Healthy, well-nourished soil is the foundation for your survival garden. The better the soil quality, the easier it is to grow your favorite fruits and vegetables without relying on too much fertilizer. Beyond growing delicious food, focusing on soil quality from the start improves the health of your garden and your family.
Despite the heavy importance of soil quality, it's not always easy to achieve. Even well-maintained yards don't necessarily have the right soil quality to start planting and wait for growth. Fortunately, you can improve your chances for a healthy garden with proper soil prep. Here's how to get started.
Pick the Right Location
Kick off your survival garden by picking the best location possible. Plants' needs will differ depending on what you plant and your climate, but most vegetables need at least eight hours of direct sunlight per day with well-draining soil.
Take some time to walk around your yard with your morning coffee and gather clues about where sunlight is pouring into your house. If you can't set up your survival garden in direct sunlight, look for the least shady areas in your yard that get the most morning sun.
Despite wanting a steady stream of morning sun, you want to protect your survival garden from the afternoon's scorching heat. In an ideal situation, you can plant in an area where the morning sun is plentiful and shades your garden in the afternoon. But you can also set up a shade cloth to block your plants from peak afternoon sunlight.
Consider an Indoor Survival Garden
A lack of yard space or proper soil conditions doesn't mean you can't grow a survival garden. You can also grow fruits and vegetables indoors with the help of containers, high-quality potting soil, and natural light. If space is an issue, consider vertical and hanging planters to make the most of your square footage.
When you plant outdoors, you enjoy the benefit of birds, bees, and other "good pests" that help keep your garden healthy. But your indoor environment poses some challenges for a healthy environment. Make sure to use high-quality soil designed for the indoors, which usually contains peat moss and vermiculite. Your indoor survival garden needs consistent fertilizer and soil amendments to stay healthy.
Clear Out Rocks, Sticks, and Debris
Your gardening soil should be loose and free from most rocks, sticks, and debris. Otherwise, your soil will feel stiff, and the plants’ roots can't reach the appropriate nutrients and water. Beyond the health of your garden, you'll also find rocks cause costly damage to your lawn and gardening equipment.
But what if your yard is simply too rocky for a survival garden? Despite the challenges, there's always a way to accommodate for lack of space or poor soil quality in your survival garden. You can always use an elevated garden bed or five-gallon buckets that can drain after watering.
Till Your Soil
Tilling involves turning over 10 to 12 inches of soil before planting new crops. The method helps break up crop residue and keeps your soil aerated and warm. Tilling isn't always necessary but is a must if you have a new garden bed or are adding a large amount of soil or organic material. It's also good practice if you struggle growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers due to poor soil quality.
When digging up your grass, you can use a spade to cut your sod into smaller squares as needed. But if your soil is still hard and stiff, loosen things up to 12-inches in depth, so your roots have more room to spread out and thrive.
Get a Soil Test
A simple soil test with a home kit provides invaluable information about your survival garden. Instead of just planting anything you can get your hands on, you'll know which plants will do well in your survival garden. The investment could ultimately save you money in the long run.
A soil test reveals which nutrients are lacking in your garden so that you can choose suitable supplemental fertilizers and soil amendments. The pH of your soil is also essential to determine which fruits and vegetables will thrive. For example, most vegetables won't tolerate highly acidic soil conditions.
Choose Plants that Grow in Your Soil and Hardiness Zone
It makes sense you need to consider the climate you live in before planting and there’s an easy way to figure it out. Hardiness Zones are determined by the USDA to help farmers and independent growers plant a successful yield. Hardiness Zones range from frigid temperatures in Alaska to warm, sunny days in Florida and Puerto Rico.
The good news is many plants will grow in multiple hardiness zones, making it easy to experiment with your garden. Asking neighbors and local growers will also tell you what grows well (and what doesn't) without doing too much research. You can also buy Zone Specific Seeds to give your survival garden the best shot at success.
Add Fertilizers and Soil Amendments
Plants need fertilizers to get the nutrients they need for a robust growing season. It's best to steer clear of chemical fertilizers that could leave your soil dehydrated and negatively impact your health. You can find natural fertilizers on the market, but you can also make your own. Coffee grounds, eggshells, compost, and bat or chicken manure can all help enrich your soil.
Soil amendments also help improve your soil's physical qualities and help it retain and absorb water. The end goal of soil amendments is to improve the condition of your survival garden and help your roots flourish.
Organic matter can help, but adding Mycorrhizal Fungi helps increase your plant's available root system to maximize the intake of nutrients and water absorption. Apply Myco Lightning to your soil to maximize your garden's intake of nutrients and water absorption. It works best when you use it at seed starting or early planting stages, but it can also benefit established plants.
Another option is using Azomite containing micronized volcanic dust with rare materials called lanthanides. The minerals are consumed by soil microorganisms and work to improve the SEO of your soil. Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) is your soil's ability to supply calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are all essential to a healthy survival garden.
Stay on Top of Garden Pests
Garden pests can wreak havoc on your plants and soil and need proactive intervention. Common pests include beetles, spider mites, and aphids. But not all pests are harmful. Ladybugs will ravenously feed on aphids, and bats will take care of your mosquitoes and other pests.
Using homemade soap or hot pepper spray can help, or you can attract more bats with a bat house. They'll take care of your nighttime pests, while birds will devour bugs that surface in the daytime. You can also invest in Solar Powered Ultrasonic Pest Repeller or Bat Houses to help you stay on top of your garden pests.
Manage Your Survival Gardening Expectations
Just like anything else in survival gardening, figuring out how to prep your soil takes trial, error, and patience. You may need to experiment to figure out what works best in your garden to get the results you're looking for. Remember, survival gardening is ultimately about survival and sustainability, and giving up too soon derails all of its incredible benefits.