|A cover crop of turnips. An easy place to get massive amounts of turnip seeds is in seed packages for Deer Food Plots.|
Subsistence gardening is different than quality-of-life gardening.
A gardener in the city might grow a 30 square-foot garden with herbs, chili peppers and a cherry tomato plant and be perfectly happy as a quality-of-life gardener.
Under current conditions, it makes no sense for them to expand their garden or to grow crops like potatoes or corn. Their point is "Why should I plant half of my garden to potatoes (three plants, maybe) to harvest a dollars worth of potatoes?"
To their way of thinking, the size of their garden and the current prices are Constants, not Variables. The subsistence gardener's thinking is inverted. "Everything is a variable except for the fact that every person in my household needs 3000 Calories a day.
From the subsistence gardener's viewpoint, foods like corn and potatoes and cabbage are awesome because they are cheap. The cost of those foods is a consequence of their ease-of-production and their inherent productivity. It is much easier to produce 3000 Calories of potatoes than it is 3000 Calories of Shitake mushrooms, for instance.
This guy gets it right
I will just add a few comments.
He misses out on Brassicas. That would be cabbage, turnips and the like. Diets that lean heavily on easy-to-store and transport, starchy foods are often light on vitamins. Sure, you can devote energy into turning grain into sprouts but why not just scatter a bunch of turnip seeds on a bare part of your garden and harvest greens all winter long?
Gardening is a very local enterprise. Varieties that do well for me might not do well for you.
Light is energy. Calories are a measure of energy. No light. No Calories.
Some constants are universal. Crops need moisture. Some are more drought tolerant that others.
To produce well, crops need fertility. Most commercial farmers use about 200 pounds of Nitrogen per acre for corn, potatoes and cabbage.
That is the equivalent of one pound of urea per 100 square-feet. If you have difficulty visualizing 100 square feet, then visualize three, 4X8 sheets of plywood.
Weeds are likely to outgrow your crops because they are not genetically hardwired to divert much of their photosynthetic output toward fruit, tubers or succulent, edible greens.
The weeds will get the sun, moisture and fertility intended for your food crops.
This is not a child's story. You must control insects in some way.
Birds, rabbits, woodchucks, deer, squirrels....
Fences are your friend but if that doesn't work...they are edible.
Some crops are magnets for vandals and theft. Orange pumpkins are a prime example.
While the classic, orange pumpkin seems to beckon the worst elements of humanity from half a mile away the same cannot be said for a green or blue Hubbard squash or a tan, bottle-shaped Butternut squash.
Time becomes different when you are subsistence gardening. You don't schedule tasks in the garden. The garden does.
It doesn't work to say "I will pull those weeds next Wednesday between 5:00 PM and 7. Ground needs to be worked when IT is ready. Seeds planted when the ground is ready. Weeds pulled or hoed when they are young. Soil watered when the rains don't come. Insects controlled when they show up. Food harvested when it is ready not when you are hungry.
Bonus link: If you can only buy one book on subsistence gardening, buy Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times
Comments are encouraged. I know I have readers (Looking at you Milton, M.R. and Howard) who run circles around me in gardening know-how and execution. Do you have any cautions, tips or advice you want to share with the larger readership?