Survival Gardening

Peter over at bayou renaissance man had a great piece on food self sufficiency. It was followed up by Eaton Rapids Joe, who added his own take.

I especially liked the quote on Peter’s site about gardening on North Texas.

My garden had a mind of its own. 2 months of high 90s-low 100s with no rain. Hours spent watering before dawn or at dusk, and the squash, cukes, pumpkin, watermelon went EVERYWHERE, and carrots, celery, broccoli, beets, beans, peas, never sprouted or sprouted to die. That image is perfect, but my plants seem to resist regulation.

Bayou Renaissance Man

That’s pretty much what happened to me this year.

This is how it started:

I did OK with Cucumbers, radishes, and peppers. Then the heat happened, and we got a big storm. That took out my squash. The cucumbers struggled, and started putting out bitter fruits.

I got all my radishes, and about two meals worth of string beans before they got hammered by the sun. My tomatoes looked super promising, but when it got hot, they started dying off.

You see, here in North Dallas, you literally cannot water enough to stop this from happening in a hot summer. My mistake, I meant to get a sunshade for these gardens and forgot.

So where I’m at now, the first two gardens are empty, and now that it cooled, I planted fall crops – beets, Bok Choi, and another round of beans, because I have them. I’ll be starting cabbages inside. We’ll see.

I don’t do it to subsist. I do it because I enjoy it. The peperocinis and bell peppers more than made up for whatever shortfall I had. I also learned to plant flowers that attract pollinators, and others that repel rodents – Marigolds, of all things, repel rodents. It works. That further most garden has them and has had zero shrinkage. It’s also attracted predator insects and lizards.

I watched a bunch of David the Good, and read two of his books. One on mulching, which is great, and works, and the other on transplanting, which was useful as well. Neil Sperry is another great Texas resource.

One issue I take with David the Good was that he was saying to plant crops that would fill your belly. Peppers and tomatoes were great but they won’t fill your gut.

Here’s the deal,

You mostly can’t do that here.

You need space for that, and the right temperature, water, and soil. We’re hot, semi arid, and have clay. Not needing raised gardens is another. I’ve never gotten anything to grow here without building up the garden. If you don’t raise it, you need to plow deep, and add in a shit ton (literally) of manure, peat, sand, compost. That is a ton of work.

Staples are still relatively cheap – Rice, beans, corn, flour. All of these are grown locally. Matter of fact, look at where they are grown when you buy them. I’ve found Loisiana rice and beans grown in the south taste better. I can tell with my busted taste buds, so to someone with a destroyed palate, the difference must be huge. I can tell you Camilla beans taste several orders of magnitude better than the store brand.

If you are down to rice and beans, or beans and tortillas, those peppers are a life saver. BTW, at Fiesta down here in TX, dried peppers as well as beans and rice are dirt cheap.

FWIW, Where grew up, married, had kids up in Northern Va I could grow literally anything. Every summer we were innundated by produce.

Here? Not so much.

It’s what it is.

I’m currently battling the city about water. They changed the meter and my bills went nuts. That said, I was running some of my zones more than I should, and I mostly replaced the shitty water saver mini-rotator heads with good old fashioned ones that blow 15′. I don’t think I adjusted the timer to reflect this.

To be fair, the city is responsive as hell, unlike Jackson’s water department. I complained, and they were out not even an hour later to size up the meter. When I called about the results, they offered to dump all the data so I could see it day by day.

So back to survival gardening, I need to focus on Texas native plants. Otherwise, I’m wasting my time.