- 1 What is a Survival Garden?
- 2 Why Grow a Survival Garden?
- 3 How to Get Your Survivalist Garden Started
- 4 1. Planning the Layout of Your Off Grid Garden
- 5 2. Plan According to the Seasons
- 6 3. Determining What to Plant in Your Prepper Garden
- 7 4. Harvesting, Preserving and Storing Your Crops
- 8 5. Obstacles and Challenges
- 9 Final Thoughts on Growing Your Own Survival Garden
Are you looking for alternative ways to feed your family? If so, you might want to consider starting a survival garden.
This type of garden is capable of supplying all of the vitamins and nutrients your household needs to thrive, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, and more.
Our guide teaches you the basics of survivalist gardening, so you can start digging with confidence and enjoying organic, fresh produce straight from your land.
What is a Survival Garden?
If the era of COVID taught us one thing, it’s to be prepared for the unexpected- like the toilet paper shortage.
And it’s not just the pandemic. Natural disasters and economic hardships have prompted families to try alternative ways of stocking the basic necessities needed to survive.
Enter the survival garden. A survival garden is designed to yield enough vegetables, fruits, herbs, and edible flowers to sustain an entire household during hard times.
It must be carefully planned out, taking multiple factors into consideration to ensure everyone in the family has enough calories to stay healthy.
And, it’s not just about surviving- it’s about thriving. A survival garden can provide more than enough minerals, carbohydrates, vitamins, fats, and herbal medicines sourced from organic produce whose quality surpasses what you’d find in the grocery store.
Why Grow a Survival Garden?
Not long ago, we weren’t able to leave home for an extended period. Grocery shopping became more of a challenge, out-of-stock shelves were the norm, and spending money on food delivery services took its toll.
Instead of relying on the global supply chain for your food, wouldn’t it be a relief to step outside and pick fresh, healthy food straight from the ground?
Not only can you enjoy fresh veggies, but there are plenty of different ways to preserve and store harvested crops for a full panty that lasts for months.
You know where your food comes from and the seeds it sprouted from. You can’t put a price on your family’s health, and a survival garden is as nutritious as it gets.
Besides providing nourishment, survival gardens offer many other benefits that enhance our overall well-being.
You get to spend time together as a family being active outdoors in the fresh air. And instead of sitting in front of a screen for hours, children learn vital skills that our ancestors passed down for centuries.
Feeling burnt out from work? A survival garden is a healthy escape without having to leave home. Studies show that gardening can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Best of all, it’s cost-effective, and you can grow one anywhere!
Backyard Survival Garden
If you have a yard, fill it with food. It’s recommended to start your garden patch with a minimum of ¼ of an acre of land, but not everyone has the space to spare.
No worries, you can start as small as you want with a couple of patches and grow your garden from there.
Remember, it will take practice, patience, and time to get a full-fledged survival garden going strong.
In the beginning, it’s all about experimenting, and you may be supplementing your grocery shopping for a while before you’re able to feed your family entirely from your garden.
Urban Survival Garden
If you live in an apartment, you can still have an indoor survival garden by growing your vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs in containers. A hydroponic system is essential for your crops to receive enough light, water, and nutrients.
Ready to become a survival gardener? We’ll talk about how to get the ball rolling in the next section!
How to Get Your Survivalist Garden Started
As you now know, the benefits of survival gardening are plentiful. But we’ll warn you; it’s not going to be easy. It takes time to plan and even more time to plant your seeds and get results.
You’ll be confronted by challenges besides making sure your crops have enough sun and water. Pests, weather, and diseases can wipe out a survival garden before you ever get to taste that first ripe heirloom tomato.
For your preppers garden to flourish, it’s all about working through trial and error to gain invaluable experience. Foraging, saving seeds, and storing crops are just a few of the techniques you’ll need to learn for a bountiful yield.
Start with a few container plants or one raised flower bed. As time goes on and your knowledge grows, you can add more to your garden until it sustains your family’s needs.
Now, it’s time to start planning. Here’s a brief checklist to get your survival garden up and running.
- Seed selection: Opt for open-pollinated seeds so you can save them for next year’s garden. You can trade these seeds with other survival gardeners, too.
- Sowing the seeds: You’ll need to plant the seeds in early spring to have food for winter, although you can also plant certain produce in fall to have food come springtime.
- Garden layout: This includes the types of vegetables, fruits, and herbs you want to plant and what they need to thrive.
- Harvesting: This is the time of the year when you can finally pick your delicious produce.
- Storing: Fresh produce is best, but you’ll want to can, preserve, and store food for times of need.
- Composting: The quality of soil is highly important to ensure your plants receive the nutrients needed to grow. Starting a compost heap is the best way to do this, and it’s easy.
1. Planning the Layout of Your Off Grid Garden
Before getting elbows deep in the dirt, you’ll need to estimate how much food you want to grow. Take into account how many people are in your family and the amount of food each will need to get through the winter months.
Remember that crops fail. All it takes is one drought or fast-spreading fungus, and you’re left with nothing. How can you protect your garden? The key is to embrace diversity.
Plant perennials and annuals to cover different seasons. Annuals bloom during spring and die come fall and winter. Perennials live for two years, producing seeds that can be planted again.
Consider planting fruit trees and bushes. Herbs are important for adding flavor to dishes, and some have medicinal properties as well.
There are also many varieties of edible flowers, including “weeds,” that we know as a nuisance but are actually packed with vital nutrients.
Don’t worry too much about balancing sunlight and shade. Pick your garden spot with a mixture of both elements, and plant your crops according to their needs. Some prefer full sun, and some prefer shade, but you can incorporate both to diversify your garden.
This gives you a chance to work with numerous plant varieties, soils, and irrigation methods.
Speaking of irrigation, something else to consider is how to water your plants. You don’t need to rely on the grid for water. Instead, set up a rain barrel to collect it.
Not only does this recycle water, but it saves you money on your monthly bill.
Learning permaculture techniques is a good way to incorporate off-grid gardening practices into your daily life. The more self-sustainable you are, the better prepped you are in case an emergency strikes.
The bottom line…
- Start small: Tackle your garden in stages, adding more in the years to come.
- Diversity: Plant a wide variety of flowers, herbs, bushes, trees, and vegetables.
- Self-sustain: Depend on YOUR resources and no one else, such as collecting rainwater or starting a compost heap.
2. Plan According to the Seasons
One of the most important elements of survival gardening is learning how to sow and harvest according to the seasons.
Back in the pioneer days before grocery stores existed, families had to strategize when to grow their crops so they would have enough to last through the winter.
That means taking into account the climate where you live and how the weather changes according to the seasons.
There are three ways to procure your winter stash:
- Harvesting fresh produce
- Root cellar or cold storage
- Preservation (freezing, canning, drying)
This not only ensures you can enjoy fruits and vegetables all winter long but that you also get to eat foods that aren’t in season.
And, all because the harvest is finished doesn’t mean you have to stop growing produce in the winter. Extend your winter garden by using a greenhouse or by keeping the crops warm with row covers. You can even sprout seeds indoors for superfood microgreens.
3. Determining What to Plant in Your Prepper Garden
Imagine harvesting that first robust squash, then serving it to your kid…only to get a “gross” accompanied by a defiant push of their plate.
That’s probably not the reaction you’re hoping for after all of those days and hours toiling in the soil.
So sit down, relax, and grab a pen and paper.
The best survival garden grows the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that your family enjoys eating. Make a list of everyone’s favorites, then add some new crops that are easy to grow.
This is a good starting point to ensure there are no wasted greens or dinnertime tears.
Low Maintenance Vegetables
These crops are easy to grow and don’t require a lot of your attention. Your confidence will skyrocket, and your thumb will turn a few shades greener as you watch the first few sprouts shoot up through the soil.
After you master the easier varieties, then move on to more challenging crops for the next year. Here’s our list of low-maintenance veggies, which can be canned or fermented for storing.
Vegetables for Preservation
During the summer, you might have an overabundance of harvested crops. This is the perfect time to start learning how to dehydrate and can vegetables for winter storage.
A winter storage space can be in the basement or a cellar where it’s cool and dry. The following vegetables are perfect for canning.
- Winter Squash
Perennials are ideal for a first-time survival garden because they don’t require frequent watering and are low maintenance.
You also get more bang for your buck and save time because perennials will produce for up to two years. These are some delicious and nutritious varieties to consider for your garden.
- Fruit and Nut Trees
Herbs, Weeds, & Edible Flowers
Remember mom or dad’s frustration at the neverending weeds popping up in the yard? Funny enough, these “weeds” are actually power-packed with vitamins and antioxidants.
While weeds are hated for their resilience and ability to sprout up seemingly anywhere, this makes them a star crop for gardening off-grid.
Herbs are also fairly easy to grow since they require little space. This is the perfect crop for urban gardeners, who can plant herbs in containers with success.
They add zesty flavor to cooked dishes and salads, plus some have pest-resistant qualities. You can keep them fresh or dry them out and grind them for spices or herbal teas.
Flowers can also be eaten, adding nutritional and medicinal value to your diet. It’s also important to grow flowers in your survival garden because they play a major role in pollination by attracting bees and butterflies.
- Chives/ chive blossoms
- Lemon balm
- Milk thistle
- Kale flowers
4. Harvesting, Preserving and Storing Your Crops
We’ve already touched on the importance of preserving your harvest, especially if you lose power during a storm and the refrigerator stops working.
That’s why you shouldn’t fully rely on freezing your vegetables. While it is convenient and retains the most nutrients, you’ll want to incorporate other preservation methods to ensure you always have food stocked up.
This age-old method can be accomplished simply by laying your harvest out underneath the summer sun for 1-2 days.
If you don’t live in a warm climate, consider investing in a dehydrator. Simply place your vegetables and fruits on a sheet, stick it in the device, and wait 4-12 hours for the results.
You can also use your oven, which takes up to 18 hours to dehydrate food.
Canning is a preservation method that involves storing food in jars exposed to high temperatures for long periods of time.
This destroys hazardous microorganisms and inactivates the enzymes that cause food to spoil. As the heat pushes air out of the jars, the food cools down, and a tight vacuum seal forms.
There are a few different ways to can food, but beware that research-based instructions must be followed closely to prevent food-borne illnesses, such as botulism.
The safest method is to use a pressure cooker, especially for low-acid foods such as vegetables, poultry, and seafood.
Home-canned foods have a shelf life of one year and should be used before two years is up.
5. Obstacles and Challenges
Your backyard may look sweet and innocent now, but once those delicious fruits and veggies start popping up, so do the challenges.
You’re not the only one who needs to eat to survive, and while you may have your eye on that almost-ripe-apple, know that your friendly neighborhood deer probably does, too.
From animals to inclement weather, your garden needs protection. It starts by studying the area where you live and what can harm your plants.
In time you’ll learn how to stay one step ahead and protect your crops, but it takes practice and experience.
Here are some common obstacles you might have to face:
- Plant diseases: Learn how to recognize what these diseases look like and what causes them to spread.
- Pests: You don’t necessarily need toxic chemicals to keep bugs away. Chickens or Guinea hens love to eat many types of pests in the garden, and you get free eggs as a bonus.
- Drought: Limited water is one of the most common challenges. Plant drought-resistant crops and spread mulch to retain moisture.
- Animals: Sharing your crops probably wasn’t what you had in mind, but it is inevitable when wildlife is around. Plant a variety of vegetablesand try to stagger the planting times.
Final Thoughts on Growing Your Own Survival Garden
A survival garden has many benefits, the most important one being that you can grow your own food at home and store it for future emergencies. It does take ample planning, though.
Start by researching the region where you live, how the weather affects your crops, and the number of mouths you’ll be feeding. Once you get your garden up and running, it will take patience and perseverance to see the merits of your labor.
Over time you’ll gain the knowledge you need to be a master survivalist gardener. In the end, you can save money, spend time being active outdoors, and enjoy delicious organic produce.
References & Resources:
- Survival Garden How To: Tips For Designing a Survival Garden, Gardening Know How.
- How to Start Your Own Survival Garden, Outdoor Life.