Monday, May 18, 2020

Did Covid-19 change your gardening plans this season?

One of the questions that came in via the comments was the question "How will Covid-19 change your gardening?"

I gave the question some time to incubate because it is a GREAT question.

Initially, I doubled the size of the garden. By modern, American standards I had a HUGE garden at 5000 sq-ft. That compares to the typical WWII, British allotment of about 2200 sq-ft, the typical 400 sq-ft suburban garden and 100 sq-ft urban garden.

Doubling the garden took it to 10,000 sq-ft or about a quarter acre.

The center-of-gravity for my family is about 17 miles to the northeast of where I live. I offered parcels to my assorted siblings and niblings. The response was uniformly "Thanks, but no thanks. I am good."

The 5000 sq-ft garden produced food far beyond what we harvested and ate.

One year we actually dug all of the potatoes I grew. It was 1200 pounds of clean, bright, cosmetically perfect potatoes. I ate potatoes like nobody's business. The rest of the family ate some potatoes. I could not GIVE them away.

You see, potatoes come in vacuum sealed bags. You boil two cups of water, open the bag, dump in the potatoes, boil for two minutes and then cover the pan. That, my friend, is how you make "home-made" Au Gratin Potatoes!

The expression I got when trying to give away potatoes was "How quaint. What are these? Rocks? I don't have a peeler. Thanks anyway."

Another story: A lady I know grows and cans tomatoes. She told the ladies in the church choir that she had canned all she was going to use for the next year and they were welcome to swing by and pick all the tomatoes they wanted.

One woman was interested. "Where are they?" she asked.

"Behind the shed." Jean said.

Jean worked days and worked in her garden every day. She kept an eye on the tomatoes but it was clear that her friend never swung by and picked any tomatoes.

The next Sunday, Jean asked "What happened?"

The woman responded "They weren't where you said they would be."

Jean was mystified. After much conversation, it was revealed that the woman ASSUMED Jean was giving away quart jars of canned tomatoes.  Bloody hell!

Where is the bottleneck?
The bottleneck is usually found just downstream of where there is a super-abundance and just upstream of where there is a dearth.

Based on my personal experience (which may not be your reality), the bottleneck is in finding foods that come from a garden that "city people" will actually eat. I include "country kids" who wannabe "city people" in this category.

That leaves out winter squash and most root vegetables. From a labor standpoint, I have no desire to pick and sell fragile, perishable foods like strawberries, raspberries, leaf lettuce and the like. I cannot grow bananas. Attempts to germinate Skittles, M&Ms and Froot-loops have been abject failures.

The intermediate strategy I chose was to plant long-shelflife sweet corn and honeydew melons.

I will still grow the potatoes and tomatoes. The orchard will produce apples and pears regardless of economic conditions. However, this year we might eat more of them than the deer.

Personally, I have a goal to put 600 pounds of potatoes into the root cellar and to can at least 70 quarts of tomatoes and 100 quarts of apple sauce. The raw materials will be there. It is a matter of committing the time to harvest them and put them in the root cellar and jars.

If secondary effects amplify the triggering perturbation before October 1, then there are tons of apples and pears that can be harvested and eaten by humans. If the secondary effects become apparent after December 1...well, too bad.

I am all ears if anybody wants to comment regarding their experiences with past experiences making garden produce (or wild meats and fish) available to others or if you want to comment about any changes you made to your plans for gardening/fishing/hunting this season.


  1. The clay that passes for dirt here in western Pa is very hard to improve.

    I loathe weeding. Bending over is painful so i dont do it much.

    I started container gardening a couple years ago and have been expanding on it. This year i took a cue from Backwoods Home magazine and am using tires as raised bed containers. Cut the sidewalls out and fill it with the best dirt i can find and make.

    Scored a bunch of tubs from a greenhouse going out of business. Bought a pickup load of mixed topsoil and mushroom compost. Mixed that with peat moss and sand and its a great mix.

    I doubled my containers this year. I laid out lanscsape cloth and put pea gravel on top of that for a base and i am using old car rims to hold the pots high enough to weed without stooping.

    Im still goint to plant corn beans and squash in the dirt, but i will be laying out flattenned cardboard boxes ans cutting holes to plant the seeds.

    We shall see how that goes.

    Oh yeah, its mostly heirloom seeds i save every year except for carrots and onion sets.

  2. You're spot on. The corona pushed me finally to do my first vegetable garden. I have a acre backyard. Picked up a tiller to fit the ford 1700. Cannabis greenhouse's here in colorado do not reuse potting soil. So I have access to either living soil as they call it or inert coco fiber/perlite mix stuff. The inert stuff uses salt based fertilizer.
    Not sure how you measure a garden. Are you talking canopy area? Walk ways and the such dont count? I've tilled 1000sqft so far. Seeds germinated way to easy under T5's, I have hundreds of tomato, cucumber, pepper, canteloupe, watermellon, squash, zuchinni, several herbs already rooted in cups. Seeds are dirt cheap, 1.50$ a package. I am sure I've over did this by 10x, but, my moto is if something is worth doing it's worth over doing. I read somewhere my town has a free seed bank of locally grown stuff. You ask for seeds and then promise to resupply with what you've grown. Supposedly each generation the genetics get stronger since you are only saving what did the best? The lockdown messed up finding out anything about that.

  3. We did order seeds in January for a whole garden, my wife said don't bother to inventory thr old seeds. Of course we are planting old first but we are covered for next year too. The way seed companies have shut down orders because of backlog mauy of them may be sold out. We are trying to grow more efficiently this year. On potatoes, i never have a problem giving them away but we live in rural Alaska. If you have surplus and are supplementing your egg and meat supply you can cook them for chickens or hogs to supplement their feed. If other processors shut down like the meat packerz those vacuum packed quick dishes may be hard to find next winter. My son is looking for someone to taise him a hog as his local grocery store has a limit of two packs of meat per person! My farmer contact has been trying for two months to find pigs, at least enough to have breeding stock for next year with no luck.

  4. Ordered seeds for next year and this. One of those "survival survival kits" too. Perhaps a fools errand there but it was not particularly expensive. Have not put a garden in a couple years due to time. Took the time in early March this year. Adding new ground. Still small. Bought seedlings from home depot. All heirloom. My surprise is the Cherokee Purple Tomato (CP). I learn more about it each time I plant. I put the seedlings in at the warehouse which is built on red clay fill dirt. Some other heirloom tomato at my mom's house. CP is robust. Mom's on nice top soil are spindly with just a few flowers. Got 15 tomatoes on three CP plants by Sunday's count and more flowers. I reason that the name implies grown by Cherokees in the N. Georgia mountains where it is much cooler than a little south of ATL hence their robust response to cool temperatures this spring. With that strain of tomato the taste will tickle your toes after you get over the purple/black seeming discoloration. Usually with food black is bad. In this case it is very tasty. If I would get off the dime in January and start some from seeds I would have crop by the end of March with some cold frames.

  5. My wife and I have had a goal for several years of feeding ourselves. Normal garden is 5000 sq. ft. plus we keep chickens and sheep for meat. This year we also doubled up in anticipation of ignorant hungry relatives. So far, they remain oblivious.

  6. I have a large garden area that I have been tending for about the past 15 years. It is just under 1/2 acre, about 20,000 sq ft. I don't plant it all , just what I feel like we want, which isn't a lot as there is just my wife and I and we are both over 70 and don't eat much anymore. When I am done planting I cover crop the rest with a "green manure " plowdown. Barley, oats, buckwheat, etc. which I have as a food bank for most of the summer but brush hog down before it sets seed. Then the next spring I plow it all and start over. That way I have a reserve of prepared tilled, fertile ground for a huge garden if I ever need it and I rotate the area I use to reduce plant diseases. As for storing crops some things can be left in the ground over the winter. Potatoes in particular. I dug some Sunday and we had them for dinner. And I think it might be good panning to have some food where the state and county gestapo can't find it if there is ever confiscation. I have a friend that hasn't planted potatoes for 4 years and keeps digging them up when he wants some. Jerusalem Artichokes will do the same thing. I have a large bed of those out in a field I planted many years ago that keep growing if you leave pieces of root in place when you dig up the tubers. --ken

  7. Well this year we went from a hobby garden to a 'this better feed us' garden. And built a coop and bought some baby chicks. What I've noticed over the years is that people who grow gardens have all kinds of fresh vegetables. The people who don't grow gardens don't care as much what they eat. And they'll usually pass on food that requires more work than opening a box and putting the contents in the microwave.
    A lot of people are going to starve when shit gets serious. Right now a lot of people are treating this as an unscheduled vacation. It's not! Kung Flu is a wake-up call that a lot of people are willfully ignoring. We've got a brief reprieve to get stuff in order and get ourselves ready for the next big event.

  8. People in general are lazy! Has anyone asked for free delivery?


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