Editors Note: A guest post from Mark Taylor of greengardennutrients.com to The Prepper Journal.
I often wonder, if an actual long-term disaster occurred, would it be all that difficult to survive at our little safe haven with family and friends? We have planned for this SHTF thing for a while now so we are totally ready for it. Yes, plenty of ammo to last many years, a couple of years of food supply, and a good setup to clean our water if need be.
During our planning, it was obvious that we will likely run out of the most critical thing first, our food supply. With that in mind, we chose an area that will have a 4-6 month (or longer if you can take the summer heat) growing season. We fully intend to grow our own food and we will start the moment we settle in.
Unfortunately, in most areas, the soil will not support a garden very well. In fact, it will likely fail us or under perform year after year. If you have ever tried growing vegetables in your backyard, you know how hard it really is. The most common failures are due to inadequate nutrients in the soil and lack of water. If we have a water supply in place, our primary concern will be food for our plants. One thing we must get straight in our heads is what plants need to grow. We cannot afford to be wrong about a single thing.
Aside from sunlight, air, and water, plants need 13 specific nutrients in the soil to grow and produce fruit and seed. Now we can do the “Organic” thing and bring along 16 tons of manure and compost for every acre of land we set aside or we can get real and bring along a highly concentrated and natural material. You guessed it, fertilizers, those that contain the actual elements that plants must have to grow.
Now don’t get me wrong, we are going to end up with a self-sustaining garden that is fed from organic waste overtime but this takes years to accomplish. We do not have years, and we for sure are not going to bring 16 tons of chicken manure with us. We get a couple of tries at this and that’s it before our stored food supply is gone.
So, let’s discuss what fertilizers really are. Most people instantly think “chemicals” when they hear the word fertilizer. At the same time, the word “chemical” brings to mind danger or poison. Just like a firearm, we must truly understand what we actually have in our hands as we use it.
The fact is, fertilizers are nothing more than elements that are removed from rock and air. No different than what is in our bottles of vitamins and minerals, just plain old elemental calcium, potassium chloride, zinc, and so on. These are the elements that we are going to have with us when we get to our safe haven. A few bottles of vitamins and minerals for us, and a few hundred pounds of plant ready mineral elements for our crops.
With everything that will already be working against us such as the weather, bugs, poor soil, and no real farming experience, we must be on top of everything we can control. The limited amount of seed we have in storage will need an instant supply of nutrients, and that supply of nutrients cannot run short at any moment prior to harvest.
To keep costs down and to lighten our load, we need a fertilizer that is as concentrated as possible while still being in the proper proportions for a variety of crops. Too much magnesium will cause problems with phosphorous metabolism in plants while not enough calcium will cause water uptake problems. Use calcium carbonate or calcium sulfate as the primary calcium source, and you may as well have not added it. It will be months before these materials break down and are available to plants as soluble calcium.
All components in our fertilizers must be as close to 100% water soluble as possible and be immediately available to our plants the moment water touches it. This is no easy task to accomplish and much less, is it available in the market?
Take Miracle-Gro tomato plant food for instance. It claims to be specifically for tomato plants yet it contains absolutely no calcium. How can this stuff possibly work when all tomato plants use more calcium than they do nitrogen? That fact is it does not work. The tomato plant will die long before it produces a ripe tomato, if a soluble form of calcium is not added. We could take the chance and rely on the possibility that there is soluble calcium in our soil but in a true SHTF scenario, this is absolutely not going to happen in my world. I am completely eliminating the possibility that my food crops will fail to produce because all 13 required nutrients were not available.
Most of us have no idea what to look for on a product label and there are literally thousands of products out there. I have fair grasp as to what I actually need to make a plant grow to its fullest potential and unfortunately, “Houston, we have a problem”.
This is a reality, I have looked at thousands of products over the years on several product databases and have found only a few products that had all the required nutrients in the proper form and is available in a fairly concentrated mix.
The problem I found most often was that the Producer did not offer shipping and it had to be physically picked up at their location. Of the few that would ship the product, the shipping costs were higher than the actual cost of the product.
If you ask me, this pretty much is the SHTF, in that it is so difficult to find a suitable product, unreal. I do ask that every reader do his or her best to find a reasonably priced mix and post and let The Prepper Journal know what you have discovered.
As for me, I said to heck with it and just started making it myself.