Gardening & Food Storage
Welcome to the FoodWaterStorage.com square foot gardening series where we’ll take a look at the benefits of gardening and how it can help you jump start or supplement an existing long term food storage plan. Gardening has historically played an important part in supplementing long term food storage plans. Given the availability and affordability of starting a garden and obtaining a food dehydrator, there’s no reason you can’t make your very own dehydrated survival food. In addition to the benefit of making your own dehydrated survival foods, you and your family will also enjoy the healthy benefit of having a fresh garden to obtain your produce from.
Over the course of this summer ‘Gardening and Food Storage’ series, we’ll take a look at just how valuable (and easy) having a garden of your own can be!
Specifically, we are using the square foot gardening method developed over the years by Mel Bartholomew. Unlike traditional gardening, the square foot gardening method eliminates the hassle of tilling the soil and preparing the ground, not to mention constantly having to strain your back to weed your garden…
Square foot gardening is extremely easy to start, even easier to maintain, and can be placed virtually anywhere including urban, suburban and, rural locations. It’s a simple concept that makes use of raised garden beds to eliminate the need of preparing the ground. A special blend of soil ensures that plants will receive a potent amount of nutrients to guarantee productivity no matter what plants you decide to grow. Wood lattices are used to mark off square foot units in each bed to make identifying plants and planning your crops simple.
Throughout our gardening and long term food storage series, we’ll document the progress of two square foot garden beds from start to finish. After the harvest, we’ll also walk you through each step of the dehydrating process to show you how easy and cost effective it is to dehydrate your produce (or anything else you want).
To get started you’ll need just a few basic materials:
- Wood to create your raised garden bed. The wood only needs to be 6 inches deep but for some deeper rooted plants like potatoes, you’ll need 12 inches. Each bed we used was created from a 2 inch x 6 inch x 16 ft length of board. From each board, we cut into 4 ft pieces to create a 4 ft x 4 ft square bed (16 square ft). You can use any size you want to create a larger or smaller garden. The main point is to make it square and use wooden lattices or other thin strips of wood to mark off square foot grids, thus making it a true square foot garden.
- Lattices are used to section off each square foot grid. In our example, the lattices we had around weren’t the right size so our grids are slightly misaligned.
- The soil is the most critical part of the garden. Because of the limited space of each garden bed, use the following mix:
- 1/3 peat moss
- 1/3 vermiculite (this can be tough to find, a lot of times you need to order online, such as Home Depot or Lowes and use the ‘ship to store’ feature)
- 1/3 compost (the book suggests using multiple sources of compost if possible)
- Weed cloth
- Hose or some other source of water
Using the wood and your tools, create the actual raised bed. Try and do this on a flat, even surface to ensure everything lines up. Once the beds are created, place them wherever you’d like.
Next, spread out your tarp and dump your soil mix onto the middle of it. If you’re making multiple garden beds, you may want to do this step one at a time to make it easier to work with. Spray the soil mix with your hose and rake through it, thoroughly mixing it up. Do this several times until you’ve watered all the soil well, but take care not to turn it into mud as this will make it more difficult to transplant into your garden bed.
Fill the bed all the way up with the soil mix, try and keep it nice and loose taking care not to pack it together too tightly.
That’s all there is too it! No tilling soil, no weeding the ground first or any other type of maintenance. Most hardware or home improvement stores will cut the wood frame and lattices for you for free (or nominal cost). You can make each garden bed as small or large as whatever your living situation permits. If you don’t want to start from seed, feel free to transplant your vegetables or flowers directly into a grid.
You’ll notice in our grid example that there are 6 one square foot grids and 6 grids of various sizes. This was due to the lattices not being cut to the correct size. We opted to just use the existing lattices and have a few misshaped grids that we’ll use for larger plants such as cabbage.
We invite you to follow us this summer to see our progress and ultimately the value that a square food garden can provide you. It’s easy, inexpensive, and will be a valuable addition to any long term food and water storage plan. We’ll be posting updates every few weeks with pictures of how our gardens are coming along. If you’re interested in starting a square foot garden of your own, pick up a copy of the book ‘All New Square Foot Gardening’, by Mel Bartholomew.