Survival Gardening Tips for Beginners
Survival gardening is a proactive, effective way to prepare for tough times and produce your own healthy food source. But the gravity of figuring out how to get ready for the worst while enjoying the fruits of your labor is daunting.
The good news is you can start planning your own survival garden in just a few steps. As you learn the ins and outs of what seeds to choose and how to plan, you can add to your garden and expand your vision for a more robust and sustainable food source. Here's where to get started.
Choose Plants and Crops You'll Actually Eat
Some preppers and survival gardeners think too big about their ongoing needs instead of starting with the basics–plant something you'll eat. Select your family's preferred plants and crops, from broccoli to corn.
As you gain confidence with planting and growing, add more options that are more filling and calorie-dense. Consider pumpkin, rutabagas, and beans to create tasty meals that pack in the flavor and nutrition. If you're not sure where to start, pull together some of your favorite go-to recipes to look for common ingredients you can grow in your yard.
Remember Your Nutrients
Although it's important to consider what you'll actually eat from your survival gardening efforts, you also need to grow a variety of nutrients. There are 13 essential vitamins, including Vitamin A, C, D, E, and K. You also need plenty from the B Vitamin family, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate.
Fortunately, fruits and veggies are stocked with nutrients, and planting a variety is a strategy for long-lasting health. Leafy green kale and spinach are packed with most of what you need. But don't limit yourself. Incorporating the most essential vitamins doesn't mean you won't benefit from potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, and so much more. The goal is to optimize your health and thrive, not just survive.
Pick Something Easy
There's no need to get ambitious and set your sights on a garden that could fuel an entire grocery store. Instead, choose easy-to-grow vegetables and fruits. Lettuce, radishes, carrots, kale, and beans are among the easiest vegetables and legumes to grow. As you gain more confidence and momentum, you can add more challenging foods, like eggplants and melons, that require practice and patience.
You can also make your survival gardening as easy as possible with a high-quality survival seed vault stocked with several thousand seeds for your supply. Heirloom and open-pollinated seeds are best, and shelf life is imperative to your success. Browse our survival vault packages with rapid growth options and medicinal, culinary, and super kits with a 25-year shelf life.
Consider Your Climate and Soil Conditions
Not all fruit and vegetables will grow in just any climate. Warm climates are ideal for fruits like watermelon. But that doesn't mean you can't produce fruit along your northeastern property, especially if you plan around cold snaps and get ahead of the summer season.
Your soil conditions also make an impact on what you grow. For example, if you're thinking about fruit trees, you'll need a soil pH of around 6.0 to 7.5, that's slightly acidic. The good news is grapes and figs (which are actually an inflorescence food) are tolerant plants and trees that require little water and average soil conditions.
Remember that people have been planting and gardening for centuries. There's plenty of information out there about specific crops, climates, and soil. Get started by looking into your own area and favorite crops to determine what you can realistically grow with little intervention.
Settle on a Survival Gardening Plan
There are several ways to get into survival gardening, but they range from the bare minimum to an entire forest of food sources. It's best to try out gardening and see how it goes, what you enjoy about it, how your backyard works for what you want to grow, and scale up as needed.
There's no single way to create a survival garden, but here are some of the more popular ways to get started:
The Basic Survival Garden
Create a garden bed in your backyard with a few essential vegetables, fruits, and herbs. You can use a garden liner to keep out toxins and burrowing pests like moles and prairie dogs.
Square Foot Gardening
Square foot survival gardening divides up your growing area into smaller square sections to help you stay organized. They're usually about one foot on a side but can vary.
Focus on simplifying your life and growing foods you already eat with a backyard homestead. Most people take the approach of gardening, raising farm animals, and looking for ways to become more self-sufficient with their yards.
Victory gardens are making a comeback but were initially used during times of war to grow a sustainable food source of vegetables, fruits, and herb gardens. Victory Gardens are unique because they are grown in spare patches of land in parks, yards, playgrounds, and churchyards. You can take a similar approach by using indoor plants, an outdoor garden, window boxes, and free-standing containers.
Forest gardening focuses on low-maintenance, plant-based, edible food production. You can harvest vegetables where you can, but forest gardening incorporates a variety of nut trees, herbs, perennial vegetables, and shrubs that are edible and sustainable for consumption.
When you create a food forest on an extensive property, you also need to consider the canopy layer, soil conditions, and water sources. It may be problematic if one of these aspects is lacking and will require some ingenuity.
You’ll probably need to spread out your food forest and plant in only optimal conditions. Stay organized by creating a detailed map to document what and where you're planting. Record details like the date you planted or harvested any food sources and issues or observations about the area.
Don't Forget the Herbs
When medicine becomes key to your survival, you'll need a high-quality supply of herbs to address your health. Don't overlook herbs as part of your survival gardening strategy. Herbs contain valuable nutrition, add flavor to your meals, and offer medicinal benefits.
Start with Yarrow plants that produce beautiful flowers that also yield medicinal plants. People have used Yarrow for its anti-inflammatory agent, which has helped heal skin wounds for centuries. It's also possible to consume to address digestion and anxiety.
Get more medicinal herb ideas and survival seed options here.
Think About Your Indoor Space
Your outdoor space isn't the only place to practice survival gardening. Some vegetables, including leafy greens, herbs, scallions, and carrots, can grow indoors quite well. An aloe plant is also wise to stay on top of burns. Or you can consume it to help with digestive problems.
Indoor gardening is also necessary if you live in a small space or apartment. Try hanging your plants vertically against a wall or a window seat to maximize space. Your outdoor balcony or window sills can also grow bush beans, radishes, garlic, cherry tomatoes, leafy greens, and other small plants.
Store the Right Tools
Keep various gardening hand tools available to store in an emergency safely. A few pairs of sturdy gardening gloves, a hydrometer to monitor water in your soil, and the basics like a rake, shovel, and cultivator are good places to start.
It's also wise to consider loppers, rakes, trowel, hose, watering can, and hoe. Some preppers also add a Hori Hori knife, traditionally used on bonsais to help cut down weeds. It also doubles as a fishing tool in a pinch.
Remember, good organization is also critical to a functional survival garden. We offer plant labeling supplies and a handheld seed dispenser, making keeping your plants and crops easier to organize.
Know Your Water Source
You may not have irrigation or city water to keep your survival garden well-hydrated in an emergency. Think through your water source and whether or not you need a well or method to carry water from a nearby source.
If there's no way around gardening without much water, use soil with organic matter that holds onto more moisture. Clay and porous soils are more resistant to letting water circulate to your plant roots and negatively impact your garden.
Stay Flexible and Resourceful
You can succeed in survival gardening by starting out small with a plan and vision. As you grow, flexibility is also a must. You'll experience failed crops or inclement weather and learn from those mistakes. The important thing is to keep going and adapt to your conditions to increase your skills and odds of survival.
Adopt a resourcefulness mindset as your garden develops. Harvest and save your new seeds, trade tips with other survivalists, and look for opportunities. You may discover an edible food source in the forest you never knew was there or see optimal conditions for bartering with someone nearby. Stay open-minded, flexible, and proactive with your garden, and watch your efforts pay off.
Survival gardening isn't a set-it-and-forget-it project. It's an evolution and requires patience and flexibility along the way. The results are impressive, with an ever-expanding healthy and natural food source to call your own
Ready to get started? We provide a one-stop shopping experience for all of your survival gardening needs. Browse our survival seeds, kits, and supplies, or purchase our pre-packaged options.