I am grateful that we have had the last seven years here to learn the climate, soil conditions, pests and temperature variations. No two years have had the same weather conditions, which has offered even more to learn. Our first two gardens were grown under extreme drought conditions. This past year we lost some of our hard earned topsoil to flooding, and it was so wet that seeds rotted in the ground.
During the first few years we tried growing the same varieties of vegetables we had grown else where, some did well and some did not. We experimented one year with about six or eight types of peppers, tomatoes and winter squashes. That gave us a very good idea of which ones would produce well here. Some of our favorites made the cut and some did not, fortunately we found better producing varieties that have now become our new favorites.
It took me three years to figure out how to grow lima beans only to discover we really didn't like them. Until two years ago, I didn't like fresh tomatoes. We started growing two old heirloom varieties, and surprisingly, I liked them. Frank has always liked tomatoes and he describes them as more acidic than many of the newer varieties. I have also discovered that my back cannot pick a row of bush beans. I just can't do it. This has led to experiments with several types of pole beans until we found one that we really enjoy, that produces well into the fall.
I wish I could figure out how to grow a head of cabbage. I even wrote an article about it. And onions. Those are things I will continue to work on because we eat a lot of both. I also need to be more diligent at saving our seeds. It has always been easier for me to order seeds instead of planning ahead for seed saving. There will come a time when the only seeds we have will be the ones we save, so this is not a skill for me to continue avoiding or neglecting.
The greenhouse has given us a whole new learning experience in growing food. As would be expected, the cool weather crops are happier than those that like the heat of summer. We have picked one yellow squash and the tomatoes are blooming, but with 38* lows at night, I don't expect much from them. I will soon be planting seedlings in the greenhouse. The window I've used for the past few years has now been replaced by the greenhouse entrance and I find that to be very comforting. I'm excited about the greatly expanded room to grow many more seedlings that won't be leggy and leaning over sideways in an attempt to reach the sunlight. I'll be learning much more about the timing for growing, hardening off and planting these seedlings.
There are many beautiful seed catalogs arriving in the mail now days. They all have something to offer that is new, different or interesting, but I have found a company that has a very wide variety of quality products for a fraction of the cost. With few exceptions, we order our seeds from R.H. Shumway's, which I have no affiliation with, except as a very satisfied customer. Their catalog is not shiny and showy, but it is packed full of seeds and information. I would highly recommend them.
So, what have the seeds taught me? Patience, diligence, responsibility, the power of observation and learning, conditions for success, hard work usually pays off, and that hope springs eternal in the miracle of germination and growth. In a recent article I said, "Our future will be one of incredibly hard work, grubbing in the dirt for our survival." That's what seeds mean to me. Life. Survival. I am continually fascinated that one tiny little seed can produce so much food. In the coming days if you have a few seeds and a shovel to spare, a man could help feed his family. Do you have enough seeds for this year, and the next, and the next?
If you are new to your area, or plan to go somewhere else when the SHTF, do you know someone that can help you with invaluable information about local growing conditions and varieties that produce? When is the average first and last frost date? What insect pests cause the most destruction? Do you know how to deal with them without running down to the local garden center for a fix? Has the soil been turned and worked? Is it fertile enough to support the production you need? There are so many things to learn and know before those seeds will turn into food. I have read many places that people feel prepared to replenish their food supply because they have a can of survival seeds. Unless these people have figured out, and made accommodations for many of the things I have mentioned, they will starve. Not that these cans of seeds are a bad idea or contain inferior products, but the conditions necessary for adequate food production are dependent upon so many factors that the odds are stacked against them.
We have a friend, Grace, that gardens just a few miles down the road. She can grow things we cannot. We have pests she doesn't, and she has some we don't. Conditions can change quickly, from location to location, as well as year to year..
What have you learned from your seeds? Please share with us because we are all in this together. Any knowledge we can glean now, before it is a vital means of survival will be of great benefit. As soon as I get back the use of these two hands I will be rolling up a new batch of pot makers and planting them in the greenhouse. I can't wait.
Until next time - Fern