I love gardening, but annuals are a lot of work. Most years I just plant a few tomato and pepper varieties that I can't get at the food store, and one nice sweet basil. I don't see the benefit of growing things I can buy cheap while times are good. But I'd like to ask the group to help me develop a list of emergency seeds. Say The Big One happens today. What could I plant to help feed my group fast? The criteria are:
* easy to grow
* fast to yield
* not worth the trouble when times are good because there are more tasty alternatives at the Food Lion
My list starts as:
* radishes - fast grow, edible leaves.
* dry beans and peas - longer grow but easy, and good for winter
* malabar spinach - slimy and gross to my taste, but easy to grow
* kale - easy to grow over most winters here under a spun white row cover. Actually not bad, we had fresh kale burritos one Christmas Eve.
I am in central NC near Chapel Hill, so that colors my choices. Brassicas are hard for me to grow here because they seem to bolt as soon as they sprout. That makes them a "hard grow" in the summer.
I'm from NJ so have no idea how to live off collards and sorghum. Is it worth the trouble to find out?
Seeds that last several years for me -
tomatoes - I have had seeds last as long as 10 years. Easy to grow. Nutritious, good source of potassium.
Dry beans and green beans - seeds last at least 5 years. I'ved re-generated seeds that were 10 years old. Beans add nitrogen to the soil so do not need nitrogen fertilizer. Pole beans bear more and longer than bush beans.
Multiplier onions - they are not annuals and not seeds, but once you start them growing, you have onions for a lifetime. Egyptian Walking Onions are the main variety. They make new heads with sets for next year's plants, every year. They do make bulbs, but are best for green onions. They are stronger taste than grocery store onions, some say too strong. The Egyptian Walking Onions grow in almost every climate in the US, very prolific, and almost no effort on the gardener's part.
Garlic - ditto, each year makes the starts for next year, but usually from the bulb. The top sets take 2 years for decent growth.
You can save seeds from potato plants, or search for True Potato Seeds online. These are not the cut up potatoes that we usually use. The reason for true potato seeds is, the seeds probably have similar lifetime to peppers and tomatoes, which are related species (solanaceae). The seeds do not produce "true" as in potatoes just like the parent plants, they are just "True" or actual seeds as opposed to the cut up potatoes. Potatoes are the most productive carb source in the sustance garden, better than any grain and a good source of protein as well as carb. You can almost live entirely on potatoes.
Collards are very healthy. It's worth learning about them. Sorghum is probably not as healthy, I wouldn't worry about it unless you want it to feed animals or have interest in making your own molasses.
Sweet corn seeds only last a couple of years. You can grow Indian Corn which may last a few years more, and if you choose an open pollinated, highly genetic diverse type (Painted Mountain Corn), you have a good source of diverse genes to choose from. That one is not as tall and the ears not as big as other corn. Indian corn is good for corn meal, better than store bought corn meal. Or for chicken feed.
Forgot - the other essentials are cucurbits like squashes and melons. Pumpkins are the same species as squash, and are just big orange squashes, so those are included. Very productive, very nutritius, and seeds last around 5 years, sometimes longer. I would use both the Summer Squashes, and Winter storage types like Hubbard, Pink Banana, and Butternut squash - huge grower, very reliable, or cooking pumpkins (not jack-o-lantern types which are bred for size and appearance). Summer squashes are most often the species, C. pepo as is spaghetti squash. Winter types are usuyally the species C. maxima (some big pumpkins, French types and Pink Banana) and C. moschata (Butternut type squash).
The one labeled "Cinderella Pumpkin" is a French type with excellent texture, good grower, very productive.
Daniel, thanks. You are describing a traditional garden but with an emphasis in seed longevity. I didn't think about that, it's a good point. You also reminded me about walking onions. I grew them one year. Didn't care for peeling all the little buds, but I think I might feel different if there were nothing else onion-y around.
I think I need to pick one curcurbit and stick with it so I can save seeds. In past years I've grown both cukes and canteloupes, and their hybrids were inedible.
What about yams (not sweet potatoes)? The yam of my imagination is a perennial with a big tuber that I can just let sit until/unless I ever need it, or propagate for more plants when I have time. I tried that with potatoes and it worked for a year, but the spuds got smaller. In the third year they just rotted. I now have a tomato virus, so I wonder if there was a connection...