Dig for When the Canned Goods Run Out #1: Setting Out

by Apocalypse Womble

So many people go straight for the cricket bats when the zombie apocalypse happens. They forget to loot the carrot seed. In this, the first of the ‘Digging for When the Canned Goods Run Out’ series, I highlight the key things you’ll want to grab on your way out of town if you want to live beyond the first few months of the apocalypse.

When the zombie apocalypse happens property becomes what you can defend, not what you’ve earned and bought. Naturally any girl with her wits about her will want to hit a few stores for supplies. The temptation will be to hit large, centrally located shops – you’ll need clothes, weapons, and camping gear, after all. Resist this, ladies! You have a wardrobe at home, put your most practical gear in a suitcase and hit the road. Head out of town – heavily populated areas like central shops and shopping malls are death zones where the dead will congregate.

Fortunately for you, large garden stores are usually located on the outskirts of town. If you don’t have a garden-specific store, bear in mind that DIY superstores like Homebase and B&Q will usually have a garden section – not to mention other essential gear for starting a more self-reliant life.

Cricket bats may be traditional, but your gardening store will have a wide range of potential weapons, many of which are actually more effective. Your trusty spade is an essential item, not just for double-digging, but for self-defence! A spade with a sharpened edge can double both as a blade and a blunt weapon – perfect for undead with tough brain-pans. A blow to the head is good, but it’s better if you can cut it clean off!

Other essential tools include the fork and trowel. If you’re on a whistle-stop tour you can get by with just these three, but less than these and you’ll struggle further down the line. You’ll also need some bamboo canes. Some stores will also offer more sturdy poles and frames for your climbing plants. As money is now irrelevant you may as well grab whatever looks sturdiest, but remember that speed is of the essence. When in doubt, bamboo is a gardener’s favourite, and is light for the quick sprint back to your stolen vehicle.

If you can find a plastic mini-greenhouse, these things are gold. With a greenhouse you can ready seedlings earlier in the year and keep tender plants like tomatoes away from pests and blight. Don’t bank on finding a full glass greenhouse in your eventual bolt-hole; grab one of these portable, collapsible babies while you have the chance.

When choosing what to grow for your new life of subsistence farming, go for simplicity and bulk. Asparagus is lovely but tough to grow and low yields. Potatoes are a goldmine, but you may not be able to find seed potatoes if the apocalypse happens at the wrong time of year. If you’re unlucky and the apocalypse doesn’t hit in spring, remember that potatoes more than any plant want to grow. Loot some from the supermarket whilst you’re getting your canned goods. Supermarket potatoes may have been sprayed with anti-sprouting chemicals, so go organic if you can, but even sprayed potatoes will sprout eventually. Whilst you’re there, loot some garlic, too. Seasoning should not be your priority, but garlic is easy to grow and will transform even the humblest of meals, and you’ll probably be eating a lot of those. Garden centre bulbs are more likely to be suited to your climate, as supermarkets often import, but garlic, like potatoes, wants to grow – your yields may be smaller for the first year, but supermarket garlic will acclimatise for the next year’s yield.

It may be tempting to loot plants from the nursery, but these will be tender and easily damaged. You don’t want to worry about protecting them whilst you’re on the run. Plan to live off canned goods for as long as you can. Remember: grow your own is for the long haul. Go for seed and grab as much as you can. Carrots and parsnips are essentials, but remember to grab some marigolds to grow as companion plants for your carrots. Carrot-fly is the bane of the gardener, but the strong scent of the marigold is an old favourite for disguising the distinctive smell of the carrot and discouraging pests. If you can find onion sets, grab as many as you can – for flavour, bulk, and storing, you can’t beat onions. Look out for plants that will keep growing through the winter – Swiss chard is a must-have if you can find it.

Beans and peas are great for bulk production and can be dried for storage through the winter months. Peas are vulnerable to pests, though, so grab some horticultural fleece to protect them. Beans are much more robust – choose runners and broad beans for bulk and resistance.

And don’t forget your salad seed. Salad is great for swift production. Radishes and spring onions are an old favourite of the beginner gardener for swift growth. It’s great to plant for lettuce heads, but salad leaves are also good for cut-and-come-again growing. You can be eating salad that you grew yourself within a few short weeks of the apocalypse!

Lastly, remember the bits and bobs that will protect you and promote your plants. Sturdy gardening gloves (several pairs – you will go through them) are a must, and why not loot a knee-pad whilst you’re at it. You’ve got a lot of weeding in your future, and a knee-pad can be a godsend. If you’ve time to grab a watering can, go for it, but remember that anything that can hold water will get the job done, so this isn’t essential. Fertiliser is a big help, though. Compost is wonderful, but bulky for transport when you’re on the run. Grab chemical fertiliser for now and make plans to compost your own for the future.

This may sound like a lot, but remember, most of it is seed! Grab a bucket (buckets are always useful) and just chuck things in as you go. If you’re travelling in a group you can collect all these things in a matter of minutes and be back on the road in no time.

You’re now well set-up for your new, post-apocalypse life. Stay tuned to this frequency for further notes on Digging for When the Canned Goods Run Out.

Apocalypse Womble out.

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