R. Ann Parris on Veggie Production Anywhere
Veggie Production Anywhere by R. Ann Parris
There are systems to make vegetable production work in any environment, from dry dessert to Cold Dark Northland, from apartment dwellers to folks with actual acreage to work, and everything in between. For most, it’s pretty easy to start producing.
If you do have a nice, long growing season, enough but not too much warmth, and plenty of space, give a thought to some of the limited-growing methods mentioned anyway. There are several benefits. One, houseplants are good for us mentally, and can actually help improve our indoor air quality. Two, they’re protected production that aren’t as vulnerable to some of the threats that outdoor plants and plants that are out of our sightline can face. Three, they’re there and established if we end up stuck in the house for a while.
Sometimes even when a window is available, it’s not sufficient. Grow lights can be inexpensive to run and buy, and there are small solar and hydro options that can readily power a strand or two of LEDs for people who are looking at being off-grid now.
Sprouts are also an option. They have a lot of health benefits, the nutrition quality is higher, and as they develop, they can plump plates. There’s a whole range of sprouts, not just grass-flavored alfalfa. Go ahead and try a few.
*Instead of buying sprouting seed, especially in sampler sizes, pick up the same varieties as regular ol’ garden seed, especially on sale. Once you know you like them, it’s cheaper to buy by the pound as garden seeds, too.
In limited-light conditions, we can also turn to the produce that thrives anywhere: edible weeds. Mustards, wild onion/garlic, dandelion, and chickweed will all perform where even spinach, beet greens, and lettuces don’t get enough light.
If we do have windows that will provide 4+ hours of light, we can grow all sorts of edibles. Herbs and wild and domestic salads are among the most popular indoor edibles. Radishes can also work in shallow containers and low light.
With longer, strong light available, we can move into even berries or compact sprawling cherry and grape tomatoes. If we have the space to merit 5-8, pole beans can also be very productive and serve as passive cooling — even in shallow containers if they’re getting boosts from coffee grounds or re-brewed and cooled tea, and we can keep them watered.
If we do have nice, big windows, sub-irrigated planters and buckets (we can drape them in cloth for “pretty”) can handle everything from larger plum and compact slicing tomatoes to compact bush squashes. We can even do miniature and columnar trees. Raspberries and blueberries both have self-pollinating bred-for-container options available.
Row covers are the duct tape of growing. If we have pest insects, a lot of the times there’s a row cover that can help reduce them.
Too much sun and heat? We can arrange row covers to not only shade the worst of the afternoon, but also help catch evaporation and transpiration so it drips back for the plant.
Too rainy? Plastic row covers are like an umbrella to protect our plants and soils from that deluge.
Too cool? Well, there’s a row cover for that, too — or several, since some work on their own at different levels of heat retention, while some areas require doubling up with cloches or clear totes, or a second row cover.
As with window growing, row covers won’t work for every plant everywhere. They can, however, extend seasons for us, whether we’re trying to keep things cool enough to not bolt or warm enough to finish in a limited season.
Combined with those hardy wild edibles so many gardeners like to call “weeds”, row covers can especially boost the production capabilities of people who have seriously limited production season, like near the poles and gaining in elevation, as well as people who can really viably only grow in winter due to heat or arid climates, and those whose salty ocean air can make “normal” vegetables difficult.
There are all kinds of ways to grow.
Fresh foods and a connection to the things we eat have enormous benefits to our health and preparedness. Many of the techniques that allow us to grow anywhere, even in small spaces and extremely limiting conditions, can be applied by all preppers, providing additional harvests, increased resilience, and sometimes even make our production easier.