You have to expect the worst in case a major crisis strikes.
The economy will most likely crash, cutting off basic services.
Prepping for a food shortage is inevitable. You can bet your fancy bug out vehicle on it.
While it’s wise to secure a supply of emergency food, it’s gonna run out eventually. So, you’ll have to include a long-term, self-sufficient solution in your SHTF plan.
And that's exactly what a survival garden is for.
Why Is It Called a Survival Garden?
A survival garden isn’t your average vegetable garden. It’s designed to produce crops that can provide your entire family with long-term sustenance.
To quote the book The Secret Garden of Survival, it's "a garden that takes up very little space but grows five times more food per square inch than a traditional garden. A garden that you plant once in your lifetime, but provides food for 30 years without any fertilization, pesticides, or weeding... and it's all disguised to look like overgrown underbrush."
Why Should You Bother Having a Survival Garden?
Whether it’s the zombie apocalypse or a pandemic that forces you to stay home for months, a survival garden will ensure that you can steadily keep putting food on the table. It’ll separate you from the folks who are trying to make their remaining supply stretch for as long as possible.
But that isn’t all. Here are some of the other benefits of growing a survival garden:
- It helps you save serious bucks
- Growing your own greens is healthier than buying produce from the local grocery store
- Gardening helps your body stay fit, which is necessary during situations like rescuing your kid from a fire or building a sturdy shelter in the wild
- When things get really bad, you can barter some of your harvest in exchange for soap, shampoo, and other survival supplies
What Are the Basics of Prepping a Survival Garden?
You don’t need to have a green thumb to grow a survival garden. With proper planning and the right crops, it can thrive.
Here’s what you should know about planting a survival garden:
The idea of a huge harvest may tempt you to start on a large patch of land. After all, you’re prepping to feed an entire family, right?
Yeah...that’s not really the case for beginners.
If you want your survival garden to actually produce crops, then it’s best to start small and gradually work your way up. You can concentrate on doing container gardening or by growing your own herbs and salad greens first. These are pretty easy to grow and maintain.
You can start by planting basil in a large pot, keeping each plant about a foot apart. Two to three plants can already yield a lot of leaves for a small family.
Once you’ve mastered this, you can move up to a 4x4 or 4x8 plot. This way, your resources won’t be spread so thin and you can focus your energies on that specific area.
Choose What to Plant
Remember that your survival garden is meant to give your family a sustainable source of food. So, you need to make sure that whatever you grow is enough for everyone OR has some excess just in case.
How will you do this? Simple, by picking the right crops.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what to look for. We discuss the factors you should consider when choosing what to grow in a later section.
Prep Your Spot
To enjoy a good harvest, you have to secure your garden’s location. You know it’s a prime spot if it gets plenty of sunlight.
Aside from that, though, you also need to make some preparations, like:
- Getting rid of unwanted soil using your dependable entrenching tool
- Combining compost with some clay and sand
- Adding lots of mulch
Keep It Hidden
It’s fine if an average vegetable patch is out in the open. If you live in the countryside, there’s a high chance your neighbors also have their own greens to harvest.
But just like the rest of your preps, a survival garden is meant to be hidden from folks who might wanna steal your precious crops.
You can follow these tips to keep it under wraps:
- Spread your crops out randomly: This will prevent your garden from looking like an actual garden.
- Plant thorny hedges and shrubs: Wanna hit two birds with one stone? This trick won’t just distract your nosy neighbors from your crops, it can also stop thieves from breaking into your house.
- Build a nice fence around your home: This will make it difficult for trespassers to spy on you. But fair warning, if it looks too imposing, you might end up getting targeted.
- Try indoor gardening: If this doesn’t put your garden out of sight, we don’t know what will.
What Factors Should You Consider When Choosing What Crops to Grow?
If you want a successful survival garden, then you need to choose your crops carefully. They must fit the following requirements:
High in Calorie and Nutritional Value
Can you defeat the zombies on an empty stomach? Heck no.
To defend your home and your SHTF gear from threats, it pays to fuel your body with nutritious, calorie-rich veggies from your survival garden.
You can’t have a diet consisting only of processed food like chips and instant noodles. Otherwise, have fun facing indigestion on top of the other problems SHTF will bring your way.
Easy to Grow
Don’t feel pressured to plant difficult crops right off the bat if you’re new to survival gardening.
You can use all the experience you can get, so there’s no harm in starting out with vegetables that are easier to grow.
But don’t stop with planting them. After you’ve harvested the vegetables, learn how to cook and can them. You can experiment with more challenging crops once you’re confident in your skills.
High in Yield
Yep, you don’t need acres of land. What you do need are high-yield crops. High-yield crops grow a lot faster than average plants and give you an abundance of produce.
Great for Long-Term Storage
Do you really think you’ll be able to live on greens alone for the rest of your life?
Fat freakin’ chance.
There’s always a possibility of having excess with high-yield and easy-to-grow plants. So unless you’re willing to have tomato soup every day for the next 6 months, you need to store the food well and save it for a different time.
If you have fruits and vegetables you can’t eat right away, you can preserve them through dehydration, canning, or fermentation.
Pair those preservation methods with these food storage fundamentals and your big harvest should last you a long time:
- Use jars or mylar bags
- Follow the FIFO (First In, First Out) method
- Label everything
- Keep your storage area free from pests
Tolerant Against Drought
Water is scarce in a drought. While you’ve got tons of it stockpiled, it should be reserved mainly for your hydration — and not for your plants.
Make sure your garden can withstand a few weeks or months without water to save yourself the frustration of dead crops. If it doesn’t rain much where you live, you can always choose to grow perennials. These hardy plants don’t need a lot of water and can last a long time.
But since there’s still time to gather water, you can choose to collect and stow a separate cache just for your survival garden.
Stuff You’ll Actually Eat
You can’t afford to be picky during a disaster, but you also have to be real with yourself. There’s just some food you’ll never be able to stomach.
So it should go without saying, but don’t only plant something because it’s easy to grow. Your tastebuds need to love it, too. If not, then you’ll only waste your time and energy.
5 Examples of Must-Have Crops for Your Survival Garden
No garden is the same, and that includes survival gardens.
But while you won’t have the exact same fruits or veggies as other preppers, your crops will have some things in common — like being packed with nutrients, having a high yield, and staying available throughout the year.
If you’re looking for crops that fit all of the previous section’s criteria, these would make awesome choices:
Potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates. Unlike other carb sources, they don't need any additional processing to be consumed. You simply harvest, clean, and cook them.
They’re also relatively easy to grow. You just take a spud, cut it in a way that each piece has a couple of "eyes," and plant them. It usually takes 4 months before you can harvest potatoes. Here is a more detailed guide on how to grow potatoes in your own backyard.
Your survival garden wouldn’t be complete without a variety of herbs.
Herbs aren’t only useful for adding flavor to meals; they’re also grown for their medicinal properties. They’ll come in handy when emergency rooms are fully booked with sick or injured folks following a disaster.
These are just a few examples of the herbs you can plant:
- Basil: Fighting indigestion? Your belly will feel better after drinking this as a tea.
- Rosemary: This herb is a good source of antioxidants. Like basil, it works well against digestion problems. It can also help with bacterial infections.
- Parsley: More than a simple garnish, parsley has anti-inflammatory properties that can help with joint pain.
- Sage: When you’re dealing with a cough or sore throat, you can drink fresh sage tea to relieve your symptoms.
Corn has been feeding people and animals alike for thousands of years. It’s rich in carbohydrates, and is easily harvested, grown, and stored. Depending on the type you plant and the weather in your area, it’ll take around 60-100 days before your corn is ready to harvest.
This agricultural crop used to be impossible to plant in colder areas, but thanks to Native Americans, that has changed. It’s way faster to grow now, too.
There are many varieties of corn. Flint corn and dent corn are just two examples. These types of corn are hardy and mostly resistant to frost.
If you want some healthy comfort food during SHTF, then you can ground some corn into flour or cornmeal for tortillas. Here’s an article that teaches you how.
Cassava is a drought-resistant, space-saving plant that’s rich in carbohydrates. It’s mostly resistant to frost and can grow in almost any type of soil. This starchy crop also has a big yield.
Since cassava is a root crop, it’ll require a lot of moisture during the first 3-4 months. But it won’t need as much water when the critical months have passed. Cassava roots are typically ready for harvest after approximately 8-10 months.
You won’t regret planting them. Folks around the world use cassava in stews, serve it with meat, or create chips out of it.
But NEVER eat it right out of your garden. Besides having bitter skin, cassava is high in hydrocyanic acid. You can get cyanide poisoning if you eat it raw. Boil the plant before you eat any of its parts.
Growing beans in your survival garden means having a steady protein source for you and your family.
Since they’re a healthier substitute for meat and pair well with other grains like corn and rice, it’s safe to say they deserve to be known as a survival food staple.
Here are some examples of beans you can plant:
- Kidney beans
- Mung beans
- Pinto beans
- Soya beans
Now if there’s one thing you should know about growing beans, it’s that they’re one of the fastest-growing vegetables out there. Some bean varieties can already bear fruit after 50 to 65 days.
Beans grow best in moist soil. You want to make sure it’s not soggy, though.
You can also technically plant them in cups the way grade-schoolers do for their science projects, but keep in mind that beans won’t grow well if you replant them (aka transferring them from the cups to the soil).
This article gives you more helpful tips on how to plant and grow beans.
Remember that your garden won't grow overnight, so don't wait for a disaster to start planting. It’ll take time, skill, and patience to grow — and hide — a thriving garden full of produce.
You may encounter a few hits and misses along the way, but when you get the hang of it, you’ll literally reap a lot of benefits in return.
A survival garden will give you something to fall back on after your emergency stash runs out, so start sowing some seeds now.
Wanna learn more about SHTF gardening and other topics about survivalism? Check out the rest of our articles.