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A lot of time has been devoted to the subject of food storage in the prepper/survivalist community. While food storage is a vital part of your preps, a survival garden lasts year after year.
In a long term survival situation (think extended grid-down scenarios, prolonged social disorder, disruptions in transportation and distribution systems, or a hyper-inflationary economic disaster) no amount of food storage can replace the ability to produce your own food on site.
The Benefits of a Survival Garden
Of all my preps, I view gardening as the most important. It is such an important part of my preparedness mindset that I no longer think in terms of “survival gardening”. Growing food has become a central part of my family’s “normal life” which has been fully integrated into our day to day. Why has this aspect of preparedness been elevated to this level?
There is a long list of reasons, but there are a few highlights that bear mentioning. Foremost on our list are the health benefits of home grown foods. We know exactly what we are getting from our garden, no chemicals, no Genetically Modified Organisms, just fresh, natural foods.
Nothing fuels your body better than fresh whole foods. Almost as important is the cost savings associated with food production. We have five kids and a trip to the grocery store darn near requires a second mortgage, anything we grow is one less thing to buy.
From a prepping standpoint, seeds and supplies for several years of gardening complement our food storage and ensure that we have more than one avenue of food supplies. Another important consideration is that should a martial law situation arise, with confiscatory provisions, it is unlikely that your garden will be dug up and carted away whereas your storage food could become fair game to government agencies.
What Crops Should You Plant?
Your choice of crops will depend on a variety of factors. What plants grow well in your region? How much space do you have available? How is your water supply? Do you have full sun, shade, or a combination of lighting conditions?
If you are not a master gardener, the first step is crop selection trips to your local nurseries and farms. Find out what is working well in your area and move forward from there. Having your soil tested at a local agricultural extension office is also a good idea.
Knowing what kind of soil you are working with can guide your hand and save a lot of heart breaking failures, allowing you to pick crops that thrive in your soil conditions or showing what amendments are needed to promote the crops you want.
The backbone of our garden is tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans and squash. In the spring and fall we focus on leafy greens. In most growing zones these crops are fairly easy to grow, and can produce surprisingly large yields in small spaces or even containers. Partial shade can extend leafy green production into the hotter months.
Herbs are another good choice for containers and small spaces. Fresh herbs can enhance a meal made from dehydrated foods, adding flavor, vitamins and minerals, and in many cases benefits to your immune system. A little fresh basil and oregano can transform a jar of tomato sauce into a gourmet sauce!
Many herbs do well in partial shade, and can be brought indoors in containers for year round production. A good herb garden could be you pharmacy in a survival situation, a comprehensive volume on medicinal herbs is an essential element of any survival library.
Don’t neglect perennial crops in your survival garden. Think in terms of edible landscaping. If you are going to have trees in the yard, they might as well be fruit trees. Same for hedges, why not make your ornamental hedges from plantings of Blueberry bushes or Surinam cherries?
Vining plants should be planted along fences, depending upon your growing zone these could be anything from grapes to passion fruit to kiwis.
These crops provide an annual supply of fresh fruits with a lot less work than a vegetable garden. A bit of pruning and a little watering, and you will have fresh fruit every year without weeding, preparing the ground, or planting every spring. Even on a town lot you can have a surprising number and variety of trees, shrubs and vines which can be very aesthetically pleasing and shout out “Yard Guy” rather than “Prepared Guy”.
In addition to perennial crops, crops that re-seed themselves save time and labor. We have several patches at our place which produce crops of herbs each year without replanting. These include several varieties of mint, Sun Flowers, lemon balm, lemon grass and oregano. If your climate permits, an asparagus patch will also produce year after year.
Potatoes and Mushrooms as Staple Foods
Producing staples can be problematical. Wheat and other grains require a lot of space and specialized skills and equipment to grow and harvest in meaningful quantities. Potatoes, on the other hand, can be grown in a trash can on a patio. Drill drain holes in the bottom of a 33 gallon can, put about 8 inches of compost in the bottom and plant seed potatoes.
As the plants grow up, cover them with successive layers of straw or other light well-draining organic material (an initial failure has taught me that lawn clippings are too wet and dense for this purpose!). In the end, you will have a trash can with potatoes from top to bottom, yielding as much as 30 pounds of potatoes per can.
If all you have is heavy shade, you might think mushrooms. Shitakes can be grown in oak logs in deep, damp shade. Oyster mushrooms can be grown in coffee grounds in shaded areas and even in a basement or the back of a closet.
A bit of preparation can enhance the habitat of native mushrooms and increase yields. Mushrooms provide a great deal of nutritional and medicinal benefits. Once established, mushrooms require little maintenance and no weeding!
Gardening is more a matter of knowledge and experience than supplies and equipment. As with all survival skills, the time to learn is not after a disaster. Do your homework now and get your trial and error out of the way while a dead plant doesn’t equal a missed meal.
Establish your edible landscaping; many of these plants take several years to reach peak yields. Get your seeds laid in and grow a garden every year. A crisis could arise at a time of year that doesn’t lend itself to planting, not having the survival garden going could cost you a year’s worth of produce when it is desperately needed.
Plant your survival garden now! Check out our selection of survival seeds.