“For everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2.
For everything, there is a season, but your growing and harvesting can and should be year-round. Many gardens will be ending soon, hunting season is rolling in, and it’s time to winterize and plan for Spring. If you haven’t brought nature indoors yet, now is the time to start doing so. You could probably get one more late harvest of garlic, turnips, kale, mustard, and some squash before the cold weather sets in, but what then? Have you considered bringing your growing indoors or learning techniques to grow indoors?
Seed saving what you will need for next year’s garden, micro-gardens, micro green sprouting, mushroom starter kits, even grow tents are great ways to keep the freshly grown food flowing through winter. Supplementing your nutrition and stretching your winter supplies are valuable skills to have. Here, I’ll explore just a few winter options that may seem small now but could have a dramatic impact on your life when future disasters strike. These probably won’t sustain you if it was your only means of sustenance and nutrition, but it would definitely increase your odds of survival and add critical minerals to your food inventory. Most importantly, this can be a great opportunity to develop a skill that you can cultivate over time. A few of the approaches we’ll cover I, admittedly, haven’t even learned yet myself, but have them on my to-do list this fall and winter and I plan to share them with the community as I go. I’ll bring them up here if you want to get started on them as well. Think of it as a book club where we all read the same book and share our experiences. I will put links to some of these products at the end, but you may have most of what you need for some of them on hand already. So let’s jump in…
If you haven’t ever seed saved and you always relied upon picking up your seeds at the local grocery or hardware store, you are going to be in trouble the year after disaster strikes. You can purchase seeds specifically packed or vaulted for surviving an extended period, but any seed will degrade in viability after time. Your germination rate decreases each month, even with the best of stored seeds. To ensure your growth and capitalize upon your best harvests, you need to know how to seed save.
If you have one plant in particular that produced the best fruits or vegetables, you want to capture those seeds for next year’s planting. You can even start growing the seeds indoors when the outside temperatures are still too cold, harden them off in the sun when it is warmer, and get them in the ground for an early spring harvest.
Each fruit or vegetable is going to have a different way of harvesting and saving the seeds. Most seeds you can just cut out and dry on a paper towel for a few days before storing them away in a ziplock baggy. A tomato is a little different though, so I will demonstrate how to save the seeds for next year. First, you want to make sure your tomato is open-pollinated. All heirloom tomatoes are, but modern hybrids are not. Seed companies create hybrids that may be useful the year you plant them, but the second generation of seeds might not even bear fruit. Heirlooms are based upon hundreds of years of careful seed saving by generations before you or thousands of years of natural selection in nature or both, so they’re going to be more reliable for seed saving.
Choose a tomato from your healthiest plant. If you could win a prize at a state fair with that heirloom tomato, then it’s the right one to seed save from. These are some late harvest heirlooms, so they’re not State Fair impressive, but they will do for demonstration purposes. To maintain good genetic diversity, it is best to save seeds from multiple tomatoes and preferably from more than one plant of the same variety. With most vegetables, like peppers, you can just cut the seeds out and place them on a paper towel to dry. Tomato seeds have a gelatinous outer cover, so you should soak them in water for 1 to 2 days. You may see a little mold on the top of the water. Skim this off and spread your seeds on a paper towel to dry. I have also been successful season to season by just spreading the seeds out, gelatinous coating, and all on a paper towel and letting them dry out for a few days on the kitchen counter.
When your seeds are dry, you can peel them off the paper towel or store the whole paper towel in a zip lock baggy or small Mylar bag. If you are keeping them for more than a year, use an oxygen absorber and small Mylar bag, and store them in a root cellar, back in your pantry, your refrigerator, or in the freezer. The rate at which your seeds germinate will drop slightly with each month and year. Still, to plant, you can just put the seeds in a starter or bury off pieces of the paper towel your seeds dried on. I have had successful germination of plants from seeds I saved five or more years before. If you pack them for longevity, some say you can germinate them 20 years from when you pack them.
Seed saving is a skill to have, and it will ensure that you have the option of growing food after any disaster.
While a home micro-garden won’t ever produce enough for you to thrive on after a disaster, they will provide you with the essential nutrients you need to survive after a disaster and long into the aftermath of a disaster. Specifically, simply sprouting Alfalfa sprouts will provide you with plenty of nutrients. One cup of Alfalfa sprouts will provide you Vitamin K, C, Copper, Manganese, Folate, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Magnesium, Iron, 1 gram of protein, and 1 gram of carbs. One cup of Mung bean sprouts will give you 3 grams of protein, 6 grams carbs, and 4 grams sugar, so slightly more than alfalfa sprout. Common sprouts are alfalfa, bean sprouts, broccoli, radish, Adzuki, Arugula, Barley, Lentils, Fenugreek, Garbanzo, and many more. If your food reserves were running low, you could deploy enough sprouts in sprouters to supply your basic survival needs.
Beyond just the nutrition, sprouts are a prepper’s secret weapon stash. They are super easy and reliable, but they also take up very little space and can remain viably active for years. One pound of mung bean sprout seeds, for instance, will yield 10 pounds of mung beans sprouts. That’s 130 grams of protein, 261 grams of carbs, and almost 1,400 calories. It’s a survival superfood.
And, sprouting is easy. I use a simple sprouting lid for a jar. I also use a larger screen container. You could simply use a mason jar with a paper towel rubber-banded to the top. It is so easy. Just soak a teaspoon or two of the seeds overnight. Drain and leave upside down for a few minutes to ensure no standing water in your seeds. Rinse your seeds and drain like this once or twice daily. In a few days, you will have more sprouts than you ever imagined. Some nutritionists and preppers swear by sprouts.
Another home micro-garden option is mushroom grow kits you may have seen lately. They will store away until you are ready to use them, or you could get familiar with them right now. Mushrooms dehydrate and rehydrate pretty easily. They can be dried and ground to powder, and added to any savory food dishes. One cup, 96 grams, will have a healthy 3 grams of protein. After you cut them to harvest, set them in the sunlight for 10 minutes to boost the vitamin D content in them. You couldn’t survive on a diet of only mushrooms, but once you find the right conditions in your house and grow them successfully, you will have successive harvests. They’ll keep coming. If you grow them outside your home on a starter log, you can keep foraging from them again and again.
A windowsill garden is another possibility through winter. With enough light and warmth, you can manage several small plants. Lettuce, Fino Verde Basil, small pepper plants, container tomatoes, onions, garlic, even carrots can be grown by a window with enough warmth and light. LED grow lights can supplement the light needs of your plants during winter’s shorter days. You can continually sprout your carrots by removing the greens, cutting off the top 1 inch, and soaking that in water until roots form in the water, and new shoots of green appear on the top. Once you have roots formed and green shoots of leaves on top, you can transplant to a deep and narrow pot for a continual harvest and place it on a windowsill. The carrot greens are very nutritious and good for you. Don’t throw them out. You can harvest small amounts of them even while your carrot is growing. Blend them with a bit of garlic, olive oil, and parmesan for an easy pesto. You can also store them in a ziplock baggy until ready to use. These will get chopped and tossed with mustard greens and black eye peas.
Could you survive on just your home micro-garden endeavors? Maybe, if you had them all going at the same time and in full force, but it would be hard. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization shows that a well-tended 11-square foot micro garden can produce as much as 200 tomatoes a year, 36 heads of lettuce every 60 days, ten cabbages every 90 days, and 100 onions every 120 days. The real benefits of these micro-garden endeavors are the skills you learn, supplementation of your existing food storage, which makes your reserves last longer, and the added nutrient benefits that would typically suffer through a disaster.
GROW TENTS & HYDROPONIC SETS
Every year that passes, the cost of a small grow tent setup with fans and lights drops in price a little bit. What was once just mainly for growing secret, illegal plants has become more mainstream for gardening enthusiasts. The problem for both grow tents and small hydroponic setups are, of course, electricity. You need light, warmth, and the circulation of air and water, which all require electricity. The other problem is space versus yield. The footprint of a system can be significant compared to the harvested crop.
Both grow tents and hydroponic setups are great for plants that provide vital nutrition. Still, you can also convert a room or a garage space after a prolonged disaster or grid-down situation if you have the water, electricity for lights, special grow lights, a fan, and can maintain growing temperatures. Converting an entire room or garage could provide you with enough to survive on when you consider the yield of an 11-foot square micro garden, as mentioned earlier.
If you have the land for it, there’s lots of information on fish farming, and you can raise plants in the same aquaponic system. You would need something like a greenhouse over it all to keep it from freezing during the winter, but it is being done. If you have a large aquarium in your home, you could be harvesting plants and Tilapia out of it all through winter. Tilapia fingerlings, the baby fish, can be purchased live for a few dollars, often at fish stores. As Fingerlings, they are from 1/2 to 1″ long. Within about eight months, with proper feeding proportions, they are edible at about 1 to 2 lbs. Leave a few in the tank, and they will multiply and give you a steady, reliable protein source.
Fish require minimal effort, and even a 55-gallon drum is sufficient to raise fish and grow plants. Hydroponics is just growing plants in water with no soil. Aquaponics grow plants and fish together in the same environment. However, the time to learn these skills is before a disaster strikes, so take the time to explore a solution that’s right for you now. Whatever you choose to do, a small hydroponic or aquaponic setup or grow tent now allows you to learn the essential skills you may need later.
Just because winter comes, it doesn’t mean you have to stop growing your own food. If the supply chain crashes with snow on the ground, you could still supplement your food stores with freshly harvested food with some of the approaches I just outlined. Nothing short of dedicating a garage or whole room will provide you with enough to survive entirely, but you can supplement your food supply in many of these ways. You’ll have a healthier and fuller life right now if you do. The time to learn these skills and the time to supplement your everyday diet is right now. It’s not after a disaster has struck. Pick something from what was covered in this video and bring it indoors this winter. Invite mother nature indoors with the rest of your preps as winter freezes the world outside.
What do you think? What’s your winter harvest plan? Are you doing something to extend your growing season indoors this winter that you could tell us in the comments? We would love to know. I read many of the comments and respond to many of them when I can.
As always, please stay safe out there.
Survival Garden Seeds – https://amzn.to/3CDQuJN
Sprouting Jar Lid – https://amzn.to/3hXoAQK
Mushroom Grow Kit – https://amzn.to/3lQy7dO
Seed Sprouter Tray – https://amzn.to/3lJUl0W
Sprouting Seeds – https://amzn.to/2XNS2Ss