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Gardening During Hard Times or Emergencies - You Can Feed Yourself!

Do you ever worry about always having to rely on getting seeds and fertilizer from the store? What would you do in a survival situation, if you could not go to a store to purchase these things?

Lets compare it to your food supply. What would you do about your store-purchased food? Many wise people buy more than they need of food items that store well, and create a "year's supply" of the essentials in their basement or other cool, dry place. This is the biblical answer. As you may remember, Joseph in Egypt saved grain for 7 years and then fed the whole Egyptian nation, as well as his own family and others, during the next 7 years of famine.

The same approach will work even better for gardening with both seeds and fertilizers. For about $25 you can buy the triple-sealed Garden In A Can from Mountain Valley Seeds, with enough non-hybrid seeds to grow a 1/2-acre garden! If these are stored in a cool dry place they will remain viable for a very long time. The website is, and I highly recommend you get a can, or the smaller Garden in a Pouch for about $12.

And if natural mineral fertilizers are kept dry, they will store indefinitely while still maintaining their potency. Therefore I suggest you also buy and store enough Pre-Plant Mix and Weekly Feed to grow at least one year's garden. The formulas for mixing your own are in the Learn section of the Food For Everyone Foundation's website at

A rule of thumb for how much fertilizer you would need to store, in order to have your year's supply, is 6# of Pre-Plant and 12# of Weekly Feed per 30' soil-bed. Even though you will only feed some crops 4 or 5 times, remember that if you are really living out of your garden, you will be growing two or three crops, and doing it from March or April, right up until frost in October. Therefore, see the following chart for suggestions on how much to store, depending on the size of your garden.


20' X 30' (4 soil-beds) 25# 50#

40' X 65' (16 soil-beds) 100# 200#

50' X 100' (30 soil-beds) 200# 400#

Now, what can you do if the emergency goes beyond a year, and you've used up all your fertilizer? First off, don't expect the same quantity of production as you obtained with balanced mineral nutrients, but you can grow a healthy garden using manure tea. Here's how.

Get a large burlap bag and a 55-gallon barrel. Find cow or horse manure (chicken or turkey is twice as hot, so less will be needed), and fill the bag 2/3's full. Place the bag in the barrel and fill it with water. Let the manure soak or "steep" for 24 hours, then use the tea to water your vegetable plants. Replace the bag of manure in the barrel and let steep for 48 hours. Again, water with the tea, then dump the spent manure out and till into an unused portion of the garden. It has very little nutrient value, but can improve your soil tilth. Remember to plant a little further apart when doing this, because plants will be competing for less available nutrition. And every watering should be with the manure tea for your plants to thrive. You should expect to grow a smaller garden, and spend some time finding manure and hand-watering.

If manure just isn't available, save your kitchen scraps and human waste. Many countries do it all the time, so it's not the end of the world. And all clean, healthy plant residue should be saved and properly composted for re-use in the garden - again preferably as manure tea.

By the way, even 4 soil-beds, when properly worked and cared for, especially if combined with good seedling production, could produce a large amount of food. As an example, if only one crop was grown, you could produce 2,000# or more of tomatoes, or even cabbage - if you grew 3 crops. So is this approach cost effective? You do the math. Suppose you invest $50 in your years supply of seeds and fertilizers. What will 2,000 pounds of vegetables be worth to your family during hard times? Think of Joseph in Egypt!

Jim Kennard

James B. (Jim) Kennard, the President of Food For Everyone Foundation, has a wealth of leadership, financial, business, teaching, and gardening training and experience upon which to draw in helping the Foundation to achieve its goals. He is a retired (CPA), practicing as managing partner in a Salt Lake City firm since 1972, and has also owned and successfully managed several different businesses, including hotels, shopping centers, apartments, and retail establishments during the past twenty five years.

Jim has been a Mittleider gardener for the past twenty-eight years, he is a Master Mittleider Gardening Instructor, and has taught classes and worked one-on-one with Dr. Jacob Mittleider on several gardening projects in the USA and abroad, in addition to conducting projects himself in Armenia, Madagascar, and Turkey. He grows a demonstration garden at Utah's Hogle Zoo, and assists gardeners around the world on the Foundation's website and the free Gardening Group.
© 2004 -2008 Pete Havekost