How To Build A Survival Garden
Whenever I bring up the topic of a survival garden, I get a lot of feedback about Matt Damon being trapped on Mars. But there is a more realistic approach when it comes to building a garden that can supply food for many years to come. We don’t live in fear that society will collapse. Instead, we prepare for it to happen just in case. Preparedness is meaningful to some of us who enjoy a good night’s sleep. A survival garden would most certainly turn out to be a key survival means if things did go bad. I mean, we all need to eat, right? And if the grocery store shelves have been raided, our only means to eat will be our longterm food storage (hopefully you have that) or your own survival garden. Please see my more updated survival gardening guide as well.
Imagine if this survival garden were a food source that you planted only once. And imagine that survival garden as being a healthy, non-contaminated (think pesticides here) source of vegetables and beans. Once the convenience of modern life has collapsed, your little secret perennial garden would be your final frontier for eating healthy and thriving. This garden could supply you with food for 30 years.
The hype over organic food that’s been going on for several years isn’t just a trend with no real background. The healthiest food you will ever find is one that is free of pesticides. The way nature works on its own has very little to do with traditional gardening as we know it.
A perennial garden need be planted once. After that, it can supply the lifeblood of food for decades. Why is this important? Well, without a seed store, or Walmart, how would you get new seeds on a yearly basis to replant traditional garden vegetables? With a survival garden, it comes down to leveraging perennial plants natural ability to replant themselves.
Plant the right plants
We’ve all heard stories about the future world potentially being without electricity thus no refrigeration, no fertilizers, no pesticides, no stores where you can buy any seeds, etc. How are you supposed to grow food in such a world? Well, it’s simple. You need to do it the same way people who used to (and still do, in some parts of the world) live off the land and plant the right seeds. Various studies have shown that these people rely on perennials instead of annuals, which are so very popular among the modern world. Perennials are plants that keep growing year after year without any need to be replanted, while annuals are your regular, typical vegetables you see in grocery stores and they need to be replanted each year.
Perennials only need to be planted once, and they will keep growing year after year, producing food for a lifetime. Because they have a long life cycle, perennials have enough time to put down serious, deep and long roots. This lets them soak in and absorb more nutrients from the soil. They reach water much deeper than the annual plants, and they are far stronger than annuals in terms of being less susceptible to various influences such as seasonal variations in the amount of sunshine, rain, cold and heat.
Plant your food the right way
When you look at a typical garden, you’ll see various rows of vegetables planted, and you already know they need to be cultivated, the weed needs to be removed so it wouldn’t soak up precious nutrients and so the vegetables have enough space to grow properly. These vegetables need to be trimmed, as well, and sometimes they also have to be treated with pesticides to protect them from insects.
In nature, things work a lot differently. You won’t see plants growing in strict rows anywhere in nature. Instead, plants grow altogether, and they grow in 3 dimensions: you’ll see a tall plant right next to a short one, you’ll see one plant getting more sun than the other, and you’ll see plants protecting other plants by serving as cover. Often various plants share the same nutrients from the soil and they all seem to benefit from some sort of a natural pest control – we all know nature has been growing various plants for millions of years without the help of pesticides. Many plants live in a beneficial relationship with one another where each gets something it needs from their fellow neighbor.
A secret garden of survival should do exactly this – mimic the way plants grow by themselves in nature.
The most common way you’ll see plants growing in nature is in concentric circles. The tallest plant, which can often be a nut tree or fruit, provides just the right amount of shade underneath it for plants that seek shade, and outside of that shade circle, you’ll see some shrubs such as berries grow. Outside the circle made of shrubs, there are herbs growing. This is a very powerful formation, and you can be rest assured everything is in its right place for best protection and most benefits.
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The herbs attract insects that deliver pollen from one plant to another (butterflies, bees, wasps, ants, flies, etc.) but they’ll also attract predatory wasps – and those feed on many of the insects that are “bad” because they attack and feed on the berries or the fruit on that central tree that provides shade. These herbs, in fact, provide a defensive wall around the fruit, berries, and nuts, so that insects need to actually go through this wall to get to them. The “wall” is alive though, with predatory insects that prey on other insects, so getting to those juicy berries is not going to be easy.
The herbs aren’t the last circle though. Around the herbs grows a low layer of ground cover, and there are many kinds of them. Their job is to accumulate a natural fertilizer called nitrogen from the air and then make it easily reachable and available to all the surrounding plants.
Compared to a traditional garden, growing plants in 3 dimensions in the way we described enables you to produce five (or more) times more food in the same space. The fact that all these plants grow together tells you instantly how this garden is going to look like – camouflaged completely into some sort of overgrown underbrush. It will not look like a typical garden in any way or to anyone.
While all this might seem a bit complicated at first read, if you think about it, a naturally grown garden is way easier to maintain than a traditional one. Nature does everything all by itself; there is no need for you to interact. Instead, you can just enjoy the benefits – and you can enjoy them year after year.
So what are the best survival garden plants?
Asparagus: Yes, your pee may smell a little, but you’ll have an excellent source of nourishment. You can get a healthy dose of iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B2, vitamin A, and folate.
Asparagus needs good sunlight exposure, so be cautious on how you set up that natural canopy. The soil being above 50 degrees will cause the shoots to spring up from the ground.
In terms of a survival garden, asparagus can have problems in colder weather. A particular type of asparagus called Guelph Millennium is a good version that tends to come on late and avoid spring freezes.
Wild Roses: Want to make sure you keep your immune system in check following a societal collapse? Wild roses offer you a load of vitamin C from their rose hips which are ready in the fall. Wild roses grow in areas where citrus fruits have trouble growing, making them an even better vitamin C option, all things considered.
Wild roses are known to create thorns. You can actually use them as a security fence. Just make sure they don’t end up securing you out of your own garden.
Groundnuts: Nope, these aren’t peanuts as commonly mistaken for. They can be found growing in the eastern part of the United States. The vines grow up to 6 feet in length. In the fall, they produce tubers that taste like a sweet potato that’s been roasted.
For them to grow, they like a mostly sunny situation. They thrive in moist but drained soil. And they yield much-needed survival protein.
Good King Henry: This plant is in the same family as quinoa and spinach. The first sprouts are edible typically in springtime. And the seeds can be used much like a grain. It likes mostly sunny conditions (some shade). You will get a lot of vitamin C, iron and calcium when you consume Good King Henry.
Rhubarb: The great thing about adding rhubarb to your survival garden is that rhubarb is tough. This stuff’s original home was Siberia. That’s as legit as it comes. With rhubarb, frost is actually good for it, so that concern is alleviated in fast order.
WARNING: Rhubarb leaves are toxic.
You can make all sorts of dishes using it. And its a great source of vitamin K and B-Complex vitamins.
Other options include Currants, Thunderchild crabapple, and Jerusalem artichoke.
So get started on the homestead.
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.