China Faces Food Shortage?

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

We’re on the eve of the U.S. Labor Day, traditionally the day beyond which one was never supposed to wear white, and we moved from enjoying summer’s bounty into the finish of the typical western food harvest season.

I was just talking to my mother, the avid home vegetable and flower gardener, and learned that my musings about food security are having some effect. She’s following her bumper summer harvest of tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, and other assorted vegetables up, by planting for the first time an autumn vegetable garden – brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach, and other assorted things. I’ll report back over the next couple of months on how this experiment works out.

This is as good a time as any to invite the commentariat to share their latest reports on their 2020 harvest so far. As well as to pass along any plans anyone may have for autumn planting (and for all you veteran gardener’s Mom is eager to take on board any advice or suggestions for her autumn North Carolina vegetable garden).

She also had some success with the blueberry bushes I sent her – not so much with fruit produced this year, although she did get enough berries to supplement some breakfasts. But the plants have settled in nicely, and she expects to reap a decent harvest next growing season.

I also pass along a plea that we all plant something  from a Guardian opinion piece on farming, Enough with ‘local’ and ‘organic’. We’ll begin to eat well when we farm well:

As a first step, I would urge everyone to try to grow something of their own to eat, at least once. Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to own a field, or even a garden, but just growing something like a packet of lettuce on a windowsill can help to appreciate the beauty, the challenge and the sheer miracle of growing food. It helps us to start to think about the soil, about the life we’re nurturing, about the elemental processes that sustain us all.

As you do so, you might start to think of the British countryside as your garden. You wouldn’t walk into it and expect to eat something from it that you couldn’t actually grow, or something out of season, or something that trashed your garden. Instead, you would look at what was available in each season and try to eat accordingly.

Beyond this, if you can, get your food direct from a farmer with a sustainable farming system and environmental values (quite a lot of them can be found on social media and, yes, they often home deliver). Or try being a nuisance and ask more questions in shops and restaurants about where the food came from. If it doesn’t have an origin, a story you can understand, don’t buy it. And then be noisy. Demand changes to our laws that raise our standards and encourage progressive change on farms via environmental schemes. Above all, right now we should all raise our voices against the proposed US trade deal that would drive things to be much, much worse.

The focus of the Guardian article is sustainable agriculture, and not food security. But the remedy is the same. And yes, dear commentariat, I am aware that the herb garden I cultivate when I am parked anywhere for a long period is not going to keep me from starving. But it does help me meet my some of my alimentary needs and also puts me in touch with the agricultural cycle. For those who stay put longer, their ambition can exceed a basic herb garden.

Never have I so much not wanted my musings to come true as I am with my worries that COVID-19 will eventually threaten the food security of much of the world.

FAO Meetings and Warm Fuzzies

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 35th session of the Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC 35), finished successfully last week in Bhutan,as reported by Geo,  FAO discusses food security, nutrition challenges amid virus crisis:

Representing Pakistan at the Ministerial Session of the Regional Conference, Federal Minister for National Food Security & Research, Syed Fakhar Imam said, “During these difficult times of COVID-19 and locust invasion, we are trying to sustain particularly those people living below the poverty line.”

Food security news at the moment is more optimistic than the general dire world situation, due to COVID-19, might suggest. The accounts I saw of the meetings were fulll of warm fuzzy reports, and let us hope that food security remains intact, for much of the world, despite widespread concern. This is one situation where I would prefer to be painted as an alarmist, and not have my concerns over food security come to pass, although there are worrying whisperings. From Geo:

On the third day of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia-Pacific, the FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, government ministers as well as civil society and private sector representatives voiced concern over COVID-19’s impacts on the food security and livelihoods of millions of people, and urged for greater action to overcome the food and agriculture challenges facing the region.

I must say the buzzwords reported made me very uneasy: although I admit there are no reports of starvation or even shortages. According to this report by Scoop World, Asia-Pacific Countries Pledged Bold And Innovative Action For Food Security And Livelihoods:

Innovation, solidarity, coherence and strong partnership among and within countries of Asia and the Pacific are required for the region to rebound from the damage caused by COVID-19 and the ongoing effects of chronic undernourishment.

That was a call made by more than 40 member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concluding a four-day regional conference. About 750 participants, including representatives of the private sector and civil society, pledged to work to transform food systems, making them more sustainable, productive and resilient, and to feed a hungry world in a way that is profitable for farmers yet produces healthy food that is accessible to all.

“To transform food systems for sustainable healthy diets we must have coherence, partnerships and solidarity to reduce the costs of production,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said on the final day of the35th Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, hosted by the Government of Bhutan.

“Big data, a digital economy and mobile technology will help producers achieve that.” Today, mobile technology is leading innovation “and a smartphone in the hands of a smallholder farmer is his new farming tool,” the Director-General added.

Chinese Food Shortages?

More serious than the FAO meeting reports is  the news currently coming out of China, as reported by Farmers Guardian, China may face food shortage,

Does this suggest Chinese food shortages may be imminent?

Or is is this just more China bashing?

If you’ve been paying attention to Links, you know that China has faced a swine flu virus, which has killed many of its pigs. Plus one is aware of its ongoing trade spats with the U.S., many of which concern U.S. food exports. China has also recently suffered widespread flooding. And of course, COVIV-19 seems to have originated there. Taking these things together, no one would be unduly surprised if food shortages were soon to be on the domestic agenda.

Over to the Farmers Guardian report:

The Chinese government has launched the ‘clean plate’ campaign, which was targeting wasteful diners and the livestreaming of extreme eaters.

The message from the government has come at a time when the country faces not only the coronavirus pandemic, but tensions with the US, a major trading partner.

General Secretary Xi Jinping called the phenomenon of food waste ‘shocking and distressing’ and signalled a clampdown on popular videos of binge eating on social media.

The warning seems to have come with a sense of urgency, sparking speculation as to the motives behind it.

Diners at restaurants were also urged to order less to waste less, with reports of restaurants placing electronic scales at the entrance for customers to weigh themselves before ordering.

Speculation

But the campaign has raised speculation China could be facing a food shortage, although state media outlets were quick to try and stop the panic of imminent food shortages, reporting that China had recently seen consecutive bumper grain harvests and record high grain output.

As living standards have raised, so has consumption. Obesity levels have soared and China was estimated to waste enough food in a year to feed a country the size of South Korea.

But with the pandemic already cutting consumption levels, China’s options to quell any shortages domestically were limited.

Subsidising production could fall foul of World Trading Organisation rules which could heighten tensions with the US.

This would mean China, already the world’s largest importer of food, would need to look to increase imports to meet demand.

This could then have a ripple effect on prices all around the globe.

The Indian press has been quick to jump in and predict a possible crisis – and even the reputable Economic Times, a pink paper that would like to see itself as India’s FT has recently joined. This alarmism may be part of the current anti-China climate arising from  the recent border disputes. And also because, unlike duding past crisis, COVID-19 has yet to see widespread starvation in India. I’d like to think that A.K. Sen is correct and that contemporary democratic India may manage to dodge famine – whereas  colonial India under the Raj was not so lucky.

Can the same be said for concetmporary China? It’s perhaps too soon to tell – and China may be swept up in larger, world COVID-19 food security trends.

According to the Economic Times. With rising population and declining arable land, China may be staring at a major food crisis:

The mismatch between agricultural (grain) supply and demand in China, is high. China has struggled to feed its 1.4 billion people, amidst recurrent natural calamities (floods, draughts), shrinking arable land, severe water shortages, depleting workforce, etc. China estimates that by 2030, when its population is expected to reach 1.5 billion, it will need to produce an additional 100 million tons of food grains each year.

As per China’s Ministry of Emergency Management, this year rain-triggered floods and draught earlier, have threatened China’s Three Gorges Dam, disrupted rice, wheat and other crops production in South China, and in the Yangtze River basin. Floods have affected 54.8 million people, causing economic loss of US$ 20.8 billion….

China’s real threat to food security comes more from food wastage than epidemic or floods. Per capita food waste in China is 93 grams per person per meal, with a waste rate of 11.7 percent. According to a survey data, Chinese consumers wasted roughly 17 to 18 million tons of food each year from 2013 to 2015, enough to feed 30 to 50 million individuals annually.

Outside China, the pandemic had an impact on global grain production and trade. Vietnam and India have suspended rice exports and other countries have also done so subsequently. Further as per, China’s Commerce Ministry in June 2020, Brazil, Canada, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Russia and other key producers of wheat, soybean and rice have cut their exports, including to China, to first replenish their own stocks. And this is indeed hurting China the most, as being the world’s largest food importer.

The coronavirus, locust swarms and severe floods across much of China’s key farming areas are all putting pressure on supplies. At the same time, worsening security disputes with key import sources such as the U.S. and Australia have raised new questions about the nation’s long-term food security.

Am I calling a food shortage in China? No, it’s too soon for that. Nor do I have any special knowledge of the Chinese situation, nor any first-hand observations. The last time I visited the mainland was 2008 (and Hong Kong in January).

But a Chinese food shortage is certainly something that one needs to keep an eye out for – alongside the looming food security issues that COVID-19 has spawned and that will no doubt persist until the pandemic crisis is over or at least under competent management by many countries in the world.

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68 comments

  1. AEL

    There is such a thing as autumn vegetable gardens? How does that work?
    Up here on the Canadian prairies, a lovely summer is when we have 110 frost free days.

    Reply
    1. Mel

      China is way south, now that it occurs to me to check. Mid-Manchuria is about at the 49th parallel, Hong Kong is tropical, about even with the southern tip of Baja California.

      Reply
    2. jef

      Get some long leaf Tuscan kale aka Lacinato kale in the ground and It will leaf out for a very long time. I have had some go for almost a year. Frost will make it sweeter. Some spinach will do very well down to 20f.

      Fava or Faba beans should always be planted and you don’t have to wait for the beans. The tops, leaves and even the flowers are very tasty either raw in a salad or lightly sauteed.

      There are a bunch of frost tolerant veggies but these are the ones I can get most people to really enjoy.

      Reply
    3. EMtz

      In Maine, I had a *winter* garden when there was 4′ of snow on the ground. I put up an unheated high tunnel with a single layer of greenhouse plastic and grew greens, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, beets, incredibly sweet carrots, parsnips…the list goes on and on. Sometimes the ground would freeze overnight but it would thaw the next day even if the sky was overcast. I would bring in claytonia, a succulent for salad, when it was frozen solid but when it thawed is was perfectly fresh and delicious. The reason for much of this is daytime sunlight/heat capture and protection from dessicating winter winds. This can be done with low tunnels and cold frames, too, if you can keep them clear of snow – tho’ on a really cold night snow makes a great insulator. Where I lived the growing season was about the same length as yours.

      Not a fan of anazon but you can find this book elsewhere. https://www.amazon.com/Four-Season-Harvest-Organic-Vegetables-Garden/dp/1890132276

      Reply
      1. Janie

        Great book by Eliot Coleman. The garden is in Maine, about the 45th parallel. Johnnie’s Seeds in Maine has climate adapted seeds, advice and growing aids.

        Reply
      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        I decided to try looking up a NOmazon source for this book. By typing in the searchphrase ” Four Season Harvest Chelsea Green” I got a screenfull of entries. And Chelsea Green’s very own website was the very third entry. It was easy to find IF! you knew the publisher’s name. Chelsea Green.
        If all you had was the name of the book and author, it would be harder but it could be done.

        It can be dispiriting to try finding a NOmazon source in an Amazon world. A good first step to lift the spirits of the fellow blogreaders might well be to FIND and OFFER that NOmazon source as a living demonstration of the fact that it can still be done.

        And so, here is the NOmazon link to Four Season Harvest, orderable from the publisher its very own self.
        https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/four-season-harvest/

        Reply
      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        Here is another book on season-extension gardening in this same vein. I believe it is published by
        Chelsea Green but I couldn’t find it on their website. Chelsea Green has made their website so animated, jump-aroundy and fancy that it is now cruddy and crappy. It is possible to fools-guild the lily so totally as to crapify something by spending even MORE time and money than if one had left it alone. And upon first viewing Chelsea Green’s annoying new website, I think that is what Chelsea Green has done. And a sad thing, too.

        So here is a no Chelsea no Green NOmazon link about this book.
        https://www.betterworldbooks.com/product/detail/solar-gardening-0930031695

        Reply
    4. Userfract

      Some things are frost tolerant or overwinter. Here in Ottawa, where our growing season is nearly as short, I am planting some lettuce, spinach and garlic in places where I have pulled out plants that are done for the year. You can also extend the season a bit by covering things or by using cold frames, which I may try for the first time this fall. Last year, I was harvesting Brussels sprouts and carrots well after the snow was on the ground. I did have to bring something to help break the crust of frozen soil to get at the carrots though.

      Reply
    5. Lost in OR

      Yes indeed, there is. Check out Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest. Eliot hails from Maine. It gets pretty cold there too. There are cold weather crops and season extenders.

      The bottom line is that as the unsustainable becomes the unaffordable you better have an alternative. It’s coming, just a matter of time.

      Reply
  2. The Rev Kev

    If China was really short of food, then Washington would go at them but hard. The same way that official Washington said after the Beirut explosion that here was a chance to get them over a barrel. I am reminded still of an old Anthony Quinn film called “The Shoes of the Fisherman” where China says that it is starving and unless food is sent, they will be left with no choice but to invade their neighbours for food supplies even if it ends in nuclear war. Killer line from this film-

    “Violence is a reaction against a situation that has become intolerable.”

    Reply
    1. hoonose

      Pork and beans might be China’s most serious weakness. We send them both!

      As I recall Japan invaded the USA after their oil supplies were cut off?

      Reply
    2. michael hudson

      Yes, I hear from my friends in China that there really IS a food shortage, and they’re worried.
      But Trump wants to push US farm exports, so there won’t be a crisis, I guess. If he DID impose export sanctions against China (as in the 1950s), that would mean the end of foreign reliance on US agriculture.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Did they provide details? Beijing isn’t terribly far away from having destroyed their pig herds. Are your friends observing wide spread shortages or specific shortages such as meat? We are not terribly far removed from reductions in Chinese pig herds.

        Reply
  3. TimH

    I have seed packets for blue lake beans, sugar snap peas, beets. The show west coast and southern tips as sowing Jan-Feb, Sept-Oct. So two growing seasons.

    Reply
  4. Wukchumni

    I’d guess that 20% of the USA only eats on the basis of getting free tucker from food banks, and the food fairy is fairly stretched out, what happens when they run out of giveaways, what does 1/5th of our population do for a plan B?

    Reply
    1. Chris

      That’s a thought keeping me up some nights.

      What do we do in the US when there is a horde of armed, hungry, homeless people? What do we do when they see how the privileged are living and are told the gate is shut for them? Is there any way to buy enough woke insurance to keep the barbarians (fellow citizens!!!) from breaking into the nice suburbs and gentrified city centers the well off have erected for themselves?

      I think a lot is going to depend on the opposition that forms in relation to whoever is elected. Biden has the singular gift of looking at someone who is suffering and ignoring their pleas for legislative change (see his interview with Ady Barkan) as well as being addled enough to think that returning the normalcy of 2008 or 2012 or even 2015 is something many people desire. If Biden is elected and he re-enacts an austerity regime using polite and norm respecting methods… I give it until the following Christmas 2021 before we have all out civil war.

      If Trump is re-elected and he continues with his scattershot approach to things, I think we’ll see a lot of states form compacts like they did during the middle part of the lockdown and pull away from the federal government in significant ways. I am hopeful that if such a path is chosen you’ll see local changes that are more in keeping with the desires of the voting public. In other words, I think the reaction to a Trump re-election is going to be minimzing the impact Trump could have for the people who are trying to help. For the peolle who arent trying to help or haven’t been hurt by Trump, the result is going to be a shrug as they continue business as usual.

      But if nothing is done to help matters in either cases. If due to a re-election or an election the result is no legislative motion towards aiding the citizens that have been hurt by this awful combination of plagues, then I expect chaos to erupt. There are too many who can be expected to make the rational decision that they have nothing to gain by following the rules anymore. They all have access to weapons. That’s not a recipe for a stable society.

      Reply
    2. Thomas P

      What happens if USA has really bad harvests a couple of years in a row and face a shortage of food, not just a shortage of money for people to buy it? The Rev Kev mentioned a film about China threatening to invade countries to get food, I can easily imagine the same scenario for USA.

      Reply
      1. james wordsworth

        It would have to be in Florida and California (vegetables). A bad corn crop just means a lot less corn for ethanol – since about 40% of the crop goes there.

        Reply
  5. diptherio

    Here in NW Montana, it’s possible to extend the growing season by over a month using the simple expedient of “mini hoop houses.” You’re basically creating a small greenhouse over your rows. I’d imagine it works as well back east as it does here.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      And if it has the same effect in prairie Canada, then reader AEL could create for hermself a 150 day frost free season ” under the mini hoop house” just by installing a mini hoop house. It could be an interesting experiment.

      Reply
  6. lyman alpha blob

    My garden has been a mixed bag this year. When we first moved to this spot almost 15 years ago, most everything I planted grew very well. Now I can’t even get zucchini or lettuce to grow, which ought to be pretty easy. The culprit I believe is the small grove of Norway maple trees whose trunks are just on the other side of my property line so I can’t remove them. They have enormous root systems which take a lot of the moisture and nutrients out of the soil and they have probably grown 20 feet taller or more since we moved in, along with greatly increased root systems. That coupled with the new climate of very dry summers with no rain for weeks at a time have really put a damper on what will grow in my garden. My neighbor just across the street though has an underground stream that runs close to their house plus no Norway maples, and their plants fare much better, not surprisingly. Microclimate really can make a difference.

    I have had very good results with peas and beans though, plus the blight that afflicted my tomatoes a few years ago seems to have gone away after not planting any tomatoes for about three years. So next year I plan to go heavy on the legumes and tomatoes, plus tomatillos which have fared very well – the salsa verde I made from them is delicious! Also it’s very easy to save the seeds from beans and peas from year to year.

    I’m finding that outdoor container gardening can work very well though. I’ve had good results with patio tomatoes planted in containers, as well as lettuce and herbs. Next year I may try cucumbers in containers too since those haven’t grown well in-ground for a few years now.

    And for a little indoor gardening, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with a basil herb kit I got as a gift. Here’s a link to it – https://store.modsprout.com/products/eco-planter-organic-basil The picture doesn’t do it justice – it took several weeks for the basil to really get going. I just had small seedlings for many weeks but then it really took off to the point where there is a nice clump of basil about 8 inches high growing out of the one jar, and it rivals the basil I have planted outside. Now that I looked it up I see it’s fairly expensive at $25 for basically a jar and some seeds, but it is reusable and if you let the basil go to seed and save some of them to replant, the price seems a little better. Plus it wouldn’t be to hard to make one from scratch – just a mason jar, a little wire basket, cloth wick, a growing medium, and some seeds and plant food.

    So far we’ve just been using the leaves for seasoning, but I’m sure I could make a small batch of pesto just from what’s growing from the one jar on the window sill.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Huge trees across you property line sucking up your moisture? Trench and an ax, or chainsaw if you are really careful of kickback.

      Reply
      1. lyman alpha blob

        Ha! I’ve heard the preferred method of removing trees that aren’t supposed to be cut is to drill a hole at the base of the trunk and pour some acid in it until the tree dies. Not a big fan since I hear through the rumor mill in my area that it’s used by developers to get rid of “problems” inhibiting them from building expensive lakefront property.

        These Norway maples are so atrocious though I have to admit the thought has crossed my mind. But considering my history with this god forsaken greenery, the dead trees would probably just fall and crush my house.

        Reply
    2. The Rev Kev

      Would raised garden beds be a solution for your needs? You could make then so those tree roots don’t get into them.

      Reply
    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      There might be a sneakier way, one that creates less chance of your getting caught. If you could carefully stealth-dig a concealable re-fillable hole to a couple of main roots of the offending tree, and then drive some copper nails into the exposed roots, and then carefully clip off the heads of the copper nails a little “below” or “deeper in” than flush with the surface of the root-bark, the ensuing death of the tree might seem quite mysterious.

      A determined neighbor might hire a tree-icide detective who might find his way to what you did. Or he might not. If you have already complained to the neighbor about these trees raiding your garden for water and nutrients, their subsequent death might seem more suspicious than mysterious. So if you have said nothing so far, continue to say nothing. And if you do this and the trees die and the neighbor mourns them, commiserate with the neighbor, feel his pain and be sincere about it. Act casual, concerned and keep a straight face.

      Here is the link to a relevant article.
      https://www.hunker.com/13424362/how-to-kill-trees-with-copper-nails

      Reply
  7. Alex Cox

    Planting spinach and arugula for the fall.

    Do WTO rules really prevent sovereign nations subsidizing domestic food production?

    Reply
    1. Michael McK

      Considering the massive farm subsidies in the US and EU it can’t be that simple. Perhaps we made exceptions for ourselves…

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/agric_e/agric_e.htm

        The WTO Agriculture Agreement provides a framework for the long-term reform of agricultural trade and domestic policies, with the aim of leading to fairer competition and a less distorted sector.

        Fairer competition, not ending hunger and sustainability.

        while government buying-in at a guaranteed price (“market price support”)

        Skimming the WTO site, the stated goal is to end the former pattern of paying farmers to simply grow Yams for the sake of growing yams. Income subsidies are another matter as farms might need to be kept to ramp up production. How funds are set up might be problematic and what is produced might upset WTO rules. My guess is the WTO, unless the US throws a fit, would ignore rule bending if there was a problem.

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          It wouldn’t really be ” the US” throwing a fit. It would be Big Ag and Big Trade throwing a fit, using their DC FedRegime Government as their visible Charlie McCarthy sockpuppet.

          Reply
  8. Sub-Boreal

    In central British Columbia, we’ve had a moderately lousy growing season – imagine that a dampish version of June has gone on for 100 days, with a week or two of July in the middle. (I feel for any local farmers who are trying to make hay – seldom more than 2 days in a stretch without a sprinkle.) But unlike in 2017 and 2018, we weren’t inhaling forest fire smoke for half the summer, so there are compensations.

    So most brassicas (if you can ignore the trails of slug slime) and root vegetables have done well, but full-size greenhouse tomatoes and sweet peppers only ripened after mid-August.

    I’ve given up on getting any winter squash or pumpkins this year.

    Although it takes a lot of fussing here (i.e. starting each seed in a peat pellet in early May & transplanting after June 1st), I did start picking sweet corn last week.

    Potatoes, garlic and leeks look to be doing about as well as average.

    This was one of the years in my personal zucchini cycle when I planted way too many. So foundlings are appearing in co-workers’ mailboxes at the office.

    In the small fruits, I had lots of (watery) raspberries and an amazing crop of saskatoons (for the 2nd year in a row). But gooseberries were almost non-existent.

    Once again, the lesson is to grow lots of different things and something is bound to turn out OK! While I have no illusions that this effort really changes my level of food security, it keeps me amused and busy during an odd time.

    Fall garden? Must be nice … I’m just hoping that the first killing frost is at least 2 weeks away.

    Reply
  9. Starry Gordon

    Living in Queens, NY, over a very urban concrete yard, I had some tomato plants growing nicely in some five-gallon buckets. Unfortunately something ate all the not-yet-quite-ripe tomatoes. As I can’t attribute tomato-eating to yard cats, rats, mice, birds, or recently invading raccoons, it’s got to be possums. Nothing else much germinated — Burpee ain’t what it used to be. Outside of the yard, there is still a lot of food around. I work with Food Not Bombs and a ‘community food share’ disorganization which grew out of FNB that maintains publicly accessible refrigerators and panties here and there in the city. At present more food is given away than can easily be absorbed, partly because pre-plague supply chains are still emptying out. After that, things may get tougher. Food prices were going up not too long ago, but I think most of that was just a little light gouging made possible by the crisis, and a bit of stocking-up / hoarding for what many assume will be the next COVID surge (or whatever).

    Reply
    1. Kfish

      Would you consider picking the tomatoes when they first start to ripen? I’ve had great success picking them when they first start turning yellow and keeping them in a paper bag for a week or so until they go fully red. The ethylene they emit as they ripen helps ripen each other.

      My respect for you getting a crop out of five-gallon buckets.

      Reply
  10. Todd

    We garden on Whidbey Island WA.
    Leeks, kale, chard, beets/beet greens, kohlrabi/kohlrabi greens all do well through the winter in our zone 7.
    Spinach and bib lettuce do ok depending on the amount of hard freeze we get. But the roots survive and produce a lot of beautiful, early salad greens.
    We collect our own seeds and have for many years so our plants are well acclimated to our micro climate. Good sun exposer and micro climate help considerable in the NW.

    Our summer garden is great but late in coming. The insects, birds and rabbits behaved differently this spring and were extremely aggressive. The insects were not a pest problem but were not out and about when my plums, cherries and pears were in blossom. A ton of blossoms but limited fruiting.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      I ate some of the most delicious oysters I ever tasted on Whidbey Island – at a casual pub, large, succulent, and lightly grilled. And I know and love my oysters. When on holiday with my husband in oyster territory, I typically scarf some for all three meals, including breakfast.

      Reply
  11. Billy

    Starry Gordon, Seed Savers in Iowa sells hundreds of open pollenated varities that you can harvest and save for the following year, and that are organic. Buying plants from places like Home Depot is a recipe for pesticides and junk plants.

    Tell your mother to string a clothesline across her yard where she wants a hedgerow, or a row of plums, or other edible fruit.
    Put a water basin off the ground at both ends to attract birds that will perch on the rope and poop out seeds. Some will be food species, or other bird attracting plants.
    What she doesn’t want goes in the compost heap. Free insect control.
    She must make chickenwire half pipe tunnels to keep birds from eating seedlings that emerge.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      This is a very good idea. I wish I would have thought of it.

      If one were to pre-prepare a foot-wide clothesline-long strip of ground under the clothesline with super-deep super-nutrified and humus-rich soil, would the bird-poop plants grow even bigger stronger faster?

      Reply
  12. jr

    This is my recycle bin hydroponics system:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/GrowinSalviaDivinorum/comments/ikwonv/my_free_hydro_system/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf

    And this is what you get with it:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/GrowinSalviaDivinorum/comments/inrjfu/my_girl/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf

    1.5 cm leaf growth in 3 days. All plastics from the recycling bin. All gravel from my neighbors tree box. In about a month I’m going to take two cuttings and root them….turning one plant into three in around 2.5 months since purchase.

    Reply
  13. Steven J Kunasek III

    The heat came early to eastern Nebraska this year (mid-June) and never let up. Today – September 6th – it will hit 100 degrees F. We are also 12 inches short on precipitation to date. This has made gardening a challenge. Southern crops like sweet potatoes, cow peas, and okra did well. Cool season crops like lettuce, cabbage, celery, etc. suffered. Sweet corn, watermelon, potatoes, winter/summer squash,tomatoes and peppers did OK. Increasing space between plants by literally pulling up every other plant helps when you can’t water.
    The Brussels sprouts and leeks planted in late spring are looking good despite the heat and drought. They will be happier when a massive cold front tomorrow night will push out the heat (the high on Tuesday will touch 50 degrees and then go down quickly into the mid forties) and bring much needed rain. Usually I’d have planted carrots, beets, and radishes by now. But the heat and lack of rain prevented germination. Tomorrow I’ll seed beds to radishes, lettuce, cilantro. Fall radishes are wonderfully sweet and crunchy – no pithiness or heat – and can survive repeated frosts. Cilantro survives all winter under plastic. Spinach, Asian greens like tatsoi and yukina savoy, and lettuce will survive under plastic until at least Christmas.
    In regards to China. Check out Liziqi on youtube. She’s a young woman in Szechuan who produces beautiful videos of traditional gardening, cooking, and handicrafts. Despite the differences in climate, growing season and culture I have learned a lot from her.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      One thing I do to try and start the season with a bigger than normal “charge” of soil-water and subsoil-water in place in the spring . . . is to move snow from my little yard onto piles specifically and strictly on my garden beds.

      I can move big amounts of snow to the “staging area” right next to the target beds real fast with an Ergo Sleigh. Here is a NOmazon source for the Garant Sleigh Shovel.
      https://www.garant.com/tools/s/winter-tools/snow-shovels/large-capacity-snow-shovels/sleigh-shovel-26-poly-blade/
      Using this moves the snow so quickly that I don’t get bored by moving all that snow to the staging area.
      Then I use a shovel to shovel it from the staging pile up onto the garden beds. Some of it is still there when real spring comes. As the soil itself starts thawing, the melting snow can soak down into the soil . . . as deeply as you have prepared it beforehand.

      Reply
  14. Fazal Majid

    China has been aggressively been buying prime agricultural land in places like Ethiopia or Madagascar to secure food supplies, or even in the US with Smithfield Foods. They are also a middle income country with international diplomatic clout, I doubt they will go hungry, but other countries further down in the pecking order could.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      And even if China had certain food shortages, it would be shortages of the fun foods of pleasurable delight.
      They would not run short of the merely filling merely nutritious staples that soon. No pigs means no pork. And that just means more corn and more soybeans. So corn soup with soybean dumplings for one meal and then soybean soup with corn dumplings for the next meal. And back and forth and back and forth and back and forth . . .

      It isn’t fun. But it isn’t starving.

      Reply
  15. Lost in OR

    Great topic. Thank you.

    I received permission to plant a garden (60′ x 120′) in a large fallow field this spring. I had it tilled by a local farmer in late May. Then cold wet weather set in until mid-late June. I needed to re-till my beds to knock down weeds and blackberries, and my tiller wouldn’t start. My summer garden was an absolute failure. I have rebuilt my tiller and am looking forward to a fall/winter garden. Waiting for rain.

    I have acquired enough cages to house 1 buck and 3 doe rabbits. Meat for sustenance as well as profit. I am starting a dozen (the legal limit is six) chicks for eggs and meat.

    We have no idea how this pandemic or economic crisis will impact our lives this winter. Complacency does not seem to me to be a good plan. I am hopeful that we have at long last come to the end of our self-destructive tendencies. Our current lifestyle cannot endure.

    Reply
  16. Ook

    @US Labor Day, “beyond which one was never supposed to wear white”.

    I honestly never understood this. Every day of the year is after the previous year’s Labor Day. So is this an American way of saying never wear white?

    Reply
    1. Ella

      It’s memorial day. between memorial and labor, it’s a-ok to wear white. I always understood it to apply to shoes. If you buy into such nonsense.

      Reply
      1. edmondo

        I believe the concept was that Caucasians tan. You are “allowed” to wear white while being tanned because of the contrast of bronzed skin against the white cloth. if you wear it after that, you have the same washed-out pasty Pillsbury Dough Boy look that you have in your Christmas photos.

        Reply
  17. Brian Westva

    I had a pretty good garden year in part because I had more time in spring to start early, all thanks to the coronavirus lockdown. Spring veggies did well including peas, spinach, carrots, cabbage, and kale. I put potatoes in early and watched them get bit by frost repeatedly in April and May. They did well once it warmed up. I’ve just finished harvesting them today. I planted butternut squash in a newish hugelkulture bed and they did really good. I probably planted way too many but I’ll have some to give away. My wife said that everyone gets a squash for Christmas. We got loads of zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers. I made a gallon of dill pickles and a gallon of zesty bread and butter. They were good. Tomatoes took a long time to grow and ripen but they are loaded right now. I’ve got one small bed of green beans and corn that should yield some food along with some sweet potato plants. All in all it’s been a good garden year for me.

    Reply
  18. Kfish

    Brisbane, Australia: sub-tropical weather. I’ve been soothing my Covid anxiety through food gardening, now I may never have to buy another tomato again. Three square metres (30 square feet) and about 20 plants managed intensively is providing all that four people can eat, and more. A similar sized plot for zucchini is keeping us in those as well. Five chickens keep us in eggs. The American suburban layout seems perfect for this kind of small-scale provision.

    Youtube channels such as Neversink Farm and Epic Gardening show techniques for intensive gardening small plots for maximum return. Focus on one thing at a time and move on to the next once you have all the [X] you can eat. The great thing about plants is that they fruit all at once, so you’re forced to be generous. Build up that social capital!

    Reply
  19. KansasCrude

    Lots of good comments here and appreciate the tude of the posters. Am in zone 6a Kansas where I’ve been for 30 years. Starting the winter planting today for the winter garden in raised beds two to three levels up of rectangular staged cement blocks staged for height to catch the winter sun andbed width to allow efficient lean over havesting (while sitting on my ass). When it gets cold the old glass doors, shower doors, and greenhouse plastic sheets come out to cover the raised beds. I like being able to sit on the cement blocks to weed, feed and and harvest. Sure beats bending over. My undergrad was in Ag Biz so I have a bit of an affinity to raise food and it gets more pronounced each year. There is a wide variety of “greens” that can take the winter here (spinach, arugula, lettuces, carrots)…its been as cold as -25 F here over the years. Not often but still remember pulling the old glass storm doors off after a -25 F night and seeing the spinach still alive. Trust me it was as cold in the grow beds as it was outside. These plants are weather tough tender and tasty. Great motivation to get up and get moving around. After years of watching iceberg lettuce die in the frig if it got to close to the freezer I was astounded…..

    That said I am a late comer to Winter Squash my first year to plant Butternut squash was last year. Here it is nearly the middle of September a year since I harvested and its still tasty and holding up. Not every squash has survived but most of it did WOW tasty staying power. True as a plant it needs room to run but great food security. I planted seeds from one I store bought and cooked the year before. It will be on my grow list as long as I get to garden.

    Stay alert the Grand Solar Minimum is upon us and it will make the weather and winters more precarious for who knows how long. Food Security will be even more challenging. Don’t wait to cover and protect your food needs. Best to you all KC

    Reply
      1. KansasCrude

        Hopefully it won’t be that bad but your comment is a reasonable probability and if so….it will get really ugly. In the 40’s here today in zone 6a and lots of early snow already making itself know worldwide. Have a pretty decent sized sun room that over the years has housed my tropical plants that are now outside but soon moving indoors. Have lots of colored peppers, cherry tomatoes and spices that have gradually taken the sunnier spots while the others have been moved and crowded into the eastern side. They don’t like it as well but they survive. Some I’ve had for over 40 years would hate to lose them but the edibles are winning out and taking the sunny windows over via 6-8 foot racks. More work but food is on the priority path

        Reply
  20. vegeholic

    In northern Indiana, average (good) yield on corn, beans, peas, potatoes, onions, leeks, cabbages, peppers, and tomatoes. Never tried a second season in the fall. Will it work?

    Reply
    1. KansasCrude

      Onions and leeks will grow in my covered beds. I have planted green beans in them smaller sized plants and extend the seasons and leave off the covers when the temps allow. However they will not survive a hard freeze. Have picked green beans here into early-mid November a few times. After they are frozen out will transplant spinach and lettuce into their vacated spaces.

      Reply
  21. Basil Pesto

    I have a balcony about 3 sq metres and it is loaded with various pots at the moment. I get little direct sun especially in winter, which we’re just coming out of, because of the building opposite me, which limits me a bit in terms of what I can grow. It’s mostly herbs at the moment, so it’s definitely a flavour garden, rather than a sustenance garden.

    I bought this book earlier this year as a reference: https://au.phaidon.com/store/food-cook/grow-fruit-and-vegetables-in-pots-9780714878614/

    It’s good stuff. I’m a gardening novice but I think I tend more towards container gardening since you have a bit more control (in terms of not just aesthetics, but positioning, pests etc. You can change things around a bit more as needs or whims dictate). I also feel like I have a bit more of a ~bond~ with the plants in containers, especially if growing from seed.

    I also got a small, self contained small hydroponic setup for kitchen herbs last month and have been very impressed with how it’s bubbling away, and fascinating to watch (you get to see the germination as you don’t necessarily have to bury the seeds)

    Reply
  22. Astrid

    The current situation impacts meat consumption in China, but that’s very far from actual wide spread hunger. The Chinese government still recall enough history (within living memory, everybody went hungry in 1959 to 1961 and millions died, and practically every dynastic fall is associated with famines and natural disasters) to fear a hungry citizenry, so it won’t come to that unless there is no other alternative, they will make threats of war and actual war against food producing neighbors, before allowing mass hunger again.

    Chelsea Green is the employee owned publishing house for Eliot Coleman and most of my practical gardening/living books. Their summer sale runs through the 8th and include some substantial discounts.

    Radishes, turnips, and quick growing greens should make a decent crop for anyone with 45 or more frost free growing days remaining. Spinach, mache, and garlic (smaller cloves make great green garlic plantings) should survive zone 5 and maybe even zone 4 winters and nicely fill the spring hunger gap.

    Reply
  23. cnchal

    Anyone reading that pink paper willl be mis informed from reading this gibberish.

    China’s real threat to food security comes more from food wastage than epidemic or floods. Per capita food waste in China is 93 grams per person per meal, with a waste rate of 11.7 percent. According to a survey data, Chinese consumers wasted roughly 17 to 18 million tons of food each year from 2013 to 2015, enough to feed 30 to 50 million individuals annually.

    Note the fatuous precision of the numbers which explains nothing.

    There is no food shortage when nearly half of all calories produced are thrown in the garbage, and of the calories consumed most of them are diabetes inducing low level poisons such as Coca Cola and sugar laden crapola from a box.

    Reply
    1. KansasCrude

      I read a similar article on the Chinese but it unlike what you are insinuating it was not heavy with the propaganda that their is a lot of food waste. It implied the food police are out and about and checking individual trash cans for waste and even prosecuting for thrown out food waste. Not going to say their aren’t fat people in China and North Korea there are but not nearly as many as here. I did read that groups of people were not allowed to order for all the people at the table. If you had 4 at a table you could only order for 3. The website ICE AGE FARMER had some of this as did Adapt 2030. Both are sites I try to stay up on the Proprietor for Adapt 2030 used to live in the Far East.
      No doubt the massive flooding, locusts, and early frosts are having significant impacts on China feeding itself. They are crisscrossing the world looking for food and are snapping up whatever they can in South America, North America and Africa. They also have trolls on many boards providing misinformation about what’s going on over there. There is no shortage of gooberment propaganda worldwide so you have to trust your sources.

      Reply
  24. Lex

    We put in raised beds last fall, but I was too slow in looking for seeds this spring, and by that time the variety left was slim. I put in kale, carrots, spinach, arugula, radishes, strawberries, leeks, onions, garlic, tatsoi, eggplants, tomatoes, and basil. There’s a permanent herb garden just off the patio that comes back every spring. Herbs are the first thing I plant with each new house we buy.

    It was an experimental year to see what would grow, where, and what pests would arrive to share the bounty. Most of the plants were happy and have been eaten or “put by”. The pests that showed up were flea beetles, crickets, and T-rex-sized grasshoppers that would leap on to my hand like perching birds waiting for me to break into a perky Disney princess song, only to find I’m more death metal. Don’t. Scare. The gardener.

    Some plants were unhappy. The garlic just looked puny and I finally reached over and yanked out the sprouts to see what was happening. Nothing, nothing was happening. Who can’t grow garlic? You stick it in the ground and give it a little water once in a while. But my garlic needed something more and I still haven’t figured out what that something is. The strawberries basically rotted in the soggy soil. This fall we’ll be re-digging that bed for better drainage. It was the largest of the raised beds and mostly planted in strawberries, so pretty much a loss for the year, but the leeks thrived and await harvesting.

    Two plants I’ve not planted before and was pleasantly surprised by were the eggplant and the tatsoi. These are both, in my eyes, beautiful graceful plants in and of themselves, and delicious too. There’s one tatsoi remaining and destined for kimchi.

    I’m from one of those hunter/gatherer type families (read: lower middle class, mostly broke, parents grew up po’ po’ during the Depression and whose worldview thereafter was Scarlett O’Hara’s — ‘As God is my witness…’) so I’ve been canning since I was a kid. I have never in my life canned as much as I did this summer, and in such variety. Our freezers and pantry shelves are packed. I ran out of jars and went looking for more, but much like hunting for seed, there were no quart jars to be found locally in any color. Which means to me that I can either make chicken stock or beef, but not both. Yeah, it’s one of those First World problems. I’m thinking beef for pho.

    I’m also putting my smoker and ice cream maker to use this fall. They’ve been sitting about dormant for far too long. There may be famine in China, but folks around these parts are hunkering down like it may be the U.S. next.

    Reply
  25. Sound of the Suburbs

    We need to ensure the wealthy get plenty of food and then we can see what is left for everyone else.
    Luckily, markets forces work in their favour.
    (This is why they like the markets)
    The price goes up, and poor people can’t afford food.
    They’ve got loads of money and can still buy whatever they want.

    Reply
  26. drumlin woodchuckles

    I have been very late and ineffectual at real gardening for the last few years because . . . reasons.

    This year I at least have 4-5 foot tall cosmos which neighbors comment favorably upon. My goldenrods are about 5 feet tall with about a foot-worth of height being high volume flower heads which are beginning to attract the broad spectrum of pollinator insects who like goldenrod. The sedums are flowering and attracting the mini-bumblebees and honeybees.

    The corn I planted on July 12 is doing its best to catch up and is really trying to get ready to silk and tassel. I will support it as best I can. If any of it produces hard dry viable replantable seed-ears, those ears will have passed through a harshly selective Darwinian filter.

    Garlic I planted in well-fed holes last December has been harvested about 2 weeks ago and is drying/curing in the house. I have given 1 bulb apiece to each of three people in hopes of getting back a report on how it tastes, etc. I will replant most of it, hopefully before December this year.

    Reply
  27. drumlin woodchuckles

    We will have to support with our food-dollars business today the food economy we want to survive tomorrow.

    Local and regionalocal food supply chains and channels are probably less disruptable than farther distant ones and longer ones. So it is probably good to buy one’s food from local, semi-local and regionalocal producers as much as feasible, to keep them in business for the no-more-long-distance-food future.

    What if every major town and city were at the center of its own surrounding foodshed? And if every major town and city each with its surrounding foodshed acted somewhat like the Classical Greek City-States in terms of food economics?

    This would go for the towns and cities of prairie Canada too. The surrounding prairie land can grow all the food the towns and cities of prairie Canada need to survive year round. It won’t all be the most fun food in the world. But it will keep the good people of Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, etc. healthily fed and safely alive all year, if such regionalocal survival food economies are fostered starting right now.

    Reply

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