Suppose that you are growing food in a large garden or a small “mini-farm” for survival. No matter how skilled and knowledgeable you may be, crop damage and crop failure is always a possibility. Experienced commercial farmers are not immune to various crop problems that can reduce yield or cause a crop to fail completely, so neither are you and I. In case of crop damage, to one extent or another, what are some ways that we might minimize the damage or recover from a loss?
1. When estimating the amount of land needed to meet your dietary needs, you should overestimate. There are many articles claiming that you can grow a complete diet for one person on a small fraction of an acre of land. All these articles were written by the same person: “Rosy Scenario”. They do not take into account the possibility of crop damage or crop failure. They assume continual optimum yields. So I suggest that, if in theory you might need only one half acre per person, raise that to 1.0 or 1.5 acres. If you grow too much food, you can sell or barter or give away the excess. If you grow too little food, you may go hungry.
2. Leave some land fallow. Then if a crop begins to have problems, you can immediately plant an additional crop on the fallow land, without waiting for the problematic crop to reach harvest. When agricultural land is left fallow, it slowly gains in fertility, recovering from the drain of soil nutrients when crops are grown on it.
3. When buying seed, always buy more than you need. Keep some extra seed in storage, in case you need to replant a crop. It is a good practice to save seed from one harvested crop to plant for the next growing season. But if a crop fails, there won’t be any seed to save. So keep a reserve of seed from each crop that you plant.
4. Use a staggered planting schedule: plant a section of land with a crop one week, then plant an additional section the next week, and so on. Continue for several weeks, so that the plants do not all mature at the same time. This results in a staggered harvest. If some weather disaster wrecks a crop, some of the plants may survive — the ones that have not yet sprouted, or the ones that are already mature. You might not lose the whole crop.
5. Keep some seeds at hand for quick growing crops. That way, if a crop is not doing well, you can immediately plant a fast growing crop that will reach maturity about the same time as the crop that you previously planted. The quickest growing grain crops are fonio (45 to 60 days to maturity) and certain types of millet (75 days or less). See my post: The Quickest Growing Food Crops
Some other quick growing crops:
Radishes and baby greens: 20 days
Leafy crops: 30 to 40 days
Root crops: 60 days
Legume crops: 55 to 75 days
Tomatoes, Peppers: 48 to 75 days
Summer Squash: 50 to 90 days
Grain crops: 90 days or more
Pumpkin: 90 days or more
6. Have an area of land reserved for tree crops and perennials. Once these crops are established, they are less work than annuals. You don’t need to constantly weed a stand of fruit or nut trees. You don’t need to continually replant perennials, such as asparagus, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, currants, Jerusalem artichokes, etc. And the harvest tends to stretch over a longer period of time than with many annuals.
7. Even if you have ample land and resources to grow your own food, you should still keep a supply of stored food, in case some disaster substantially reduces the output from your garden or mini-farm. I would suggest you store at least 90 days of food per person. That would give you enough time to plant and harvest a crop of several different types of staple foods.