Years ago, back on LATOC, I posted a message that essentially asked how well fertilizer kept so I could lay in a stockpile if I needed to start a garden.
I clearly remember the response of rbrgs. Essentially, I was told that fertilizer wasn't going to help, and I needed to learn how to build up my soil as a set of living organisms that naturally produced the nutrients needed by my plants.
Sounded good, and so began my multi-year quest to build my skills and soil up to support plant life. I dug pits, carefully set up soil, installed worms, installed fences to keep the rabbits out, installed subsoil bricks to keep the gophers out, and every year I added composted manure and other amendments to get that rich, fluffy loam that every gardening magazine so carefully describes. I got good productivity from my square foot gardens, and even set up a hegelculture (is that spelled even spelled right?) pit and raised a good crop of corn first time out with it. My neighbor that grew up on a farm said it was surprising that I got a good crop of corn up first try. Said it usually takes a few years to get it right.
So finally, I've got good, productive square foot gardens up and running. But only after years of amending the soil, and that's just for that little set of garden spaces. In my mind I was doing all this to get the skills necessary to set up and keep a large, post-collapse garden going. Ok, so now I have some skills. I'm not the greatest gardener in the world, but at least plants don't die when I walk past like they used to.
I'm a survivalist. The whole reason I was working on gardening was so I could, in an emergency, raise enough potatoes, beans, cabbage, and other storeable, useful food that my family wouldn't starve during the upcoming collapse.
This year, as I was adding yet another pile of sacks of composted manure and peat to my little square foot gardens, I had a horrible thought:
This process does not scale well or rapidly.
If I want to feed my family during a collapse, I had damn well better have multiple acres producing well right now. Not sometime the future, but now. Why? Because it takes a while to get a piece of land to a state of good productivity. Sometimes years. From my experience, one needs to keep working the land to keep it productive. Tilling, aerating, testing and balancing nutrients, watering, weeding, wondering what disaster is coming up next, it's the never ending story.
I submit that not many of us have a garden big enough to feed our family year after year. Most of us don't have that kind of land. I was hoping to take my skills to a piece of newly available land post-collapse and make a go of it there.
But that's not going to happen. There is no fertile farmland just sitting around waiting for me to come along and poke some seeds into it. Whatever's available will require years of work to make it productive using organic techniques. I and my family will probably starve if we take that path.
And even if I did have a big patch of land, I'd have to be constantly working it to keep it in shape. I had one square foot pit that I let lie fallow for a year and this year I wound up aerating it with a pickaxe. Not what I expected from my soft, fluffy soil that grew onions and garlic with such abandon two seasons ago.
So here's the problems I foresee with farming post-collapse:
- No time to work acres of soil down 24 inches using a shovel and fork
- No tractor to work acres of soil
- No gas to run the tractor if I had one
- Massive water requirements forever
- No fencing in place to keep the animals out
- No feed and seed store to purchase acres worth of amendments from
- No gas for the truck to haul all the amendments in year after year
- Need food this season for sure, not maybe in a couple of years
So basically, unless you've got a full-scale farm up and running now, you're screwed.
You can't stockpile soil.
This is unacceptable to me, so I'm looking for a solution.