December 17, 2022
In simple terms, a survival garden is a garden intended for being the sole producer of produce for a family. The difference between a survival garden and a regular vegetable garden is the reason one gardens. By and large the sowing, weeding, and eventual harvest remains the same as regular gardening, but the intention is to produce enough food to survive without outside assistance.
This being said, there are different aspects of survival gardens that need to be considered for the gardeners vitality, including calorical count, nutrition, seed saving and preserving the harvest. The benefits to a survival garden is immense: nutrient dense food can be harvested in as little as thirty days at very low cost to the gardener. It provides stability when food costs are high, but also provides the same perks as a regular garden; exercise and fresh air, as well as time in nature.
Survival gardens typically require quite a large amount of space to be truly sustainable long-term, but even small spaces can have a garden. All one needs to grow food is water, a sunny spot (augmented with a grow light if necessary), and time and harvest will be just around the corner.
Survival gardens, as the name implies, are designed to help you survive if disaster strikes. The plants in the garden should serve a practical purpose, whether aesthetically pleasing or not.
Of course, it is a given that you will need to plant food for survival. If it is a sole source of nourishment or simply augmenting another supply, the food you produce will need to be nutritional and calorie-dense. That being said, it must also be diverse, flavourful and exciting. Potatoes in and of themselves contain nearly all the vitamins, minerals and calories a human needs to survive, but will render one bored stiff if eaten alone for too long.
Herbs, aromatics and sources of fat will add diversity and enrichment to a survival garden. They can add flavour, texture and unami to a dish that would be rather plain without it. Different herbs and roots can be grown and used for medicinal reasons as well, aiding a first aid kit as well as your general wellbeing.
Nutritionists advise that a certain number of calories are necessary for basic survival. This number will vary depending on gender, age, height, weight, physical output as well as a variety of other factors. Before beginning a survival garden, consult with your physician to ensure that it will be sustainable for you.
Starchy and sugary foods are usually the most calorie-dense and will comprise the largest part of your diet, but they may lack some nutrients you need. You can compensate for that by growing a variety of green vegetables, fruits, and legumes to provide protein and crucial vitamins and minerals.
It is not surprising that both hanging and free-standing containers can hold a surprising amount of material. Grow bags are perfect for potatoes, carrots and other tuberous veggies.
You can make use of raised beds if you have a backyard, but planting in the ground is also feasible. Before deciding where to put trellised climbing plants, measure the space required by the largest plants. Fill the remainder of your survival garden with shorter plants if leafy greens are your priority.
Unlike a regular garden grown for hobby or supplemental purposes, a survival garden will need to be robust, long-lasting and large. Depending on the number of people it will feed, it will take up a large amount of space, and the gardener will need to be strategic on sowing times, spatial organization and general upkeep. We recommend making a plan before planting, taking direction, plant height at maturity, watering needs and spatial needs into consideration to ensure best results. This can be done a variety of different ways prior to sowing, including spreadsheets, a drawing, or a consultation with a gardening expert.
If you don’t want to grow something, then don’t. It may be a superfood, but if you don’t want to eat it, then there’s nothing to be gained from growing it.
How many people do you have to feed if you are survival gardening? It’s easier when survival gardening for one, but when you have a lot of people, you need to take their preferences into account as well. Just the same as aromatics and herbs are important for taste and texture, preferences need to be taken into account.
After deciding what food tastes good to you, you should do a little more investigating. Survival requires you to think about calories and nutritional needs as well as storage capacity.
Once your plan has been made, the gardener can begin gathering supplies. This may include building additional garden beds, trellises and gathering stakes and tomato cages for plant stability. Pay close attention to the seed sachet instructions on plant spacing, light requirements and height of maturity, taking care to plant low-growing crops in a bed of like-sized plants, and larger ones in a separate area to allow for adequate sun exposure for both. The gardener can be creative in sowing techniques, sowing in containers, beds, hanging baskets or below trellises to add both beauty and vibrance to your space.
Sowing seeds for a survival garden is best done in stages, sowing plants such as beans and peas in several ‘batches’ to ensure a season-long harvest. Other plants will need to be sown in advance of the last frost date (climate depending) to ensure a longer growing season.
Many plants require pollinators to produce fruit, which is where planting flowering plants can come in handy. Sowing a sachet of local wildflowers, flowering herbs or your favourite flowers can invite pollinators into your garden. Take care to fill bird baths or even create a honeybee water bowl out of a shallow dish and water to take care of our smallest friends.
Many of the same principals stand for survival gardens as they do for regular hobby gardening. Plants of all shapes and sizes require water, sunlight and a medium for them to grow in, as well as tools to ensure health for everything sown.
Several tools can be utilized to reduce cost for gardening, be they back-filling a gardening bed with leaf debris and branches, harvesting rainwater or companion planting. Garden beds will need to be weeded, watered and pruned before they can be harvested, and for survival gardens this exists similarly, just on a much larger scale.
Similarily to sowing, maintaining and harvesting, preservation is vital to long-term sustainability for a survival garden. Age-old techniques for food preservation such as canning, freezing and drying can be utilized to preserve your crop from spoiling preemptively.
Depending on the crop, different methods will need to be used. Strawberries, for instance, can be preserved using all three techniques, whereas others such as melons can only be preserved through freezing. Goods can be made of different fruits and vegetables, be they jam or pie filling, pickles or halved peaches for easy preparation later on.
When drying crops for preservation, only certain plants can be used. Onions and corn, for instance, can be braided by their stems or stalks and hung to dry for long-term storage. Garlic and tubers need to be kept in a cool, dark place for optimal storage, the same applies for apples and carrots.
Leafy greens and herbs can be frozen either alone or in oil for use later on, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage and radishes can be pickled, and many other plants can be dehydrated for storage. Make sure to do research on your individual varieties to ensure that they are preserved properly.
Once the harvest has been collected and preserved for the year, there is still several steps to complete to prepare for the next growing season. Nearly all vegetables, herbs and fruits produce seeds that can be collected for growing next year’s garden. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as carrots and some hybrid tomato varieties. But in general, once the plant has been harvested, it is the survival gardeners duty to collect, dry and package the seeds for planting in the next sowing period. Like food preservation, there are many different ways to dry seeds. Large seeds– such as those from cucumbers, squash and pumpkins– can be washed and put in a cool, dark place to completely dry. Others– such as raspberry and tomato seeds– are more tender, requiring the same level of care on a smaller scale. Once your seeds have been preserved, take care to label them and place in a cool, dark place until spring.
All of this to say, gardening for sustenance and vitality has been done by humans for thousands of years. Luckily for us, our ancestors have passed down methods and techniques to ensure success. By using these tips and tricks, you will be able to sow, maintain, harvest and preserve a bounty for long-term survival, and perhaps harvest enough to share!