Many people associate veggie gardens with lots of work and little results. Most people who try to grow something in their back or front yards end up disappointed by the low yields or the labor-intensive process. And that’s normal – there’s a learning curve to everything and gardening isn’t any different.
The key point that we’ll want to emphasize here, however, is one that survival gardens make very clearly – gardening doesn’t need to be that labor-intensive. Instead, it can be both easy and effective, as well as fun and healthy. That’s where survival gardens shine.
What is a survival garden?
Survival gardens, or prepper gardens, as they are also called, are any type of standard veggie, crop, fruit, or nut-producing garden that prioritizes maximum results with minimal efforts. A good survival garden will require very little supervision and may even grow self-sufficiently similarly to woods and wild crops.
The produce of survival gardens is also typically meant to last long in storage, as many climates don’t allow for year-round yields.
A survival garden also needs to give you all the nutrients, calories, proteins, and vitamins and minerals you need. Essentially, a good survival garden should allow you to survive 100% on the things that grow in it and nothing else.
The goals of a survival garden can be summed up like this:
- It should be easy to maintain. This is a matter of personal preferences, of course – if you want to plant harder-to-grow veggies in your garden, that’s fine. However, as we usually have other things to do with our time, survival gardens are, on principle, meant to be easy to maintain.
- The veggies and crops of survival gardens in northern or colder climates are meant to be easily stored. Many veggies and fruits can’t last long if they’re not refrigerated. However, a prepper garden’s vegetable should be able to last at least several months if not several years in a simple cellar.
- A survival garden should give you everything or nearly everything you need to survive. If your survival garden is missing certain vital food groups or high-nutrient produce, you’ll still need outside sources of food. Even if that’s the case, however, and a good prepper garden is supplying you with “only” 80-90% of your food needs, that’s still pretty good.
- A side-goal of a good survival garden can also be to give you high-value foods. There are plenty of fruits, plants, and herbs that actually have very high prices per pound because their import is expensive but that are otherwise easy to grow. Having such inclusions in your survival garden can give you very valuable bartering tools to trade with.
The point of a survival garden isn’t just to be something to help you get by in tough situations. It’s meant to be an efficient way of growing food that can save you a ton of money, time, and health problems even if you weren’t doing badly anyway.
What’s probably even more crucial, survival gardens might just be the key to our entire economy’s and climate’s survival in the long run. Many of the food shipping we do is highly resource-inefficient and our rampant consumerism is arguably what’s causing most of our resource and climate problems. This can make survival gardens important for much more than just our survival as individuals.
How do survival prepper gardens work in different climates?
Survival gardens look very different in different parts of the world. As one of their key goals is to be easy to maintain, this usually means growing mostly vegetables and plants that are native to your region. That’s not an inescapable restriction, however, and you’ll often be able to grow plants uncommon for your region too. Still, most prepper gardens are largely comprised of plants native to their areas.
The second point that often sticks out to most people is that survival gardens in colder climates can’t offer year-round produce. If you live in an area with harsh winters you’ll have to work around the fact that your survival garden won’t give you a constant supply of food. That’s why it’s important to grow food that’s not only easy to maintain but easy to store as well.
The compensating factor for cold-climate prepper gardens is that plants and vegetables native to them are usually very high-yield cultures. As such, they tend to grow to massive sizes and contain lots of calories, protein, and nutrients.
Can anyone grow a survival garden?
In terms of the effort they require, yes – anyone can grow a survival garden. One of the limiting factors that’s rarely talked about, however, is whether you can get everything you need from a survival garden. A lot of us have either grown accustomed to meat or need meat proteins to remain in good health. And while survival gardens typically grow high-protein plants and vegetables, they don’t include livestock.
So, if you do want or need meat proteins, you’ll have to supply them in other ways. The silver lining here is that a survival garden can offer you enough high-value produce to sell or barter with.
What should be your survival garden layout?
The way to set up your survival garden’s layout depends on two key factors:
- What plants and cultures can be grown in your area and what plants you’re choosing to work with.
- What is the size and shape of your property and what are your personal preferences about its layout.
The second part is what makes a survival garden’s layout wide-open for personalization. You can set it up as a standard garden, you can focus more on tree and bush-growing cultures, you can mix things up between seasons if you want to, or you can even use the taller bushes and trees as natural fencing for your property.
An important note here is that your survival garden layout shouldn’t just be practical to work in but safe as well. Proper fencing and other anti-pest precautions are vital for the survival of your survival garden.
The best plants to grow in a survival garden
Survival gardens can vary greatly depending on your geographical region, your needs, and your preferences. So, we can’t possibly list all the near-countless cultures you can grow and types of gardens you can create. What we can do to help you out is give you some suggestions for which are some of the best vegetables and plants for your survival prepper garden.
Native to the Americas, potatoes have made their way throughout the rest of the world as one of the most commonly grown foods. That’s because they can grow in any climate, they are easy to grow, and they are very rich in calories. They can also be easily stored for 2-3 months in standard conditions and up to 4-9 months in dark cellars.
2. Sweet potatoes
A lot of people would put sweet potatoes at the top of their prepper garden list and for good reasons. Sweet potatoes have a much longer shelf life than ordinary potatoes and most other veggies, they are much more nutritious, and even more calorie-dense.
A common tuber veggie for warmer climates, yams are so easy to grow that they are considered an invasive species in states like Florida. Often mistaken for sweet potatoes, yams can get much bigger, and they are also incredibly calorie- and nutrient-rich.
4. Cassava or Yuca
Yuca or cassava is a very popular crop in many cultures around the world. It’s drought-resistant which may soon make it even more popular. It’s also chock-full of nutrients so its popularity is very understandable.
There are lots of different types of pumpkins and squash, and they can be grown all around the globe. Even more importantly, they are easy to grow, can be stored for a very long time, and are incredibly calorie-dense and rich in various nutrients.
Leafy greens such as lettuce usually grow best in shadier locations during the hot summer months. They can be planted between taller plants to provide a nice ground cover for your prepper garden. They are often great for your garden’s soil, as well as for your family’s meals.
There are lots of types of spinach that can be grown in almost any climate. What’s more, spinach is also a perennial plant which makes it that much easier to grow. Add to that it’s immense health benefits and spinach becomes a no-brainer.
Like squash, zucchini is very easy to grow and produces often unbelievable quantities. In fact, a lot of people have more problems restricting the growth of their zucchini and finding ways to eat them all rather than trying to increase their yield. They are also calorie- and nutrient-rich and can be cooked in many different ways.
Carrots are not something you’ll see often in prepper garden lists but we’d recommend them anyway. While they don’t last nearly as long as potatoes in storage and are relatively harder to grow, carrots offer a lot of nutrients and vitamins that other tuber plants don’t. This makes them a good and healthy inclusion in any garden.
10. Beans and peas
Beans and peas come in many different types and are easily grown in almost any climate. When dried they can be stored indefinitely, and they are also easy to grow in short periods of time. They can be planted near the perimeter of your survival garden layout to grow on the fences or they can be used to create internal division between the different sections of your garden.
Not really a must-have inclusion for a standard survival garden layout, many mushroom species are nevertheless quite easy to grow in certain climates. Types such as “Wine cap” mushroom are a great gourmet inclusion for your kitchen that can add a lot of flavor to your meals.
12. Raspberries and other berries
Berries are usually easy to grow as they tend to spread on their own. In fact, most of the effort you’ll need to spend is in restricting and guiding their growth throughout your survival garden’s layout. They are very delicious and nutritious, however, so they are a good addition. Raspberries, in particular, are drought-resistant which puts them at the top of our berry list.
Papaya is a ridiculously versatile fruit that’s only expensive in some countries because of how costly its shipping is. Papaya can be consumed both as a fruit when it’s ripe and as a veggie when it’s green. It grows on papaya trees that are very easy to grow and maintain, and it’s very rich in minerals, vitamins, and nutrients.
Bananas are not often mentioned as a prepper garden inclusion but they should be, at least in warmer climates. Banana trees take a while to grow but once they get big enough, they are basically self-sufficient. Bananas are very rich in proteins and can be eaten in many different ways – a true survivalist food.
A wild but easily cultivated edible plant, sorrel is a perennial. This means that it doesn’t need to be regrown every year and once it’s grown it will supply you with edible greens every year from spring to fall.
16. Moringa tree or other perennial green trees
Moringa is also known as the “vitamin tree” and it’s another one of many perennial green trees that are great for any prepper garden. Another common name for it is the “Tree of life”. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense plants on the planet and it’s rich in vitamins and minerals too. Its leaves are easy to dry and made into a multivitamin powder which can be a lifesaver on the road or a valuable commodity to trade with.
Katuk is another great green tree option, particularly for colder climates. It’s perennial and it’s very easy to grow so mixing it with several other green trees around the perimeter of your survival garden layout is usually a smart way to go about it.
Another perennial, rhubarb can be an integral part of your prepper garden for up to 25 years after its initial seeding. Lots of plants have actually been called rhubarb over the years, leading to a bit of misconception. What’s known as rhubarb today, however, is an excellent addition to any survival garden. It’s best prepared by stewing it with a bit of sugar until it’s soft. Rhubarb can be used in various recipes, but mostly pies and deserts.
19. Garlic and onions
Garlic and onions are incredibly flavorful additions to any survival garden. They also have strong antimicrobial and antibacterial properties and are key to building a strong immune system for yourself and your family.
Not so much of a necessity rather than just a nice addition, herbs are a good way to end this list. Most people think of home-grown food as one that tastes poorly and is not fun to eat. However, that’s only true if you don’t have the right herbs. A properly prepared meal with home-grown vegies and herbs can taste better than any meal in any restaurant.
Additionally, herbs are categorically the most expensive food you can grow per pound. This makes them not only delicious but a valuable commodity to grown and trade with as well.