How Do You Start A Survival Garden?

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. 

Calories and Nutrition

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.

Containers for a Survival Garden 

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.  

Planning Your Survival Garden 

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.

Sowing Your Crops 

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. 

Maintaining your Garden 

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. 

Preserving the Harvest

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. 

Preparing for Spring 

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. 

The Top 20 Plants for Survival

  1. Beans are ideal plants for many reasons: they are easily preserved, protein-rich and hearty for a variety of different recipes. There are many different varieties to suit everybody’s taste. With beans, you get a lot of nutritionally dense material in a small package. You can grow them in both bush and pole forms, in small containers or large, and have a relatively short period of time from sowing to harvest. 
  2. Corn is another great choice, it can be harvested for popcorn or maize, or simply eaten straight from the cob. The husks of the corn can be utilized for cooking or as a fire starter, and the height of a corn plant can be used as a stabilizer for climbing plants such as beans. If milled, corn meal can be preserved for months at a time and used in baking. 
  3. Squash is another plant that is easily preserved and prepared in a variety of different ways. Summer squash are quick to produce food and are suitable for a quick emergency. Winter squash require longer to develop, but will keep for much longer if preserved intact and unharmed.
  4. Cabbage, like squash and corn, has multiple varieties that can be used in different recipes. Containing a high amount of vitamins B6 and C, cabbage is also an excellent source of fibre. Whether eaten cooked or raw, it is a great choice for nourishing your body. It can also be pickled into sauerkraut or kimchi to be utilised in soups, sandwiches, casseroles, or eaten raw. 
  5. Potatoes are an important staple crop in many parts of the world. Potato plants have been a nutritional salvation for people throughout the world as a result of their potato starchy roots. This is a must-have trait in this easy to grow crop! Growing potatoes in an urban environment is also simple. You can plant them in five-gallon buckets or grow bags, and when the tops yellow and die down, you will find a container crammed with delicious roots that are ready to harvest. In addition to being a wonderful carbohydrate source, this fruit contains lots of potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
  6. Kale is a nutrient-dense food that is both cold and drought tolerant. Kale is fantastic for adding colour and flavour to soups and stews, and it's also tender once cooked. But don't overlook Red Russian kales or other crinkled-leaf varieties. These are just as scrumptious and can add visual appeal to your yard.
  7. Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A during the body's normal metabolism. Sweet potatoes are not the same as common potatoes, as these have more nutrients and are calorie-dense. However, they may be used in both savory and sweet dishes due to their wonderful taste.
  8. Lentils are rich in nutrients and protein, relatively easy to grow and simple to preserve. In addition to holding 18 grams of protein per serving, this legume is one of the world’s healthiest food sources. 
  9. Onions are grown worldwide, and are often consumed fresh or as a seasoning. Onions are rich in vitamins A and C, and are also a good source of folate, iron, and potassium. Onions are low in calories and sodium, and are also cholesterol-free. Onions are a good source of fiber, and are also an important component of the diet for people with heart disease. They are also considered a good source of antioxidants. They also add flavour and richness to dishes, an essential for a survival garden. 
  10. Tomatoes are an important survival fruit, not just because they are in so many dishes, but also because they are a heavy producer and are easy to grow. In addition to being eaten fresh or preserved, these tasty fruits are also great for sun-drying or freezing. You may can them or eat them fresh.
  11. Spinach is packed with vitamin and mineral power. You can freeze or dehydrate spinach and then powder it for storage.
  12. Legumes are a nutritional powerhouse that provide fiber and protein. They are also low in calories and contain no fat. 
  13. Peas are another good option. The seed inside of dried peas retains its storing capability and is simple to incorporate into a variety of meals. You may preserve the peas by freezing them, if you grow sugar snap peas or snow peas. Peas are also high in protein, although not as much as beans or lentils!
  14. Beets offer a sweet and easy way to boost your diet with vitamins and sugars, as well as savory and sweet recipes. 
  15. Carrots are an excellent addition to your gardening activities. In addition to an impressive range of colours and a tasty, crunchy flavour that works well in meals and snacks, they are loaded with antioxidants and important nutrients and minerals for eye health.
  16. Berries are often high in antioxidants and sweet, adding another flavour profile to your survival garden. Whether you choose to grow raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, or lingonberries, there is a fruit out there that will suit your taste. You can preserve these by canning or dehydrating them or freezing them.
  17. Garlic is a plant that, like onion, can be used to add flavour and richness to your diet. It contains allicin, an anti-microbial agent that can kill a wide variety of pathogens including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. You can dry them by braiding the dead stalks together and hanging until they are completely dried. 
  18. Peppers are grown for the fruit, which is used to make different hot sauces and spice rubs. You can make dried chili powder or freeze peppers or jalapenos to add to your meals or stews. A little spice is always welcome!
  19. Cucumbers are a basic element in salads and pickles, and they are crucial to gardening enthusiasts! Pickles and salads are not the same without them, and they are critical to survival gardens too! Fresh cucumbers are fantastic for both eating and preservation, whether you want them sweet or sour.
  20. Herbs are used to treat a variety of medical conditions, but also add flavour and spice to your recipes. Many are regionally specific in regards to cuisine, but mint, rosemary, lemongrass and oregano are all delicious, tender options. Herb preservation depends on the variety. Woody-stemmed herbs such as rosemary, sage and bay leaves can be dried and preserved, other more tender herbs such as basil and cilantro can be frozen in oil to add freshness into your recipes. 


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!

Further reading:

Your perfect garden awaits!

Launch your garden