People preparing to survive in a world that has been slammed by some major catastrophe on an apocalyptic scale need to know how to grow their own food. A survival garden is a must in order to put food on the table. Gardening takes on a whole new meaning when the food you grow is all there is. There won’t be a backup plan, like the grocery store or the farmer’s market.
Some people tend to overlook how important the size of the garden is. You can’t get away with just a small plot in the backyard. You need to go big. Your garden needs to produce enough that you can preserve the extra for the off season.
Your garden needs to be more of a farm. You don’t need a lawn. You need garden space. Large scale gardening is going to look a little different than that cute little hobby garden you’ve been growing for years. It is going to require more work and more planning in order to get the food you need to survive. There are some things you can do to maximize space and cut down on some of the work it takes to have a large garden.
Planning Per Person
This is going to greatly depend on what your family eats the most. Some people simply have an aversion to certain vegetables. Don’t waste space or energy planting things that aren’t going to be enjoyed. There are plenty of resources you can use to guesstimate how much each member of your family will need to survive, assuming your garden is the main food source.
Here is a very rough breakdown of the amount of plants you would need to keep your family alive for a year. This is based on per person per year. This is also factoring in the extra you would need to preserve.
- 40 corn plants (assuming you get at least 2 ears of corn per plant)
- 20 pole bean plants
- 20 to 40 carrot plants
- 5 cucumber plants
- 50 pea plants
- 30 potato plants
- 5 tomato plants
- 1 pumpkin plant
- squash plants
- 50 onion plants
- 10 lettuce plants
- 1 5-foot row of kale
- 10 broccoli plants
What Plants to Grow
When thinking about survival, you want to really focus your garden space on plants that are going to give the most nutritional value and that are prolific. Corn is a huge asset to the garden, but it’s a space hog. With just 2 ears on average per stalk, it is a hard one to justify. You can make it worth your while with companion planting, which we’ll cover next.
You want produce that can be easily preserved, high in nutritional value, and is prepared in a variety of ways to help keep things interesting. For this reason, potatoes should be high on your list. While they aren’t exactly all that nutritious, they are prolific, and can be used to prepare many different meals. You can store potatoes straight out of the ground in a root cellar for months.
Only grow plants your family will eat. Don’t grow brussels sprouts or broccoli if your family thinks they are repulsive. Save the garden space for things they’ll eat.
The following list are some of the must-haves. Tweak the list to suit your family’s personal tastes or to account for any allergies.
- Potatoes (go with a variety)
- Beans i.e. pinto, lima, kidney
- Wheat (northern, wet climates can grow buckwheat)
- Quinoa (grows best in mild climates that don’t get above 90 degrees)
Plants with short growing cycles, like lettuce, can be planted several times throughout the growing season. Recession planting is important and will go a long way to keeping weeds at bay. As soon as you harvest a row, add some compost then replant right away.
This is a must for gardeners who want to maximize their space, even if it’s a lot of space. The more food grown, the better off you’ll be. This pads your supply in case the crops suffer from disease or pest infestation. Try to do everything possible to guarantee you have a steady supply of food.
Companion planting is the practice of putting certain plants together that can share a space and benefit one another. In some cases, the plants protect one another from pests, harsh sun, or even strong winds. There are an endless number of combinations you can employ. Keeping in mind that there are some plants, like garlic, that are not so friendly and should be given their own space. Make sure you do some research to learn more about plants that benefit each other versus ones that can crowd out others.
Some of the most common companion planting practices are listed below.
- The three sisters method involves corn, squash and peas or pole beans. The peas will wind around the corn stalks. The corn provides the shade the peas need. The squash will spread out across the ground, helping keeping the weeds down.
- Plant lettuce, spinach, or cilantro in the area you will be putting in cucumbers or squash. The first plants will mature quickly and be harvested by the time the squash starts to spread out. You can do this with plants that won’t be put out until after the first frost as well.
- Put in carrots in early spring. They will grow and flourish and be close to harvest when something like a tomato or pepper plant really starts to flourish in the middle of summer.
- Plant shallow rooted lettuce over carrots or nearby. Lettuce matures very quick. You can cut the leaves of the lettuce and keep the roots intact so you don’t disturb the carrots growing below.
- Plant things like lettuce or spinach under your corn. The corn will provide the necessary shade for the leafy crops and they will help keep down the weeds.
- Tall, leafy plants like corn or tomatoes, should be planted at the south end to provide shade for the plants like broccoli or leafy crops that will not do well in direct sun.
The key to large scale gardening is to maximize space and minimize the work. More gardening space means more weeds, which can quickly take over your garden. If you’re working by hand alone, these tips will help make your gardening chores much easier and more manageable.