Thursday, August 4, 2011

Can Your Food Supply Beat The Heat?

First, allow me a little SHTF gardening pontification:

Many preparedness-minded people have a pack of "survival seeds" socked away for TEOTWAWKI, thinking, "If SHTF, I'll just start gardening."

First of all, you can't just throw a random can of survival seeds in your fridge and expect to be able to produce enough food to survive, much less thrive, post-SHTF. We've been gardening in one way or another for 6 years and we are by no means experts. We are making remarkable strides in our skills and knowledge, but I wouldn't want to depend solely on our garden's production.

Second of all, are you sure your seed stockpile is full of varieties that will thrive in your area? Do you have good tools? How about ways to maintain your soil's fertility and to manage pest problems without petrochemicals? Are you physically capable of the labor it takes to turn virgin ground into a thriving garden? You had better know the answers to all those questions before you have to rely on your "Garden in a Can".

Hot, hot, hot

With that out of the way, let's bring this summer's heatwave and drought into the picture. Let's say SHTF has happened. Unless you are located in the Pacific Northwest or Antarctica, chances are your summer has been brutally hot. At the Harried Homemaker Acres, we have had TWENTY ONE days where the high has been over 100 degrees. This is great for using your car as a solar oven, but not much else.

Extreme Heat Warnings and Watches, July 20, 2011

Our garden has suffered, with the corn taking the brunt of nature's furnace . Keep in mind that this is with daily watering. What would have happened if we could not irrigate? Could we live on only our garden produce?

The answer, obviously, is no. Not even if we had a much larger garden and were master gardeners. We would be struggling and would be thanking the Lord that we had our food storage in place.

POINT #1: You've got to have food storage as a back-up.

If you look at the information available from the National Weather Service, you'll find some interesting charts and graphs. This July ranked in the top ten of hottest summers ever recorded in our state. When were the other ten?

A cluster of years in the early 1900s
A cluster in the 1930s
A small cluster in the 1950s

Hot and dry weather seems to come in clusters, which brings me to point number two.

POINT#2: It would be best to have enough food storage in place to account for multiple years of poor harvests.

And don't forget this -

POINT #3: In hot, dry weather, your gardening technique matters.

I will always sing the praises of Square Foot Gardening, but it is a more intensive cultivation that requires additional water and soil fertility. In a drought, giving your crops extra space is extremely useful. Two books that I own that address this issue are Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times and The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times.

I particularly find the latter book inspirational. The author, Carol Deppe, promotes corn, bean, squash, potatoes and eggs as the basis for a survival diet and gives extremely detailed information on how to grow these crops/products. If you maintain a gluten-free diet, you'll especially appreciate her book. We aren't gluten-free, but still found a lot of useful information. It is one of those books that makes you think.

Even if you are a die-hard SFGer, it makes sense to tuck these books into your survival library and learn these techniques as a option.

How is your garden growing in all this heat? How drought-proof is your garden?


  1. Where I live it should be in the 100's almost all month and we are hovering around 90. I can't believe how long it is taking for my garden to produce anything. It is all green and bushy, but taking a long time. My tomatoes have been green for awhile now. This has been a strange, strange year for sure!! Makes me want to step up my prepping for what's coming!!

  2. Great point. I love food fresh from the garden, but want to be able to eat in any situation. My parents had quite a few late freezes this year and much of their garden is not producing at all b/c of it. Thanks for the reminder to keep our prepping well rounded!

  3. ugh. Let the dog out a bit ago, and it was like walking into a furnace, and it was 10 pm. Ready to move somewhere wetter, for sure.

  4. Julie and I must be in the same area, waiting for the garden to produce too.

  5. I can't help it; 21 days over 100º made me giggle! We get over 5 months of over 100º temperatures every year. Usually it's 116º during the day and 104º at 3 a.m. during the summer. We also are lucky if we get any rain here; our normal rainfall is 2 inches a YEAR.

    We actually had a cooler summer this year; a cool spell for a couple of weeks in July made it cool enough for my tomatoes to set fruit again; normally they stop by the first week in June because it is too hot.

    Corn, beans, squash and potatoes don't grow well here (it's too hot!) We also have a severe bee shortage here. Fruit trees and grape vines are what keep us going in the heat of summer. We harvest apples in June, peaches, figs, and plums in July, and grapes in July and August. Swiss chard also grows year-round in the heat.

  6. Brandy - Your garden is an inspiration. I'm amazed at what you produce in such a challenging climate. When I see houses in Las Vegas on TV, they invariably have only rocks and gravel for landscaping. I can't imagine living in such a hot, arid climate, but I'd sure like to visit your amazing garden!

    (For others reading my comment, Brandy has an amazing website - check it out - )