By Kellene Bishop
Perhaps you've never conceived of an underground garden. I realize that it may sound a little crazy, but I actually believe that it’s the future of food production for individuals who want to take control over their food supply while avoiding all of the problems which threaten a quality food source grown the good old fashioned way.
For starters, let me just share with you the nuts and bolts of how an underground garden works. There’s some amazing people who have really mastered this out there making it possible for 5 acres of underground garden producing at least as much food as 250 acres—more if you take into account the loss percentage as a result of birds, insects, and just standard wear and tear.
The concept behind an underground garden is that hydroponics is applied with a water re-circulation system that allows the same amount of water to used again and again so drought never becomes a problem. Additionally, with atrium lighting, that can be powered with solar energy, provides the sufficient sunshine. And an exact ratio of nutrient formula that is easily available commercially and wouldn’t require much space to stock up for as much as 10 years. Even better though, once the garden begins producing, there are simple ways in which the nutrients can be created naturally…so not stocking up necessary. The plants provide an abundance of oxygen too which makes it attractive for anyone who would want to create a solar energy underground home. (Did you know that one medium sized healthy plant with a broad surface area on the foliage can provide enough oxygen for one adult in a 200 square foot room? And the plant also improves the quality of the air by removing vapors and trap/absorb many air pollutants such as the chemical cleaning products.)
With the gardening happening underground, think of all of the nasty things that one could completely avoid. No more bullying lawsuits by Monsanto claiming a farmer is violating their patent—after all, cant’ do that if your garden area is underground. No more chem-trails, acid rain, vile pesticides or pesticide resistant insects. No wildfires to threaten your crop. No rabbits, birds, deer, or other critters to lose your food to. Oh yeah, and no weeds! (My least favorite part of gardening.)
While the initial set up of such a venture would require some major elbow grease (and expense to an extent) it’s a heck of a lot better return on your efforts than what the “normal” world does presently. You set it up once and you never have to plow, hoe, measure, stake, raise, or cover again! In fact, to some extent you wouldn’t even have to worry about watering it. That can be set up as automatic as the sun rising and setting. There would be no concerns about drought conditions and, my personal favorite perk, no marauders helping themselves to my food. Oh, did I say marauders? I meant USDA—trying to come in and tell me how much I can grow on my own dang property. Equally as offensive are HOA’s or busy-body neighbors who feign being wounded by a person’s display of gardening for all of the rest of the world to have to look at. *insert dramatic whining inhale of breath here* (My gosh, nowadays, you would think that gardening was some sort of vulgar porn or offensive political messages for crying out loud! I’ve heard of people suing because someone’s public prayers “hurt someone else’s feelings for not believing the same way” but with underground gardening, you’re essentially always doing your praying, politicizing or whatever you want to call it UNDERGROUND and out of sight.
Because environmental temperatures are very simple to maintain, an underground garden means that so long as you do the work necessary to take care of the stimulation of plants like the bees are supposed to do (those that need it anyway, such as tomatoes), AND if you’re saving your seeds regularly, then once you establish your underground garden you’ve got a forever food source. You sure can’t make that kind of a claim about any traditional farm land or garden today. I love the concept of growing avocados, potatoes, cantaloupe, fresh herbs and eggplant all year round, all together!
Of course most of you wouldn’t have the need for 5 acres underground, but given that you can grow just about any standard produce plant in such an environment, even a small 200-400 square feet would easily be enough to feed a LARGE family all year round. Oh, and the food would taste SO much better you’d never be able to go back to grocery store produce that’s imported in from all kinds of questionable places. (Questionable because of the growing conditions that aren’t required to follow the same standards as US foods.) Did you know that USDA certified Organic food is still permitted to be grown with more than 20 pesticides, insecticides, and other chemicals that neither you nor I would be inclined to use on our home gardens.
There are several underground garden movements that use soil instead of hydroponics. I think that is a unnecessary vulnerability for a self-reliant minded person to assume. The soil can eventually be stripped of nutrients that aren’t as simple to reintegrate as a nutrient rich water solution, and the amount of food that can be grown in a soil based system is much less than can be grown in a circulating hydroponic scenario.
While building underground may make you envision walls and ceilings collapsing in on you, keep in mind that there are underground facilities all over this nation that are underground specifically because of their inherent strength of structure. More and more parking lots are being done underground (for new builds and new expansions) than the above ground facilities. There are also an extensive number of key military facilities that are specifically built underground for the inherent security and environmental control. There are some underground plans being applied now that are actually several stories underground so that an 800 square foot space is easily able to be replicated in each story for a total of 5 acres. (And remember, 5 acres with this method creates a LOT of food!) Underground facilities are certainly better to handle most of what Mother Nature dishes out, not to mention what 2-legged enemies threaten to dish out such as nuclear or biological warfare.
Now, since it drives me crazy when a person completely dismisses an idea without actually looking into it, let me stop you before you try to tell me all of the reasons why this just can't be done. (Cause otherwise I just might strangle ya' *grin*) I suspect the first objection is cost, but consider this. We have farmers who are defaulting on loans for equipment that they purchased because the crops aren't coming in like they had expected. Hmmm...do you think there'd be more of a guarantee of a crop coming in with this kind of method? Additionally, this is actually LESS expensive to implement than just one of the many pieces of farm equipment that I've seen on the modern farms today. Sure it's a lot of effort, but no more than what I know is done to get a dozen acres going and unlike those kinds of farms, I'm eliminating the RISKS that are inherent.
Ultimately, I don't care that it's a lot of effort. How much longer do you think that we can keep going at this pace and not suffer the consequences of the horrible food that's such a large part of our food supply? Are you aware that the majority of the foods that people buy at the "health food stores"--you know, the meal replacement drinks, the supplements, etc.--are ARTIFICIAL foods. And yet if I came up to you and said, "Hey, here's an artificial peach. You want one?" I suspect you'd politely (or not so politely) refuse. And yet that's what we're eating the majority of the time and yes, it's even infiltrated our "organic" food supply. So I look at it this way... "a lot of effort" or dying one cell at a time due to the poisons and all of the other risks in our food supply. I'd say it's a no-brainer.
If you'd like more information on how to do this yourself, you're not going to find sources on the internet. This technology is just starting to make an impact worth writing about. However, it has been written about in book form and white papers and you can look on Amazon for "underground gardening" specifically and you'll find some written works there. I'm fortunate enough to have been able to conduct live interviews with actual "doers" of this technology including an immediate relative. Essentially, if you apply the present concepts of indoor hydroponics, that works, except with a tweak for a water circulation system (which can be as simple as a large filtered water fountain) and on a larger scale in a "basement" setting. Ironically, we can learn a lot of "tricks" from the marijuana farmers. Many of them have taken to underground farming. *sheepish grin* Who knows, maybe I'll be showing you pictures of my own creation by next summer?
So anyway, this is my crazy idea that I personally will be applying in our new home. I just can’t think of anything better to ensure that I get the quality of food that I want and need without the liabilities that come with a fruitful crop. Underground gardening…it’s certainly some viable food for thought.
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