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#43967 - 07/16/05 02:18 AM Subsistence farming
norad45 Offline
Veteran

Registered: 07/01/04
Posts: 1506
I know nothing about farming and next to nothing about gardening. A good buddy of mine says that the easiest and most reliable crop to grow are potatoes. He says that all you have to do is stick a few dozen potatoes into the ground and the next thing you have, assuming sufficient water, is a big crop of edibles. No weeding, no fertilizing, and no tending to them at all. It sounds fishy to me. I prefer to rely on my canned goods supply to get me over the hump in case of an extended emergency, but I have to admit that if I could augment it with a lazy man's crop I'd be happy to do it. Does anybody know if this is true?

Regards, Vince

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#43968 - 07/16/05 03:30 AM Re: Subsistence farming
Chris Kavanaugh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/09/01
Posts: 3824
If it was, I'd be in Wicklow right now with the Kavanaughs to weak to imigrate during the famine.

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#43969 - 07/16/05 09:14 AM Re: Subsistence farming
Anonymous
Unregistered


If you were to ask my ex-wife before last (or maybe the one before that) she would tell you to kiss her sweet ass before she would have any part in helping me grow potatoes.

Forgive me Chris, there just isn't any other way to say that.

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#43970 - 07/16/05 10:57 AM Re: Subsistence farming
benjammin Offline
Rapscallion
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4020
Loc: Anchorage AK
Kinda depends on where you are, but where I am from, if you want prolific, plant a half dozen mounds full of zuchhini. they overtake the most robust of weeds, and are so prolific you will be hard pressed to use all the produce. They are healthier for you than potatoes as well. If you do this, you better like summer squash an awful lot. I've pulled well in excess of 300 lbs of fruit from a 10' x 20' plot full of zucchini plants. From now on never more than three mounds for me. Oh yeah, they dehydrate real nice and easy and hold up that way for a long time, and add a lot of flavor to winter stews and casseroles. All I ever did to mine was water them regular, and boy I sure got to regretting it after a while. During the peak of the season, you can darn near watch the fruit grow in front of you. Their space to production ratio is the highest yield I can think of, much better than potatoes because of their continuous harvest process. Plants will produce fruit from early summer to the first frost back home.

Tomatoes are darn near as bad, but need some tending at first to get them going. I've overdone it on them in my garden before as well. Rhubarb is another one of those crops that can overwhelm you. Yep, too much of a good thing is pretty common at the Price homestead. I have a tendancy to turn half my yard into garden. I'd rather have somethig to show for my efforts than a big pile of grass clippings if I am gonna do yard work <img src="/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

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#43971 - 07/16/05 12:05 PM Re: Subsistence farming
Anonymous
Unregistered


Even the simplest crop takes some effort and thought. In his book The Contrary Farmer Gene Logsdon relates a story of a woman who was giving a potato crop a try, due to it's relative ease for a beginner. Come harvest time she was lamenting how she had screwed up royally and her plants had failed to produce a single spud. She showed the farmer who was mentoring her the potatoless plants. He showed her how to use a gardening fork to recover the crop that was a foot out of sight.

A few good primers on the subject are the above book, Farming for Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour, and Five Acres and Independance by M. G. Kains. For very basic information look at Vegetable Gardening For Dummies. It has a ton of great info and a nice little section container gardening - good stuff for apartment dwellers or folks who don't want to tear up the yard to see if gardening is for them.

Ed

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#43972 - 07/16/05 02:52 PM Re: Subsistence farming
Anonymous
Unregistered


It's true that potatoes are low maintainance through the growing cycle. It's the digging them up that can be a lot of work. There's no free lunch, but if you try your hand at gardening, there's a pretty good chance that you'll decide it's time well spent. Fresh fruit & vegetables (especially home grown) are far better tasting and better nutritionally than any canned goods you can buy in any store. Not to mention, the satisfaction of having grown it yourself. If you're new to gardening, start out small, and if it's something you enjoy, it won't be long, and you"ll be looking for spots to till & plant. If it's not your cup of tea, there's no sense in putting the time, effort, and cash into it in a big way.

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#43973 - 07/17/05 12:47 AM Re: Subsistence farming
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Jeez Louise! We don't have many gardeners here, do we?

Potatoes are easy, don't take much care after planting except for watering, produce a lot of food per plant relative to other vegetables and, using a properly chosen variety, stores very well without processing.

Potatoes are often recommended as a first crop on "new" soil (previously unplanted). Assuming that your soil is relatively good:

Get some potatoes from a garden supply place & ask for a kind that stores well. Most grocery store potatoes are treated to keep them from sprouting, so don't use them. Egg-sized is what you're going for. If they're much larger, cut them into egg-sized pieces, making sure there are at least a couple of eyes in each piece, and let them dry for a couple hours in the shade to form a kind of skin.

Loosen the soil and dig a shallow trench. Lay potatoes on top of soil in the trench, eyes down.

Now you can do it the hard way and cover them with soil, or do it the easy way & cover them with several inches of hay or straw. Don't water until you see the tops poking out of the soil or straw or they might rot before they sprout.

As the tops get taller, keep adding more soil until you have at least 3 or 5 inches over them, or keep adding straw/hay around the sprout until you've got the tuber covered with a foot of straw/hay.

Water occasionally, don't let them wilt. Straw/hay covering will also shade the soil, so you might want to water less.

They will grow 18-24" tall & produce some flowers. When the tops die down, remove soil or straw and harvest the potatoes. Brush excess soil off them (washing promotes mold), set in the shade for a couple hours to harden the skins.

Store in a cool, dark place. Eat any tiny ones right away, they will rot.

Don't use ashes around them, it causes a disease called scab.

Don't expose them to much light, or they will turn green. The green is a toxin called Solanine. A little of it makes the potato bitter, a lot can make you sick.

Sue


Edited by Susan (07/17/05 12:55 AM)

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#43974 - 07/17/05 03:50 AM Re: Subsistence farming
benjammin Offline
Rapscallion
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4020
Loc: Anchorage AK
Yep, taters are good, but another reason I recommend zucchini is that where I grew up the soil was all glacial till. Dad was too cheap to buy any topsoil, and my brother and I got tired of sieving out the rocks to get the garden going. So we planted things that would work with our soil, and zucchini was one of those things. Also, potatoes just didn't seem to produce so well for other folks near us. I guess western Washington weather may be too mild for them, but the zucchini liked it well enough. Zucchini seem to do well just about anywhere, under almost any conditions save really dry or really cold. The fact that we could harvest as much as we did growing up and that they even grow a large crop here in the Middle east tells me that this is one vegetable that really works well. Considering too how much more nutrition there is in the zucchini fruit compared to potatoes, maybe culturally we should consider converting our food base even. It can be prepared in as many ways as potatoes (yes, even mashed works). While the fruit admittedly doesn't store as well as potatoes do, dehydration does retain most of the nutritional content, while reducing the storage requirements.

I doubt they will ever be as popular to consume as potatoes. But they are practical, troublefree, darn near foolproof crop that just about anyone can get a bumper crop out of. I loved watching my girls grunt and groan hauling 20 lb zucchinis out of the garden by the wheelbarrow load. That is, until I had to figure out what to do with a counter full of them!
_________________________
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

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#43975 - 07/17/05 12:18 PM Re: Subsistence farming
norad45 Offline
Veteran

Registered: 07/01/04
Posts: 1506
Thanks for that excellent primer. It doesn't sound too complicated. I confess I was thinking more along the lines of planting some and leaving them alone until needed, but it sounds as though they would simply rot in the ground if I did that. I may give it a try (on a small scale) next spring.

Regards, Vince

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#43976 - 07/17/05 12:25 PM Re: Subsistence farming
norad45 Offline
Veteran

Registered: 07/01/04
Posts: 1506
I know what you mean. Every once in a while my neighbor's zucchini gets out of control and jumps my fence. The thing grows about 4' a day and in about 2 weeks there will be squash on the end. I give it back to him as I've never really cared for it, but obviously dire necessity would change that in a hurry. Maybe storing some zucchini seeds is the way to go?

Regards, VInce

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