All posts by Lizzie

When Growing A Garden Isn’t As Simple As It Seems

As preppers we pride ourselves on being ready for anything. Most of us have the good sense to know that there are deficits in our preps and that getting prepared for whatever is coming is an ongoing process and at least in the materialistic sense, we will never be fully ready because one day our preps will run out.

The reality of living in a world where the s has really hit the fan is going to be totally different than the way we imagine it in our heads.

Although we are more aware than the majority of the population we can still fall foul of normalcy bias – it’s human nature to edge towards the things we know but the ability to adapt will be critical in the event of a major disaster.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses and recognising those weaknesses ahead of time can not only save a lot of  heartache but possibly our lives.

Having unrecognised or even unaccepted weaknesses and doing nothing about it leaves a hole in your preps the size of Texas and that hole needs to be plugged. We all need to get out of our comfort zone and face facts:

You are most likely not as good as you think you are!

Allow me to elaborate. I have always enjoyed gardening. The garden at my last home was small, and with a HUGE dog – American Mastiff crossed with a Saint Bernard – and a kid running around there wasn’t much growing space. Enter container gardening. the results were most impressive, giving up a bit of patio space provided bush beans, peas, potatoes and carrots in very decent quantities and cherry tomatoes grew brilliantly in hanging baskets. Herbs in pots fixed to the fences added colour to the garden, made great use of space by going vertical and added a few new flavours to our food.

When we moved house and saw the size of the garden, part of which we never knew existed it was so overgrown I was in heaven. I never considered the problems we would encounter…like access. It took almost five months to get permission to drive a digger over the private car park on the other side of the fence…then weeks to co-ordinate the residents to NOT park there for an hour to get the thing in.

When the ground was cleared we had an extra 170ft of garden we didn’t know existed such was the impenetrable overgrowth caused by 35 years of neglect.

Now this house was a renovation job…it had a roof and external was but the inside…well don’t even go there. Every day, when the digger had moved out I dug down to pull out the roots of brambles and everything you could think of, and eventually I had a blank canvas, 50 ft wide and 302 ft long (without the 20ft by 50 ft concrete bit that would eventually become a patio)  that saw me out with a trowel everyday to get sprouting weeds I had missed.

The soil was poor and the neighbours that used the car park were really pissed when two trucks with 17 tons of topsoil apiece rolled up. That took some spreading I can tell you.

200 ft of turf went on top of that. That just left the veggie patch…my 102 by 50 ft patch at the bottom of the garden.

The house was now in the hands of experts, all the unskilled, hard labour dirty jobs that would cut down on the final bills had been done. Plaster was gone from the walls, ceilings ripped down, crap disposed of. Time to garden.

I had planned this for a year, knew where the raised beds would be going, knew what to companion plant with what so cut down on pests. cart-wheel style herb garden was all drawn out. I even had the soil conditions required by my various crops written out so I knew what I had to do to make the soil perfect for my plants.

Wellies on (rubber boots to you Americans), load of garden tools in a plastic dustbin off I went, so happy to finally get going. What happened next could fill a book so I will give you the highlights:

  • 4 inches down the “soil” turned to clay. Clay so good and so pure my daughter was making models with it!
  • This clay alternated between so hard I couldn’t get a fork through it and so heavy when wet I couldn’t lift it.
  • Using bright orange spray paint I made a grid so I could work on a bit of it at a time.
  • I dug out the clay to a depth of 2ft and put it to one side. I hammered a pole into the bottom of the hole, once in each corner and once in the centre then filled the holes with pebbles to aid drainage. When the pile of clay had dried I smashed it up with a hammer and then mixed the smaller lumps with sand, grit and kitchen peelings then put it back in the hole. This was back-breaking work that moved very slowly.
  • Grid 3 found me masking up to deal with the smashed asbestos I had found. This had to be put into piles, be sealed into boxes and the boxes wrapped in cling film (shrink wrap) before being delivered to a specific centre that can deal with asbestos waste. It was encapsulated asbestos that used to be used for garage roofing and weighed a ton so I had to use small boxes. Doing it myself saved £1000’s.
  • At this point I got hold of some build bags and put topsoil in them and grew in those rather than miss another year.
  • Grid 6 threw up another issue. The soil seemed “greasy” and smelt “off”. A few more forkfuls and the source was obvious. I dug up a rusting oil can and half a dozen rusted through petrol cans. Grids 6 and 7 were contaminated. I wouldn’t be using them and would decide later what to do with them…and the grids either side of them in case the contamination had spread.
  • Forgetting grid 8 grid 9 was full of rubbish, sections of plastic guttering, broken house bricks and the skeleton of a dog, or fox, or sabre toothed tiger…something with a head at one end, a tail at the other and a leg in each corner.
  • Grid 10 was uneventful.

So it went, on and on and on. TWO YEARS later and I’m not finished. There are more and more problems as I move on. More contamination, more asbestos and more dead animals. I gave up.

What have I learned?

Tons of stuff but all those lessons haven’t given me a veggie plot. I have found though that large build bags, the jumbo ones lifted by truck mounted cranes over the fence make fantastic containers to grow in. Raised off the floor I don’t break my back weeding and by having them around the edge of the patch every bit of growing space is reachable. I have a huge space in the middle of the garden that even with the herb garden – cart-wheel design but made of same sized pots rather than planted in the ground, this design leaves room to move a wheelbarrow around.

The moral of the story?

  • Just because the weeds grow so well doesn’t mean the soil is suitable for veggies.
  • You really don’t have any idea what you are going to find until you start digging.
  • Having an alternate plan would have made it easier to switch at an earlier stage in the proceedings.
  • I wasn’t physically strong enough to achieve my goals in the time I had allowed.
  • Sometimes whatever you do your idea isn’t going to work, often for reasons beyond your control.
  • Sometimes your idea isn’t going to work because you don’t have the ability to make it work.

If we had been relying on the veggie garden to feed us we would have starved.

Accepting our limitations and the limitations imposed by the situation we find ourselves in is sometimes the only option and the ability to adapt is imperative.

Here are a few more articles you may be interested in:

OUR UNHEALTHY LOVE AFFAIR WITH ELECTRICITY: A FEW HINTS AND TIPS FOR NEW PREPPERS

YOU MAY LIKE THE IDEA OF LIVING IN THE BOONIES BUT WOULD YOU COPE WITH THE REALITY?

FAMINE: IT’S NOT JUST A FOREIGN THING

FOOD INSECURITY: REPORT PROVES SOIL QUALITY DROPS AS ANTIBIOTICS IN ANIMAL FEED RISES

Take care

Liz