Survival Gardening: Part 2

The answer to everyone’s question is “No”, we are not too late to get started on our survival garden for this year, not for most of the population living in the United States and Canada. It keeps snowing on me here in Utah, so I’m still waiting.

This is the 2nd post in a series on Survival Gardening
Read Part 1:  Survival Gardening

I just moved into a new place and so I haven’t been able to do my fall preparation like I normally would, but that’s just the way it is sometimes, so don’t sweat the small stuff. Just like survival in the woods, we start wherever we are and go from there, we do the very best we can under the circumstances.

Many times people are frustrated because they hear the radio shows, read the books, view the Emergency Foodvideos, and find their situation doesn’t match up to what they are hearing from the experts. Most of those gardening shows are set up in the ideal circumstance, but you will find there is a lot of leeway with survival gardening.

So with that aside, you can start your garden with me, and we’ll do the best we can, and we WILL have a nice garden.

Getting Started

The very first thing to do is decide a few things you would like to eat, notice I did not say grow, we are planting a vegetable garden, so we will plant what we like to eat. I will make a suggested list in a moment.

The second thing to consider kind of goes along with the first, and that is, what kind of space do you have to work with? If your space is small, some plants will be eliminated right off the bat. So, now let’s list some crops that are common and are not space restricted.  The first five prefer cooler weather.

  • Peas, plant from seed anytime now
  • Brussels Sprouts, get seedlings from nursery
  • Cabbage, get seedlings from nursery
  • Cauliflower, get seedlings from nursery
  • Broccoli, get seedlings from nursery
  • Carrots, plant from seed when soil warms
  • Beets, plant from seed when soil warms
  • Beans, green and dry, plant from seed anytime after last frost
  • Spinach, plant from seed after last frost
  • Potatoes, plant eyes, in the bottom of furrows after last frost
  • Tomatoes, get seedlings from nursery and plant after last frost


OK so now you have a few choices of crops now let’s look at the space that is available to you. Long term foodEverything I’ve listed can be grown in small spaces in little cubes or pots of one kind or another, or you can do rows or raised beds like usual. Make up a sketch and start laying things out, don’t worry about being fancy or buying some software to do it, it’s just not that complicated.


Consider also how or if you will water, I live in the desert of the Western United States so watering is mandatory here, and I do my own thing with commercial type drip irrigation.  I mention this here because I bury my drip lines before planting.

Work the Ground

Now that we’ve come this far, our next task is to get some ground prepared. If you did that last fallTomatos great, if not, don’t worry all is not lost. The main objective now is to loosen the soil that has compacted over the winter, get some air into it, break clumps up, and incorporate some organic matter, well rotted if possible since we don’t have time now to decompose it.

Raised Beds

I prefer raised beds always, but I don’t go buy a bunch of boards to do it. Here’s what I do. After the ground is prepared, I mark my rows, usually about 30” wide, then I move the dirt in the walkways on top of the rows so they are higher, then I just work this dirt in and level it all off.

One of the advantages to raised beds is they warm up faster in the spring, especially if oriented East/West, it’s also an easy way to provide a deeper root zone. Another advantage of raised beds is the soil starts to dry out sooner in the spring.

For small plants like peas, carrots, beets, and beans I will plant 3-4 rows on the raised bed. For the Long term foodother plants I listed other than tomatoes and potatoes, I do a zig-zag pattern 18” apart off the center of the row, this allows me to plant more in the space than straight down the row. If I’m planting corn I do a double row, with a drip line between each  row.

So that’s how I typically do my modified version of raised beds. In my last place I got where I never tilled the walkways just the beds. Now let’s get some planting beds done.

Next time we’ll plant a few things, talk about the row covers I use, and expand our planting beds.

My Simple Raised Bed in 4 Steps

Here’s a quick step by step on making a very simple raised bed. In this example, I make the bed 18 inches of  loose soil, the bed is 30 inches wide and 10 feet long. It took me an hour to make this raised bed in ground unused for years. So let’s do it!!

Step 1

As you can see, this is just a corner of an old pasture. You could use a tiller, but I want to Long term foodshow you just how easy this is to do. For breaking up soil I like to use a spade fork as shown. It penetrates the soil easily.

I started in the bottom left, and just used the fork to turn over the soil. I worked bottom to top in a row, then just row by row till done. I turned over soil in an area about 3 feet wider than the raised bed will be.

Step 2

Once the area is turned over with the spading fork, I use the rake, in a chopping motion Emergency Preparedness Foodwhen breaking up clods, and then start working the soil by raking back and forth.

I pull out any large grass clumps that don’t break up, I also remove any rocks. Now I’m starting to smooth the soil.

Step 3

Now I mark the size of the row. I just had a phone line buried recently so I had gathered up the yellow flags they left behind, I’m using them here to mark the boundaries of the raised bed.

Emergency Garden
Step 3: Marking the Row

Step 4

Next, I use my 3 foot wide landscape rake to pull soil from the sides (walkways) to the Emergency Gardenmiddle. This gives height to the bed. The bed is formed. I tamp the sides a bit to firm them. So that’s it, a simple raised bed at a very low cost!!!

Until next time this is Perry Peacock, doing Simple Gardening…

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

Photos by:
Perry Peacock

Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.