Author of The Prepper’s Book of Lists and Prepper’s Pantry
I love growing my own vegetable garden. I’ve spent many fulfilling hours outside every summer, tending to my plants, nurturing my soil, and babying things along, with the birds for music and a basket full of delicious organic food to show for it each day.
Except for that one year. That one year, my garden was a flop.
Eaten by deer, killed by the heat
It’s pretty embarrassing to admit on my own website that my garden did not do diddly squat that year. I am normally pretty good at growing food (or just extraordinarily lucky) but a few years back circumstances beyond my control threw up one obstacle after another. First of all, we moved on July 1. I had started my garden in containers, earlier in the summer, and then transplanted them into my lovely new fenced garden full of raised beds.
Only, the fences weren’t high enough, and unbeknownst to me, I had set up a deer buffet with a low hurdle. Garden #1, GONE. Decimated. Wiped out. And I didn’t even get venison in retribution.
So, I went and got some new plants and put them in. Better late than never. I deer-proofed and nurtured my soil and paid top dollar for plants that were a bit more advanced since by now it was the first week of July.
And then a heatwave hit the day after I transplanted them. 107 degrees. Most of the plants withered immediately and no amount of TLC would bring them back.
I was determined that I would have at least SOME vegetables and bought even more plants. I added some shade cloth to protect them from the sun. I fed them some white sugar to help them recover from the transplant shock. They grew but did not provide me with a whole lot of produce, for numerous reasons, including heat, a late timeline, and slightly low phosphorus in my soil.
Aggravating when a wannabe farmer finds herself shopping at the farmer’s market to get summer veggies. Not cool.
But, like everything in life, there’s a lesson here. It got me thinking about all of the folks whose master plan for survival is a big stockpile of seeds. While this is a very important part of a long-term self-reliance plan, there are some years, no matter how many silver bells and cockleshells you put out, your contrary garden just won’t grow.
It’s going to happen. One year, your gardening season is not going to live up to your expectations. Have you thought about what you’ll eat when your garden flops?
Troubleshooting a garden that is dying
I’ve written a lot about adaptability as a survival mechanism and this holds true with your vegetable garden as well. When a major part of your survival plan is growing your own food, being able to identify and overcome issues with your plan is vital.
Experience. The number one key to troubleshooting your iffy garden is experience. Many people make a survival plan without any practical skills to back it up. Have you gardened before? Have you gardened in the area in which you intend to survive? If you haven’t, you aren’t going to be able to predict the pitfalls, like deer fencing that isn’t high enough, too much direct afternoon sun, not enough direct afternoon sun, etc. This is the major reason for my gardening failure this year. All of this stuff is learned by (often painful) experience. Keep a gardening journal to help avoid repeating those mistakes and to keep track of trends, like late frosts, etc. So get out there and get dirty. No excuses. If you don’t do it now, you can’t expect to survive doing it.
Soil testing. A huge part of successful gardening happens before you ever plant a seed. You need to know all about your soil so that you can amend it and provide the right foundation for growing. It’s best if you amend before planting but you can still have some success after the fact. Every bit as important as your seeds is a soil-testing kit. Get a kit that tests for soil pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash content. I like this kit because it has 10 tests for each substance. The price is very reasonable (it’s geared towards classroom instruction) so get a few for your stockpile. This way, if the S hits the F, you can still have access to the science that you need to troubleshoot successfully.
Soil Amendments. Once you’ve done your testing, you will need the supplies to amend your soil to optimum nutrient levels. Find some books on DIY soil amendments and stock up on supplies that you might need to adjust where your oil is lacking. If your goal is gardening for survival, it’s very important to learn to amend your soil without a trip to the garden store. For example, blossom end rot is caused by a lack of calcium in the soil. This can be improved by adding milk to the roots of your plants, then deeply watering them, or making a tea from crushed eggshells. Learn about the safe management of manure, composting, and the use of cover crops.
Access to information. Right now, we have the luxury of the internet. With the help of Google and YouTube, we can find the answers to nearly any gardening question we might have. But in a long-term survival situation, it won’t be that easy. It’s almost a guarantee that if you are in a scenario during which your vegetable garden is all that stands between you and malnutrition, you aren’t going to have access to the internet.
My bookcase is loaded with reference books on topics like gardening, herbalism, and other old-fashioned skills. Join me by going old school. Get yourself some well-reviewed gardening books. These are some of my very favorites:
- The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible
- The Encyclopedia of Country Living
- Trowel and Error: Over 700 Tips, Remedies and Shortcuts for the Gardener
- The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control
- Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening
Also, check out the highlighted links in the soil amendment section above for more excellent books. (Some of them are available for free on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, but I strongly recommend hard copies of books that you find useful.)
And be ready for worst case scenarios. In a perfect world, everything would be organic and wholesome. But in an imperfect world, when your garden is the difference between life and death, it’s possible you might occasionally have to use methods that you wouldn’t normally use. I’m talking, of course, about chemical methods: fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide. It isn’t ideal, but when you absolutely must have a successful season, you should have a few things like this put aside for worst case scenarios.
What to do when you can’t grow your own garden
While my plan is to eventually be able to grow much of what we need for survival, I’m also prepared for a bad year. While the items above will help you through many gardening issues, there are some things that are completely beyond human control. Things like:
- Bad weather, either too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too dry
- Pests – who remembers that book in the Little House series where Pa’s fields were descended upon by a horde of hungry locusts?
- Natural disasters – wildfires, terrible storms, tornadoes – all of those can wipe out a garden
There’s absolutely nothing you can do about certain events. And that’s why you must have a Plan B. A stockpile of long-term food is essential for surviving when the deck is stacked against you.
There are numerous different ways to go about building your food supply (which I go over in my course, Build a Better Pantry on a Budget, but the basics are:
- Shopping the sales
- Using coupons
- Storing your food properly
- Using safe home preservation methods
- Buying in bulk quantities
- Storing freeze-dried food in #10 cans
- Purchasing buckets of food for emergency supplies
For more information, check out this article: 12 Strategies for Creating the Perfect Pantry.
Have you ever had a bad garden season?
This year, I’m very thankful that I have lots of homesteader friends and an excellent farmer’s market, as I navigate my new gardening environment. (You can find a local farmer’s market HERE.) I still have some stuff left over from last year’s harvest, and of course, my stockpile, but this year’s harvest is looking like it’s going to be disappointing.
As with any preparedness scenario, thinking through it ahead of time can help us maneuver through the situation more easily if it happens in the midst of a crisis. Have you ever had a similar bad gardening year? What are some of the causes I may not have covered? Pests? Weather? An act of nature? Were you able to overcome it, and if so, how did you do it?
Please share your answers in the comments below. You just might be resolving someone else’s garden issues!
I’ve been gardening for about 40 years, and about 17 years in my current, final, location. A few years ago I had a problem growing beans (year 1-green beans, year 2-butter beans, year 3-lima beans). An 80′ long row of beans might sprout 5 or 6 plants.
Being busy and not having time to replant, I accepted my losses and concentrated on the rest of the garden, but two years ago I’d had enough and dug up the seed bed to see where my sprouts were.
What I found was half eaten seeds. I had wire worm or thread worm, or some other pest. Internet research told me that my location was considered normal for these type worms, but it took years for them to show up in the garden.
I used a chemical treatment at planting time (or in this case, replanting time). The next morning I had thousands of dead thread worm on the surface, and a week later I had a full line of sprouting seeds.
I hate that I have to treat, and I do have a few earthworms that get caught in the crossfire, but it’s either treat or go hungry, and in a SHTF situation, it would be treat or die.
Last year our garden was doing well. Plants looked healthy had plenty of blossoms on the zucchini, squash and tomatoes and then got nothing. It was like nothing had been pollinated.
This year everything appears to have been pollinated and is growing well. What do you do if the pollinators are gone?
We ( as a species ) are truly ” @%^ed ” if the pollinators disappear. That said, to help your garden along…you can do what I do, grab a few Q-tips and pollinate some of those plants for yourself, you’ll be glad you did.
I agree. Grandma had my baby brother “paint” the tomatoes. He was about 3 or 4 at the time and did a great job of pollinating with a small cheap paintbrush.
Old Chinese trick = Feather duster or a few feathers tickling from flower to flower, carrying pollen yourself. ESP for.pear trees, but ought to work with anything if temps aren’t too high, which kills any pollen in any event.
You buy, keep and tend your own.
Honey bees, mason bees, no lights at night by garden alot of night time pollinators
We left our hard-to-garden dream place in the mountains and relocated to a nice place in a fertile valley. I worked on the garden spot one year with pretty good success. The next year I was really getting up to steam. Planted fruit trees and grapes and got the veggie/berry garden in. But I started feeling more and more tired and figured old age was catching up to me and I better scale down. Hubby already couldn’t help because of copd. Well, two months later – in July – I was diagnosed with two different types of cancer! So…gardening was definitely no longer high priority. Now three years later I still am not able to garden much and have greatly scaled it back. But I’m glad I got the fruit trees, grapes, and thornless blackberries in when I did. They continue to bless. I get in the most wanted – tomatoes, cukes, lettuce, onions. But I’m working on a new no work way of gardening. Life throws us curve balls. So get that garden in while you can – especially the perennials that can carry on with a minimum of care.
You are in good company this year. My garden failed also. The landscapers for our development pulled out my root crops thinking they were weeds and spayed the others with round-up, leaving the soil unsuitable for growing anything!!! I’ve had to purchase all my organic produce at the farmer’s market, this year.
This was a bad year for a lot of folks in our area due to heavy rain that started soon after planting in the spring. In 2 weeks time, we had 15 inches – it rained every single day. Rain continued thru May and June – resulting in rotting or stunted growth.
We managed to pick green beans twice, got very few yellow/zucchini squash, harvested 1/3 of the tomatoes we had last year and few cucumbers.
Friends and neighbors – some lost everything, some gave up, one friend lost ALL his watermelons, corn was stunted, beans drowned, etc.
Peaches were great this year – home grown and commercial orchards – both SC and GA. So we are still enjoying those and putting them in the freezer.
What we were able to can – green beans, tomato sauce, pickled okra and salsa – isn’t enough to live on that is for certain. We’d be hurting if this was a real SHTF situation and would have to rely on our stockpile.
As a prepper/homesteader, you do have to prepare for possible garden failure. And I second your advise on soil testing – we got our’s done thru the local extension office for a small fee and the report was even emailed to us.
Peaches did great in our area as well ( North Texas ). We were hit with big time flooding from Harvey, which delayed planting. I even had seedlings die because I had to wait so long. Then of course this crazy drought.
The tomatoes are the only thing we were able to get a nice harvest. Everything else was the pits. Hopefully our fall garden will be better…….
I live in the high desert of Idaho. This year we had a cool, wet spring (very unusual here) to an immediate scorching summer. Right now we are in our 8th day of 100+ temps & we haven’t been below 95 in weeks. Also, no rain in weeks. My tomatoes grew, blossomed, & never set fruit. Same with the cucumbers. The squash succumbed to earwigs early on. Everyone here is having similar results, even those who sell at our small farmer’s market. I’m waiting to see how the potatoes do.
This started off great: early season tomatoes, squash, cukes, corn was going gangbusters. And two weeks ago, along comes a massive t-storm. Not a twister, just terrible straight line winds. Enough to break the tie-downs on the hot tub cover and relocate it a half mile up the road. Everything except the root veggies, and some leafy stuff were ripped out or broken off. That include the squash, cukes, and beans. They’re all trellised to converse space, so lts of surface area for the wind to catch. And not a thing to be done except replant and hope for a mild autum.
I’ve been gardening for almost 50 years now in several different States and growing Zones and each place taught me valuable lessons. Failure is the best teacher.
But when we moved to Arizona (Zone 8b) six years ago I felt like I was starting from scratch. Aside from some nectarine, peach and plum trees we planted the only thing that grew successfully was cabbage and peas. Aside from those the only other thing that grew well was our brand new in-ground Asparagus bed–and I couldn’t harvest from it as it takes a couple of years for new beds to get established. Turns out Asparagus likes alkaline soils.
Ear budworm and drought got our corn crop–as it did every year for the first five years here. Pack rats, Gambel quail and ground squirrels ate my summer crops. Drought and triple digit heat combined to stress the plants that survived so badly a variety of diseases took hold. That first year was a real learning experience and by year two I had built several 4’x16’x12″ raised beds, fenced them and filled them with a 50/30/20 mix of native soil, Miracle Gro Garden soil and composted steer manure. I also threw in what small amount of homemade compost we generated that year.
I used the Miracle Gro because our native soil is almost totally lacking in organic materials and has a pH of 8.4, and because I hadn’t yet found local sources of compost. The new beds had a pH of 7, which isn’t great, but worked out okay. To this day after years of adding compost and vermi-compost to my raised beds I struggle to get the pH below 6.8.
I learned how to trap critters in a variety of ways. I don’t use poisons because I want to protect the local owls. I also put an air rifle to good use. I built PVC hoop houses over the beds that I could cover with bird netting or shade cloth. I also learned the value of mulching my beds, not just for weed control, but for moisture control. The upshot was the second year I had a pretty decent garden.
I should mention that I grow heirloom vegetables almost exclusively so I can learn to save seeds and, eventually, develop strains that grow well in my local microclimate.
Year three pocket gophers moved in, tunneled under my raised beds and fruit trees and began eating the roots. Trapping worked a bit but was mostly unsuccessful. What drove them out, eventually, was a variety of pinwheels and small windmills I installed. Pocket gophers and moles don’t like the vibrations such devices transmit into the ground. They worked, but just to be on the safe side I emptied all my raised beds and lined the bottoms and interior sides with multiple, offset layers of 1″ chicken wire, then re-filled the beds and replanted. I’ve had no pocket gopher problems since then.
Years 4 & 5 my gardens and small orchard (by this time I had apples and figs also) produced such a bounty I was canning and freezing the surplus and still had plenty to give to neighbors and our local food bank. Except for sweet corn. Neither trying different varieties, neem oil, BT, Spinosad or anything else worked to get me a sweet corn crop. I was ready to try Sevin when I remembered when I lived in Colorado I had to grow fast maturing varieties due to our short growing season.
So this year I planted a Montana variety called Candy Mountain and a Northern Minnesota type called Seneca Sunrise and they both matured early enough to beat the budworm arrival. They also matured at different times so they didn’t cross pollinate. So, it took me six years of failure, but now I know how to grow sweet corn here in Arizona and get not one but two corn crops.
I’ve come to the conclusion that persistence and observation are the chief traits in being a successful gardener.
Ray, its persistent people like you that make me stop crying, pull up my big girl panties, it’s a comfort thing, suck it up, and try again. Your persistence is enviable. Thank you for it.
We moved from the West Coast where we had great sun, no shade, and purchased topsoil. Gardening was a breeze.
Then we moved to the South.
I have tried a garden here for nine years and have gotten almost nothing in return. What it has been a lesson in is learning what grows well in this climate: in summer’s heat and humidity, I can get a yield from okra, peppers, and pumpkins. Tomatoes are hit and miss. For grains, sweet sorghum does amazingly well (if I can keep it from the birds).
In winter, I can manage garlic and some fast ripening grains and a bit of lettuce and spinach.
It is all a matter of observing what grows well and what does not.
Yet another really pathetic article from Luther, thinly disguised as information when it’s really a advertising promotion (notice all the Amazon affiliate links).
This is not “advice” – this is just advertising. REAL advice will prepare the gardener with what they really need to know (and preclude any advertising). But you won’t find real information here, I know, I’ve looked and looked through this rather poor website. I’ve read through dozens and dozens of the articles here and they’re pathetically weak and uninformative without any meaningful substance.
This is what is wrong with the “prepper” marketing online – it’s not actually being written by real, experienced and insightful people who do NOT have the agenda to try to sell you stuff. The depth, breadth and experience required to actually garden or even just properly prepare your home, your family is woefully inadequate and much of it, seriously misguided.
Those who have not journeyed far down this road may not catch on to the severe weakness and half-baked ideas being presented here (being polite – they are seriously, even fatally flawed) that authors like this try to write about. And amazingly, they’re all like that. Every single one that I checked out.
Either the author has no real experience (most likely) or has elected to concentrate on making money off the naivety and inexperience of the readers. Both could be true. But what matters here is this isn’t where you are going to learn what you need to know, unless you’re content with settling for misguided, error-prone and doomed to fail ideas. The entire prepping “community” is now chock full of people who have almost zero actual experience and know-how for personal development, skill achievement, experience and training.
Go join a farm, or a co-op. Stop trying to gain your “experience” through a computer screen. Stop reading and stop listening to those that can only write about what they pretend to know. You’ll gain an enormous advantage in skills, experience and practical, first-hand knowledge about how to “do” all the things you need to know. And you won’t be suckered into buying more books, useless trinkets and “essential” crap that won’t do you a bit of good.
Practical, working preparations are not found or even learned online. They are learned in real life.
You offer some great advice. It sounds like you have a great deal of experience and I’d be delighted to post an article about the topic if you’d care to write one. You could help lots of people. Feel free to submit your post to me at daisyluther2 at gmail dot com. I look forward to it.
So, “Farmer,” I did a little back-tracking of your IP and discovered that every comment you’ve made on my site (Under numerous different names) is insulting, rude, and derogatory. It’s interesting to note that the FIRST comment you made included your email address and a link to your now-defunct website. If your real goal was to get information out there, you’d still be publishing on your own site or offering to write freelance on more popular sites than yours. Alas, your goal seems to be, instead, merely airing your sour views on the articles of others, along with a side of ad hominem attacks on people you don’t know.. If you wanted to help, I’d have welcomed your input.
For some reason, you’ve really got it in for my website and ALL the writers who contribute. I find it incredibly curious that you seem to read every single article, with the deep hatred you display. Is it a problem for you that my site is successful and yours seems to be offline? It’s a shame because you might actually have some useful knowledge but your approach means you won’t be sharing it here. This will be your last comment on the site, as I’ve put your IP in moderation.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to get your own site up and running again so that you can share your commentary. You certainly won’t be doing it on my platform any longer.
I garden with two other good ol boys in 2 different countys ,we raise enouf for each other our parents started doing this during the depression not once have all 3 gardens failed most years we end up giving produce to foods 4 life
After a major garden or crop failure or two, it’s a lot easier to understand how the Mormons developed their recommendation for all families to stockpile a year’s supply of food to get them through the hard times back in the 1800s.
I did a lookup on deer jumping ability and willingness (two different things as it turns out) and what height of protective fence is really effective. This fence supplier had a good discussion:
I live in deer country. Hunters come here from all over. I know firsthand that deer can devastate your garden. And that electric fencing can solve the problem. First, my garden is surrounded by a woven wire fence 30 inches high. That keeps out the little critters (rabbits, opossums, raccoons, woodchucks, etc.). Four inches above that is a single strand of electric (run from a battery-powered fencer; if the lights go out, the fencer still operates). Whitetail deer can easily hop over my fence so they must be trained. I put twisted pieces of aluminum foil at 10-foot intervals along the electric strand and paint the foil with deer lure (such as hunters use). I WANT the deer to come and sniff or lick the foil. And they do. And they don’t come back. This is also snow country. Each spring I rake up shovelfuls of deer poop from my lawn and flower beds. But I never have deer in my vegetable garden. Ever.
I live in Florida on an acre and a half of land I’d be happy to Coop Farm let people use my land to grow their vegetables. I just can’t do it all myself Are there any websites that anybody knows of that people would be willing to come here and help me work my land and share the produce?
Gardening is a lot of work. A big garden can be impossible to manage.
About 10 years ago I ran across an article (might have been here) about Ruth Stout and her deep mulch gardening method. It was a life changer. Granted, it takes a couple of years to get in full swing, but when you eliminate annual tilling (which greatly adds to the weed load in addition to the work required to run the tiller), you reduce weeding time to minutes instead of hours and the weeds are generally loosely rooted, you greatly reduce watering (I’ve watered once during a severe drought period in all this time), and you build up your soil.
It’s a win-win-win-win game.
I use hay for my mulch, but anything that can be composted can conceivably be used; wood chips, grass clippings, straw, leaf litter, etc.
I’d suggest that you look into Ruth Stout’s method, and work smarter, not harder.
RayK–we’ve adopted Ruth Stout’s methods, too, and had a lot of success last year, particularly with keeping weeds down with the deep mulch. There are lots of youtube videos on this method.
We also plant non-hybridized varieties and have learned to seed save. All the plant starts we did this year were from last year’s harvest. There are methods–for instance, tomato seeds need to be rinsed, put into water for a few days to ferment and lose the coating on the outside of the seed before drying and storing.
The Joy of Gardening. by Dick Raymond
This may be our first year when our garden doesn’t do well– our indoor plant starts aren’t growing as well as they normally do and it may be because I substituted a different brand of soil puck. We’ll plant those struggling starts, but started a new set in cardboard toilet paper rolls with compost and vermiculite as backup.
It seems every season there is a different variety of vegetable that doesn’t do well. I’ve started a planting and weather calendar record so we can track what does well in different weather conditions.
Seeds are meant to be planted!
fer cryin’ out loud, having a seed bank that’s never used is like having a bat that’s never hit a ball, a book that’s never been read or a gun that’s never been fired.
WE LEARN BY DOING. So let’s stop waiting and get going
Two things: if you compost make sure to use proper proportion of greenery and soil or your compost will too much nitrogen and you’ll have tall plants but no veggies.
Take a look at square foot gardening.
I’ve never had a complete loss but many types of species failures. One summer it was too wet for squash and pumpkin but corn grew tall. I’ve tried to grow a mix of types.
I have been an organic type since the early 70’s when Mother Earth News was still printed on news type paper.
BUT, if I see my whole crop about to succumb, I’ll do most anything short of ddt and maybe use miracle grow to save it.
I now live in a home development with limited yard space. I started seeds under a grow light and now we have had green beans, kale, and tons of butter lettuce. I have tomatoes the size of tennis balls now and yellow squash days away from harvest. Yum.
About all I can add is to grow a mix of types. Oh, and work the garden EVERY day.
Weather monitoring is very important. Example: I am at 7300′ in Colorado. We have very late last frost dates, summer deluges with horrible hail…just not great gardening weather overall. It helps to become very familiar with the local weather patterns and to keep an eye on the forecast.
Ahh gardening life
Yup lots of fails but that’s just part of it. You dig in and learn from it and keep chugging.
It’s worth it at the end of the day.
This year we had a record late frost that got some of mine. Then the high winds snapped off my viners. What did I do? Replanted. It’s still early.
Last year my garden yielded a nice refresher course in plant pathology! I had Septoria on my tomatoes, leather rot on my strawberries, angular leaf spot on all of my curcurbits, and downy mildew on my cucumber and squash. And aphids on my beans. As much as I’ve tried organic pest control, I’ve found that I have to catch stuff really early for it to be effective. And honestly, the term organic is highly misunderstood. Many pesticides are considered organic due to their derivation. And used carefully, they work well. Copper saved my tomatoes and captan will save my strawberries this year. Copper fungicide also kept my other stuff alive long enough to yield some anyway.
As for the indignity of running to the farmer’s market, yeah. 90% of what I put up last year came from my CSA guy, because of the above. Life can be this way. Garden and learn.
We’ve planted gardens for many years. I plant generously so if it’s a hard year I will still have enough. I try to put up 1 1/2 years worth so if the next year is a failure I’ll still have some I can try and stretch it out. If you have extra you can usually find someone who will happily take your home grown food. Or you can donate it to the food bank or another charity.
One if the things I like about the book Squarefoot Gardening is the soil mix Mel has in it (1/3 by volume of compost, vermiculite and peat moss). I mixed up a bunch of it several years ago and it turned out to be a really good thing.
That year it rained a lot. My raised beds with the Mel’s mix did great. The rest of the garden did poorly because of the rain.
It may be a bit pricey for a full garden but the mix will work for planting seed plants to ensure there are seeds to save for future years.
I think it is great that so many people garden. However there are a couple of things that need to be considered.
Daisy in the article was relying on store bought plants for her garden, as many people do..
In a real SHTF, there probably won’t be any.
So those of you who are relying on these need to step up and start growing from seeds.
Secondly: there are not likely to be commercial pesticides available or commercial fertilizers.
So I suggest you get used to doing without and find Natural alternatives.
Many common plants repel insects and garden pests.
After SHTF, they will be your only choices, so you better know a whole lot about them.
We need more articles or comments on them and what natural solutions work best for people who are using them on their gardens.
“what natural solutions work best”
find out what grows naturally in your area. I ripped out half a ton of lambsquarters as weeds before realizing they’re ok food. good nutrition and they grow like weeds.
here’s something that may be a help: i always assume that something will go wrong. hopefully not everything…but you never know, do you? so, when i can my harvest, i make more than one year’s worth. ball/kerr guarantees their lids for 18 months, but stored decently, they will last years longer. in any case, when you open a jar (or for that matter, a can from the grocery store), listen for the “whoosh” of the vacuum seal breaking. if there is a “whoosh” there is a seal and no contamination. after some period of time, the contents may change in texture or flavor, but they remain safe. many common veggies and fruits taste fine for 3 or 4 years. knowing this, i can put up extra of those foods i have extra of, knowing they won’t go to waste and providing my family with a little extra preparedness.