I was taking a walk the other day around a leafy garden suburb close by where I live, and started thinking about how big the front gardens were, and how they could be used to help support the people who live there. This is the sort of thing I mean:
The pavement is the tarmac track on the left – so all these houses have a lot of land to the front that just provides a nice open space to the homeowner and everyone else as well, and not much more.
Front gardens are difficult in relation to prepping: you probably don’t want to be too different from your neighbours and maybe drawing unwanted attention; there may be covenants that are legally binding about fences and so on, there could be problems with theft, and you may not have much space anyway. But, as in the picture I’ve shown, you might have a big enough area that you really want to use it for something, anything, rather than have it just sitting there, needing to be mown every so often.
There are always exceptions, of course, like this one below, which has a water butt, plant supports galore, and a scarecrow, as well as vacuum tubes in the roof to help provide hot water. Interestingly, it’s right by a community college that has an agricultural bias. Right in the middle of this little commuter town are cows, pigs and sheep. I wonder if this guy used to teach there? Or he’s a dedicated good-lifer (I’ve seen the person tending this plot, I know its a “he”).
So, if you do have any sort of space, and you don’t want to stand out like the guy who has this garden, there are some things you can do that can help you a little bit in your prepping – over an average year, that might be very little, perhaps an extra day of fuel, or of food – but that’s still worth having, isn’t it? Especially when these are things you can just set up and leave. If supplies were having to be helicoptered in to your area because of prolonged snowstorms, you’d be glad of an extra day’s supply.
And I like the principle of supplying my own needs from my own land – no food miles, that’s for sure!
There is one important warning, though: ALLERGIES! If you eat something new from your garden that you’ve never eaten before, taste test it thoroughly before eating. In fact, that’s such an important idea, I’ll do a separate post on it soon, because I love the idea of foraging, and thats where taste-testing really comes into it’s own.
Anyway, the first thing about prepping in your front garden is to look at what you’ve got and see how you’re presently using it. Then to look at how you can improve on that. Food, herbal medicine, fuel, security, insect pollination, even a little cash income, these can all be helped along by your front garden prepping. And guess what, you’re still allowed to have plants in there that you love! I love scabious and I’m quite partial to forget-me-not (bees like both of them too, but I liked them before I knew that).
Do you have a good quality garden wall and gate at the front (and sides, if appropriate)? That’s good security. A padlock ready to be used on the gate in times of trouble, and an automatic security light, would both go down well. Do you have a pinhole viewer in the front door? That’s really beyond the scope of this article, but the person will be standing in your front garden by that stage, which just illustrates how open and vulnerable the fronts of our houses usually are.
What ground surfaces do you have? Is it all laid to hardstanding, for the car? Do you have a lawn? A hedge? A little pond? Flowerbeds? If you don’t, do you want to instal any of those things? Any and all of them can be really useful in terms of prepping.
Hard standing and storage
Except maybe hardstanding … you can’t really use the front of the house to store many goods, it’s much too likely to be pinched by a passerby, eventually. Unless you’re way, way out in the countryside, in which case, I doubt you need to read this post for yourself, but I’d appreciate your comments to help the rest of us. The only thing people do store at the front, actually, is tree branches curing to be used as firewood, often right next to the house under the eaves. Or you could rent out the space for parking: moneysavingexpert did a review of this in August 2015, though it’s a tricky enough situation that they put a legal disclaimer on the page, which is very, very unusual for them. So, do it at your own risk, and do your research first.
Money you earn can be ploughed back into your preps, of course! After telling the taxman and all that.
One final note on storage, actually: collecting leafmould each year is a helpful thing to do for the garden – adding organic matter, if not huge amounts of goodness. Whether you put it in black bags with holes poked in them, or in a little enclosure made of chicken wire, it can be stored at the front, in space you’re not using. Preferably on some bare earth, so as many bacteria and insects as possible can get to the leaves, and in a year or so, you’ll have some lovely mulch.
With some care, grassy areas can be very useful. They can’t always be turned over to growing vegetables, and you might not want that in the front garden anyway, but there can be so much square footage taken up with a lawn, I think it’s a mistake not to at least think it through.
Saffron is a hugely expensive spice, derived from the Crocus sativus plant, a pretty crocus. Once they’re in, they don’t particularly need nurturing, just like any bulb, and you could use the crop yourself, or help the plants reproduce and grow on enough to be a useful little cash crop once a year, sold at a local fair or to people at work, or as part of a foodie hamper to family for Christmas!
There are many, many plants that nearly always seem to make it into people’s lawns: dandelions, daisies and plantains among them.
Dandelions are great, the buds can be pickled, the flowers can be made into a jam of sorts, the seedheads can be used as tinder, the leaves can be used in salads or as part of a pesto.
With daisies, the leaves and flowers are edible, and in the past were used medicinally; best do a lot more research there. But realistically, they’re so tiny, and take so long to gather, I think it would be hard to do yourself harm with something that’s known to be edible.
Plantain is edible (usually when blanched) and it seems to be worryingly effective medically. There are serious warnings on WebMD about a fall in blood pressure, though it’s apparently useful for stopping blood flow from a wound. Like many of these plants, if you eat it, it seems that it should only be used in conjunction with other greens, so that not too many of any one sort are eaten at once.
There are other plants that take root in a lawn that bees love: clover, rarely classed as edible, is one of these; selfheal, buttercups and birds foot trefoil are others. Many garden centres will have mixes of seeds to be sown into your lawn, for exactly this purpose. How is that prepping? I don’t think the death of the local ecology will help your prepping: and some of your own food plants will need to be fertilised by bees and insects. And let’s face it, bees are beautiful.
Some very low-growing plants that can gradually be introduced into a monoculture lawn to make it more relevant to prepping, such as hairy bittercress, creeping mint or ground ivy. They’re not our first choice of food, but just to have them on the premises is a good backup. And they go well in a pesto or salsa.
Mushrooms, of course, often grow within a grassy area, especially on damp ground. I’ve seen a lot locally – like the ones above this paragraph, which are more or less in a classic fairy ring. But I have no idea about safety and edibility in mushrooms, none at all, and I’ve never made them a priority to research. But I know they can be edible. If you like them, I urge you to go for it, go on a foraging course – and let me know the results. Any mushroom growers out there who want to write something?
The grass itself can be useful, naturally. If it doesn’t have seeds or roots in, it can be used in the compost heap. It can be used even more directly, by being laid directly onto the ground as mulch, once it’s dried out a little.
Longer grass can be used to feed your rabbits or hens, or even dried out and used as their bedding, but note that you must cut grass manually, with shears, if you’re going to use it as feed. If it’s cut with a lawnmower, the cuts cause the grass to begin fermenting. Drunk rabbits, or rabbits with stomach ache, that’s not going to work. And rabbits are sensitive to the mineral oils and fuel left on the grass by mowers: the results can be fatal, in all seriousness. Again, do your research – this is just an overview of possibilities.
There are dozens of websites to go to, but these are some of the most authoritative:
Plants for a Future
Mother Earth News
Royal Horticultural Society
British Beekeepers Association
This is longer than I thought, so I’ll stop there, and take up hedges and ponds and whatnot next week, then taste testing after that.. Hope this is helpful!