Sun, seeds and soil: prepping your green thumb
Gardening is a simple but versatile skill that is often ignored in the modern age. The uninitiated or those who lack a green thumb can be scared off by the word, although they shouldn’t be worried. Gardens can be adapted to suit almost any condition or skill level with a little forethought.
Honing your green thumb serves two purposes for apocalyptic preparation. In addition to learning to grow your own food (an invaluable survival skill), it also provides you with fresh food that can be stored in your survival kit through canning, drying, etc.
For those of you who lack a large outdoor space, or fellow urbanites who must be content with only a windowsill of growing space, do not despair. While you may not be able to cultivate enough produce to survive on, you can start with some basic plants that will get you in the habit of gardening. I encourage those of you with a large backyard or access to a community garden to experiment and stretch your skills further afield – you never know when it may be useful to have a stash of fresh peppers or a set of seed potatoes in your pantry.
Below are some ideas and links to get you started. I’ve selected a few plants that require relatively little maintenance and are a good base for any gardener to build on.
Versatile to cook with and filing to eat, potatoes are also extremely easy to grow in a small space. Although they are susceptible to disease, this can be avoided by taking the proper precautions such as checking for aphids early in the season. Potatoes can also be grown in containers (and even old tires!), allowing you to maximize your outdoor space or turn out a bumper crop from an apartment balcony.
Often an afterthought, herbs are a great way for beginners to start gardening. Most grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and garden centers sell small, potted herb plants or containers with a variety of herbs. Fresh herbs are an excellent way to add flavor to any meal, which may be crucial when you get bored of canned or freeze-dried food. For those of you who don’t have the greenest of thumbs, they are also an excellent way of getting in the habit of watering something on a regular basis.
Good for adding flavor to dishes and the base of many meals, onions are another easy to grow plant that is good for beginners. Starting from onion sets allows you to grow well-established plants in a short amount of time. Once the onion plants have blossomed, you can collect the seeds to save for the next year’s crop.
Endless varieties of lettuce are available and easy to grow, from romaine to red leaf to arugula. We recommend beginners start with the last of these – arugula only takes a few weeks to mature and continually sowing seeds will provide you with a regular harvest all summer long.