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Starting a survival garden is one of my favorite ideas for improving our lives as well as getting prepared for potentially tough times. But why is it good for survival – and where to start?
Survival is a buzzword these days. The world economy is wobbling but survival kits, survival tools, basically any kind of survival gear is selling like crazy. Lots of people think it is time to react. Those who want to avoid buying frenzy consider starting a survival garden. Some of them even decide to start living off the grid. While it’s difficult to figure out the best feasible strategy, it is pretty obvious that being completely unprepared isn’t very wise.
An ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, alongside frequent wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and other disasters remind us how fragile our society is. We are overexploiting our planet and sooner or later we’ll have to reap what we sowed. Even today, it is no brainer that our world is an unstable place. The world’s economy is wobbling. Natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more destructive.
Not to mention 30 ongoing wars at this very moment. And I am not counting occasional skirmishes and clashes or terrorist attacks and threats!
There are almost countless approaches and strategies on how to avoid being helpless and vulnerable if/when it gets ugly. No one has a crystal ball to tell us when things will go south and how bad it will be. But, I believe in an old adage: ”Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”.
What Is a Survival Garden?
A survival garden is more than growing a couple of edible plants in your backyard. It is supposed to provide enough food for you and your family to survive or even thrive if SHTF.
However, it is not an exact science. It is pretty complicated to calculate how much calories, vitamins, minerals, fats, and carbs your family needs. Moreover, you can’t accurately predict your crop yields. So, you’ll have to rely on some ballpark estimates. But, at the end of the day, you can only benefit from this venture.
Why You Should Grow a Survival Garden
It’s pretty obvious, but I’ll give you a couple of reasons.
- A survival garden is useful all the time. The best thing about survival gardens is that you can enjoy the benefits every year. It’s not a skill or tool that is locked in your basement until it gets ugly. Basically, you can reap your rewards almost immediately. To be precise, it is as soon as your first plants ripen. So, your survival garden will be useful in good times and crucial in times of need.
- Fruits and veggies are far superior to conventionally grown ones. You will discover or remember the rich tastes of homegrown food. Furthermore, it is usually more nutrient-dense. It means there are more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients than in the supermarket counterparts.
- It’s good for your health. And it’s good in many ways. Obviously, your diet will be much healthier. Staying outside is good for your bones. Bones need vitamin D and we produce it when our skin is exposed to the sun. You’ll also get a dose of exercise. It is good for your muscles and for your heart. You may even lower your blood pressure. Outdoor activities are great to relieve stress.
- You don’t have to worry about fresh food if SHTF. We are back to where we started. Food and water are the top priorities in survival situations. With a thriving survival garden, you can stay calm, analyze the situation, and avoid panic or normalcy bias.
If this is not enough for you, you can go back to your living room, drinking beer and watching TV, hoping that someone else will come to the rescue.
Survival Garden Layout – 8 Must-Know Tips
While gardening may appear to be simple physical labor, believe me, it is not. Especially if you plan to grow a survival garden that can (almost) fully support your family if need be. There are so many things that can go wrong: pests, insects, soil infertility, draught, and many other things that can devastate your crop(s).
Therefore you need to plan carefully and then plan again. Here are a handful of tips to avoid rookie mistakes.
1. Grow What You’ll Eat
Quite often new gardeners choose plants that are easy to grow without considering what their family likes to eat. Some people just hate certain vegetables so consider the taste as well. In times of need, we shouldn’t be picky, but it’s unnecessary suffering when there are more tasteful alternatives.
2. Grow Food Rich In Calories
Veggies and fruits are a low-calorie food, but some of them have more calories than others. If you choose the wrong ones you’d need a lot, and I mean really a lot of veggies to provide enough calories. So, start with high-calorie veggies such as potatoes and beans.
3. Choose the Easiest Vegetables to Grow
It takes a couple of seasons to figure out which plants would thrive in your survival garden. Your knowledge counts, but so does the soil, or the climate, or local pests and diseases. If you start with veggies that are relatively easy to grow you’ll reduce the risk of failing.
4. Consider Local Climate and Soil Characteristics
This is a simple but essential requirement. South Asia may have a remarkable diversity of plants, but most of them won’t grow in Wyoming or Montana. So, play safe and choose plants that are known to thrive in local conditions.
5. Make Plan for Each Season (If Possible)
Fresh food is the best. So, it’s a good idea to strategize and grow plants that produce in different seasons.
6. Choose Plants Easy to Store or Preserve
Besides different season harvesting, you can also use different methods to preserve your food. Typically, these methods include storing it in root cellars, drying, canning, fermenting, and freezing.
7. Use Open-Pollinated Seeds
Open-pollinated seeds will allow you to collect and save seeds for the next season.
8. Nourish the Soil
Even if you have rich soil, your crops will gradually deplete it of nutrients. So, you should consider producing compost or some other way of fertilizing your soil.
There are no forbidden fruits or veggies for your survival garden. However, you can’t grow them all. You want to create a garden to provide for your family, so you need to start with staple crops and then add other fruits and veggies of your liking. The best staple crops are calorie-dense, and easy to grow, harvest, and store.
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Potatoes are the number one choice when it comes to staple food. It is native to the Americas, but it’s an important part of cuisines throughout the world. It’s easy to grow, easy to store and you can prepare it in many ways. In other words, you just can’t have a great survival garden without potatoes.
The sweet potato is not a type of potato at all. But it’s healthy and delicious. If you live in warmer climates, sweet potatoes are a great staple crop.
There’s a wide variety of beans, but most of them contain similar nutrients. They are high in calories, complex carbs, proteins, and iron. Each variety has specific climate requirements so do some research before choosing the type for your garden. If properly stored, they almost can’t go bad.
Grains are also an unavoidable part of your survival garden. There are dozens of varieties, some of them are good to eat and others need grinding to make flour. Corn and beans can grow together. However, you need rich soil for that as corn requires more nitrogen and phosphorus.
Winter squash is rich in fiber and vitamins C, B6, and A. Different varieties require different climates. Some varieties store better than others. It can be sliced and dried. This way you can store it in airtight jars for a very long time.
Cabbage is the king of so-called cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are closely related to cabbage and they are all rich in vitamins. I picked cabbage for a survival garden because of its cold hardiness and versatility. You can eat it raw, or cook it. Fermented cabbage or sauerkraut is a great way to preserve cabbage. The fermenting process promotes the growth of natural probiotics.
Cabbage is low in calories but very rich in vitamins C and K.
Growing a survival garden is a serious endeavor. There will be setbacks and problems along the way. There’s a myriad of options, but you should always start your plans with staple crops. They are like a foundation of the building: if you skip it, the whole structure can collapse. Once you set the plan for staple crops, you can choose a variety of options to upgrade your garden.
While it won’t be a smooth and easy ride, the benefits and satisfaction will outweigh all difficulties. The sooner you start, the better.