Visions of survival gardening conjure up images of extensive properties and acreage that produce large, year-round yields. In reality, not everyone has the space or suitable conditions for the garden they really want. The good news is you can maximize the space you have, even if it's practically non-existent, to grow your own food. Here are some tips for getting started on your small garden design.
Choose Space-Saving Plants
Not every plant is a good choice for a survival garden, especially when space is limited. Corn and pumpkins take up valuable real estate in your garnet. Yet plants like tomatoes and peppers are voracious climbers and usually take up less space on the ground. Focus on vertical plants, smaller varieties, and herbs that take up less space to get more out of your survival gardening efforts.
Beyond tomatoes and peppers, here are a few plants that like to grow up and ultimately save space in your garden. However, they'll need some support with a trellis or pull to continue their climb upwards.
- Beans, including pole beans and runner beans
- Melons, such as cantaloupes and honeydews
- Herbs - basil, oregano, and thyme
By growing plants vertically, you can save space in your garden and make it easier to care for your plants. Just be sure to choose a plant that is well-suited for vertical growing and provide it with sturdy support.
Start Vertical Gardening
Growing vertically is more than just choosing vertically-climbing plants. But you can also leverage your vertical real estate to get more out of your survival gardening efforts. Use hanging baskets and try growing your plants along walls or fences. You end up with a valuable food source that grows up instead of out to maximize what space you have.
When you dig into vertical gardening, you may also need some trellis, stakes, or poles to help along the process. Vertical helpers are generally cheap and easy to make with the wood scraps you already have lying around.
Get Garden Containers
Garden containers are an easy and inexpensive way to solve your space problem. Grow your plants directly in your garden containers and play next to your existing garden, on a patio, balcony, or other outdoor spaces.
One of the best parts about container gardening is you don't have to worry about the quality of your ground soil or terrain. You can put a container garden directly on spots that won't grow grass or are rocky and still see results. If you have some sunny areas indoors, you can also strategically place your containers to grow food in all of your suitable spaces.
Plant Your Survival Garden in Layers
Just like a food forest, you can also layer up your survival garden. Plant your tallest plants in the back of your garden, shorter and medium-sized plants in the middle, and add cover plants in the front. You end up with different layers that grow more efficiently and optimize your space.
Another layering concept in gardening includes laying down cardboard or newspaper to smother weeds and retain moisture. Next, add a layer of dry leaves or grass clippings and add any soil amendments or compost to promote decomposition.
Afterward, you plant your seeds along the compost's top layer and thoroughly water the area. When space is limited, it's challenging to till and dig into your soil. But over time, your garden ecosystem should thrive more efficiently without digging into the ground.
Think About Succession Planting
Succession planting takes a little planning but helps resolve your space issue. Instead of planning all of your survival seeds simultaneously, strategize when to plant based on a succession pattern. You plant small seeds every few weeks or months, so a new supply of produce is cropping up. You ultimately enjoy a longer growing season of vegetables, provided you live in a suitable climate for what you're planting.
You should also consider the weather when you succession plant. Try planting cool-season crops for harvest early in the season, then start growing your warm-season crops and repeat. Here are some succession plants to consider for your survival garden:
- Green onions
- Pole beans
- Broccoli raab
- Bok Choy
- Swiss chard
Adopt Square Footage Gardening
Square foot gardening is a common technique when you're short on outdoor space. Divide your garden into small, square sections and plant different varieties in each area. Your plants should complement each other, or be the same variety, to grow as efficiently as possible. Make sure you clearly mark your garden squares to avoid accidental cross-planting.
You can also use square footage gardening with sturdy containers. Use oversized containers, or position them in a square to make the most of your surface space.
Depending on your goals, some plants will take up the entire square of your garden, which is a pro or con. Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, eggplants, and herbs, including rosemary and mint, tend to take up more space than other plants.
Interplanting is helpful for survival gardeners trying to grow healthier, heartier food. The method involves carefully planting crops in closer proximity to each other. But there is a caveat–they need to complement or help each other. For example, try planting a nitrogen-rich plant that helps fix your soil, like beans, next to a nitrogen-deficient plant, like corn. You'll end up with a healthier crop of corn.
If you approach interplanting haphazardly, you could see the opposite effect. You may end up with plants hoarding nutrients from each other or blocking the other's sunlight.
Rely on Greenhouses
Mimic the ideal weather conditions you need while saving space with a greenhouse or polytunnel. They usually allow for a wide variety of plants to flourish in small areas while staying protected from the elements. You have an enclosed space that extends your growing season and allows you to experiment with plants outside your hardiness zone.
As a survival gardener, you may not want to rely on a heat source to keep your greenhouse going. The sun naturally heats up the space during the day, even on some of the coldest days of the year. But greenhouses don't necessarily need to be heated, depending on your plants. If you plan to skip the artificial heat, plant the right crops in your unheated greenhouse. Root crops and leafy vegetables are usually your best bet.
Create More Than One Survival Garden
No rule says you can't have more than one survival garden on the same property. If your sunlight conditions are ideal in multiple areas of your property, you can plant across every suitable section of your yard.
Try a traditional survival garden in the largest area of your property. Next, leverage the available space on your fence, walls, and smaller yard space. Even a few garden containers in the awkward corners of your yard that don't grow much can help produce extra food for you and your family.
Make the most out of your survival garden by combining space-saving techniques that best suit your needs. Keep in mind space alone won't guarantee a successful garden. You also need healthy soil, seeds, and tools to help you see the results you're looking for in your small garden design. Start browsing our survival-grade seed vaults, bat houses, tools, and soil amendments for a thriving survival garden.