Gardening and the Apocalypse

We used to watch so many cops series like CSI and Criminal Minds that it seemed a waste of time to turn on the telly unless someone died in the first five minutes. Now we’ve upped the stakes and have started watching series where not one, or even ten people die at the beginning, but the entire planet is wiped out!

One such story is Jericho, a US TV series that depicts life in the small town of Jericho, Kansas after a nuclear attack wipes out the nation’s major cities.

Another one, based in Britain, and somewhat more gritty and less “Hollywood” is Survivors. After a world wide epidemic of a deadly virus wipes out all but 5% of the population, those left behind struggle to survive in a world where all the rules have changed.

Even in my critiquing group one of the novels follows a similar thread – sometime in the near future our heroine is the only survivor of a virus that wipes out humanity, and she must try to save the species by herself.  Another writer in the same group is writing an awesome thriller/love story set in a post Zombie Apocalypse era right here in Silicone Valley.

And the one thing that all these stories have in common – gardening!

In each case the people have to tune into their growing skills to be able to feed themselves long after the shelves of Safeways have been depleted of stock.

Now that it is September and I’m “in between” gardens, the freezer is full and all my canning jars are used up, I reckon I’m fairly good to feed myself and the neighbors for a week – more if we can use Al’s garden too.

But what about next year? Well, my new seeds for the cool season garden arrived today in the post. I didn’t really need to order $60 worth of seed considering that I saved seed last year from as many crops as I could (bar the biennials, due to lack of patience). That does not take into account the seeds that I have left over from last year’s packets. So why buy more? Well, I only started out trying to get cauliflower and garlic seed – that should have cost me no more than $20. But, oh, how pretty those golden beets looked and those multicolored carrots, and I just had to have those frilly Italian lettuces growing in my garden next winter. Before you could yell, “Watch out for those aphids!” I’d filled up my virtual cart and was merrily dreaming of those rows of winter produce. Nearly every seed packet is labeled heirloom, so I can seed save from each of those. 

So what would you plant in a post apocalypse garden? Potatoes of course, plenty of peas, broccoli, carrots, beets, turnips, onions and garlic. The summer garden would be a challenge depending on the water supply but I’d focus on tomatoes (or ask Al to grow them as his are so much more prolific). I think zucchini would be the saving of human-kind due to its vast production, and all and any squash would be welcome to grow in my yard. Beans for protein – we need to keep it a balanced diet. On that same note, I’m sure there is great nutritional value in aphids and caterpillars – just think of them as tiny crabs and prawns! How’s that for Integrated Pest Management?

There would be some things that I wouldn’t bother growing due to their pernickety nature. Peppers are top of that list. Just getting them to germinate is a feat of green-thumbed skill. Cauliflower takes too much energy for the return – you really want plants that can be cut and that grow back – like cut and grow lettuce – though who’d be eating lettuce in a post -apocalyptic world where no-one needs to diet?

Ironically, I’d probably have to tear out my native plant garden and reseed with grass – albeit some kind of edible grass like wheat or corn. But I’d keep some flowers – after all we need our pollinators!

So that’s me – a glass half full type of a gal – bring on the apocalypse, I’m ready!

Byddi Lee

2 replies to Gardening and the Apocalypse

  1. I'd go for a Three Sisters planting of corn, beans, and winter squash, noting that the corn and beans should be ones for drying, not fresh eating.

    Have you read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart? It's an early post-apocalyptic novel, written in the '50s and taking place in Berkeley. It won a Hugo and is still very readable. What I particularly loved about it was that the people were quite ordinary, with just a smattering of skills between them, rather than Heinleinian super-people who could do everything and anything. This drove other people crazy who wanted to read a more heroic tale, but I thought it made a much more thoughtful and realistic exploration of how ordinary people would survive. Beautifully written too.

  2. Sounds like a good read Karen, I've just requested it from the library.

Comments are closed.