Gardening · Homesteading · Prepping

The Emergency Garden

It’s the end of March, and the news is filled with doom and gloom every day. Maybe you have never grown food before, and suddenly feel the need to do it. Or you have, but not recently.

Gardening can help control anxiety from news of inflation and food shortages by giving you something beneficial to do, get exercise and receive fresh air/sun.

The Emergency Garden is a simple thing: To get food growing as quickly as possible, that will give you nutrients and calories. Without deep planning. You can do longterm planning while the emergency garden is starting to grow. It’s two fold. Build for now, and build for the future. Gain skills and grow confidence that you can take more on. As the emergency garden flourishes, you can be working behind the scenes, building more space and learning to grow trickier seeds, but having food to eat while you do it.

To Start:

Figure out where you can start growing. If you have a yard, raised beds made quickly work fastest. If you only have a deck, pots will work. Ask before buying if anyone has things they don’t need – be it cinderblocks for beds, or used pots. Often people have things they want gone, and gone for free. In the emergency garden, we don’t have time to till land to make in ground beds. Save that for part 2.

Go buy potting/garden soil and compost immediately. This is where you need to spend money – your soil will determine your success. A mix of garden soil, potting soil and compost will provide a nice base in raised beds. For pots use potting soil to avoid heavy soil. If you can afford organic, choose that.

Buy organic fertilizer to have on hand. You don’t have time to wait for your compost pile to cook down. That is for part 2. While the first vegetables grow, start a compost pile if you don’t have one already.

Buy seeds Immediately. This is no time for the fancy seeds. You want easy to grow, short grow season seeds. Preferably F1 hybrids, that are designed for where you live. In the PNW, Ed Hume seeds are the best choice for this. Read the packet of seeds carefully and look at each variety and compare how many days it takes to grow. Always choose the shortest.

Growing heirloom/heritage/open pollinated seeds you can save seed from, that is for part 2. Buy both types, grow the fastest first, then plant the heirlooms.

As with shorter grow times, consider size as well. Grow smaller carrots, beets, pickling cucumbers over slicing cucumbers. Bush peas and beans over pole ones. Look for dwarf varieties.

Normally I would say “grow the rainbow” when it comes to colors, but in the emergency garden, stick to lighter colors, they will take less time on average. Green peas versus deep purple ones. White, yellow or red versus blue-purple tomatoes. Orange carrots versus those gorgeous dark as night ones in the seed catalog. Stick with small potatoes such as white, red, or Yukon Gold, instead of Russet baking potatoes.

Also see: Building a Garden Quickly.

What To Grow:

  • Lettuces (Many lettuce types can be cut multiple times, and let regrown, before the heat zaps them till early fall crops)
  • Greens (Arugula, kale, spinach, bok choy, swiss chard, mustard greens)
  • Peas (grow bush style for quickest) (can eat pea shoots, then the peas)
  • Beets (both the greens and the bulbs are edible)
  • Radishes
  • Evergreen Onions (Scallions, Green Onions, Spring Onions) (They can be cut and regrown multiple times)
  • Carrots (grow smaller varieties and avoid the deeply colored ones as they take longer) (Carrot greens are edible and make a great pesto)
  • Garlic (can be planted in early spring for a late summer harvest, it will be smaller but delicious none the less, grow hard neck for garlic scapes)
  • Mushrooms
  • Herbs (Grow in pots, they can be snipped as needed and air dried in summer) (Parsley, Basil, Chamomile, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and such)
  • Potatoes (Can be grown in buckets, pots and be harvested as new potatoes or let grow all season. Can plant multiple crops a year)
  • Turnips (Not a sexy root, but they last a long time and are great in soup or mashed up like potatoes, greens are edible)
  • Summer Squash (grow it up a trellis, or hog panels, to save space)
  • Tomato (grow smaller, bush tomato plants that produce smaller fruit)
  • Beans (bush green beans)

Wondering how much to grow per person? See here for that post.

Right Now Starts Are In Stores and more are showing up in the coming weeks:

  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Lettuces
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes (usually in April)

Bring home the starts, plant the onions, spinach, and peas. The greens and brassicas, pot them up into 4″ pots and let grow a bit more before planting. Tomatoes should be potted up and protected in at least an unheated greenhouse or pop up shelter/or sunny window until at least May 1st. I plant tomatoes in ground around Mother’s Day weekend.

Buying starts can cost a little more, but give you a head start while you get seeds going. It also builds confidence as they grow.

And to that….may your garden grow and bless you!