Written by David S.
Living within the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken much of how we live to the core. The idea that food shortage would occur here is still mind-boggling. The idea that you cannot go to the store and always find what you want or need is part of our discussion here. Is there a food pandemic? What can you do to ensure your family has food? Many people are turning to an old method of food production – gardening.
What is a food pandemic or shortage?
A food pandemic occurs when domestic or imported food becomes tainted by disease and becomes unsafe to consume. An example would be a salmonella outbreak in processed chicken. For there to be a food pandemic, many foods would need to be tainted. Another situation that could produce a food pandemic is when a disease spreads through a type of food, making it unsafe to consume.
A food shortage is different from a food pandemic, though a food pandemic could cause a food shortage. When a food shortage occurs, the availability of food becomes scarce. Currently, the nation is experiencing a wet cat food shortage. During the first COVID-19 lockdown, some food items in grocery stores became limited or scarce. You may recall seeing empty shelves for canned food or fresh produce, and those empty spots were part of a supply chain disruption caused by the pandemic. In short, there was a shortage of available food at many grocery stores.
What can you grow now to feed your family next month?
Producing food does not happen overnight. It requires some thought, effort, and a few reasonable goals. If you wanted to start gardening to provide food to your family, It would take several weeks to a month to produce some food. Turnip greens, microgreens, and other under 30 day crops are one place to start. You would need to focus on producing enough food to feed your family. Here’s a closer look at what goes into growing a meal.
What can you do to prepare for food shortages?
One of the first steps is to evaluate the fruits and vegetables you eat, which are essential to your diet or lifestyle. Next, look at meals and determine recipes you can make with ingredients you can store. For example, if you want to make soup, you would have to make stock or use canned or boxed stock.
If you are growing a lot of food, you want to make sure you can consume what is ready or learn how to store it safely. My household relies heavily on our garden to produce as much food as possible. We grow about 80 percent of what we consume. What we cannot consume immediately we store – can, freeze, dehydrate. It is a bit hardcore for most households, but we’ve been doing this for a very long time, and it is second nature to us. What I want to impart is the struggle to go from the idea of growing your food to doing that.
- The first rule is to start small – and get your feet under you before you go big.
- Do not plant everything under the sun – You won’t like it, it may not grow well where you live, and you will need to ration the amount of labor you have available. Gardening takes work.
- Invest wisely – It is easy to suddenly realize that the tomatoes you harvest are $48 a pound because there is $10,000 of supplies invested in your garden. Avoid the money pit. Purchase what you need – A good shovel, quality seeds, a sturdy hose. Those are the bare minimums of what you need to produce a crop. My garden space is 400′ by 400′. I use two hoses, a rake, a shovel, and a pitchfork. We practice no-till gardening, so there is not a lot of digging. To keep the plants and crops ready to go, we use seed starter trays that are reusable. We add to the pile of seed starting supplies as needed. You can start with recycled tin cans, plastic bottles, or milk cartons cut lengthways.
- If you are going to invest in something, consider the quality of your soil. The biggest chore in our garden is growing healthy soil. You can try to compost as much as possible, but understand that it takes a considerable amount of material to make a minimal amount of compost – and it takes a lot of time. Whether you are using raised beds, containers, or planting in the earth, you will need to amend the soil as you garden. The simplest way to do that is to add manure to the top of your growing area as you remove each crop.
Those are the fundamental challenges of growing your food. Another issue is pest control, and that is an entire blog itself. If you have a pest issue, it is helpful to talk with the plant experts at Green Thumb Nursery. The “solutions,” no pun intended, are many, and you have options to control pests.
What can you grow in a Month to Feed Your Family?
- Radishes – 22 days to harvest, but you can pick the greens before harvesting the radish. You can also let a few plants bold and go to seed. Collect the seeds they are prized in vegetable curries.
- Mustards – 40 days to harvest, but you can selectively snip leaves before the plant matures.
- Peas – take about 60 days to mature, but you can snip off leaves and some flowers to consume in salads and soups.
- Beets – take 7-8 weeks to mature, but the leaves are quite tasty. You can selectively harvest beet greens as soon as the plant is six inches tall.
- Chard – takes 50-60 days to mature but plant to selectively harvest when the plants reach about six inches in height.
You may notice that much of this list is all about leaves. You want to plant other things simultaneously, such as squash and tomatoes. Those plants will take longer to produce. In the meantime, you can supplement your food supplies with some fresh leafy greens.
There is a garden hack that we call successive planting. It works to extend your growing season and shorten the days to harvest. To use successive gardening, estimate when a current crop will be mature and then plant its replacement 4-6 weeks before that date. Then, when you remove the crop, you have a crop ready to go into that space that is 4-6 weeks closer to maturity.
Right now is the best time to get started with a garden. It will take time to get a garden up and growing, and the sooner you start, the better.
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