As garden time nears, I'd like to suggest some things to you all. A garden is not only a family friendly hobby, it increases your property value and is something very healthy for you to do. It produces yummy bounty for you and also many wonderful and cherished gifts for family and friends. However, as a prepper, the garden takes on a whole new meaning. Unbelievably, not everyone can garden nor do they want to...if you are one of those, please just ignore this! As preppers, many of us garden for our actual stockpile of food. Some freeze, some can, some do both. The point is, that if possible, your garden should significantly contribute to your food year round. When my kids were little, I never bought a single veggie, either fresh, canned or frozen. Nor did I have to get fruit. It made it possible to raise a family of 5 on less than $17,000 thousand a year when the average family in the area made $35,000 or more. It also meant that I never ran out of food! I taught a 4-H garden program and one of the things that I found was that many people thought that gardens equaled nothing but hard work and no fun. I worked hard to find ideas and tricks that would help with this porblem and I'll share some of them with all of you now. Rule #1 - set your garden goals. Half the fun of gardening is in planning. And, the devil is in the details! How many cans of green beans does your family eat? How many packets of seed will you need to make that many? Plan your garden for the things you need and want and in the amounts that it will do the most good for you and your family. If you can't have a garden that big (and it doesn't take as much space as you think!), then pick a few veggies that you can grow a lot of and make something out of them that will last all year long...many people like beets (I'm not one of them!) and they not only freeze or can them and the greens, but they also pickle the beets. So, for very little space, they can have a years worth of beets in all it's many glorious forms. Rule #2- work smarter, not harder! A garden that is not taken care of won't give you the maximum result...but that does not mean that it has to be back breaking labor every day and all through the season. In fact, it doesn't mean back breaking labor at all! I am not so young any more and have gotten quite lazy about where I put in extreem effort. So, I plan around my limitations....ball season, work, vacations all get in the way of your garden. So, plant in a different way. Think outside the box....I plant in raised beds. This helps with weeds and digging. It's an ideal way for people with limited space too. I only need to rototill once with a raised bed, as the dirt is never compacted by walking on it. The weeds always get shaded by the veggies after a while. I can grow a years worth of green beans for eating twice a week and for pickling and gift giving in a bed that is 4'x16'. If you can't build a raised bed, wide rows that are mounded up will work. If you can't have a traditional garden space, grow in tires, planters, or any container. Try one of those "topsy turvy" upside down planters. I never water my garden after the plants are up, unless there is an extreem draught (once in 12 years). I will explain in rule #3 about this. Rule #3 - ALWAYS have an experiment going in the garden. This helps you learn more, provides for fun and discussion and keeps the boredom away. I learned how to virtually eliminate watering by experimenting in the garden. I went to our local school and collected large cans...I think they are #10. I punched holes in the bottom and about 3/4 of the way up the sides. I sunk them into the ground between plants. Then I put a small scoop of compost in the bottom and filled them with water. Rain water did the rest of the watering. It provided my plants with a slow release of fertilizer (compost) and a drip irrigation system. One other thing that it does (talking about experiments) is that I had read that having metal in the garden improved the growth of many plants after a lightening storm. The kids would measure the plants and then after a storm, measure again...most plants were affected by having metal near them, as opposed to not. Different planting aids can help...trellises, of all different kinds can help you grow up, not out in the garden. You can even grow melons on a trellis! The fun parts/experiment comes in when the fruit is getting bigger. You will need to make little "hammocks" for the fruit out of something like panty hose. So- the rules are: Plan well, Work smarter, not harder, and make your garden fun! I'm only an emial away if you have any questions about gardening.