Prepare, Sustain, Thrive and Survive Simply
If you need to grow food in a survival situation where water is scarce, read on. You will find a couple of ideas here that you can hopefully adapt for your own situation.
I stumbled on one of the ideas in 1989 when I was opening President Jimmy Carter’s mail. What was I doing opening the former presidents mail? Well, that’s a different story. Anyway, this woman sent a video to Pres. Carter saying the concept could help his work with starving people in drought-ridden Fourth World countries. I’m sorry, but I’ve forgotten her name. The basic concept was good: capture moisture released by rotting organic matter and funnel it to your plants. But there are a few pitfalls when trying to implement the idea.
Using Moisture Released by Rotting Grass Clippings
The video documented demonstration plots at Western Washington University. The plots were long rows of grass clippings, about four feet high, covered with large sheets of plastic. Vegetable seeds were planted along the edges of the tunnel where the plastic met the soil. As the grass decomposed it’s moisture condensed on the curved ‘ceiling’ of the tunnel, then rolled and slid down the sides to ground level where the plants were nourished and kept moist.
I became interested in applying the technique on a small scale while living in the backwoods without running water and barely any money — sort of a Fourth World lifestyle right here in the good old USA. The first problem I ran into was a lack of grass clippings in my immediate surroundings, The clippings I did locate within a 50-mile radius had been sprayed with chemicals. Chemically treated grass is hard to find in a culture where everybody is trying to have the prettiest weed free lawn. I’m sure grass clippings are even harder to come by in the Fourth World.
Rotting Organic Matter in Flower Pots
So the project died on the vine that year, so to speak, except I did try the rotting organic matter on a small scale by putting it into some large planters then covering with soil and adding live plants on top of that. The small amount of organic matter only released moisture for a few weeks. It’s a good thing I wasn’t really living in a drought-ridden Fourth World country because I would have starved. Nevertheless, the potential of growing food with the aid of moisture from rotting waste remained an intriguing one.
Non-composted Vegetable Scraps Release Moisture into the Soil
The following year I implemented a small but prolific garden plot with a number of moisture saving techniques, and rotting organic matter was one of the resources. It’s not a new idea. People have been growing their household vegetables on top of kitchen scraps for many generations. I dug a trench for the vegetable scraps and threw in surrounding garden weeds, covered those with dirt and planted right on top. The decaying organic matter provided moisture and beneficial nutrients for months. I also surrounded the plants with a thick blanket of straw mulch, which further conserved water, a resource of very limited supply for me. My two-person household hauled about 80 gallons of it a week and reused every drop during the growing season. Gray water from dish washing, clothes washing, and bathing was recycled to the garden. This provided a lush and healthy crop of fresh vegetables and herbs during the growing season.
Burying Vegetable Scraps a Revolutionary Act
The practices of burying non-composted kitchen scraps and recycling gray water to the garden are rooted in centuries of ancestral tradition, but both are against the law in many counties and municipalities. Therefore, reusing water is a radical and revolutionary act. My survival depended on it. What do you think, do humans still have the right to be resourceful and survive? You can read more about how I survived with very little water here.
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