My garden is actually pretty well prepared for emergency situations. I have a lot of multi-purpose tools, a portable cast iron fire pit for light and cooking, stocked seeds from past harvests, and quite a lot of food.
Between my vegetables, fruits, and herbs, I have a nutritional feast at my disposal. I might not be prepared for every eventuality, but I have a good head start. You can too. Here are a couple of challenges you might face once you’re on your own and some ideas to overcome them.
The Challenge: Drought
One of the only things in this world that is nonnegotiable is that living things need water. Luckily, there are ways to garden, even in drought conditions.
First, you need to be able to collect water. Shockingly, there have been some legal problems with the idea of diverting rainwater (apparently, some Western states maintain that rain belongs to their government), so be advised.
Water collection is a good habit to practice anyway, but when a drought hits, it becomes a matter of survival. If you don’t have a store of rain water, there are methods using condensation that can draw water from the air and plants surrounding your home- even these little amounts will help you make it through the dry times.
Certain plants, like corn and spinach, will tolerate low amounts of water better than others, so prioritize your planting and schedule your garden to avoid the heat of summer by focusing on Spring and Fall. Your garden can also be designed to withstand drought.
Trying to garden in too much direct sunlight during a drought steepens the incline of an already uphill battle, so take note of where your yard get the least amount of sun. If you see a harsh drought season approaching, consider planting your crops in garden boxes or troughs.
They’re moveable so you can bring them into a shed or into the shade throughout the day. In long-term drought conditions, you might benefit from a greenhouse. They’re useful in controlling humidity, so you can prevent water from evaporating away.
While on the subject of droughts, if you haven’t already, make firebreaks around your home. Droughts bring the dangers of wild fires, which are a massive force of nature that no garden can survive. To protect your property, manage your vegetation carefully. A good firebreak can make the difference between life and death.
The Challenge: Flooding
Flood water can wash away your garden and drown your plants. You can protect your home from water damage with strategic drain points and ditches so that the water has somewhere to go. Especially if your home is below sea-level, you might undertake a landscaping project (French drains or dry wells are good options) to manage overflow or invest in a pumping system.
Even if you’re not on a flood plain, you should be aware that torrential rain is an enemy of gardens even when it can’t drown your crops. Erosion can be a serious problem for those of us that perch on hilltops. The rain will steal away the nutrient-rich soil that is nurturing your plants.
If you have the garden boxes I mentioned before, you may also consider setting up tarps over their areas to regulate how much water they receive from above. An easily built greenhouse can double in this purpose, so cover all of your bases. Don’t forget to funnel that water from the tarp into barrels so you can store it for emergencies.
Also, plan where you put your garden with wind patterns in mind. With storms can come strong gales, so use your home as a windbreak to protect from Aeolian erosion and flattened plants. In the event of heavy snows or freezes, these methods can also save your plants from a frosty demise.
The Challenge: Lack of Sunlight (Nuclear Fallout/ Volcanic Ash)
First, air quality is going to nose-dive, so those garden boxes indoors would be a boon. You don’t want to be outside more than is absolutely necessary. Again, knowing your wind patterns is essential as you can calculate how long to expect the lingering danger.
The presence of ash dictates that you should shield your plants- either through the boxes stashed in your shed, the greenhouse, or the tarps you’ve hung over the crops. The use of solar panels to run generators is a good investment in almost every situation. However, when there isn’t enough sun to even gather for solar panels, you’re looking at a tough spot.
Using some generator power for sun-lamps to help plants might be worth it- particularly if you’ve retreated to a bunker. In lieu of a bunker, you’ll be restricted to strategic plant placement to catch as much sun as possible.
If I’m completely honest, though, if you don’t have a bunker and the sun has been blotted out, you should skedaddle fast. Ash and radiation can take years to disperse, depending on wind conditions, and if you don’t have a specialized facility prepared, you’ll have to find one.
If your garden is properly cared for, power failure and food shortages should become far easier to deal with. As for weather difficulties, there are solutions available for the inventive prepper. I can’t express how much I enjoy spending time in my garden. But it’s also a relief to know that, should the worst come, it will help me provide for my family.
The editor of Resounding Earth, and pursuer of relatively interesting information, Simon has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales, and is a photo-journalist and writer whose written and photographic work has been represented by the AFP news agency and appeared in newspapers across Europe and Asia.