Survival Gardening: Part 1

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First of all what is survival? It is quite simply what we’ve all been doing since we were born.  We provide for ourselves shelter, fire, water, medical, food, and social life, these are the foundation of our existence.  Without these core principals, our very existence is at risk.

Supply Chain

In our modern society these basics come to us generally without much thinking, they are easily Emergency Seedsobtained and take little effort.  As we talk about in our training programs, modern civilization has made the basics of life inexpensive and very convenient, however, there is a trade off, the supply chain is easily interrupted due to a whole host of reasons.  Food comes to us from all over the world now, economic difficulties or transportation issues could quickly deprive us of this vital element in our survival.

It is best to have storage of food and other necessities for up to a year if possible in order to get all the way through a season of difficulty.  One inexpensive and simple way to build that storage is to grow much of it yourself with seeds and a garden.  Outside our building at Wilderness Innovation are two planters about 6 feet long and 2 feet wide.  Last year I put in 5 tomato cages, each 2 feet in diameter and 4 feet high that I made out of field fence wire.  We easily got over 600 pounds of tomatoes.  The plants cost me about $5 and there was little other expense to grow them.  We chose to make salsa out of most of them, since we can use it in so many things.  This is an example of how you can grow a lot in a little bit of space. (See book – Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times)

Start Small

I believe it is vital for everyone to grow some food where they live, no matter how small an Survival Seedsamount.  It used to be that all people grew food, they had to, that’s what they ate, they preserved it to get through the winter.  Everyone should know how to grow food, and the best way to do that is to do it, and do it every year.  I’m not a big fan of buying cans of anything that are supposedly good for 20 or 30 years, it’s too much of a gamble for me, if it doesn’t work and you need it, it’s too late!  If you just grow what you can every year and replenish your seeds every year you will always be ready for one season.

What do you grow?  If you haven’t gardened before, start small with just a few things you like.  Peas are great and they can start when it’s still cool.  Then you can grow bush beans, carrots or potato’s.  If you are in the U.S., you can contact the local Extension Service office and find out what’s best in your area and get helpful tips on when to start and what the favored varieties are, also guys like me blog and make videos that may be helpful.  Years ago I took a Master Gardener certification course, after graduation I taught classes, and wound up starting my own Market Garden where we sold from a stand on the road.

You don’t have to go big though, some people don’t have much space available, I lived in a city in Emergency Seedsthe South East US for a while and had little room to grow a garden, but found that I could block some sections among our flowers with bush beans or peas, it worked well and we got a pretty good harvest. We also planted some useful herbs among our flowers.  There are lots of ways to grow a garden, the best thing is to grow whatever you can and do a little gardening every year to keep in practice.  Stay tuned for more helpful advice.

Survival Gardening is special series by Perry Peacock of Wilderness Innovation Team for SurvivalCache.com

Photos by:
Perry Peacock
Tricky

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Enron-Survivor March 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Excellent idea!!!

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Jacob of Kansith March 10, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Typo in the first paragraph, the word you are looking for is medicine. No sweat it happens. I am planning to start a small garden this spring. I hope to grow potatoes, green beans, and carrots. My grandmother even knows how to can and preserve fruits so I will be taking a lesson or two from her. Gardening is truly underutilized, especially in America. For a true survival garden though NON-hybrid seeds are required. Seeds bought from Wal-mart are almost always hybrid seeds, meaning the fruits of your labor will be tasty but will not yield any further seeds. This is important when you can't restock every year. I recommend http://www.survivalseedbank.com/ and http://www.stockpileseedsnow.com/

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Perry_WI March 10, 2011 at 9:09 pm

When my kids were at home, at our peak we canned about 1000 quarts a year, of vegetables, fruit, and such things as, spaghetti sauce, catsup, baked beans, etc. Love it. As for seeds, I love hybrid seeds, and they are great until there is a seed failure and none are available. If you use non-hybrid, you should use them every year, so you know what ones you like and also so you know how to grow them. I'm not a fan of buying seeds in a can and storing them for 20 years, then using them when the big situation happens. I'm not confident they will grow properly. I'd rather use them each year and buy enough for the next couple years..thanks!!

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Joe April 29, 2011 at 3:17 am

Great point that cannot be overstated. Hybrid seeds will produce a good crop the first year, but saving the seeds for subsequent years is practically worthless. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_seed

If you're prepping, buying heritage seeds is a good idea. We've bought ours from Baker Creek with success. http://rareseeds.com/

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Greg March 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm

If hybrid plants are mixed with non-hybrid seeds, will it have any effect for using the seeds ?

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usnyhockeyguy March 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I was just reading a great book called "How to make a forest garden". It talks about things most people don't think about when they think of gardening, like trees and bushes. Once you create your ecosystem it is very low upkeep. Really good read if you want to try something a little different.

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Joey March 11, 2011 at 11:19 am

Sounds interesting, who wrote it?

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usnyhockeyguy March 21, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Patrick Whitefield, you can find it on Amazon

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Perry_WI March 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Good idea. It is amazing what you can do with what's laying around. Lots of free stuff, just for the asking. Thanks for the comment!!

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Randy March 11, 2011 at 4:38 am

Earthquakes in Japan & Civil unrest in Africa – more reason than ever to start a survival garden. Thanks Perry for the great read, looking forward to part 2. It is nice to see someone with "Master Gardener" status writing this.

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Wicker March 11, 2011 at 9:55 am

Thanks for a great article and the encouragenment to us rookies. I've grown tomoatos and peppers for about 10 years now. I started herbs about four years ago and this year I am expanding to beans, radishes, asparagus and a variety of different tomatos. I live in southeastern PA and I started them about 10 days ago in a small greenhouse type contaniner (except the asparagus) and I will eventually transplant them into the garden. Radishes are already booming and others are sprouting nicely as our weather warms. I'm hopeul for a great harvest. Maybe I'll even try to can some this year. I have no clue how to, but figure that with all of the resourses available today, I can figure it out…..Thanks again.

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NerdyAdventurer March 11, 2011 at 10:44 am

I’m starting my first garden this year! Well, actually my husband is starting it…. I have the proverbial black thumb. We’ve had to research and find plants that can grow well in low sun. Our whole yard is tree filled, and since we rent we can’t just cut down a tree to let some light in. But we’ll be growing broccoli, cabbage, onions, garlic, spinach and a few herbs. We’ve also decided to make it a container garden. Because a) we are probably moving this summer, and b) it’s way easier than going to war with the slugs.

Oh, and alot of towns have compost dumps now! My town has free compost and free wood chips. If you live in town and find it infeasible to compost your own trash, find out, you can probably get all the compost you want for cheap-to-free. But don’t be upset when you find a little non-biodegradable trash in it, it’s inevitable.

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CaptBart April 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Just be careful of what goes into the dump. If it isn't carefully run, you wind up with dung from meat eating animals and other things that can poison the soil that you put the compost on.

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jen March 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm

I'm looking forward to starting a garden. Even on the small lot we'll have, I think we'll be able to get a high yield. I think another important aspect of survival is fostering a community – when you live near & establish relationships with like-minded people, you can work together in times of disaster for the benefit of the group.

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alex March 11, 2011 at 10:44 pm

that sounds like a fantastic idea, but just have to be careful not to use treated pine, as it can leach chemicals into the soil

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Dave H. March 15, 2011 at 5:53 am

Very interesting article. Has anyone seen growing potatoes or sweet potatoes in stacked tires? (Google it) This looks like a very space efficient way to grow a staple crop. YMMV.

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CaptBart April 1, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Dave,
we tried that with very limited success. I think our error was in not putting drain holes in the tire sidewalls. The area filled with water and the plants didn't make it. Those in the center section grew OK but the areas by the edge died.
I've also grown tomatoes upside down in buckets with a hole in the bottom. Tried the on line system and it wasn't worth the $19.95 that everything costs. With the Home depot bucket, we put a plant in a central hole, filled the bucket to the top, put a lid on it and turned it upside down. Once the shoot got a good start, we hung the bucket right side up and removed the lid. The plants grew well from a frame we made, took no land and produced a lot of tomatoes.

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badt44 March 16, 2011 at 6:26 am

somewhere long ago I read a article on how to rejuvinate oxygen obsorbers can any one give info on how to do this

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CaptBart March 16, 2011 at 10:33 am

If you are talking about the packets that come in things like commercial jerky the answer is probably not reliably. The absorbers can be any number of chemicals, some as simple as iron which absorbs water in the process of rusting. Others are more complex and are often tailored to the food to be protected (wet or dry). Some of the early ones could be baked in an oven (around 400 degrees I think but am not sure) but the newer stuff, it would be a crap shoot. You might not get any protection at all and you'd find that out when you tried to use the food. They are relatively cheap (Google for them, you'll see) so I'd recommend getting new ones. Trying to use old ones is a false economy in most cases. Just my not so humble opinion.

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badt44 March 18, 2011 at 7:18 am

I know where to find them and what they cost and am looking for the procedure for reusing them,Just my humble request. No scientist please.

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badt44 March 19, 2011 at 8:34 am

also I thought knowledge and know how trumped internet and money, do we not plan for a grid down with 0 paper money value?

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CaptBart April 1, 2011 at 6:01 pm

From the tone of your response, it seems I've given offense. If that is so, my apologies. If you're looking for post TEOTWAWKI survival techniques, I suggest that the methods used in the first half of the 20th century. Things like rice in cheesecloth bags absorb moisture very well, are not poisonous if taken internally, and are easily made. CO2 can function for long term oxygen displacement and does not require technology to put in packets. Done wrong, the off gassing from some of the chemical cocktails in the packets can be quite harmful. Again, my apologies if my answer seemed out of line. It was my intent to be helpful but sometimes the teacher in me sneaks out and I blow it.

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T.Rapier March 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm

never understood why anybody would plant lettuce that has almost no nutritional value instead of cabbage ?

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Misty April 28, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Lettuce actually has nutritional value, just not the iceburg type. All leafy greens have Vitamin K which is the vitamin your body uses to make the clotting factor of your blood (the way your body keeps your blood in).

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Colt July 4, 2011 at 9:28 am

Not only do I have a standard garden but I have an emphasis on things most people forget. Perennials in general will give you a huge return on effort. You can often find perennial versions of things too. My perennial onions for example have been around for years and as long as the ground isn't frozen solid, being tubers, I can even dig them up during the winter and use them.

The other thing though is bushes and trees as someone mentioned. Why have a hedge that doesn't provide you berries? Why have a tree that doesn't drop food on you as well as shade? Next time you plant a tree drop the oak and grab an apple, plum, or whatever trees that are suitable to your area. Sure it won't put out quite as much shade for a single tree but you can plant 2 apple trees right next to each other and they'll fill in just the same.

I replaced all my power-line disrupting trees with fruit trees and considering the huge return on money and work effort I fell in love and got land use rights for the empty half-lot next to me which I'm turning into an orchard with just about every kind of fruit and nut tree viable for my area.

But wait, there's more! Vines! That's right. Do you have a fence? What about a wall that doesn't need repainted anymore? Get some grapes or whatever else you like. Fences don't usually even need any modification. Just stick the vine in the ground next to it. If it's a wall attach a mesh to it. Afraid it would hurt your aesthetics? Not only do these vines make beautiful flowers and give you that nice Tuscan villa theme, but you can guide and prune those vines and make beautiful designs from them.

Now that I've seen how great it can be I'll never plant another plant that doesn't make food again.

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uksurvivalist August 15, 2011 at 11:30 am

Hi I’m new to survivalism (22yrs old and from uk) so any advice would be great but I just wanted to say “Why have a tree that doesn’t drop food on u as well as shade? Next time you plant a tree drop the oak tress” acorns ARE edible just leech the tannin out of the brown acorns first to make them more palatable, either by boiling in several changes of water (till the water doesn’t go brown (stays clear)) or leave in a mesh bag/ reed or grass basket in a stream for a few days (as done by ray mears (BBC1 ray mears wild food series one woodland episode) and collect three times as many as u think u will need due to bug infested and rotten ones and only the brown ones hope that helps (I don’t think the episode is still on BBC iplayer but u might be able to find it on youtube)

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timeshare get out June 17, 2012 at 7:47 am

Gardening is not just a simple planting any kind of plants. This will need an expertise or knowledge to this. This is also needs tools and materials for the proper caring of plants.

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Kassidy Minyard June 30, 2012 at 12:02 am

Appreciate you sharing, great post.Really thank you! Want more.

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Landyn Chasse June 30, 2012 at 12:05 am

wow, awesome article. Fantastic.

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Louis G Cooper September 20, 2012 at 11:42 pm

A garden at home definitely gives calmness to the place. I had ours set up beautifully around the carports perth as in favor to my wife as well. I had a bit of gardening skills eventually as I supported her with this project.

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farmer phyl February 9, 2013 at 11:39 pm

If you're going to grow a survival garden, consider the number of calories per square foot of garden. You can sit on a mountain of tomatoes, carrots, zucchini etc and still starve to death. If tomatoes were all you could eat you would need to consume 32 pounds per day, which is physically not possible. The average person can only eat 5-6 pounds of food per day so you need to get enough calories in those 5 pounds. If you don't have enough space for grains or to raise animals, probably the only vegetable staples that have enough calories and can be raised in relatively small spaces are potatoes and sweet potatoes. Also learn what vegetables can be grown in the winter even in the northern parts of the US. Learn more about what crops store well in root cellars that don't need fuel to heat or cool. Fuel for canning may not always be available.

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Pamela Quincy March 24, 2013 at 8:35 pm

That is one reason I mostly keep fruits and vegetables in the back yard. Having a backup stash is always a good idea. Besides, some of the food plants are just as good to look at as any usual garden plant.

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Henry Curtis April 29, 2013 at 1:47 am

It would also be a great idea to start with plants that are easy to grow, especially if you're a beginner. Get the hang of the whole idea first and develop your green thumb before moving on to the more care-intensive vegetation.

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Leesburg April 30, 2013 at 10:09 am

If you haven't started your survival garden, you are sorely missing the boat. Look around you, the world is collapsing slowly but surely. Better start getting prepared….

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Soweto Guided Tours May 14, 2013 at 9:46 am

Heavy nice reading my pal!! I enjoyed this wonderful sound for the meaningful article topic. By the way survival gardening part 1 touches me amazingly. Thanks!

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Farmer Phyl May 15, 2013 at 11:26 am

Survival gardening should be about SURVIVAL. Growing 600 pounds of tomatoes sounds like a lot, but humans can only eat 5.5-6.6 pounds of food a day. There are only 82 calories in each pound of tomatoes. If you stuff yourself you might be able to eat 600 calories of tomatoes each day. You will literally be sitting on a mountain of tomatoes and still starve to death. It's pretty much the same for carrots, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, celery, zucchini etc. So if your garden is small consider carefully which vegetables will have enough calories in them to actually keep you alive. Try potatoes, sweet potatoes, or winter squash (if you are also willing to eat the seeds too). But neither potatoes or sweet potatoes are grown from seed, so you won't find them mentioned on websites that sell survival garden seeds. Dried beans and peas are a good source of calories if you have enough garden space and water to be able to grow them. Besides considering calories you also need to consider nutrients too. For example spinach and kale are much higher in nutrients than lettuce. For a good resource on survival gardening try John Jeavons book "How to Grow More Vegetables" His info can be used by anyone but is geared toward helping subsistence peasant farmers in the third world learn how to grow enough calories and nutrients to improve their health and survival rates.

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littleton landscape May 28, 2013 at 8:24 pm

You will get a lot of benefits if you have this in you backyard. Eating healthy foods is really a must today.

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David Hilton July 21, 2013 at 9:51 pm

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@myheirloomseeds October 14, 2013 at 12:13 am

Gardening is a skill within itself. Many unprepared people will be shocked when their initial 3,6, 9 or 1 year supply of food runs out and they have not done the necessary preparation in terms of developing this skill called Gardening. It's not just about throwing seeds in the grown and let's not forget about all of the curve balls that Mother Nature throws at us like plant diseases, bug infestation, rain, frost, drought, etc.

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Really! April 28, 2012 at 10:11 pm

As well as carrying the wonderful tobacco mosiac disease which can wipe out your tomato plants and related family (potatoes, eggplant). I would suggest a few chickens if the bugs are that bad.

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