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COVID-19: start growing fast, and top ten plants for gifting to the neighbors...

 
Posts: 129
Location: Washington DC area (zone 7a)
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While we are pretty well set with a personal garden (that has been productive for at least the past 10 years), many people around us are starting to try to set up gardens in a hurried panic.  Of course it does not help that the Governor has shut down the State for all non-essentials...

What I would like to do here is is to brainstorm up a list of the top 10 list of the plants that are easy to care for, quick to grow, nutritious, etc., to sprout and give to the neighbors.  I found this list here: How to Compare Vegetables to Decide What's Worth It to Grow  and Gardening Harvest Times.

I would like to open a discussion on what we can do to help this late in the game.  Please share your thoughts, feelings, etc.

ps: our current location -- central Louisiana

pps: yes we will need to find ways to respect social distancing practices while buying/selling/gifting plants.  I'm hoping to keep the discussion on plant choices, helpful techniques, nutrition, and the like.
 
Ebo David
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I also found this:

Produce Cheat Sheet

with useful information on storage times and the like.
 
gardener
Posts: 458
Location: Ontario - Gardening in zone 3b, 4b, or 6b, depending on the day
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Where I am... planting season is 2 months away. I am planning on sharing any excess tomato starts and cucumber starts (or other starts) with our elderly neighbors, both of whom generally keep a small garden but won't be able to get out to buy nursery plants, and also my cousin, who is NOT a gardener. I may also offer them their choice of my excess seeds.

Excess produce we can't eat or preserve will definitely land on their doorsteps as well, like it did last summer (likely beans, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet corn).

Plants shared with non gardeners should be: productive, easy to grow, nutritious,  and things they like eating . So I wont give my cousin squash seeds though squash meets 3/4 requirements.  

Good plants to me would be my "easy" crops.
-squash, winter and summer
- peas
- beans
- tomatos
- lettuce

If you are in a warmer zone, you may be able to root cuttings of your tomatos fo share with neighbors and give them a head start.

And in my opinion, anything saved from your local seed will give a few years head start over grocery store seed or plant starts!
 
Ebo David
Posts: 129
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Oooo... Just found this:  Yes, you may

Nice...
 
gardener
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Ebo, this is a trickier question that you might think because there are sooo... many variables.

First I would try to follow the old expression: Eat what you grow and grow what you eat! If you know what your neighbor's like to eat, that would be a good start. When people are stressed they want "comfort food" not something new and different, as a general rule.

Second, generally people are normally encouraged to grow the more valuable crops either nutritionally or cost wise, but now we're being faced with a different issue - what will be on the store shelves in two weeks, two months or next Feb. Those may differ if plants that take 6 months to grow don't go in the ground on schedule.  Normally, cabbage, potatoes and onions are really cheap to buy, so many people won't waste garden space on them. But if supply lines are damaged, those basics may be needed.

Third, when people are just learning to garden, starting too big often results in less produce than if they start small and don't get overwhelmed. Getting each neighbor to focus on 2-3 types of plants they really like and asking them to share extra may be more practical that getting them started on 10 different veggies that all have different water and nutrient needs.

Forth, consider the physical abilities of the people involved. Some may need to just grow in containers - as my mom aged, she would grow her lettuce in a good-sized pot that sat up on a patio side-table. It gave her enough lettuce to have a bit every couple of days.

Fifth, if people have to grow things they are less familiar with, are you prepared to send recipes with the plants? It might help them see the end point!

Unless they dislike them, I would certainly put beans on my list, preferably a bean that can be eaten fresh, freezes Ok, and dries well. You'd have to choose based on your region. Even then, you still have to chose between pole beans which require infrastructure to climb, or bush beans.
 
Ebo David
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All very good points.  I will address a couple of things up front.  

I was not talking about giving all 10 to each neighbor, but sprouting some selection of the seeds I have in rootrainers, or seeds that I can get locally.  We probably have 30 or so different species I have seed for. Once things get growing, the question will be  "this is what I have, what would you like?  

I also posted my current location -- central Louisiana.  You are right.  Local, climate, soils, are all important.  I was just looking to think out of the box to prepare.

I also do not know all the folks around here, or what all they have experience with, or what they are comfortable growing.

All that said, thank you for the reality check on the discussion.  This is exactly what we need.

 
gardener
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I would maybe consider some calorie crops. Here that means winter squash (though a space hog) and potatoes. Beans and corn are great but need more space.  

 
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I reckon a big bunch of herbs given to neighbours is probably the most useful.

Easy to grow, most don't need continuous replanting, very nutritious, nice perfume, and adds natural flavour to what could otherwise be quite boring flavoured foods.

 
master steward
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My suggestion would be tomato, bell pepper, onion, garlic and lettuce because these are thing that almost everyone loves and can be used in many recipes, especially soup.

I would suggest growing zucchini to give away the fruit as it is the most productive plant I ever grew. Tons of it.

I would also suggest helping your neighbors with their gardens.  Ask them what they are having problems with and how can you help.
 
master pollinator
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Walk through a grocery store and see what is not in stock.  In my area it is potatoes and onions.
 
pollinator
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Lebanese White Mallow Squash are a bush variety summer squash that are fast and because they are bush you can grow them in pots very easily.  

Also I would suggest growing micro greens.  From start to harvest is 10-11 days.  Growing them on cafeteria size trays yield about .3 to .4 pounds per tray.  Anyone wants full instructions and recommended places to get seed shout.  We used to grow up to 15 pounds a week in 2' x 6' area.
 
gardener
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Hmmmm,

If people are establishing gardens RIGHT NOW, I would want to plant crops with the following qualities:

1) easy to grow
2) produce quickly
3) nutritious

To include all three qualities I am thinking of the following:

Romain Lettuce
Peas
Spinach
Broccoli
Onions
Potatoes (not terribly fast, but still worthwhile)
Radish (not terribly nutritious, but at least something to munch on)


Once things warm up a bit I would add:

Tomatoes (cherry, and larger varieties)
Sweet potatoes (very healthy)
Summer squash/zucchini
Winter squash
Beans

All this assumes that I have at least 1month from planting to harvest.  Less than that and I think we would be getting hungry quickly.

Overall I would plan to have some quick crops early (Spinach, Romaine Lettuce, Peas, etc), then transition over towards more substantial and easily stored crops (Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Squash).

Hopefully, no one is going to have to abruptly rely on their garden that they just made and having no experience.

Eric
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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A quick thought for Ebo or others in Louisiana. Okra & black eyed peas are easy to grow around there. Both are very productive & I'd guess most of the neighbors already have recipes:)

Oh, and don't panic. That won't help anything.
 
Ebo David
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@anne,  thanks for the suggestions.  The nice thing with the onions and garlic is that we have a LOT more planted than we can use -- planted to ward off pests.  Much of those are ready to eat, so when we start thinning they will be ready for either transplant or table...

@eric, one interesting thing about sweet potatoes.  There are some local varieties you can find in farms markets, but none of the nursery's sell plants or seed.  We're trying to (what's the word I have heard on the net -- thank you YouTube ;-).  Anyway, we are trying to start some local sweet potatoes as well, but I easily agree with everything else.

Also, I have to be careful with helping the neighbors with their gardens.  More than half of my neighbors are either near or past retirement age, and my wife and I have very good reasons to believe that we have been exposed -- and we have been hunkered down at home for a week or more now.  While we have had mild symptoms, they are symptoms all the same...
 
Ebo David
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@mike...  My wife and I joke about both the eggplant and okra gods, and how the LOVE her garden.  Unfortunately, she found out that she is really allergic to okra, so that is something she paid someone else to rip out years ago, and we do not keep it anywhere near the house since.  Seriously sucks, but ending up with contact dermatitus covering your arms in boils that look like a second degree burn is a no go.  That said, others in the region, this is a good stable food you can grow...
 
pollinator
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Something to think about is what is likely to be in short supply?


In Europe labour is the issue, the UK alone is missing 80000 seasonal workers to harvest everything from Asparagus and Strawberries to  lettuce and cabbages. Sure some of these positions will be filled with unemployed hospitality workers, but they won't be as fast and many of them will not be able to travel across the country and live in a caravan/block house since they have kids or other dependents.

So high labour crops are in my opinion the most likely to rise in price, anything that is harvested by hand, so the 4 above, plus broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes, all berries, mushrooms etc etc. Root crops, peas, french beans, sweetcorn are all mechanically harvested so will not really be affected as the drivers are normally locals. However the packing facilities for some may have labour issues.

For people who have never gardened I would suggest tomatoes and cucumbers IF your climate allows for them to be grown outdoors in a sheltered spot. a courgette plant as those are both high labour to harvest and very easy to grow.
Staff note (Jay Angler) :

Courgette is a European word for zucchini.

 
pollinator
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I would go with zucchini, and or yellow squash, because they are super easy to grow and very productive. One plant can feed a family, and it's versatile, you can eat it raw, cooked, make into bread and cake.  You can even freeze it.  Next I would go with bush beans. Easy to grow the more you pick the more you get, bush kind don't need that much space, or anything to grow on.  Most people love tomato's and they aren't that hard to grow  with the tomato's I would send carrots, and some basil.  They grow well together.  If it's someone totally new to gardening I would recommend radish.  I know lots of people don't like it, but its beneficial to other plants and it is the easiest and fastest thing I have ever grown.  I always tell people with young kids to grow radishes because they are so fast to mature, so this may give the beginner some confidence. I might also throw in some marigolds.  Most people don't want to eat them, you can, but most don't.  They are a great beneficial they keep some pests away, draw pollinators, again they are easy to grow and they are pretty.  I always think flowers brighten my day, and in times like these we need that more then ever.  There are others of course, but a lot depends on where you live.  If I gave people in my area lettuces it would be discouraging because it's to hot here to plant lettuces now, plus I don't know about you but my lettuces is always bitter, I wouldn't rate that at least here a simple veggie to grow.  I would go with easy to grow in your area, bountiful harvest, something that doesn't have a lot of pest issues, doesn't require a lot of special care, and something the individuals like to eat.
 
Ebo David
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@Skandi, interesting point.  I wonder if any of the local growers can re-purpose as a U-Pick-It.  There are legal, practical, and safety reasons why that might not be doable, but it would be good to find out in places where there are shortages if people who are willing to pit-it would be allowed to.

Any idea how to make that happen on a wider scale?  Anyone buddies with their State Ag Agents?

BTW, I was working on getting certified as a Master Gardner in Maryland when the proverbial fertilizer hit the rotary oscillator.  Instructing and helping local gardeners is part of the MG charter.

For those who are from the USA, the Master Gardner's program is run through the State Ag Extension programs.  Nationally, and some international programs, can be found here:

 https://mastergardener.extension.org/

but each state has theirs.  Here are two you might want to  browse:

Louisiana: https://www.lsuagcenter.com/topics/lawn_garden/master%20gardener
Maryland: https://extension.umd.edu/mg

Look around for programs in your area.  They are a wonder resource to sort out local conditions, and advise that is more suited to your exact situation.

 Hope this helps...
 
master steward
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Strawberries! Everyone likes them, and, at least in my area, they're pretty low-maintence. Even if the person just sticks them in the ground, they should live and make runners and make even more strawberries.

Raspberries are another good idea, especially if you have a patch that needs to be divided.

I've also had multiple people interested in my sorrel, which I actually got as a division from someone else.
 
pollinator
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well, for the parameters given, i would stick mostly with basic foods that people recognize and appreciate a lot, stuff to get them most excited about growing, tomatoes are obviously high on the list for newbies.  

onions, garlic (although these are more fall time plants), berries of all types and especially strawberries, arugula (super fast, long harvests), the cole crops - broccoli and kales, etc, mustard too perhaps...different kinds of peas...would probably be what i would most focus on for this aim. and cukes and squash are popular among smaller new growers,

plus i would throw in some unusuals, perennials too...just a bit for others who may want to be more adventurous, and may have longer term focus, for instance, sorrels, lamb's quarters, asparagus, maypop, grapes or other perennial fruits, peach and plum trees
 
Ebo David
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@leila, the arugula is a nice touch.  I would also potentially add to the list watercress, spinach (mentioned before), and non-iceberg lettuces.

For this project, I will stay away from trees and things that would require a long term focus.  That said, this would make for some interesting topics of conversation for those that own their own houses or have more enterprising landlords...  

I will stay away from micro-greens.  That takes a LOT of seed, and once you cut them, you have a meal.  I may look into getting seed to grow micro-greens and telling my neighbors, and maybe even giving them to them, but we do not have many #'s of seed for growing greens in that way.  That said, I will talk to my wife and look at if we can actually get stuff to do this.  I've never done it and it would make a nice addition to our own table, as well as for the neighbors.  I do also need to think how we would go this practically since the current recommendations are to receive packages outside the home, leave them for 1 to 5 days before bring them in.  A potted plant will last a day or three without watering, but micro-greens.

Also please remember that I am currently sheltering-in-place 1,200 miles from the farm, and anything I cannot give to my neighbors in Louisiana will be a serious waste.  Also, I am still renovating the structure for the farm which has not been active since 1999 and has had no maintenance since.  When I get back, all 7 of the greenhouses are still on the ground in pieces, the water pipes to them are still all rotted out, and I am still hurting from having to appease FHA (on the 203K loan -- the place was in such bad shape that no-one would loan on the property and FHA was so myopically focused on the house that I dumped everything into meeting their requirements).  If I would have had my druthers, I would have preferred to: a) move in and live there a year, b) fix only what you must to be safe and sane while starting to work on the land, c) make a list of what you cannot live with, a list of what you need to make the farm work, and a list of where you see the place being in 20 years.  That is when I would have started renovating -- after I got the farm back into minimal ops...  As a side note, the farm will probably never really make a lot of money, or even pay for itself.  I work a regular job a couple of miles away, and you know some land is just to special to have some developer bulldoze the 1,000's of azaleas, magnolias, a dozens of native plant species, as well as the mature second growth forest and the bog.  Yes, about 100' of one of the edges is part of a real honest to god bog (queue up the jokes about having some swamp land you have to sell, and I purchased it knowingly). OK, enough of my diatribe.  Back to gardening growing!
 
Ed Waters
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Ebo if you stay away from some of the more popular seed companies the seeds aren't too expensive.  We have always used kitazawa for radish seeds.  Ignore the all purple stuff because it is too expensive.  A pound goes a long way.  
 
gardener & author
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Ebo David wrote:I also found this:

Produce Cheat Sheet

with useful information on storage times and the like.



Sorry, replying back to an old comment, but that chart looks useful but actually is really totally against food storage. Beets store only 2 weeks in fridge? Carrots only 4 weeks in fridge? Tomatoes into the fridge at all, and then store only 3 or 4 days? Winter squash only 1 - 2 months at room temperature? (My understanding is that maxima winter squash only get good after 1 - 2 months of storage, and that they can last almost a year, sometimes more.)

I just put some crispy sweet carrots in salad today in April, that were stored in the bottom of the fridge since November, i.e. 4 - 5 months; beets would have lasted if we hadn't finished them, etc etc.
 
Ebo David
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Always good to correct misconceptions.  Can you find a better reference?  As far as I am concerned anecdotal  information is good as well -- it can actually be the basis of real science and experimentation ;-)
 
pollinator
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I was talking to my neighbors yesterday.  They were supposed to be in Ecuador this spring but are home instead and looking to have a a small garden again.  

We will be giving them a bunch of compost since I bought extra this spring.  They have 3 small raised beds so it isn't worth the delivery charge for them to get compost delivered and they are really good people so I am more than happy to share.  I don't know if my other neighbors will be gardening but if they want help they will have it.   We really lucked out when it comes to neighbors so they need to be taken care of.

I have plenty of extra seeds from the seed I saved last year and will be sharing beans, kale, pack choi, basil, snap peas, cabbage, sunflowers, and a few other things I have plenty of. I will be holding on to enough seed for 2021 and I will be upping my seed saving this year.

I doubt I will have too many extra seedlings because we expanded the garden last fall and I had a somewhat lower germination rate of my favorite tomatoes.

 
 
pollinator
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I might have some extra seedlings, but not too many. All my windowsills are full, and the little greenhouse almost.

I had planned to have more tomatoes, but not all seeds grew.
But I will have enough basil and physalis to give away, also random things like walking onions, cilantro, probably fennel.

Waiting for the radishes to grow further. I planted them weeks ago but with the frosts (at least in the nights) they just remain the same size. If they all make it I will have enough for my neighbours.

Today I cleared and prepared three more spots for pumpkins (hokkaidos), and I might plant some dwarf beans in the same bed among the perennial flowers and berry bushes.
Tomorrow I will put the first potatoes in the earth.
 
pollinator
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I just got a note from a friend who suggested that there is a ban on selling garden seeds and that meat packers were closed.

I watched a bit of one of those fear mongering fake news sites and evidently there are a few places where garden centers have been closed.

Any such bans anybody else noticing?
 
Ebo David
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I have heard the exact opposite -- that seed companies are considered essential.  I would be interested in learning more from any/all of these unsubstantiated (dare I say rumors).  Anyway, if there are in fact a ban on selling seeds I am going to want to know why.  It also may be that those centers have decided to shut down out of concern for their employees.  I respect that, but if there is a proper ban I want to know what the rational is.  I know most people would love to have more meat in their pantries at the moment, and it would not make sense for the meat packers to push a ban on any food stuffs (IMNSHO).
 
Jay Angler
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I'm in Canada and one of the popular seed companies here apparently had a notice up on their website to the effect that demand was higher than their capacity to safely fill orders and that people would have to be patient while they did their best.

That makes me wonder if it was "forced to close due to risk" vs "forced to close because they had no more stock and couldn't get more"?  I did a grocery run about a week ago for my house and a friend's house. I asked a staff for two things we were looking for and her response for the first was, "No way - won't be getting any for months" and for the second was, "We're hoping - we think we'll get more". Stores can't sell what they don't have. In the case of seeds, I have heard that "seed-saving" is practically banned in some places and the current situation will hopefully get such edicts reversed! Seed saving is not that hard for many crops. I admit there are a few things I grow just one or two of for fun such that my seed packet lasts for 5 years and I don't go to the effort to save seeds, but most of the crops I rely on, I go to the effort of isolating varieties that I worry might cross pollinate just to get what I want. It got me a reputation, and now lots of people give me seeds as they know I'll look after them and give them some when they need them (which in fact was part of the "shopping for a friend" - I brought my seeds and we went through giving her what she wanted to plant!)
 
Ebo David
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@Jay, running out of stock, and closing because of the risks are both valid and different from being forced to close because there is some ban.  I also got to thinking about Bob's comments earlier.  Could he be thinking of some of the anti-seed sharing legislation that has been going around...

For folks in other countries, please know that our laws on saving heirloom seeds and bartering, or even gifting, seeds may be illegal in some states and counties.  Here is an old article, from 2015, that goes over some of the issues "Is Sharing Seeds Illegal in Your State?". And this one that gave a few details as well: Is Seed Swapping Illegal?.  There is also an article on how more than half our states are preemptive laws outlawing some practices29 States Just Banned Laws About Seeds. This is not something that I have weighed in on, but I would like to know more about what is going on in Maryland since I was looking at setting up a seed library with seeds of natives that I cannot grow out to deplete my stocks (at the moment Asclepias syriaca (Common milkweed) and Eutrochium fistulosum (Joe-pye weed).  These are natives which I found on my farm, and have been collecting seed to propagate.  I'm not ready to become a full fledged seed production company -- which means that I have to grow out batches and report their germination rages, etc.  Last I looked seed libraries are legal in Maryland, but I cannot sell seeds and give them away.  Who knows.  It may have changed...

BTW, I may or may not have mentioned.  I was in the middle of taking Master Gardner certification classes when the pandemic hit.  We are still getting on via teleconferencing.  I'll email the extension agent and the rest of the class and see if anyone knows about current efforts and issues.

 
bob day
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So if anything, I thought the comment she sent is born out of paranoia of the government (often with good reason)  but that spark  was being fanned by fear mongerers who take local aberrations and turn them into national disasters.

 I only replied to her that things were still pretty normal- business as usual here in VA, although that's not exactly true, cause our local store doesn't want you walking around in the store itself, but they will get stuff for you.

I have not noticed any banned areas in walmarts or the big box diy stores, and  seeds may be sold out, but not banned for sale.

Of course, come to think about it, seed packs would be a likely way to transmit the virus when i think about the normal way I might buy seed, cause I spend a lot of time browsing, reading individual packs and then putting them back as i look for the ones that are just right--lots of places for casual contamination there. And i have enough seed on hand that I probably won't buy any this year anyway.
 
Ebo David
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I did not take it as fear mongering.  I did take it as something I want verified.  Even if there was a ban there might be a really good reason.  I want to know both the facts and the science.
 
bob day
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I was talking about the fear mongering video she wanted me to watch.

Watch critically

Notice that when he shows the picture of the seeds wrapped in plastic with the notice, the notice clearly directs those interested to go to the online store to purchase the items. He does not modify the scare that governments are deliberately starting a food shortage, with the obvious fact that seeds can still be purchased , you just have to use a different way to shop. That is fear mongering.(IMHO)
 
Skandi Rogers
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In the UK garden centers ARE shut. you can find seeds at DIY stores or online, in the US both High mowing and Johnny's shut their websites as they are so behind on orders they cannot keep up.

Johnny's is only taking commercial orders now. So some of the fear mongering is correct.
 
Jay Angler
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Skandi Rogers wrote:In the UK garden centers ARE shut. you can find seeds at DIY stores or online, in the US both High mowing and Johnny's shut their websites as they are so behind on orders they cannot keep up.

Johnny's is only taking commercial orders now. So some of the fear mongering is correct.

So it comes down to people who to the best of their ability planned ahead, to help support the amateurs! I will not and cannot criticize Johnny's approach - they're trying to get seeds to the farms that have a proven track record of knowing how to turn those seeds into food.

However, this is just another demonstration of the need to move to perennial plants and teaching people to "eat the weeds". I added both dock and dandelion to a soup I made the other day, and some comfrey to the stir-fry last night. Many of these alternative greens shouldn't be eaten in huge quantities, but in small quantities they're essentially free food that helps nature. I do research the traditional ways to process them and the "rules" can be a bit frustrating (dandelions eat the fresh, young growth - comfrey you're better to eat the older leaves - there's a lot of lost knowledge out there to filter through and hope you're getting the correct knowledge). I wish I had better uses for mint - it grows so fast, but I tried just a little in the stir-fry and it took over. Hmmm... it's about the right time to bake "Nettle Cake" - start here and read further: https://permies.com/t/110268/kitchen/Nettle-Cake-Ode-Moss-Gazing#915207 for a cake that people won't know is good for them!
 
bob day
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I agree with Jay, that shortages because of extra demand do not represent some evil government or corporate plot.

There is a lot of fear about a true Fascist government style takeover , including me to a certain extent, I'm watching this current government quite closely, and more worried about the next election (or lack thereof) in the name of Public health. But I don't see the shortage of seeds as part of that, or changing the venue where seeds are bought and sold, and people that jump at every little thing as if it was TSHTF only make the situation worse. How many people bought seeds they will never use purely out of fear?

I'm glad Jay included the warning about only eating the older comfrey leaves, since plants like comfrey tend to protect themselves in early spring with alkaloids (somewhat  toxic to the liver) that fade as the plant produces more and more larger leaves.

I like the ideas of both being able to do traditional gardens, and being able to identify those wild foods that are always there in an emergency. Even better when you can find those traditional veges that will reseed themselves, spread around., and self garden.

Perennials also are a must, and I've noticed they don't hang around long in the nursery any more, but really, that's a good thing, it means more and more people are getting serious about being free of depending on the supermarkets for everything.
 
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