A combination of factors, including increased fertiliser prices, unfavourable weather and higher fuel prices are among the reasons why production of some staple foods such as wheat and corn is likely to be lower than usual this Northern Hemisphere growing season. Reduced production is likely to force up prices for staple foods such as wheat and corn – and foods that may be used as substitutes for these grains.
Currently, the world is still eating last year’s grain harvest. However, many commentators are predicting food shortages, including in developed countries such as the United States, by the end of this year.
Under the circumstances it seems wise to prepare for a substantial increase in the food prices – and potential food shortages.
In many parts of New Zealand one way to do ensure that you have good nutrition despite increasing food costs is to start (or extend) a home garden, whether at your own home – or at the home of a family member or friend.
You may be surprised at the amount of food that you can grow in a modest space, as illustrated by the video at this link: https://vimeo.com/672939034 This video, made by Marjory Wildcraft introduces a proven system of producing food at home including growing vegetables as well as producing eggs from a flock of just six hens and meat from caged rabbits.
Marjory Wildcraft (pictured in the featured image for this post) is an author and the founder of an online business called The Grow Network. Its website https://thegrownetwork.com/ has a lot of useful resources for beginning (and more experienced) gardeners and backyard food producers. (Some are paid access and some are free.)
Some steps you can take NOW
1) Get informed:
Watch and (please share) the video from the founder of The Grow Network (https://vimeo.com/672939034 ) and get informed. (The video on regenerative farming at the following link is also worth watching for its explanation of natural cycles and strategies that can be used to build soil fertility: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvHJKqU-mZo)
2) Do what is practical at your own home to grow food:
If you have room for a veggie garden but have not yet started one, now is a good time to do this. NB: If you live in an apartment or have a paved area around your home (instead of lawn) container gardening – or even vertical gardening in containers – may be a good option and you will find useful ideas for these types of gardens below.
3) Store some food at home:
If you have the budget, buy some non perishable food (and some appropriate containers in which to store it). This could be a valuable hedge against a future increase in prices.
4) Help others learn gardening and food preservation skills:
If you are a good gardener or have other food-production (or preservation) related skills, please think about what you can do to help other people learn gardening (and related) skills as there are quite a lot of people who have very little gardening experience who could use your help. One option may be to volunteer at a local school or community garden. Or you could offer to be a gardening mentor for friends and family members who want to start a vegetable garden but have little (or no) previous experience in growing food. Some local Voices for Freedom groups have sub-groups for people who are working on food related projects, such as community gardens.
5) Assess your water needs – do you have access to enough water to grow food?
Think about what you may be able to do to ensure you have enough water to grow food if your current set up is not adequate – or you want your plants to have unfluoridated water.* (Home water storage provides a hedge against a likely future increase in the cost of town water – as well as water that you can use in your garden if restrictions on the use of town water are imposed in your area, such as the ban on using hoses or sprinklers often instituted over summer in some towns in Northland, NZ.)
Here’s a good hack to reduce time and effort watering (and save water, too): “How to Make Drip Watering from a Bottle. Everything Ingenious is Simple.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TueZ18zvjUs (No narration – English subtitles)
6) Start creating your own fertiliser:
There are three basic ways of creating fertiliser at home.
One is to start a compost heap, another is to start a worm farm and another is to get Bokashi bins and to use these. (This latter technique was developed in Japan for people who live in apartments.)
This link provides a good basic guide to making compost: https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/maintain-the-garden/how-to-make-compost/ (A guide to rat proofing a plastic compost bin may be found at this link: https://predatorfreenz.org/get-involved/backyards-and-neighbourhoods/rat-proof-your-compost-bin/ )
This link has good advice regarding worm farms: https://wormsrus.co.nz/pages/guides-and-faq ) NB: Please note that while some people have made DIY worm farms from reused car tyres, but this risks the worm castings and “worm juice” (liquid fertiliser) that is created by the worms becoming contaminated with lead, tin and cadmium (and other toxics) that can leach from tyres so I would recommend against using tyres to construct a worm farm (or in a vegetable garden). “Worm juice” has the advantage of being a relatively high nitrogen fertiliser.*
Bokashi compost systems
This link has a good guide to Bokashi composting: https://www.treehugger.com/bokashi-composting-step-by-step-guide-5187112 An advantage of Bokashi composting is that you can include dairy products, meat scraps and bone into this system as well as modest amounts of other oily or fatty foods. (These cannot be added to worm farms; the type of worms in worm farms are essentially vegans.)
*NB: Earlier this year Russia reportedly stopped exports of urea fertiliser and this has resulted in urea fertiliser prices in the US more than tripling; I don’t know if NZ imports nitrogen fertiliser from Russia (we do import some urea and some urea is also manufactured at the Kapuni plant in Taranaki). However, given general inflation and rising fuel prices, even NZ sources of nitrogen-based fertiliser are likely to cost more in the future so it would seem prudent to start getting other nitrogen rich fertilisers organised; some other ideas are here: https://thegrownetwork.com/organic-nitrogen-fertilizer/.)
· Start building soil for spring planting
If you have only clay (or sand) on your section, now would be a good time to create more soil by putting down preferably plain brown cardboard, lawn clippings, hedge trimmings, any spray-free manure etc. etc. that you may have on a suitable site to create soil for spring (or later) planting. (Some people like to kill any grass or weeds on a site first by pegging down black or clear polythene and letting the heat “cook” the vegetation underneath for several weeks or months.)
There are great ideas for free resources you can use to start (or improve) a garden on Huw Richards’s youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vN5Mn_-5MM Huw Richards is the author of the book Grow Food for Free (which is more likely to be relevant for colder parts of NZ as he is from the UK).
· Source containers for container gardening
If you have only a balcony or patio or very little lawn – or are renting and your landlord does not want lawn being converted into garden beds, container gardening may be a good option for you.
There are a number of approaches to growing in containers, such as using large containers as illustrated in this video from the Arms Family Homestead youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k429cPlH6mM (NB: Self wicking tab gardens of this type are a very low effort form of gardening – once the initial work of obtaining, positioning and planting the containers has been accomplished.)
There is also a great series of videos on gardening in small spaces on the “Self Sufficient Me” youtube channel based in Queensland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nh0ol-eAN2U&list=PLnWt3n5uUaIolDPurFTRAkh7ks3E0xtX8&index=2
The garden in this video is a great example of how productive a small space can be. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysKFLtixxlc
Ingenious Vertical Gardens that Use Recycled Plastic Bottles
You may be inspired by the ingenious re-use of plastic bottles as from which a productive vertical garden was created in this video from the TEO Garden youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bad0OPKW6HM … or the wall of cucumbers growing out of plastic bags of soil that has a drip irrigation system made from reused plastic bottles from the DIY Garden Ideas youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B13E4BvRkj0; (NB: The video does show a woman handling treated seeds with her bare hands; this is NOT a good idea.)
Or you may like this video in which red and green lettuces being raised in old water bottles on a wood frame with an ingenious drip irrigation system so that drips from the lettuce plants on a higher level reach the pot below it…and egg shell “mulch” is used on the surface of soil to reduce evaporation.
This link has another ingenious drip irrigation system made from a reused plastic bottle, some twine and a toothpick:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sI_fXUdm18 (from the CoolStuff7 youtube channel).
Food Forest Systems
If a “food forest” approach interests you, this is a good video to watch.
We Turned Our Yard Into A Food Forest During Quarantine | Epic Garden Tour
OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES
In NZ, Voices for Freedom has recently begun adding videos on food production to its Freedom TV series. (More information is here: https://www.voicesforfreedom.co.nz/watch and the Voices for Freedom Odysee channel is here: https://odysee.com/@voicesforfreedom:6 ) A recent guest on Muna Lee’s show on Freedom TV is Kath Irvine, author of The Edible Backyard whose website is https://www.ediblebackyard.co.nz/ ) This episode includes an interview with Kath Irvine: https://odysee.com/@voicesforfreedom:6/Mauriora-Kath-Irvine-May-19:e
If you need to know what you can plant during different months of the year, this handy garden calendar on the Tui brand garden products website provides information for different parts of NZ: https://tuigarden.co.nz/planting-calendar/
The website also has guides to growing quite a few different vegetables and other plants.
Guide to Spacing Plants
The link below has a helpful downloadable PDF on spacing plants: https://www.durhammastergardeners.ca/resources/Square-Foot-Gardening-Plant-Spacing.pdf
Businesses that sell non hybrid seeds and heirloom plants
There are a number of business that sell non hybrid seeds: Koanga Gardens (https://koanga.org.nz/ ) and Kings Seeds (https://www.kingsseeds.co.nz/) are among the most well known (although not all of Kings Seeds are organic or heirloom). There are also many smaller Kiwi businesses that also sell quality seeds and plants.
The websites of Koanga Gardens and Kings Seeds include useful information about the seeds that they sell and food production. See: https://koanga.org.nz/knowledgebase/grow-nutrient-dense-food/ and https://www.kingsseeds.co.nz/tips-and-tricks.html
How to keep up with international food-related news:
* If you are planning to start (or expand) a vegetable garden, one factor to take into account is that the NZ government has passed a law to give to the Director General of Health the power to mandate fluoridation of all reticulated water supplies that serve 500 or more people. This means that if your town water supply is not currently fluoridated, it may be soon. Plants do not grow as well with fluoridated water; if you have the budget, installing a rain water tank (or an IBC tank, which can be drained and taken with you if you have to move house) may be worth considering.
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