Gardeners: You can grow crops in your summer garden that will feed your family during the non-growing season. It’s all about the proper timing for starting your seeds and knowing which plants can make it through the winter.
When summer comes to an end and you no longer have those wonderful veggies that came from your garden, what are your options? Well, for many of us gardeners, we are at the mercy of shopping for produce at Safeway from November until next year’s summer crop which won’t become available until June or July. Therefore, through winter and spring you will need to acquire food from a source that is outside of your control.
Let’s get real with what’s going on now with the prospect that food may not be available from your favorite outlet during the upcoming winter and spring. What then?
I’ve got a plan that can work. Eight plants that I grow each year will be available for your family to consume through next winter and spring. These plants will provide food that is wholesome and trustworthy because you grew them in your own garden.
Before getting into the details, here are some assumptions:
You can survive on the garden food you have saved for the non-growing season, but my recommendations assume you have stored some beans, grain, rice, fish, and meat to supplement these vegetables. If you don’t have these protein and carbohydrate supplement foods, then you will need to grow a significantly larger quantity than I have suggested for you to survive the seven-month non-growing season.
Decide the quantity of veggies you want to eat each week, taking in consideration the number of the people you need to feed and the growing space that will become available. In my descriptions of food quantities that I am recommending, I will estimate the number of pounds of produce desired to feed two people each week.
Although I suggest a certain amount of seeds to plant, think ahead about other people’s needs if food shortages become critical. You probably have family and friends that don’t garden and have not stored food for future disasters. If you have the growing space, double or triple the seeds you personally need, especially if food shortages occur, as some people are predicting in the coming months.
Scheduling Late-Season Planting DateS
Late season planting dates need to be coordinated with the advent of cold fall weather. Locally, my “first frost” date is no sooner than October 15th. Only one of the eight plants highlighted will survive uncovered outside in cold weather, which means you will need to protect the other seven with mulch or have a place to keep them inside from freezing or spoiling.
If your soil does not get saturated with wet winter weather, leave root crops in the ground until they are ready to eat. They will last longer left in soil then they would if they were dug up and stored in a cool garage or in a root cellar. Simply dig them up when you are ready to use them.
Remember that not all seeds germinate (sprout), so take this in consideration when starting your garden. As a minimum, start at least 20% more seeds than the number calls for.
My Crop Recommendations
The following instructions contain very limited garden growing techniques. If you want to know more about the “how to”, go to an article titled Volume Vegetable Gardening (Part 1 and Part 2) that I wrote for SurvivalBlog in March of 2021 which provides lots more details than reported here.
The eight recommend plants are:
3. Brussels sprouts
7. Hubbard squash
This plant grows partially submerged in the ground, and each seed produces just one beet.
Beets are great in stews, can be shredded and placed in a salad, or can be used as a side dish. For 30 weeks (the non-growing time), we will budget three pounds of beets each week. Say three beets that have been trimmed equals one pound, so 270 beet plants are needed (3 lb per week times 3 beets per lb times 30 weeks).
This will require a garden bed measuring about 5′ by 30′. In my climate zone, these plants will be started in pots on August 10th and kept under protection from weather until ready to plant outside on September 1st. They will be ready to eat before the earliest frost date of October 15th.
One pound of beets will provide about 100 calories and many nutrients.
Beets can survive mild freezing temperatures. However, if they are mulched while still in the ground, they will be protected from the coldest winters, and available to harvest when you are ready to eat them.
The broccoli plant produces a veggie that grows above ground. After harvesting the large crown, several small ones continue off-shooting for many days. Some call these small crowns “broccolini”.
We would like two pounds per week but estimate growth to cease January 1st, giving us only November and December of having broccoli. Broccoli is great in salads, stews, casseroles, or just plain water boil. One plant will produce about one pound, so we need to plant at least 16 plants. These plants will need an area 5′ by 14′ of bed space, where you will have two rows with each plant being about 1.5′ apart.
Start the seeds in a pot about July 15th then transplant each to a separate pot July 31st. Keep them warm and with good light during daytime. Transplant them outside August 15th and expect a crown to begin showing in about two months.
One pound of broccoli will provide about 180 calories and several additional nutrients.
One hard frost will prevent further growth, but the plant will still survive unless the temperature falls below 26’F. A row cover will help protect this plant from a short-term hard freeze.
One plant will produce little cabbage-like growth on a stock that could reach two feet or taller.
Two pounds a week should be sufficient for us to enjoy. That means we will need 60 pounds. Assuming each plant delivers two pounds of sprouts, we need 30 plants. Brussels sprouts need to be planted in rows that are three feet apart, two feet from each other. Two rows in an area 5′ by 30′ should be adequate for the 30 plants. When considering the best time to start this seed, you need to know the length of time it takes the plant to generate an eatable crop. Some varieties of brussels sprouts take 200 days to mature while others take only 100 days. Also, if you wait to harvest the crop until after the first or second hard frost hits the garden, the flavor of this plant will be enhanced. (Leave the plant in the ground when harvesting. Pick the upper part of the plant first, allowing the lower bulbs to get larger for picking later).
Okay, let’s say your first hard frost will occur October 15 and instructions on the seed packet says it will mature in 100 days. Start the seeds June 15th in pots then transplant each in a separate pot on July 1st. Keep them warm with lots of light while they are still in the pot. Finally, transplant them outside July 15th and expect a harvest to begin at the end of October or later.
One pound of brussels sprouts will provide about 190 calories.
It can survive a temperature as low as 10 degrees to 15 degrees F, which makes it able to get through most of our winters here in the Pacific Northwest.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)