Emergency gardening 2 – the practice
We live in a world of ‘just-in-time’ food, with supermarkets and other food stores being replenished every day with food that comes from hundreds and even thousands of kilometres away. But that is not how nature produces food, of course. Good things take time; but there are good things in every season. While eating persimmons in May and oranges in July I anticipate strawberries in November and apricots in January. So the key to having an ’emergency-proof’ garden is to make sure that you grow a diversity of crops which cover every season, and that you know how to store the things which can be stored (above or below ground) properly. It is also necessary to grow a balanced diet – root crops for carbohydrates, greens and fruits for vitamins – and all vegetables have some protein. Fats can come in solid or oil form, from nuts or olives. Hopefully your well-stocked store cupboard will tide you over in a short emergency, but for longer emergencies having a plan beforehand is the thing. Also putting it into practice before it is needed – afterwards is too late.
Winter is a really good time to start planning a ‘resilient’ garden, working out how much your household realistically could and should produce for itself, and what the easiest ways to achieve it are. There is no one size fits all, as every household has different tastes, abilities and growing spaces. But the principle of having some food in or from the garden available every week of the year is a good one. Meeting even 10% of your needs this way is better than meeting none, and more is even better. If no emergency comes along immediately, you will at least enjoy having the freshest, most nutritious food ready to hand.
At the back of my book Food@Home (still a few copies for sale for $20 is anyone wants one) there is a New Zealand Kitchen Garden Planning Guide which goes through all the common vegetables, when and how to sow or plant them, and how many you will need to feed four people. It is followed by A Guide to Harvesting and Keeping Home-Grown Fruit and Vegetables, which has considerable detail for all the common fruits and vegetables. This has been a lost art for decades, but it is essential that it makes a comeback if home gardens (and kitchens) are going to provide the ‘just- outside’ back-up we will increasingly need as the current climate emergency intensifies.