Planting a survival garden helps you stay independent and enjoy a sustainable, nutrient-packed food source. But it's not enough to just grow a handful of plants and stock up your food stores or pantry. You need to grow enough plants to keep you and your family fed.
If you're struggling with too few or too many plants, you need a strategy to kickstart your sustainability. Here's a look at some of the most popular survival garden plants, how much to plant, and their nutritional benefits.
Aim for five tomato plants for your household, including multiple varieties. Keep in mind tomato plants are finicky and need some extra attention to remove weeds and check for pests. Plant them in direct sunlight for up to eight hours daily and frequently water them. If you're low on space, you can grow tomatoes from containers or use a trellis to help them grow along a wall.
If you stick with it, there are some big wins to growing your own tomatoes. You'll pack in the nutrition with fiber, protein, and some natural sugars to sweeten your dish.
A family of four needs up to 40 potato plants to provide two or three meals a week over a six-month period. Potatoes are a good choice for your survival garden and help supply the nutrition to help you stay full longer. Adding more potatoes to your diet provides more protein, Vitamin C, potassium, and healthy carbohydrates that help fuel your day.
A ten-foot row of carrots will yield upwards of 20 pounds per year, provided everything looks good with your soil conditions. Your results may vary and depend on how often you want to eat carrots. For a family of four, opt for 30 to 60 plants to feed your family for around a year.
Carrots are a high-quality source of beta carotene that helps boost your Vitamin A and plays a critical role in cell growth: vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Beyond dinner, carrots also make a great snack with herb dip created with ingredients from his garden.
The beans you need depend on the varieties you plant and how often you include them in your dishes. However, there is an easy rule of thumb to follow. Shoot for five to ten bean plants per person, and increase that number if you eat beans multiple times per week.
Beans are filled with protein, complex carbs, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium. You'll also get some good fats when you add beans to your salad or enjoy it as a side dish.
A cabbage yield should produce 10 to 25 pounds per 10-foot row when spaced 24 to 30 inches apart. Cabbage is highly nutritious and rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, and fiber, which can also help support your digestion. Adding more cabbage to your diet also adds more texture and flavor to a salad, stew, or as a side dish with a juicy roast.
Growing around 6 to 10 lettuce plants per season in 10-foot rows should produce enough of a harvest for a family of four. Low in calories but high in Vitamin C, lettuce also contains some iron, fiber, Vitamin B6, and calcium. The go-to option is a tasty salad, but lettuce can also be used in the place of flour tortillas to wrap up chicken salad.
Four of five plants should yield enough peppers to stuff or turn into salads and side dishes. Stuff them with meat, rice, and cheese for a more filling meal that helps you stay satiated. Bell peppers contain 92% water and easily add to any meal. They also contain fiber, protein, carbs, sugar, and quality fat.
A decent onion plant will grow about 50 onions when you plant four seeds per square ft. You should shoot for four onion plants to keep your yield going strong. Beyond the flavor they provide to almost any dish, onions are also rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium, carbohydrates, and some fiber, iron, and magnesium.
You'll need around five broccoli plants to enjoy enough of this cool season crop. They're hearty and delicious and can even stand alone as a meal with a bit of rice, cheese, and herbs. Broccoli also has an abundance of Vitamin C, iron, B6, magnesium, and calcium. You'll also get in some potassium and fiber to help you stay fuller for longer and support your digestion.
If you love asparagus, you'll need around 25 plants to feed your family of four in a well-drained garden spot that gets drenched in sunlight. You'll get tons of potassium in your diet with asparagus and a small amount of Vitamin C and iron. Steam them with lemon juice and olive oil as a side dish, or wrap them in bacon as a treat.
Everyone needs a mouth-watering fruit in their survival garden. Watermelons usually require two plants per person to yield anywhere from 8 to 40 pounds per 10ft row. Space them about four feet apart in rows eight feet apart.
Watermelons are refreshing as a dessert or in a fruit salad and are brimming with Vitamin C, potassium, some iron, vitamin B6, magnesium, and calcium. You can also get inventive with leftover watermelon with watermelon salsa and grilled watermelon salad.
Follow Some Easy Rules of Thumb
If you're not sure what kind of plants you want yet, there are a few easy rules of thumb to follow. First and foremost, plant things your family enjoys eating. There's no point in trying to convert everyone into tomato lovers if it's just not something you all want to eat. Or you can grow just one for the occasional salsa or to jazz up your eggs.
You can also multiply the number of plants per person by 3 or 4 to get a good yield. If you love the idea of canning and pickling, you can increase that number to make the most of your survival garden. Even lettuce and onions can be pickled, giving you more opportunities to extend your food source.
If you're focused on the health benefits, follow along with the USDA to identify how to strategize your survival around getting more nutrition. You can learn more about different vegetable groups and their unique nutritional properties.
Think Beyond Your Survival Garden
If you're concerned about your food supply, think beyond your survival garden. You can grow plenty of herbs and climbing plants, like tomatoes, indoors to grow even more food. A food forest is also a good idea, although it takes time to get the yield you want.
Nuts and fruit trees could also take five to ten years to produce the food you want, but it is worth the wait. You can walk through your forest, snack on your yield, or create more opportunities to grow your own food.
Part of the brilliance of a food forest is how you layer what you plant. The canopy layer is your tree-producing food, followed by understory and shrub layers like raspberries and currants and a herbaceous layer. That last layer can include vegetables, including asparagus, garlic, rhubarb, and kale.
Growing enough food for yourself or your family is the goal of developing a sustainable survival garden. Imagine all the food you'll need right from your own property. Add some livestock, like chickens and goats, to help round out your survival strategy. A food forest is also a good complement to your garden for an additional food source in the long run.