“Our Seeds Will Save Us Come Spring!” by R. Ann Parris
I’ve poked at keeping seeds on a shelf (without growing them out), and considerations for various seed/crop types in other posts and on other sites. At the moment, I want to take a stab at another aspect of the belief that our stored seeds will save us.
This time, specifically looking at the belief that the “saving” starts in spring, and that all we have to do is get through winter.
(Just so we’re on the same pages: Spring is March 20-June 21 2019 for the northern hemisphere; September 23-December 22 2019 for the southern hemisphere. Summer starts late June or December. Autumn runs late March-December on the southern half of the ball and late September-December on the northern half.)
Fact is, we do have to get through winter, but it’s not the hardest season. Historically, spring (and our planting season even if it’s later) is the leanest of times. See, thing is…
Seeds need time to grow.
There are some crops that are faster off the mark and to harvest, like lettuces and radishes. Depending on soil temperatures and conditions, air temperature, and the light, it can take as little as 21-28 days to start harvesting bulbs and significant-sized leaves.
Most veggies, though, take more than a month. Even “fast” crops – hybrid or OP/heirloom – typically take at least 45-60 days to produce the first veggies or sizeable heads for cabbage and mature lettuce.
Very, very few potatoes, yams, sweet corns or popcorns will produce inside a 60-day window. Those almost universally produce smaller harvests than the varieties that call for 75-90 or 95-120 days even in optimal conditions.
And, sadly, they’re not getting those optimal conditions at the start of spring.
Light quality is still low in early spring.
Plants without strong light – quality, not just quantity – will take longer to grow. Even the cold-tolerant spinaches, brassicas, lettuces, and wild greens will be slower until light quality resumes, taking half-again if not twice as long to reach their normal sizes. Instead of it being 3-4 weeks, it can easily be 5-8 weeks before harvest even if we’re after select-cut baby greens and small radishes.
Spring is still chilly.
Not only does the air temperature and lack of strong light keep soil cool, cold spring rains and any snow melt contribute to cooler soil temps. That cold soil can stunt growth.
There are also a whole range of plants that won’t even think about germinating if soil is consistently under 50 degrees F, and some that won’t really start growing well until soil temperatures are staying in the 55-60 range (12*C-18*C). That further delays spring harvests.
There’s more to the fallacy that veggies start feeding us in Spring than just temperature and light, though.
Veggies are diet food.
It’s a topic for a whole other post, but it’s something that does need considered so I wanted to touch on it here: We’re not actually going to feed our families if all we’re growing is a veggie garden.
Too few of those veggies will ever mature into a starchy or protein staple crop. The plants that do take longer to convert to those forms. Even if all else goes perfectly, we’re not replacing calories off our garden fruits and veggies, especially in spring and even early summer.
Things rarely go perfectly.
That’s why we’re preppers in the first place, working hard to learn and master the skills of yesteryear. Counting on our gardens to produce reliably is another one that’s really worthy of its own post.
Nutshell: Don’t count on veggies to feed us through spring.
Even before we get to the possibility of something going wrong and the need to practice growing just like we do everything else, there are every-single-year considerations such as light, temperature, and the time plants need to produce harvestable yields that make it very dangerous to expect to eat off gardens in any significant way in spring.