Survival gardening does more than prepare your family for the worst; it can also save money. With inflated grocery prices, even robust food budgets are quickly strained to the breaking point. But survival gardening comes at a cost unless you have kind-hearted friends and family willing to hand over supplies and seeds to help you get started.
The good news is there are plenty of ways to embrace cheap gardening and make the most of your survival efforts. Here's how to trim your gardening budget without cutting corners on quality or quantity.
1) Choose Disease Resistant Varieties
Whether you're new to gardening or an old pro, focusing on disease-resistant varieties can help you save a bundle. As the name implies, disease-resistant plants are durable and more prone to fighting off diseases than others.
However, a disease-resistant plant doesn't mean they're disease-free. You're just more likely to grow a healthy crop and reap a good yield when you plant some of these varieties:
- Brussel Sprouts
Of course, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy growing more vulnerable plants, like strawberries, in your survival garden. Just make sure to focus the bulk of your efforts on crops that are likely to be the most robust to save money in the long run.
2) Buy Your Seeds in Bulk
Despite their small size, seeds get expensive quickly, especially if you buy them from a big box retailer. You also don't know the quality of the seeds you're getting or how likely they are to grow.
Buying heirloom seeds in bulk offers the most bang for your buck. Instead of just growing a crop once or twice, harvesting the seeds from heirloom plants means you can plant them again and again.
We offer 100% Non-GMO, 100% heirloom, and 100% open-pollinated seeds with long-lasting potential for 25 years of stable shelf life. They're also heat-sealed in resealable mylar packaging to keep your own seed vault safe. Shop our seed vaults and super-sized kits here.
3) Know Your Hardiness Zone
Your hardiness zone shapes what you should plant in your climate and when. You can still plant strawberries in Alaska, but the growing season is limited and starts at a different time than in Georgia. Instead of studying the USDA Hardiness Zone Map to figure it out, you can also shop our zone-specific seeds here.
If you're still not sure what to plant, focus on what's already native to your area. Check to see what local farms and farmers markets are selling to get an idea of what already grows in your region.
4) Make Your Own Natural Fertilizers on the Cheap
When it comes to cheap gardening, there's no need to invest in expensive fertilizers when you can just make it yourself. You'll save money and skip the harmful chemicals that could impact the quality of your garden and health.
Homemade compost is among the cheapest and easiest fertilizers to make by mixing nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich garden and food waste. Add banana peels, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and other organic waste to a bin that pests critters can't get into, and add a 1:10 ratio of compost to water. Seal and shake your mixture once or twice each day to activate your compost and get it going.
Keep breaking up the compost with a splash of water and give it a few turns with a shovel every week. After about two to three weeks, you should find a dark, crumbly concoction to provide more nutrients to your garden.
5) Use Your EBT or Snap Benefits
If you're struggling to make ends meet, you can reach for your EBT and Snap benefits to save on fruits, vegetables, and seeds. The USDA even encourages people to use their benefits to buy seeds and estimates that for every $1 spent on seeds and fertilizers, you can grow an average of $25 worth of produce.
Beyond feeding your family with the help of your food benefits and cheap gardening tips, your scraps can also provide for your animals. Keep your chickens nourished with your survival garden's extra greens, radish tops, and beets. They'll stay full and happy while producing eggs as an additional food source.
6) Start Your Seeds Indoors
By giving your seeds a start indoors, you can avoid wasting money on cold snaps that ruin your plants. You'll also extend the growing season and put more food on your table than before.
Of course, not everything needs to start indoors, like radishes and peas that usually grow quickly in colder climates. Instead, focus on warm-season vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, that don't like the cold.
Start your seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost in your area, and watch your plants take off. Depending on the plant, you should see seedlings in about three weeks and notice a few leaves sprouting. Once the threat of cold snaps has passed, you can move them outdoors for planting.
7) Grow Food Your Family Will Actually Eat
It may sound obvious to grow food your family will actually eat, but it's easy to fall into the trap that it’ll all work out, and you should just focus on what’s cheap or disease-resistant. Choosing plants that will give you the best yield possible is vital, but expecting a family of picky eaters to overcome their long-held hatred for asparagus won't do much to improve your budget.
Instead of introducing your family to new flavor profiles, you'll just spend money to buy the food they want and waste the potential of your survival garden. Instead, start small. Grow the plants you know your family will willingly eat, and add a few you love. If no one goes for it, you're still growing something you enjoy savoring.
8) Add Rain Barrels
Rain barrels can help take your cheap gardening strategy to new levels. Instead of spending a small fortune on water bills during those peak summer months, you’ll have a steady supply of natural water that you don't have to spend a dime on.
You can invest in a few rain barrels or use buckets and barrels you already have around your house. Position them under your roof where you experience the most run-off, and watch how quickly they fill up with rainwater for your plants.
9) Store Your Seeds Properly
As your survival garden flourishes, make sure to harvest and store your seeds properly. Seeds quickly spoil in a damp or moist environment, especially with added humidity, making proper storage worth the investment.
We offer seed-saving packets and moisture-absorbing silica gel packs to help you succeed with your cheap gardening goals. Our seed packets are the same type we use for all of our survival seed vaults, with a shelf life of 25 years. You can even heat-seal them for added protection and care.
Storing seeds properly does more than save money in the short term. Heirloom seeds wouldn't exist without ironclad storage techniques. Instead of harvesting their yields for a few years, you could plant heirloom seeds for generations.
10) Sell Your Extra Plants
Growing too much food, medicinal flowers, and herbs is a nice problem to have, but not everyone stores it indefinitely. After all, you can't really freeze celery, and although pickling a vegetable like lettuce is possible, it yields unusual results at best.
Consider selling off your extra plants to your community at farmers’ markets or through your network of family and friends. You probably won't make a fortune off your stray plants, but even a little profit can go back into your survival garden to make it bigger and better than before.
Ready to start your own survival garden or use our cheap gardening tips? Browse our heirloom seeds or survival seeds, gardening supplies, and more. We provide a one-stop shopping experience for all your survival gardening needs.