Rick Austin is known as the Survivalist Gardener, and is a preparedness, homesteading and off grid living expert. He is the author of Secret Garden of Survival-How to Grow a Camouflaged Food Forest which is now the #1 Best Selling book in Garden Design.
Rick is also the author of the Secret Greenhouse of Survival, How to Build the Ultimate Homestead and Prepper Greenhouse.Rick has been featured on National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Castle, Doomsday Preppers, as well as the documentary film Beyond Off Grid and in Mother Earth News (twice).
You can also hear Rick on his radio show Secrets of a Survivalist where each week he talks with the world’s best survival experts that share their own secrets of survival. You can learn more about Rick at http://SecretGardenofSurvival.com/.
Narrator: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show with Jason Hartman. The economic storm brewing around the world is set to spill into all aspects of our lives. Are you prepared? Where are you going to turn for the critical life skills necessary for you to survive and prosper? The Holistic Survival Show is your family’s insurance for a better life. Jason will teach you to think independently, to understand threats and how to create the ultimate action plan. Sudden change or worst case scenario, you’ll be ready. Welcome to Holistic Survival, your key resource for protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Ladies and gentlemen, your host Jason Hartman.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show. This is your host Jason Hartman, where we talk about protecting the people places and profits you care about in these uncertain times. We have a great interview for you today. And we will be back with that in less than 60 seconds on the Holistic Survival Show. And by the way, be sure to visit our website at HolisticSurvival.com. You can subscribe to our blog, which is totally free, has loads of great information, and there’s just a lot of good content for you on the site, so make sure you take advantage of that at HolisticSurvival.com. We’ll be right back.
Start of Interview with Rick Austin
Jason Hartman: My pleasure to welcome Rick Austin to the show. He is known as the survivalist gardener, and he is a preparedness, homesteading and off the grid living expert. And he’s author of Secret Garden and some other stuff in terms of camouflaged gardens, and all kinds of interesting stuff like this. Rick, welcome. How are you?
Rick Austin: I’m good. Glad to be here.
Jason Hartman: Well glad to have you. And you’re coming to us from the Appalachian Mountains, is that correct?
Rick Austin: That is correct.
Jason Hartman: Well you’re not totally living off the grid, because we’re on Skype.
Rick Austin: Yeah, there’s a little bit of power here but yeah, exactly.
Jason Hartman: Few areas where technology does come in handy, but it’s nice to know you have a back-up plan. So tell us why is this survival or secret garden important?
Rick Austin: Well imagine a garden that you plant once in your lifetime that takes very little space, that grows five times more food per square foot than a traditional garden, that would provide you with food for the next 30 years, that you never have to weed, never have to use fertilizers, and never have to use pesticides ever. And it’s all disguised to look like overgrown underbrush.
Jason Hartman: That is fantastic. That’s the secret recipe for sure. One area I’m particularly interested in talking about this topic Rick, is in the urban setting or the suburban setting where people don’t have big pieces of land in which to garden. Maybe they have even a balcony. I think where most of the population even lives, in that sort of situation. Is there anything they can do?
Rick Austin: Well what I’ve created here is what I’d call nature culture. So it’s the way nature has been growing things for millions of years. In nature you’ve got symbiotic relationships where you’ve got a central fruit tree or nut tree for example that would be the tallest in an area, and then around that or underneath that you’ve got essentially an area that is going to be shaded. So there’s certain types of plants that would grow well there, and then around that you’ve got full sun again. So your shrubs, your berry bushes like your blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, that kind of stuff would grow around there. And then you’ve almost got another complete concentric circle around that of herbs, so those could be your medicinal and cooking herbs and then around that you’ve got ground covers which could be anything from nitrogen fixing ground cover like clover to edible ground cover like strawberries. And the whole thing works better together than they do by themselves.
It’s not planting in rows, and essentially this is the way nature has grown things for millions of years. Now, when I give these presentations to various different prepper conferences, I have people who come up to me who are in suburbia and they live in home owners associations and they go, “this is the solution. We are not even allowed to have gardens because of our home owner’s association” so this makes it look like it’s just shrubbery that they’re planting, and it’s all edible and allows them to have what is essentially a survival garden when they wouldn’t be able to have something otherwise.
Jason Hartman: Well Rick you talked about the yield, which is very impressive. What size? How many say square feet per person does one need? If you have a family of four you need more space obviously, but what’s the sort of yield we’re looking at here?
Rick Austin: Well, that’s a really good question. Essentially I have a half an acre. And you don’t need that much, but I have planted every fruit tree, every berry bush, every nut tree that will grow in my environment here in the Appalachian Mountains. And we essentially harvest more food than we can possibly consume, and that would be for a family of four, and you can do it in far less space. And the older these plants grow, because they are permanent in nature, they’re perennials, the more they will produce. So we’re at a point where we just got this thing in about 4-5 years ago, and now it’s just incredible in terms of the amount of output. But as I said, it produces 5 times more food per square foot than you would have in a traditional garden.
Jason Hartman: Okay, so 5 times more per square foot. But any metric though on a per person square footage? I assume that depends greatly on location. For example, living in the Appalachian Mountains versus living in Phoenix or LA or North Dakota. Those all differ pretty greatly, right?
Rick Austin: It’s hard to quantify it, and I tell people they really need to get in touch with a local nursery, people who… it’s not one of the big bucks stores, for example, when they’re looking for their plants… somebody who understands what actually is indigenous to the area. Because you can buy plants like apple trees for example and you can get apple trees from one of the big bucks stores, but they may have come from a location where they will grow but they will never set fruit. So you’ve got to be able to have something that’s going to that’s going to work in your area. And obviously, if you’re in Phoenix you’re looking at different types of plants and different plants than what you would find in the North East or even in Florida. And I’ve been in both areas.
Jason Hartman: Are there certain areas where you just can’t? I mean, of course there are – I know the answer to the question as I’m asking. But I guess, how far North, how far South can we go with this stuff? Where can’t we do a garden?
Rick Austin: This is perennial foods, so it’s not like you’re doing your annual vegetables. These things you plant once and you harvest for a lifetime. So there are apple trees in New England and there are apple trees in Texas. And they just have a different requirement for the number of chill hours, and chill hours are the number of hours below 45 degrees before they set fruit. So the ones in New England need more chill hours than the ones in Texas. But I’ve done this kind of thing in Florida where you’re dealing with citrus, and banana trees and that sort of stuff, and I’ve done it in New England where you’re dealing with what essentially is a pine forest area.
Jason Hartman: Tell us what a secret garden is not. We talked about what it is a little bit, but what isn’t it?
Rick Austin: Well, all you do is harvest. Essentially, I have all types of different fruit as I mentioned, and they all come into season at different times, so essentially I would go out there and I will carry two buckets amounting to about 6 gallons between the two of them, and every day I will go out in the morning and I will pick about 6 gallons worth of fruit on my little half acre. It’s not work because all you do is harvest, it’s not weeding – as I like to tell people, weeds are just misunderstood plants. If you have weeds, they are pioneer plants. And in nature they go in where nothing else will grow and they help to establish the soil and help to break up the soil so that water and aeration can get in and also help to get the little microorganisms going.
So I don’t weed. I actually use the weeds. I don’t pull the weeds, but I will cut them off and I will throw them in and they are food for my goats, and they’re also great because they allow you to, if you have bees like I do that help to pollinate my garden and provide me with honey, they are providing food for those bees all year around. And aside from not weeding, it’s not using pesticide. 90% of the bugs out there are good bugs, and if you try to kill the bad bugs you’ll ultimately kill the good bugs usually first, and then if you understand nature there are fewer predators than there are prey, so they will certainly and quickly overrun your garden, the bad bugs that you were trying to get rid of because you killed the good bugs first.
Jason Hartman: Rick, this is so counter intuitive in a way. You’re saying don’t weed, don’t use pesticides, it’s counter to “modern agricultural techniques”. Why is it not done this way in the mass corporate farms? It must be more efficient in terms of yield that you can sell in the corporate farms. Now, of course there are massive side effects – none of us wants to be eating round up. Except Monsanto of course.
Rick Austin: Yeah, exactly.
Jason Hartman: But why isn’t this sort of natural method that’s been around for millions and millions of years used in the corporatocracy?
Rick Austin: Well back in World War II we had these chemical companies that were making a fortune and became big corporate giants as a result of making bombs for our war effort. After the war was over they found themselves with a huge infrastructure and nothing to sell, so they actually found out that they could make fertilizer, because I lot of the same components that you use to make bombs are in fertilizer or in pesticides. And that’s what they did. They helped sort of create the mega corporate farming industry, and that used mechanized machinery and petrochemicals to be able to run those big tractors and combines, etc. And it became more efficient for those farmers to be able to harvest things all at once in a monocrop fashion using that machinery.
Unfortunately, it required that they use more and more pesticide and more and more fertilizer, and they have essentially depleted the nutrients out of the soil. If you look today just back to 1960, if you were eating any vegetables that you would find in the grocery store in 1960 contained 3 times the number of nutrients that they do today. So we are eating food that is not as good for us, and this commercial farming is not something maybe that we certainly can’t do as consumers, but you certainly can do something like the secret garden of survival.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, I totally understand that. But I don’t know if I quite got my question answered because you always look at follow the money. And the corporatocracy and government will certainly always follow the money. They’re looking out for number one, which I have no problem with that. But I’m just curious, are you saying these companies basically after World War II they lobbied through marketing and through actual lobbyists and they changed the way agriculture was done, and now because of that they’ve depleted the soil’s ability to produce yield the natural way, and so that’s why they do it? Because I would think in the follow the money concept, the corporatocracy would simply do what is most efficient.
So you talked at the beginning of the interview about how your natural method produces more yield, it is self-maintaining, these all sound like great things. Why wouldn’t the big corporate farms do this too?
Rick Austin: Well that’s a really good question. And I think they should, but it requires picking stuff by hand because you cannot just have these little ecosystems throughout your garden, so it’s a labor issue. But if you are a homesteader or if you are preparing for the end of the world as we know it, this is the perfect type of garden to have because it’s going to provide you with food all year around and ultimately it’s just you going out there. And the beauty of it is that it’s disguised to look like overgrown underbrush because everything grows together and you can’t distinguish anything, so the masses that are starving and looking for food who didn’t prepare are just simply going to walk by your garden because it’s just going to look like somebody abandoned the property.
Jason Hartman: So do you have any particular basic… how do you start this? You’ve got to have some good soil. What seeds should one plant?
Rick Austin: We’re talking about is planting trees, berry bushes, herbs and that sort of stuff. So you can get those instead of planting seeds, because we’re not really talking about your traditional vegetables that you would buy in the grocery store. You’re talking about plants that you plant once and they grow for a lifetime. It’s basically fruit and nut trees are central to every ecosystem, and then around that you plant berry bushes like blueberries, blackberries and elderberries, and then around that you plant herbs so you’ve got your herb layer. That’s all your medicinal and cooking herbs, and then around that you’ve got your ground covers which again can be anything from edible strawberries or buckwheat to clover.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic. Yeah, good thing. It’s an entire ecosystem – it really is. That’s fantastic. Rick, before you go is there anything else that you want to summarize just to make sure that we cover everything that you wanted to cover?
Rick Austin: I’ve tried to tell people or show people how they can create this little garden of Eden for themselves that works with nature instead of against it. It’s a garden that provides you with more and better food, better quality than you could ever imagine and with less work than any garden that you’ve ever planted before. And perhaps, as I said most important of all, your garden is disguised to look like nature so no one would ever see you have food planted there.
Jason Hartman: Right, they’ll just walk right by rather than… you won’t have a theft problem. That’s good. Rick, give out your website if you would and tell people where they can get the book.
Rick Austin: You can get it at www.SecretGardenofSurvival.com. You can go there and find out the links, and find out more information. And you can also get the book on Amazon.com in both hardcopy and Kindle format. And you can also get the book at Barnes&Noble.com in Nook format.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic. Well good stuff. Rick, this has been a fantastic talk, and I highly recommend it for anybody. I love you philosophy about it, because again it’s hidden, it’s easy, it’s self-sustainable. Just everything one wants in a survival garden. That’s fantastic. Rick Austin, thank you so much for joining us.
Rick Austin: Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
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Transcribed by Ralph
Guest: Rick Austin
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