Survival Gardening

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With all that’s going on in the world today including the recent food shortages at the grocery stores many of us have become (more) concerned about food security.

One way to combat the fears and provide for your family is by growing (at least) some of your own food. One way to save money on gardening is by seed-saving. Of course you can purchase seeds from many places and store them for later use.

raised bed garden garlic patch
raised bed garden garlic patch

Each of us should strive to become more self-reliant. Self-sufficiency means you don’t have to rely on the supply chain to refit the grocery store and keeps you from relying on government handouts.

Of course the government can’t stockpile enough food to feed everyone!

Sure, there are some long term ‘seed vaults’ but those seeds aren’t going to be readily available for you and me. YOU are the person most responsible for you, and your family’s, best chance of food for survival.

It’s up to you to become more knowledgeable about growing a garden, preserving that food and saving seed for the next growing season.

digging garden
digging garden

Any food you’ve managed to put back will only last as long as you’ve provided for. If you’ve stored a week’s worth of groceries and you can’t get to the store you’ll be scrambling for something to feed your family. That last can of ‘whatever someone doesn’t like’ might begin to look more promising. Same goes for a month’s worth of food, or three months, or a year. What will you do when the stored goods run out?

You’ve got to have a method of bringing more food into the home. You need a garden.

vegetable garden
vegetable garden

If you’ve never gardened or don’t think you have space then start small. You can begin with a windowsill garden (some vegetables you can regrow such as romaine), or container gardening, or balcony/deck/front yard gardening. Just start. Your thumb will become greener as you learn.

Regrowing Romaine
Regrowing Romaine

You need garden seeds. You need enough to plant a lot of ground. You need seeds for plants that can reproduce themselves. Plants that keep on producing.

You want non-modified seeds.

When you save seed from the foods you grow (and then replanting) you’ll end up with a continual source of foods. Look for plants/seeds that produce a lot of edible fruit/vegetables. You also want to grow plants that are high in nutrition as well as foods that last a long time once picked.

So what kind of seeds should you accumulate?

I’d start off with bean seeds. There are beans that grow in a bush format as well as beans that grow on a climbing vine. Beans can produce a viable crop in 45-90 days (depending upon variety).

bucket beans
bucket beans

Beans are full of protein and fiber. Bean plants are sturdy crops that provide an abundance of food. Beans can be canned or dried. My own grandparents would dry a winter’s worth of butter beans on a sheet in the barn. Once dried they’d move to a barrel container for storage and use. Grandmother fed a lot of kids and butter beans were a staple. But there’s more than butter beans. Think pintos, crowder, lentils and more. What’s your favorite dried bean?

Corn seeds are another staple to have. Look for a short growing variety. Corn is a heavy feeder so prepare your plot well. Remember how the natives taught the settlers to put a fish into the planting hole? No fish? Add some compost. That corn can then be canned or dried. In my grandparents day they’d send bushels of corn to town to be ground into cornmeal. Cornbread goes great with beans!

corn
corn

Green seeds such as lettuces and cabbages. Both grow quickly. Plant your lettuces (and other greens such as spinaches) over different days/weeks so that you have a consistent ready source of salad makings. Cabbages can be stored in a cool place such as a refrigerator or cellar. For longer term storage you can even store cabbages (and root vegetables such as carrots) in a garden pit or mound.

Cucumbers produce fast and produce a lot and can be preserved as pickles. Carrots grow fast. If you like anything made with tomatoes plant a lot. You can make salsa, tomato sauce, tomato paste, spaghetti sauce and tomatoes can also be canned or dried. Add some winter squashes and pumpkin seeds as these can last months into the winter when stored properly.

Look for seeds for foods you like as well. Love that fried okra and squash? Add those seeds to your survival seed bank and save some seeds from the bounty for the following year.

okra
okra

Once you’ve accumulated your future seeds be sure to store them where bugs/rodents can’t get to them. Store away from moisture and heat. Forty degrees is an optimal storage temperature.

Know your planting zone so that you know when to plant.

Buy a hoe.

Buy a water hose.

In the event of an actual food crisis you may not have access to the stores, the internet, or an elder to help you learn to garden. Your best bet is to start now. It’s the end of September but you can still plant some cool season crops such as lettuces, radishes, kale, mustard greens, turnips, leeks, onions, garlic, and carrots.

Gaining a little experience will go a long way when it matters most.

Get out there and get your hands dirty!