September 2022. This is not easily replaced and will take one to three years to build back up. Ukraine, Russia and Belarus produce 40% of the raw materials and these areas are impeded at this moment. Very little fertilizer means fewer and smaller crops. Because of what is taking place now and the rising costs of fertilizer, the seed industry is also being affected. No seed means no food being grown.
To bring it closer to home, I was talking to a gentleman who is a Missouri State Fertilizer Inspector. He stated, “With the shortage of fertilizer and the high prices, there was a lot less put on this past spring. That means a lot fewer crops. People won't have hay for cattle which means selling out. We are going to be in a world of hurt when it comes to food. The price of food is going to keep climbing. Fill your freezers and pantries now. I've been an inspector for 30 years, and I've never seen the fertilizer industry this bad. Remember most of our fertilizer comes from Russia and Ukraine. As long as that war continues, it will remain this way.”
Ranchers are going out of business due to insane heat, drought, and the exploding costs of feeding, watering and caring for cattle. They have been selling off their meat and breeding cattle. This means that next spring, there will not be as many calves born, which means that for the next several years, there will not be much US beef coming to market. It takes about ten years to recoup a herd to 100% efficiency.
Due to the avian flu, mass quantities of poultry are being killed off or have died. Go to the store now and look at how high the prices for chicken have become. Using the example of chicken wings, these were easily $3 to $4 dollars a pound. The other day, I priced chicken wings at $18 for two pounds or around $9.35 per pound. Legs, thighs and breasts are right behind that, sitting at $5 to $8 a pound. Turkey prices were up quite a bit as well. Inflation is taking its toll on the poultry industry, but so are supply and demand. There simply isn’t enough chicken, so prices reflect this.
The cost of seed and crop seeds are going up drastically. I was talking to a local rancher, who told me that the cost of a 50 lb. bag of corn seed has gone from $1,000 to $2,000. One bag will seed only 3 acres. I know this rancher has over 50 acres, so his cost has doubled. What is going to happen if it triples? Add the cost of fertilizer and diesel and you can start seeing how bad the picture is getting for our ranchers and farmers.
I am hearing more and more from gardening friends all over the U.S. that garden seeds and commercial seed packets are getting harder to find. Not only has the cost of garden seeds gone up, but the germination rate of the seeds is very poor. Heirloom seeds are getting harder and harder to find as well. Many of my sources are getting sold out quickly with many in the know understanding that heirloom seeds are becoming scarce. In other words, everyone is buying gardening seeds now to have seeds for the spring and summer gardens. So, this is creating a lack of heirloom seeds being out there for the homestead gardener market.
This is why I am highly recommending that you start planning as well as securing the things you need now, to get you through the spring and summer gardening season of 2023. I mean ASAP because supplies are dwindling quickly. Starting now can save you time, energy and money as well as make your spring garden much more productive.
For many folks, deciding where to put what is the hardest part. The first thing on the to-do list is deciding whether you have space. I am going to say something here that may upset some of you: If you have a bunch of grass growing in the backyard, rip it up and plant a garden.
Like it or not, that beautiful, manicured lawn will not help you save money at the grocery store, so rip it up and plant a garden. Then you can augment your grocery bill and feed your family healthy and delicious food.
I will share one of the greatest gardening sites I have ever used, and I have used a number of them. I am not getting compensated by their organization. This is the site that I personally use and fell in love with last year when I moved to an entirely different location and growing zone. It has helped me immensely, and I cannot recommend it enough. The site is https://www.growveg.com. This is one of the most feature-rich apps that I have used, and it does a lot. So, what does it cost?
1-Year Subscription- $40
2-Year Subscription- $70
Annual Automatically Recurring Subscription- $29
They have a seven-day free trial so that you can try it before you buy it. They also have a lot of great videos as well as weekly videos from Master Gardener Benedict Vanheems. I like his realistic as well as simple approach to gardening. The tips and tricks he shares have been outstanding and I have learned a lot just by watching his videos.
This is my working garden plan for 2023:
The key thing to remember when laying out your garden is to consider your garden bed placement from every angle, including where your shadows are and what area gets all-day sun or partial sun. Record the amount of daylight that parts of your garden will get on a typical sunny afternoon. Remember that partial-shade garden beds can work as well, but you’ll have to choose your varieties carefully.
Here's a tip: GrowVeg has a journaling app where you can record your findings and upload pictures to your journal. Journaling your garden is a great way to elevate your past mistakes as well as make notes of what worked and what did not. You can map out your garden with GrowVeg with varieties and types and they have it in your database. By using GrowVeg to lay out your garden, it will consider your garden spacing as well as your climate. But on top of that, you can use the look-ahead feature, and it will give you “empty space” where you may have planted something, but it is no longer producing.
On top of that, the app will send you twice-a-month planting reminders, so you stay up on early spring, late spring, early summer, late summer and fall plantings. Thus, you can maximize
We are coming into the winter months and what I have noticed is that fertilizer goes on sale at the big box stores. When sleds move in, the fertilizer moves out. What was $11 a bag is only $3. Check out your stores and start looking for your soil augments, and if you do it now, you could save a decent amount of money.
Starting plants from seeds can save much money, but you’ll have to get your start early, or the seeds won’t have enough time to grow. Again, this is where GrowVeg can help you. It tells you when to sow indoors and outdoors as well as the projected harvest time.
Start looking over those seed catalogs by early to mid-winter to decide which plants you’d like to grow from seed. I am a big fan of heirloom seeds because you can save seeds from the previous harvest and use those for next year’s seeds. In the long run, you will want to create your own resource for seeds, and you can do that with heirloom seeds. The great thing is that in most cities, there is a seed exchange where you can take your seeds and trade them with other folks who grow heirloom fruits and vegetables. Thus, expand your seeds and the variety of fruits and vegetables you can grow.
If you live in an area that has many leaves, start composting. Leaves have great nutrients for your plants and add to the soil. If you already have a compost pile, you can add any fresh kitchen scraps as long as they are not greasy or oily. So, veggie peels, eggshells and even torn-up cardboard are things you can add to your compost pile and get it going.
Here’s another tip: If you have friends that want to get rid of their leaves, ask for their bags of leaves and add them to your own compost pile. I am sure they would be happy to let you have them.
Worm castings and worm juice. I am a fan of worm castings a.k.a. worm poo. This is God’s fertilizer, and the great thing about worm castings is that you cannot over-fertilize with it as compared to commercial fertilizers. Consider putting together a worm bin and start collecting your own castings as well as the worm juice (worm pee). This is liquid gold and is chock-full of the nutrients that plants need. My mixture is a cup of worm juice to one gallon of water. Pour that directly at the base of your veggies and watch them take off! You will be amazed. Again, you cannot over-fertilize with the worm juice either.
Plants love the byproducts worms produce, and you will get a strong, healthy plant from this. Another point is that you will save money as well. Buying worm castings can get pretty expensive. You can also feed the worms your kitchen scraps. Again, as long as they are not greasy or oily. Worms also love coffee grounds, and both the worm and the coffee grounds are good for your plants. Creating your own worm bin is easy and something that the kids will enjoy.
Now is a good time to look for garden tools on sale. Another place you want to watch for gardening tools is garage and estate sales. You can pick them up inexpensively, and you will get many varieties of tools too.
There are several tools that I have found to be really great and super useful in the garden. One is the Barebones Hori Hori Ultimate Garden Tool. Think Rambo’s knife made for garden use. This is a thick stainless-steel blade that has a black stonewash finish. It has a walnut handle, full tang and stainless pommel. I used to have one of those wanna-be ones from the big box store, but about the third time I used it to pry up a root ball, the handle bent right over. That will not happen to you if you get the Hori Hori. This is one tough tool. It has a heat-treated double-edge (straight and serrated) blade, an integrated twine cutter and a bottle opener. You can use the stainless flat pommel for hammering in garden spikes and it comes with a gray waxed canvas belt sheath with a copper snap. You can find it here: https://tinyurl.com/RM-Hori-Hori-Garden-Tool.
The Cold Steel Spetsnaz Tactical Camp Shovel. I love this shovel, and it is way better than a miniature shovel with the “D” Handle. The handle gives you better leverage, and you can use this comfortably on your knees in the garden. In fact, this is what the shovel was made for, digging trenches while on one’s knees or in a prone position. The edges come sharp, but you can sharpen them more to get a nice edge. This was actually considered a fighting tool; you can use it much like a tomahawk and short sword. This will easily hack through small roots, grassy patches and such, but it is a great digging tool, and you can’t beat it. Oh, and it is balanced so you can throw it too! How cool is that! Here is a link to this shovel: https://tinyurl.com/RM-Spetsnaz-Tactical-Shovel.
When it comes to cutting gear for the garden, then Barebones is the best, and I recommend the Barebones Pulaski Axe. I must admit that it is expensive, but think of how many cheap Chinese tools you have bought, used once and they break? How many of those have you purchased? I am a big proponent of getting the best gear that you can afford, and if you have to save up for some of the gear, then do it so that you will have it for a long time. Barebones is one tool company that makes top notch gear that will not break and will take a beating and keep on doing the job.
I became a fan of the Barebones Pulaski Axe when watching Naked & Afraid XL Season 8. A survivor named Gary Golding brought the Barebones Pulaski Axe as his one allowed tools. Even though Gary had to do a medical tap out, he left his Pulaski Axe with the rest of the crew, and they used it like crazy.
At a price of $148.00 and some change, this is a tool that you might have to save up for. But it is a beast of a gardening tool, and there is a lot you can do with it, from cutting down small trees and clearing brush, to chopping out those deep thick roots, digging furrows, and getting under root balls. There is not much this tool won’t do. So, save your pennies and get this one for sure. It can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/RM-Barebones-Pulaski-Axe
Here is another tip: These three tools would be great to add to your get-home bag/bugout bag.
People are going to have to become food independent, grow their own, hunt and fish their own, forage their own and barter their own. And NOW is a good time to start. Let me ask you this: would you rather buy a 20 lb. bag of rice now for $14, or would you rather buy it at $50+ dollars a bag later? Common sense tells us to do that now, unless you are independently wealthy and will have money to burn in the future, where you will be buying food at three to four times what you are spending on it now.
I am deeply concerned with what we are going to be facing these next few years. It would be prudent for people to stock up now, tear out that backyard lawn and grow a garden to feed their family. I have done that and I am ripping out more lawn to grow double what I grew last year. Shouldn’t you? If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org