Cache Gardening – By Gallimaufree

*By a great blogger Gallimaufree

Whether the times are post-apocalyptic or merely desperate, a tidy, well-tended garden could attract unwelcome attention unless it’s part of a large number of other tidy gardens. The Victory Gardens of World War II were so successful because we were both nearer to our agricultural roots and so many people had such gardens. Now, so many of us are so distant from our agricultural roots that some people have never seen food in its natural state. At a cooking class I taught, I actually had people bewildered by a cabbage. They thought it was a funny-looking lettuce. But even they knew what a vegetable garden was supposed to look like and knew if they were desperately hungry, they could find those tidy rows and find food.Cache Gardening

Keep a normal tidy vegetable garden by all means. In good times, you’ll have delicious, safe food close at hand. Your garden will be safe from most two-legged invaders, and you may meet new potential survivalists over an excess crop of okra.

That tidy garden is a comfort, for sure, but what if it were wiped out – by a flood, a tornado, a bomb? What then? Do you have a back-up plan?

I do. Not only do I cache supplies in accessible places, mostly buried but a few are cached above ground, I cache garden.

Cache gardening is a fusion between wildcrafting and deliberately naturalizing edible food plants in places to which you have access, or along routes you may take to bug out. Consider it enhanced wildcrafting, with the bonus that you know where edibles are because you seeded the area with the food plants. Because it doesn’t look like a traditional row garden, it becomes secret and hidden.

Guerrilla GardeningCache gardening grew out of the concept of guerrilla gardening. In guerrilla gardening, people take over land that doesn’t belong to them and plant things. It’s not a new concept. The Diggers of 1649 were a political group in England that felt they had the right to plant vegetables on common lands, and even then, it was an old concept, harking even further back in time to the Peasants Revolt of 1381 and beyond that back to the common revolts of the poor to grow their own food even in pre-Christian times.

The right to eat, to grow edible food, has been an undercurrent throughout human history. Some groups were more vocal and political about it, and therefore suffered attacks, beatings, arson, and court judgments against them and others were more secretive. Usually, it is the wealthy people who do their best to prevent their poorer neighbors from converting wide expanses of grassy lawns and other unused spaces to food gardens. Using private land without permission from the owner can cause all sorts of expensive hardships from expensive court battles to acts of violence. The poor have always had better luck claiming common or public lands for growing food, which is why some countries (like Germany) offer allotments where people are allowed to go and grow whatever they want, from flowers and trees to vegetable gardens.

In America, we lack allotments, although we had Johnny Appleseed, Victory Gardens, and community gardens. We lauded Johnny Appleseed as a hero, but then, he was using unclaimed lands to plant his apples, not lands the wealthy considered their own. In Utah, the workers who dug the canals there planted apple trees and asparagus along the banks of those canals, and they grow there still – again, public lands. Victory gardens were planted on private land and belonged to the landowner. Community gardens are the area of contention in America – volunteers may take over what they see as an abandoned lot, only to discover once the garden is well-established, that the owner objects to the use of their land. That has often resulted in court battles and the land abandoned once again. Only rarely does the community garden of that sort survive and become a part of the community.

Today, guerrilla gardening takes many forms. Some are political acts whereby groups of people secretly plant flower bedsin traffic circles or other public places to make a statement. Others are political groups that plant vegetables in abandoned lots(scroll down to the Alemany Farm paragraphs) – some of these have gone on to be supported by the community, providing food to the food banks and homeless shelters. Others are the act of frustrated gardeners who simply want to garden and lack the land because they live in urban asphalt areas.

Looking at all these different forms of guerrilla gardening, and being a survivalist, it struck me that we could use their techniques to hide food plants wherever we felt we might need them. Sure, we hope that if we need to evacuate and head out to a bug-out spot, we can get there in the comfort of our bug-out SUV. But is that a realistic scenario? What if the roads are clogged or blocked, or the gas stations empty of gasoline to power the vehicle? What if you’re involved in an accident that leaves it undriveable? What if the car gets stolen or hijacked? What then?

I decided burying caches of supplies wasn’t enough. These caches were limited in what I could bury in them and fresh food was right out of the question. So I decided to “cache” growing plants. As a long-time wildcrafter, it made sense to me to make sure I knew where the edibles were. Sometimes, I “helped” wild plants along by casually cultivating my patches of wild plants – surreptitiously thinning them, adding fertilizer, mulching, and replanting the “culls” nearby so they weren’t crowding themselves out. Why not grow foods I wanted to eat as well as the ones I could find growing naturally in the wild?

While I have a regular garden at my house, I also have cached edible plants among the ornamentals. I have dandelions and violets growing wild Cache Gardeningin the lawn, I have a redbud tree and a pecan tree, and a couple of dwarf fruit trees, I have roses with mint and cauliflowers growing beneath them, and I have a mesclun mix of lettuces and greens growing as a border to my bulb bed, which has edible daylilies in it. I have a hedge of asparagus ferns along one edge of my patio, and the front yard is hedged with blueberries, bush cherries, and elderberries. There’s a bramble of raspberries under the bathroom window. Carrots grow among the sunflowers and dill, and thyme and chamomile blossom between the flagstone pavings. I have vines of honeyberries and malabar spinach growing up trellises in front of windows to provide privacy, pretty flowers, and food.

A surprising number of edible plants do well growing in the wild. Yes, it may take time to harvest from these plants, and you might only get enough from a patch to feed yourself and a few others. These aren’t mass-production crops. The intent isn’t to provide an entire community with food. The intention is to have food available in places where you will need food. Naturalized in this fashion, the edible plants will have smaller harvests. You’ll have to hunt for them as they won’t be growing all neat and tidy inside a white picket fence.

I like the seed bomb method of planting food. You can scatter edibles everywhere easily this way. No tilling, no weeding, no fertilizing, and if the plants go unharvested and go to seed, why, that just means more food later that you didn’t have to work too hard to get.

There are several ways to make seed bombs. My preferred method is to use eggshells. Mix wet peat moss with pelletized fertilizer and organic compost into a “dough” that holds together well. Knead your seeds into this mixture and pack it into half an egg shell. Glue the egg shell halves together using something like Elmer’s school glue – or tape it together, or tie it with a biodegradable ribbon or string, and poke a few small holes in it, then lob these bombs where you will. Try to lob them in areas where the plants will be happy to grow: wheat in meadow areas, potatoes in moist loamy soil, tomatoes in well drained areas with lots of water, that sort of thing. Some people suggest putting this seed dough into recycled materials that will degrade or break on impact, like glass Christmas ornaments or small cardboard boxes.

Another way is to take 5 parts finely ground clay, 3 parts organic compost, 1 part seeds, and 1 part water – just enough water to make a thick pliable clay “dough”. Shape the “dough” into balls somewhere between marble and golf ball size (the smaller size is better except with really big seeds like sunflowers and melons). Let the balls dry, then carry them around with you to toss or drop in likely places.

Another way is to make the seed dough by either the peat moss or the clay method and pack a fist sized amount of the dough into a thin water balloon. Fill the balloon with water, tie it off, and give it a good shake. Lob these wet balloons in suitable places, and the balloon will explode on impact, scattering wet seed dough.

For bulbs, you want a different method. Bulbs usually need to be buried, so carry corms and bulbs and a bulb shovel with you when you go out walking or hiking. When you come to likely places, stop, dig a hole, and plant your bulbs.

Make a map and mark the locations where you plant your edibles. I hesitate to call them “crops” because that implies cultivation and the aim here is to naturalize the plants so they start growing wild, thus providing you with secret cached fresh food.

Try not to plant invasive plants. I know the purpose of cache gardening is to make sure you have lots of growing edibles cached around to provide you with food and seed for real crops if we do end up in an apocalypse. However, you don’t want one food plant crowding out all others. Look at kudzu – this is a food plant. Kudzu is edible in most forms, and when it’s too old and tough to eat, it makes good fodder for domesticated herbivores and can be used to weave baskets, hats, and shoes, as well as broken into fibers to spin into threads for more flexible clothing. And yet – it’s a nasty, invasive weed that’s taking over swathes of the south and destroying native plants and crops. Don’t plant kudzu – we have more than enough even for post-apocalyptic times.

There are other caveats to cache gardening. Don’t use the seed from “seedless” plants – they won’t produce enough viable seed to make planting them worth your while, and if they do happen to produce viable seed, the resulting offspring won’t be true to the parent plant. Try not to use seed that is patented as this seed and all the plants that grow from it and the seed it produces belong to the patent-holder, who will aggressively pursue anyone they feel is infringing on their patent. Don’t seed bomb too close to roadsides and cultivated croplands where the landowner or government will spray herbicides and pesticides that might contaminate the food plants you hope to establish in the wild.

Things that grow well in this sort of benign neglect: almost all herbs, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, radishes, eggplants, peppers, peas, string beans, Malabar spinach, honeyberries, grapes, gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, passionfruit, wheat, oats, squashes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, lettuces, kale, cabbage, collards, cabbage, chicory, corn salad, cress, dandelion, violets, pansies, mustard, orach, beets, sorrel, turnips, melons, sunflowers, broccoli, cauliflower, lentils, rice, asparagus, leeks, fennel, celeriac, kohlrabi, bamboo, burdock, jicama, parsnip, salsify, rutabaga, elderberry, okra. And don’t forget the lesson of Johnny Appleseed and plant trees and shrubs with edible fruits and nuts: apples, of course, and peaches, apricots, pecans, mulberries, cherry, plum, pear, persimmons, pawpaws, figs, olives, pomegranates, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, almonds, pecans, walnuts, white oaks (sweeter acorns), hazelnuts, hickory nuts, and pines that produce pinenuts (Colorado pinyon, stone pine…).

Go through this list and pick what you’d actually eat that grows in your growing zone (or add foods I left out), collect the seeds/bulbs for them, make your seed bombs, and then plant them. Check back periodically to harvest what you sowed and lob more seed bombs.

When you get comfortable with caching edible gardens, consider the next step in cache gardening: medicinal plants.

About The Author

My friends call me Noddy.I’ve been involved in survivalism for more than 30 years and have honed a number of survival skills. I’ve helped with search and rescue teams, but my desire to learn all I could about surviving didn’t crystallize until the Murrah Bombing in Oklahoma City. I was there that day, on the north side of the building away from the blast. I wasn’t hurt in it – just slightly damaged hearing that didn’t become evident until weeks later.The days and weeks following the bombing, I helped with feeding the searchers, taking phone calls, and sitting at the counseling tables helping people cope with what happened. That’s when I got my pastoral counseling certifications. Knowing that disaster – man-made or human – could strike at any time anywhere, I decided I would be prepared and so would as many people as I could reach.That preparedness came in handy when the May 3rd tornado tore through Oklahoma City, Chickasha, Moore, Del City, and Midwest City.It came in handy when the I-40 bridge collapsed under the impact of a barge.It came in handy when the shuttle disintegrated as it descended and scattered debris over Oklahoma and Texas.It came in handy when Sept. 11 happened.It came in handy when my children chose to join the military and go to war.It came in handy when the hurricanes Rita and Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast.It came in handy during several serious ice storms.You’ll notice every one of these survival situations occurred in cities and urban areas. Most survival groups focus their efforts on surviving outside of cities, and most prepare for nuclear disaster. This is all well and good, but until a nuclear disaster occurs, we have all these other situations in which we need to be prepared and to survive,With the depression we are entering, we’ll need even more urban survival skills. This blog is concerned with information that can help people who live in cities and suburbs survive the various situations we may encounter – up to and including the dreaded nuclear holocaust.I grew up in rural Germany. I was a goosegirl for a while, then grew old enough to behead and pluck chickens, and then on to castrating pigs, milking goats and cows, and making sausages – all on a woodburning stove and with no running water. My family was wealthy because we had a two seater outhouse with a covered area for hanging our winter wash to “dry”. I was apprenticed to the baker for a while, but he died of an auto accident, and my apprenticeship was sold to an herbal apothecary. I kept the Yeast Beastie I was given by the baker (Heike is her name) – and now, nearly 5 decades later, I still have her.I completed my apprenticeship as an herbal apothecary, took my journeyman years, and passed my master’s exam.And then I came to the US, and discovered all of my education was for naught. Still being young, I started over. I became degreed in philosophy and fairytales, and discovered I’d done that at a time when fairytales were in huge disfavor. So, still being young, I started over again. I became an advertising artist, and won awards for some of my designs. Family needs caused me to relocate and I had to start over again. I was still youngish, so I became a librarian. Family needs caused me to leave that to stay home to raise children. So I did that. And then I re-entered the workforce in much reduced straits. I spent time in insurance, in oil law, in tech support for computer software, and in being a receptionist.And throughout all of this, I kept up my skills, the ones I learned as a child, and the ones I learned as an apprentice and journeyman and master, and the ones I learned in college and the real world, and along with them, I increased my spiritual knowledge and skills. I added in a variety of survival skills and a number of just plain fun skills.Here, I offer all I have learned, and share what I am still learning, for learning doesn’t end until life does. And perhaps, it doesn’t end then, either, but continues in another way.I hope the information I’ve learned and continue to learn comes in handy for anyone who comes here as well.

10 Responses

  1. Shannon from Iowa

    Since reading this post, I have located some family ground and family friends that have ground that have stated that as long as something isn't going to make their Cattle sick or it won't over grow an area, I can plant whatever I want to. Menards / Home Depot have had Rasberries, Strawberries, Blue Berries and Grapes at fairly decent prices for the past week. I purchased 10 different plants at $3.00 each. As soon as the last frost passes, I'll be planting these on 3 seperate peices of property. I have also gotten 20 lbs of potatoes to plant. I plan on planting only items that will come back each year on their own. Squash can be on of these as the squash seeds will eventually re-plant themselves in natural survival.

  2. robehren

    Great site. nice to know I'm not the only "crazy" one out there. Spent a lot of time dying in the video but I learned some tricks. Good stuff.

  3. robehren

    Sorry about that I inadvertantly posted a response in the wrong place. I was trying to post to the "Outbreak" video post. Sorry.

    • Survivalspot

      Thats ok robehren, I realize the comment placement is a bit confusing. We're working on fixing that as well as adding some great new features.

  4. MrsJ

    Interesting article. Behind where I live is a huge property which is now almost abandoned. It was once a factory with it's own gardens, but now just a small corner of the property is in use – on the far side, away from me. I may well use this technique to seed bomb the edges in there next to my property.

  5. Patch

    "the resulting offspring won’t be true to the parent plant."

    That's true of almost all hybrid varieties, "seedless" or not. For naturalizing vegetables, it's best to stick to heirloom/open-pollinated varieties. If planting more than one type of plant that can cross-pollinate together (all the squashes go *crazy* with that, for example), you'll end up with interesting crosses a few generations down the road, but this kind of cache gardening would lend itself extremely well to the preservation of heirloom varietal characteristics, since each cache of tomatoes, for example, could contain just one variety.

    With fruit trees, be sure that you're either planting self-pollinating, or that you're planting more than one compatible variety. Be aware that if you're planting out nursery stock fruit saplings, they're almost certainly grafted onto a different rootstock, and if bad things happen to the tree, it might regrow from that rootstock and you'll end up with something completely different – possibly something that doesn't even produce fruit (much).

  6. Pam

    Wow! I have never commented on an article like this before, but this is such a neat idea. Don't have a place where I could much of this of my own. But I put food plants in my flower bed and it is amazing to me how many people have no idea that they are not ornamentals. The beauty of this is that in so many abandoned or neglected areas I could do this. Wether I got to harvest this or it went to help someone else or was left to reproduce "naturally", I would be happy. I think that even in large cities this might be practical to do. Thank you for the best idea I have heard in a long time.

  7. parker

    what a great idea! and don't forget how loved and respected Dandelions are in MOST of the world……


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