If a large natural disaster in late 2012 of massive coronal mass ejections take out most all electrical devices and electrical energy production then mankind will be set back to a 1900s existence overnight.  If this occurs then everyone will need to become backyard farmers for the next few years in order to survive the rebuilding of our modern civilization’s infrastructure.

As an organic gardener I would like to pass on some information which would help people now to prepare for this possibility and prevent many gardening mistakes.

The most food can be produced with the least amount of effort with fruit, nut, and berry bushes that grow upright and require little yearly attention.  The only drawback is that they normally take 3-5 years to begin bearing fruit or nuts.  But you can plant the dwarf varieties and get fruit in 2-3 years.  This is what most people should do now because a large natural disaster could last many years and require many years of food self-sufficiency for familieson.  Te he best book on this subject I have found is “Fruit Trees for the Home Gardener”  by Allan A. Swenson — $ 14.95.

Most all of the suburban lawns in cities in America are compacted clay soils which would grow very little food for the average homeowner without extensive work to improve the soils.  Many tree roots prevent digging and the clay soils are severely compacted from years of cutting the grass and walking on the soil.  There is only three solutions to this compacted soil condition of the suburban homeowner. One is to own a rototiller and till the soil at least two feet  deep to loosen the soil and turn the grass under to begin a massive garden of row crops.  This is the traditional method of reclaiming lawns for garden use.  If you have access to a rototiller and gas after 2012 this is probably what most people will attempt to do to grow additional foods after a 2012 disaster. But rototillers may not work after 2012 and gas may not be available.

Second, and more likely, is that rototillers and gas to till and start a new garden will not be available after late 2012.  In which case the only means is hand tools of shovels and pitch fork to double dig a blot of land.  If you do this double dig procedure you can produce about 5 to 10 times the food on the land as you can produce with row crops.  But the main problem is that this is back breaking work to double-dig large plots of land to garden.  (Double-digging is digging the soil two spade lengths deep to loosen and turn the soil and grass under.)  And if there are trees nearby their roots will prevent this digging.

In reality most people will just turn over one 10-12 inch layer of soil and rake it over of large clumps and deem it ready to plant a garden.  They will not take the time to double dig the blot because of the hard labor.  This will be a big mistake because you can produce 5 to 10 times the food on an intensive plot of garden land that is double dug than you can a single dug row crop plot. 

The best solution and by far the easiest is to make a raised bed garden NOW with your own custom made soil.  Make your raised beds out of simple concrete blocks stacked two high (16 in.) rather than wood which will rot eventually.  At a cost of about $ 1.00 each for a 16 in.X8 in.X8 in. long block you can begin a garden easily and build new beds as you have time and money.  700 to 1000 sq ft of growing space will be all you need to grow most of your food for a family of four for a year.  The book “Cinder Block Gardens”  by Lynn A. Gillespie is the one best book by far on this subject — cost originally $ 15.00.  But there are many sources on-line.  You only need to know to place the blocks three and a half wide as the best width and make the rows any length you wish.  And you should make the custom soil out of 1/3 sand, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 peat moss. ( I like coconut coir fibers added to this soil to help keep moisture in the soil which is a problem with raised beds).

In a survival 2012 disaster situation you will need to grow the easy root crops most which is the most nutrition grown and the least space.  Carrots, beets, turnips, potatoes, maca, sunchokes, onions, garlic, dandelion, and sweet potatoes.  Next, grow tomatoes, summer squash, beans, cabbage, zucchini, pumpkin, strawberries, rhubarb spinach, peas, popcorn, peppers, lettuce greens, and winter squash.  (Cucumbers have very little nutritional value.)  I know this is not McDonald’s hamburgers and fries food but it is probably far healthier than starvation.  After 2012 only corn, oats, beans, wheat, and soy products with be grown by the remaining local big farmers to supplement your diet with bread, oils, corn, and beans.  Most all livestock will be gone (eaten) and only local chickens and eggs would be available.

You need 175 feet long by 4 feet wide growing beds to get 700 square feet of garden space for a family of four — $ 2500 cost for blocks and soil.  Plus the concrete blocks with two 5 in holes each can be filled with the custom soil also and planted for an additional 300 sq ft of growing space.  The concrete blocks can be moved easily if you decide to expand or change the shape of the beds.  And trellises and plastic covers and be easily used to extend your growing season throughout the winter for additional food.

The springtime in pioneer generations past was know as the time of starvation.  The foods saved over the winter was gone or used up and the new crops are just being planted and not yet matured to eat. The foresight to plant and store for the winter fruit, nut, and berry plants now and build a 700 sq. ft raised bed garden with custom made soil for a few thousand dollars is the very best investment you can have for 2012 and beyond regardless of what happens. — J.E. Ante