Avoiding My Mistakes – foodgrower

Infrastructure, Irrigation, Fertilizers

“Hey, what happened to the specific practices article?” As I read over what I’ve previously written I came to the conclusion that I’ve already shared quite a bit of what and how we do things. I feel an article on specific practices would be redundant at this point. If you feel like you are getting short changed, hammer me in the comments and I’ll do my best to get as specific as you want.

With the above out of the way I need to state right off the get go that this article is highly subjective. It is not intended to tell you that you have to do something our way; that your way is wrong; or that what we do/have learned will work for you in your area. Basically this is some of what we’ve learned the hard way and perhaps it will help you avoid some of the pitfalls and traps we’ve run into over the years.

Also, due to the nature of the material covered this article kind of runs all over the place. Some things may be covered more than once from different perspectives. Just remember, you get what you pay for and this was free.

Infrastructure Layout and Maintenance
The first thing you need to do when you start gardening in earnest on a ‘feed yourself for a whole year from your garden perspective’ is think about what you are intending to do, and then do it in the most efficient and replicable manner possible. It will wear you out and cost you a lot more to get started and continue year after year if you don’t do this because you will have to keep changing things that don’t work.

To illustrate, if you are going to utilize raised beds you want to make sure you have them where you want them because it’s a lot of effort to tear them out and put them somewhere else when you realize they don’t meet your needs where you put them last year. On this topic, consider the materials you use when building semi-permanent constructs for your garden. I built my wife twelve raised beds out of wood. I didn’t want to use treated material because of growing organically. Even after staining the interior side of the wood and lining it with plastic to keep the soil away from the wood we started having maintenance problems in only a few years. I ended up replacing the wood with free stack native stone. It ties in nicely with some other edging and beds I put in out of native stone and I don’t have to worry about maintenance other than some weed pulling in the stone gaps once or twice a season.

A problem we suffered early on and it still hits from time to time is standardizing what we do in regards to plant spacing. We would build an irrigation manifold that had a particular spacing one year, then the next year change our planting spacing which necessitated revamping the manifold or perhaps even tossing it and starting over. This could be quite a project if it was something like corn where we have four headers of various row counts for a total of forty one rows.

Once you standardize what you are doing, it doesn’t matter where you do it, which is a real benefit as you rotate your crops through your garden space. We can move our corn blocks (and any other crop) from one end of the garden to the other with ease because we just move the irrigation headers to the new spot and layout the soaker hoses.

Figure out the largest dimensions of your plants and use this spacing for them year in and year out.
Our pole bean trellis went from forty inch row spacing to thirty inch spacing to its current thirty six inch spacing. It was a lot of effort to keep rebuilding the trellis. Some of this was from trial and error in determining what worked best and variations in plant growth as we improved our soil. On the topic of pole beans we also adjusted our in-row plant spacing several times. Kind of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears porridge, twelve inches was too far apart, six inches was too close together and for us eight inches was just right. It gives us a maximum yield for area and seed.

For plants like tomatoes get or make some substantial cages to help support the plants and fruit. It’s no fun to have a bumper crop and then loose a bunch of it because they are laying on the ground and you can’t get through all the vegetative growth to get to the fruit. Here is another area where it is easy to plant too close together and then when the plants are mature you can’t get between them to weed or harvest.

Don’t forget to give yourself working room as well when you calculate the space. I would rather plant my row type crops thirty inches apart even though they only need twenty two inches to grow well. This allows me to run my walk behind tiller between them to speed up tedious chores like weeding.

Semi static tasks such as composting can benefit from having a defined area where it is done, making sure you have the working room you need to accomplish the task. On assigning areas for tasks locate your beehives where you don’t need to run a lawn mower right in front of active hives (or plan on wearing your bee suit to mow the field, don’t ask me how I know this).

Have a dedicated storage area for your tools and infrastructure. On tools, if they have wooden handles, paint the handles. It will make the handles last longer and you will reduce the chance of slivers or splinters wrecking your hands. Put your tools up each day, they will last longer if you do. Fill a five gallon bucket three quarters full of dry sand, pour in a quart of transmission fluid or ten weight motor oil, when you clean your metal bladed tools, stick them in the bucket of sand several times. This will finish cleaning the metal and help a prevent rust. Having an area to store items such as irrigation headers and hoses will keep you from running over them when the snow is two feet deep and rising. Drain your hoses each fall before you put them away and you won’t be splicing nearly as many breaks next season.

Remember, these articles are predicated on living in a post TSHTF environment, you won’t be running down to your local hardware or garden supply store to purchase a new shovel when the handle breaks or replacing a hose that froze and broke in fifteen places. You will need to protect and preserve your resources.

While there are many different types of irrigation in my opinion the four basic means of irrigation are flood, aerial, focused or localized, and sub irrigation. I don’t include rainfall as an irrigation method because it is not dependable for interval, duration and amount.

There are several forms of flood irrigation and for most our garden needs flood irrigation won’t work well because we’ll be raising too many different varieties of plants having very disparate irrigation needs.

Aerial irrigation, though varying greatly in complexity and size from your small back yard sprinkler to wheel lines to a huge pivot systems are all similar in that they deliver irrigation water through the air. They are an effective means of irrigating a large area that requires the same irrigation as long as you have cheap energy and plentiful water. Aerial irrigation has several drawbacks in that it will rob you blind, can suffer from evaporative loss and it is also indiscriminate in what gets irrigated (though I suppose you could say your small yard sprinkler could be somewhat discriminant based on where you place it and how high you have the water pressure). Aerial irrigation robs you by wasting water (ergo energy, ergo money). It drives plant growth where you don’t want it i.e. weeds and steals your time by making you pull those weeds. It can also drive or exacerbate plant diseases which again can steal your money, time and efforts.

Sub irrigation depends on a very high and stable water table. Over my years I’ve lived and farmed in a few areas where we actually had quite good sub irrigation. I know of one valley in particular where I never had to irrigate the hay fields. Most of us are not going to be able to count on sub irrigation as our primary means of watering our truck garden.

This brings us to focused or localized watering systems. Drip lines and soaker hoses are two common forms of focused watering systems. I suppose we should stick hand watering here as it is definitely a focused watering method, it is also very time consuming. We have moved almost entirely to these two systems, drip lines and soaker hoses to meet our irrigation needs.

Soaker Hoses
The type of soaker hose I’m talking about are the round hoses that if used properly would more realistically called seeper hoses. All soaker hoses are not created equal. Soaker hoses of different manufacture and size will have different flow rates. Sometimes even within the length of a particular soaker hose you will find variations in flow rate.

Insoluble particulates in your water can plug the inside of your hoses making them virtually worthless, a good inline cleanable filter placed in your supply line will greatly extend the life of your hoses (and drip emitters).

If you’re like us over the years you’ll accumulate a lot of hoses and almost none of them match any other hose. To deal with the different flow rates get some flow discs. These fit in the end of your hose and control how much water gets delivered through the hose, regardless the flow rate of the hose. The discs have different flow rates and the ones we get from http://www.bestbudsgarden.com are available in .5, 1 and 2 gallon/hour rates. I’m sure there are other sources to get these but we’ve had real good results with the ones we sourced from bestbudsgarden and no, we have no affiliation with them other than purchasing their product. They are not even aware of our reference to them here (at least not yet and not unless one of you tell them about it, and even then they wouldn’t know who we are).

To make the layout and use of your hoses for row crops easier build a pvc manifold. I build ours out of ¾ pvc and place a T and male hose adapter every at what ever row spacing we want and then put a female hose adapter one end for connecting to a supply line. We uses hoses rather than rigid connections for the supply lines because it keeps from stressing the feed valves. I use ¾ pvc rather than ½ inch because it stands up better to being moved around year after year without breaking. I can efficiently run twenty, fifty foot long, soakers hoses on one manifold at the same time using a ¾ inch supply line hose.

To work correctly your soaker hoses need to be in full contact with the soil so the water can be wicked away from the hose by the soil. Also if you turn your soaker hose on and it swells up like a puffer fish and you have water streams jetting out all over the place your pressure is way too high. Your hoses will also fail sooner if the pressure is too high.

You have two ways to deal with excessively high pressure. The first way, which costs nothing is to reduce the flow through your water valve. The second way is to put a pressure regulator inline with your supply line. We use ones for regulating pressure to campers and travel trailers as these are designed to hook up to a garden hose.

Drip Irrigation
Most folks are at least cognitively aware of what drip systems are and there are many different kits and setups with all kinds of accessories you can purchase. To save yourself some money, the three main parts of a drip system are the supply lines, the emitters and emitter tubing, purchase these in bulk and save a lot. Locally it costs me nine bucks and change to purchase a ten emitter package. I can purchase thirty in bulk for the same price. For the price of a basic starter kit I can get a couple hundred feet of hose, a package of emitters and emitter tubing that will go a lot further than the kit.

Instead of the fancy couplings, splices, hose ends, emitter tube stand offs and so on use standard poly pipe fittings and small hose clamps to put your system together. Use heavy gauge wire to make your line staples and emitter tube stand offs.

Though there are goof plugs you can use to plug an emitter hole in a line you’ll be better served to standardize your spacing and stick to it. On the topic of spacing (we’ll use peppers at every two feet) you might be inclined to put an emitter every two feet in the line and then put a plant there. Don’t do it this way. For one, never put just one emitter in for a plant, if it fails your plant may die before you realize it’s not getting water. You’ll be better served to either use two emitters of half the flow you planned on using (or cut your watering cycle in half). For our plants like blueberries we run four emitters per plant.

As an aside another reason for using multiple emitters is because some plants like blueberries don’t transpose water and nutrients well. This means you could water one side of the plant and have the other die for lack of water. Multiple emitters ensures your plant gets even water all around it.

Also don’t plant your plant right at the emitter. Go ahead and put your emitters in every two feet but plant the plant half way between the emitters and use emitter tubing to carry the water to the plant base. This method will let you check an emitter without having to paw through your plant to find the emitter and if you have to replace an emitter it’s a lot easier working in the open than under a mature plant with a load of fruit on it.

The third thing you accomplish this way is as your feeder line expands due to heat (the ½ drip hose we get will expand as much as twelve inches in length in a fifty feet run on a hot day) even though the emitters move around the emitter tubing stays at the plant base and you don’t have to go out and reposition the line every time you water.

Before I leave drip lines I want to touch on water pressure again. Too high of water pressure can collapse the disc in the emitter and cause it to stop flowing water. You’ll think you have a clogged emitter and replace it only to have the next one not work either. Many emitters have a max pressure of around 30 psi. We have found that the pressure regulator for campers and RV’s that regulate the pressure down to 45~55 psi (nominal) is sufficient to keep from over pressuring our systems.

I urge you to do your best to move away from inorganic fertilizers. If we ever are growing food post collapse they are not going to be available. If you do use inorganic fertilizer don’t over do it and burn your plants and you really should do some soil testing so you know how much of what you need to apply.

I’m going to use the rest of this spot to plug compost again because you kind of get a free pass if you compost. BUT if you wait to establish compost piles until you need them you are going to be waiting for anywhere from two months to as much as a year before it’s ready to go so you need to start composting before you think you’ll need it and considering as how none of us has a crystal ball that really tells the future, I would recommend starting as soon as you can.

If you are going to use manures for fertilizer compost them first or turn them in your soil in the fall so they break down by the time you need to plant. Remember fresh manures are most likely to be way too hot for your garden and you can burn your plants to the point of failure. Another problem with non composted manures is the weed seeds that animals will pass. A good compost pile will run at temperatures that will kill most weed seeds.

Manures and manure crops are not the same thing. Manures are just what they sound like, herbivore animal manure. Manure crops are cover crops that add nitrogen and organic content when tilled in or turned under.

I don’t know, I feel like I’m starting to ramble. I’ll let you beat me up in the comments if I’ve left you with questions.

~til next time


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51 Responses to Avoiding My Mistakes – foodgrower

  1. Billy Keslick says:

    Great information..especially on the sand and oil to maintain garden implements..never occurred to me…

  2. davidhuntpe says:

    Excellent advice, thanks!

  3. bison guy says:

    You are not rambling….the vast amount of knowledge and experience you give us…is overwhelming. I like that

  4. Angel says:

    foodgrower, I read every word, two or three times just so it sinks in. Then I print them off to keep in a notebook, I want a hard copy for when the grid goes down. I appreciate so much the time and effort you put into these for those of us who are still learning. Thank you!

    • Father Confessor says:

      Yeah. Me too. Maybe I can turn all this into a PDF and send it to Wirecutter.

      • MichiganDoug says:

        PDF would be great. I have no clue how.

        • foodgrower says:

          It’s not that hard to create a pdf, especially considering as how I have all the original articles.

          I could put them together and publish it as a pdf. and send that to Wirecutter if he’s interested in hosting the download.

          I’ll get with him about it and see what we can do, but don’t expect it real soon. I’m averaging twelve to fourteen hour days, seven days a week right now.


  5. “Feed yourself from your garden for a year” For me that would be, ‘feed every four footed creature in the Park next to the house and for myself get the leftovers.
    Yup, first thing I did was put in a fence, eight foot on the park side. But there are lots of things that can climb over that. Next around the beds, chicken wire. The go over problem again. Covered the top with plastic 1 inch mesh, that really made working the beds a pain and holes started showing up inside the bed just before the cauliflower were ready to harvest.

    The problem was I had a (no hunting allowed) park next door and none of my neighbors had gardens. I was the only all day salad bar in town. So this year I only grew tomatoes and cucumbers from boxes on the porch rail and on the patio.
    And shoot legions of rabbits along with a few groundhogs. As long as they stayed out the of the DMZ (Don’t Munch Z’veggies) I stayed out of Cambodia.

    • foodgrower says:

      “only all day salad bar in town”

      I like it, I may steal it if you have no objections.

      I feel ya on the damage critters can do. We wage a constant battle with deer, raccoons, birds, coyotes, foxes, squirrels, cattle, horses and moose.

      We just keep building the fences higher, tighter and stronger and they still get through, over and under.


      • I think a change of terminology is needed; scratch garden, write ‘bait’.

      • Shawn says:

        Not sure of you’ll get this, being 4 months after the fact, but instead of fencing alterations you might try something that messes with the animal’s depth perception. I used to live in northern AZ, and the elk would decimate our fruit trees in Aug/Sept. no matter how high the fences were. some folks went 10 feet high with only marginal success because if an elk can’t jump it, it’ll just knock it down. Then we noticed a guy using white grocery bags tied to T posts and tree limbs just inside his fence… problem solved. apparently the elk could see a normal fence, but didn’t care. The bags however, were something INSIDE the fence that appeared as another barrier that moved with the breeze and were highly visible at night. I’ve also heard of people using your standard 4 foot hog, or chicken wire fence, and then a 1 or 2 strand barbed wire fence spaced 3 feet or so inside the perimeter with flagging tied at regular intervals to create the wind blown streamer effect. I get the idea that anything that creates the illusion of a 3 dimensional barrier instead of just 2 dimensions will work.

        • Wirecutter says:

          I’ve advised ranchers to do the same thing around their lambing and calving pens to keep the coyotes at bay. It’s not always successful but it works enough to where I’ve lost shooting jobs over it.

  6. PawPaw says:

    It’s a lot to think about if someone has never thought about it. I try to remember that the best fertilizer is the farmer’s footprint. I don’t garden anymore, but for almost three decades I had something growing in a half-acre patch that fed my family. It’s work, and I can’t stress that to the neophyte enough. Gardening is work. It’s something every day, and in just a few cycles you learn what works best in your soil.

    • foodgrower says:

      Thank you for restating to folks the amount of work it is to grow a big garden. People sometimes don’t really believe how much effort it takes…

      If we ever get to food growing as a necessity a lot of folks are going to have a big shock, come to that if we ever get to survival food growing folks like you with years of experience are going to be a valuable resource.


      • Wirecutter says:

        Hey, farming 40 acres by hand is a full time job for an entire family, and that’s just enough land to provide for that one family. There’s gonna be damned little spare time if we ever have to put these practices to use.

  7. Paulo says:

    Excellent as always, foodgrower. I send them on to my wife to read. We also grow most of our own food and I am presently in the process of totally predator proofing a new chicken house and pen after a mink got in and….. At the same time we are re-configuring our compost system. We will be using 4 bins for a 3 bin rotation, and one for holding finished compost/soil. The kitchen scraps go to the chickens.

    The new chicken house has a total concrete floor, with steel sheeting for the first 1 foot up from the floor with a layer of concrete between the studs on the sill plate….maybe 1′ deep as well. (The mink dug in below the foundation and then chewed through a sill plate to get in. When I was cleaning up the mess it ran out from underneath my meat bird house which was presently empty, and then tried to attack me. It scared the shit out of me, and if you’ve ever heard one scream at you from a foot away you know what I mean. I blew it apart with my .410. It must have been rabid to attack me because it wasn’t cornered). Anyway, the hen house has a guillotin door for night lock-ins, and the pen fencing will also be set in concrete. There is wire mesh over the top to keep the hawks out. The pen, itself, is about 25’X35’…for approx 6 layers. They get lots and lots of greens, compost and cuttings, plus are outside all day. I will also be installing motion lights on the hen house. My last enclosure was all pushed down from bears and it has taken me two long days to tear it all apart and get rid of everything. I know have 8′ barb wire flagged to keep the elk out, then in front of that a 6′ fence for the chickens. If the bears come back I will run some electric (solar powered) around the top.

    Is it worth it? You bet. 6 layers + 6 huge eggs a day. I eat all I want and sell the rest for $4.00/dozen. I will have $400 in the new pen and house so the pay back will take about 1 year which includes all feed as well.

    Keep ’em coming…..regards

  8. Randy Bard says:

    I can tell you have had some lessons in the school of hard knocks.

  9. pdwalker says:

    I still think you have a book in ya.

  10. A Texan says:

    Thanks, Foodgrower, for this and all the rest of your extensive posts. Any fool with a shovel and some seeds can try to grow food, but the advice that you’ve given will make anyone much more efficient and effective in doing so. Simply saying, “Don’t do that, it doesn’t work” is a HUGE help, because it prevents a big waste of time and resources – esp. in a SHTF situation or anything close (a personal SHTF situation, for instance, like losing one’s job).

  11. Winston says:

    I too have gone to mostly drip irrigation for many of my garden crops. I usually simply regulate the pressure by restricting how wide I open the garden valve. It works for me, but not for the wife who simply turns it on full bore. We are on a well with pressure regulated at 40-60 psi. You got my attention with the travel trailer pressure regulators. SOURCE????

    • foodgrower says:

      I would think most any general purpose hardware store would have them. We just have a little hole in the wall hardware store here and they have them on the wall, about 15 bucks.

  12. Technicality says:

    Good tip about composting manure. I’ve had lots of weeds with cow manure and maybe the burnout is what’s stunting my corn growth.

    • foodgrower says:

      Compost pile temps above 132 ~135 degree f. are high enough to kill most weed seeds. Do watch that you don’t exceed 160 degrees f. or you can stall your pile.

      Fresh cow manure (as will most fresh manures) will definitely burn your crops.


  13. fulldraw says:

    Thanks for the info food grower

  14. Kim says:

    ‘Fill a five gallon bucket three quarters full of dry sand, pour in a quart of transmission fluid or ten weight motor oil, when you clean your metal bladed tools, stick them in the bucket of sand several times. This will finish cleaning the metal and help a prevent rust.’

    this is brilliant

  15. rightwingterrorist says:

    “I built my wife twelve raised beds out of wood. I didn’t want to use treated material because of growing organically. Even after staining the interior side of the wood and lining it with plastic to keep the soil away from the wood we started having maintenance problems in only a few years.”

    I tried that also, the plastic anyway. Mostly to try to keep the gophers and moles out, plus water retention. My beds are fairly large so I use a small tiller type contraption made by Stihl. Didn’t take long before I started to tear the plastic apart. Along the sides, not the bottom. My latter beds don’t have the plastic, and to tell the truth, I can’t tell the difference if there is one.

  16. rightwingterrorist says:

    I’ve had nothing but trouble with soaker hoses. They tend to only last a season in the hot TX sun and get pricey quickly.

    • Same here when I replaced the old hose that I’d had for years. New one failed within hours.. Only then I read the words “Made in China”.
      Now I ‘shop’ for garden tools at the thrift stores and flea markets. There is more wear left in old American Made tools then anything in the box stores.

    • foodgrower says:

      We only use soaker hoses for row crops. Generally by the time we are getting to our super hot/intense sun part of the season the plants are providing shade cover for the hoses protecting them from the UV damage.

      In cases where the plants do not provide the necessary degree of protection from UV we will cover the hoses with soil. This has the added benefit of limiting evaporative loss from the hose.


  17. tfA-t says:

    I gave up on the garden thing. Let the Amish grow it and then buy it. Easy Peasy. How many tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers cam one eat anyways?

    • foodgrower says:

      Not all of us have your financial resources tfA-t, besides the Amish are outside my AO.


  18. Timbo says:

    Being an avid grower myself, I love any and all tips!
    I’ve read all the stuff of yours that WC has posted.
    Thank you for your efforts – much has been absorbed, and will be put into practice!

  19. pigpen51 says:

    Thanks as always for another great article Foodgrower. I knew about the sand/oil mix, we used it when I was a kid at my grand fathers. The soaker hoses sound like a better use of water, instead of just spray and pray like we always did.
    Now, a question. My grand father usually started his tomato plants from seed inside and then planted them in his garden when it got warm enough. (We live in MI.) Now, there are a great many types of tomato plants available for sale at decent prices in the spring at several places. What would you think is the best idea for someone who is only able to grow basically a container type of garden.
    I live in a trailer park, and work in another one. We have a huge pile of leaves, which I have set aside a small amount to compost over the winter. Will that be of any use as fertilizer come spring or am I wasting my time?
    Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.

    • foodgrower says:

      Start from seed or buy plants goes back to the question of what your objective is.

      If you are space challenged (for starting seed) purchasing plants can give you a leg up on the growing season but limits you to what the growers in your area are offering. It sounds like you have a decent selection in your area so it may be to your advantage to purchase plants.

      That said, purchasing plants (unless they’re heirloom varieties) won’t do you a lot of good towards sustainable food growing post collapse, if that is a consideration to your efforts.

      All organic life has both carbon and nitrogen in it so your leaves have the two essential components for composting. Your leaves will compost, but more slowly than a pile that has the proper nitrogen/carbon ratio.

      Not knowing what species of tree(s) the leaves are from it would be my guess that while you will get a soil amendment from the composted leaves they will not provide a balanced output that will feed your soil as well as a properly balanced compost would. If you are planning on using this compost for amending a container growing medium, while it won’t hurt your growing medium I think you are going to need to round up a good organic liquid fertilizer to feed your plants.


  20. Bill3W says:

    Thanks Foodgrower, I greatly appreciate all the time you take to share this knowledge. This is important work!

  21. Old NFO says:

    Good info, thanks! Especially on the watering…

  22. Lyle says:

    I fucking love the write ups from you.
    North Dakota Dude

  23. Wisconsin WIll says:

    Thanks for yet another fact filled post. I am also saving all your posts in hard copy for future reference. It is VERY generous of you to take the time to share all your knowledge.


  24. foodgrower says:

    Ok, I got my ass thawed out from twelve hours of 15 degree weather and sneak a peak here and go ‘what the hell, where did all these comments come from?

    Then I back up and see the post one up about comments Wirecutter put up.

    I appreciate all the support but I think it needs to be stated that Wirecutter made that post on his own with no urging from me.

    I’ll run back through the comments and do my best to answer the questions.



    • Wirecutter says:

      This is true about him not knowing about that post. Matter of fact we haven’t even mentioned comments. I just realize how valuable feedback is.

  25. elric says:

    Great posts, thanks for putting them up!

  26. MichiganDoug says:

    Thanks foodgrower. Is it possible to get pictures? Stuff like the pcv manifold? I read what you wrote about them but i can’t really visualize it. Thanks.

    • foodgrower says:

      Actually I was just getting ready to ask Wirecutter about posting some pictures with another article I’m putting together for all of you. If it’s ok with him, I’m ok with sending a pic of a manifold.

      A more complete verbal description.

      Visualize a length of pvc pipe. This will become our header across the end of our rows.

      Let’s say our rows are going to be thirty inches apart. On one end of the pipe glue a female hose thread adapter. About six inches up the pipe, make a cut and glue in a slipXslipXslip T.

      Measure on up the pipe 30 inches. Cut and glue in another T. Repeat this for as many rows as you want the header to be except for the last one.

      On the last row, glue in a 90 rather than a T.

      Now go to each T and on the end that is facing down the row glue in about three inches of pvc pipe. On the end of this piece of pipe, glue on a male hose thread adapter. Repeat on the other header T’s and the 90 on the last row.

      Hope this helps make it a little more clear.


  27. Anonymous says:

    The only reason I don’t comment on these very instructive posts is that I have no clue about how growing your own food works. The most I’ve done is growing a small garden (8′ x 15′ ?) in the backyard, mainly tomato plants.

    I keep a construction fabric fence cover over with with PVC hoops to keep the birds and cats (they love the soft soil for their business) out of the plot. Hex wire (chicken wire) around the bottom, with steel ‘T’ posts at corners and fence midpoints. The vinyl fence material provides sun protection but won’t get torn off from the the wind and so far has been 18 years year round with little damage.

    I do very much appreciate the time and work it takes to write and type this information out for us.

    • foodgrower says:

      If you have been growing an 8 X 15 garden for 18 years you already have the basics of growing your own food. The only difference between between what you are doing and what I’ve been sharing is a matter of scale (and perhaps storage).

      The other aspect of what I’ve been sharing is awareness of growing food post tshtf collapse because when we don’t have the option of running down to the local market we will still need to eat.


  28. Idaho Bill says:

    Great articles. I have a couple questions…1..I’m slowly transferring over to raised beds. Fuel might not be easy to get during SHTF for the tractor and tiller. I’m using tractor tires similar to Patrice over at Rural Revolution. My problem is water. Drip systems need pressure to function properly. I plan on using elevated rain water storage for irrigation. What type of system would you recommend? 2…What would be a good decomposed cow manure / Kentucky clay ratio for the raised beds? Raised beds dry out quick. Thanks for your insight.

  29. foodgrower says:

    Concerning the irrigation issue all I can do is share my efforts to date.

    For no or low pressure irrigation I’ve been experimenting with using what I call a dribble system. Usually it’s a piece of pvc pipe having small holes drilled in it connected to a low head reservoir. I only put as much water in the reservoir as is needed to meet the current irrigation cycle.

    This system dribbles the water to the plant. When the reservoir is empty the watering cycle is finished. I’ve used containers from five gallon buckets all the way up to several hundred gallon stock tanks. Weight becomes an issue quickly (a little over 8lbs/gal). I have been elevating the stock tanks on railroad tie cribbing to handle the weight and provide a modicum of head.

    If this system pans out I can envision using a valve to control the duration of the watering cycle after I’ve been able to compute the flow characteristics of the system.

    I’ve also used perforated one gallon plastic containers buried in the soil with only the opening above ground. I’m still trying to determine the best hole size/count with this system.

    This last year I irrigated a fifty foot row of raspberries using the drilled pipe method. The plants seemed to perform as well as the rows on normal irrigation but more testing is needed.

    The testing I’ve done on plants like tomatoes or peppers have had good results. Effort on crops like carrots and beets haven’t done as well. Like I said, I’m experimenting.

    Regarding your soil questions, have you read the earlier article ‘The foundation of it all this thing called dirt’? I cover a lot of the basics concerning soil types, nutrients and balances in it. If it doesn’t answer your questions adequately then feel free to hit me up again with your questions.


  30. I have read and printed out all the post’s and really have enjoyed them. Keeping them on file for the next generation. Been growing food for my family since my Dad died in ’72. Had a few disasters now and again. Last one was this past growing season, lost most all of my spud’s to black and brown leaf spot disease. Only way to get rid of that is to “solarize” the ground. All that entails is spreading clear plastic over the whole plot, anchoring the edges with dirt, and drop weights of some sort here and there to keep the sheet from flapping/billowing in the wind. About 2-3 weeks of good hot sun and those little bastard bugs/ microbes will be dead, dead dead!

    I have been using drip irrigation for the last 5 years and use The Dripworks brand of gear. I use 3/4 inch header plastic pipe and just punch a hole where I need a line to run down a row. They have emitter tubing with 6, 9, 12″ spacing. I just pull out the connector and put in a plug if I have to move the line a bit. Just love the stuff as it works well for me.

    Don’t have the space to raise cows, but do okay with turkeys,chickens, few sheep and pigs. If I wasn’t so damn old, 78, I’d be seriously looking at a half a dozen goats for milk , butter and cheese.

    Thanks for all your time and diligence here. Best Regards , Everett

  31. Uncletex says:

    Great stuff! Thanks I would really like to see some pictures of the irrigation system.

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