This week I took the first step in securing food for the rest of the year. My girlfriend and I went through the seed bank I collected over the years and picked out the food that we wanted to harvest in the spring and summer months. In the past, my garden produced enough food during June and July that I didn’t have to buy groceries until after August. This was during a year that Kalamazoo was in a drought and most of my co-workers had gardens that died before summer had arrived. I had canned enough tomatoes that I ran out of jars and took the extras to work for people to take home. I had a lot of success in the past and then I stopped. Priorities changed over time and with a little financial success I traded the ability to grow food for the ability to buy and store it.
My seed bank, a large plastic tote I keep in the basement, is filled with a few hundred varieties and ranging from tomatoes to squash. We filled a coffee can with the seeds we are planning to grow. Even with the coffee can filled the overall seed bank hadn’t been touched. For a few years, I would go to places like Menards, Meijer, and Lowe’s when the spring season was over and buy several packets for $.25 apiece. The plants that grew well in the yard I would harvest seeds and restock those breeds into the seed bank.
Yesterday I hauled an old aquarium out of the basement and put it in the bathroom. I cleaned out the water pump and all of the little decorations that come with having fish. I left the rocks in the bottom and plugged in the halogen light. My hope is that the aquarium will be a great environment for peppers to grow. Purple, chocolate, red sweet, and green bell peppers wait to sprout if I did things correctly. On a stand next to the aquarium, I have tomatoes sitting under a full spectrum light. The rest of the seeds we had picked out are direct into the ground varieties that I simply have to wait to plant.
The yard is a mess. Even under the snow I can tell that several hours will be needed to work the soil back to gardening conditions. Weeds took over two years ago and although I tried to grow tomatoes last year I never harvested the few that did produce. The compost piles on the side of the yard have broken down to the point of only being two feet tall. The humus that I pull out in the spring will help replenish the soil before planting. By the time I’m finished cleaning out the yard and garden the compost pile will be filled all over again and for the better. The year of the drought my plants fared well without being watered. Humus, the product of composting, holds more water in the soil than normal top soil does. Add a little mulch from mowing the yard and you have a well-balanced foundation for a drought resistant garden. I don’t know what the next year will bring. It could be another hottest year on record or we could have a cold spell from everything being out of whack. Either way learning to grow my own food for myself and others is one of my priorities this year. I have an overall lack of trust with the world these days and whatever I can do to be self-sufficient is another step closer to feeling secure in this odd chaotic world we suddenly have.