Starting Your Survival Garden: 5 Tips for Success

How do you like these grocery prices? If you’re like many people, you may be thinking that it’s time to start a survival garden to become more self-sufficient. There are so many benefits to growing your own food, not the least of which is avoiding crazy prices and limited availability. Let’s take a look at a few tips to help you get started.

Survival garden harvest Photo 94533701 © Alessio Andrea Balza |
Photo 94533701 © Alessio Andrea Balza |

You can stretch your budget, eat wholesome foods and prepare for the future by growing your own food. Planting and harvesting food from a survival garden doesn’t require acres of land.

Location, Location, Location

You can start a garden anywhere you live, even if you live in an apartment. If your space is limited, you can garden in containers. But if you have a nice plot of land where you can plant, you need to choose your garden location wisely, because plants need sunlight in order to survive.

But location isn’t just about finding the right spot in your yard. It’s also about the right location in the country.

Gardening differs from state to state. If you’ve ever planted food in your garden and it failed, it might have been because you planted something that grows outside your region. Preppers can use the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) map to determine which foods are most likely to grow in their region and when to plant them.

Plants and seeds are labeled based on their hardiness. These labels indicate which areas the plants are most likely to thrive in. There are eleven regions divided by temperature into zones 1 through 11.

In the South, states are divided according to whether they are coastal or tropical and whether they are in the upper, lower, or middle regions. A state can be composed entirely of one region or a mixture of two or three. Florida, for instance, is entirely coastal and tropical. South Carolina, on the other hand, has a blend of coastal and tropical as well as lower and middle South.

Several states lie in the Southwestern Deserts. The state of California is divided into northern and southern zones, as well as coastal and inland valleys.

There is a Pacific Northwest region and a Western Mountains and High Plains region. New England, the Middle Atlantic, and the Northern Central Midwest make up the remainder of the regions.

You can find out what zone you are in by looking at the USDA map for your state. You can also use the map to determine when you should plant your garden. The plants you plant in your survival garden should grow well in your area.

Understand Your Soil

The right soil is essential for a garden. If you want to ensure that your soil is healthy enough to support a garden, you can test it before planting. A soil test will determine how fertile your soil is by determining how much phosphorous, nitrogen, and other nutrients are found in your soil, as well as the pH of your soil.

There are different methods for soil testing – you can purchase a soil test kit or you can send soil samples to a testing lab near you. If you don’t know where to go, call your county extension office. They may offer soil testing and if they don’t, they will be able to tell you who does. It’s a good idea to submit samples in the fall or winter so you’re ready to plant your survival garden in the spring, One you get the results of your soil test, you’ll know what fertilizers or other amendments you’ll need so your plants can thrive.

Drainage and irrigation play an important role in plant health. You should not plant your garden in an area that will hold standing water during heavy rainfall. Plants can drowned if the water cannot drain off. If your soil has a lot of clay, water will not be able to drain well, but if there is a lot of sand in your soil, it may drain too fast. Whatever kind of soil you have, it will benefit from the addition of compost, so plan to work some into your soil every year.

Look At Your Diet

Spend some time analyzing what your family eats in a month. Does your family eat a lot of pasta? You might want to grow tomatoes and other ingredients to make sauce. Do you put onions and garlic in everything you cook? Figure out how much you use in a month, and from there figure what you need for a year, with a little extra for just in case.

One year I canned 24 pints of salsa. I found out fast that it wasn’t enough to last a full year because we really like salsa. But also because the salsa I made myself was even better than what we used to buy in the store, resulting in us going through the supply faster than expected.

On the other hand, if your family hates okra, it would be silly to plant it in your survival garden even if it absolutely thrives in your garden zone. Unless you have a great plan to trade it for something you can use, you can better utilize the space by planting something you actually like. So make a list of what you buy the most and then see if it’s something you can grow.

Once you know your area’s climate zone, you can determine what kinds of gardening foods will do well in your local climate. An excellent resource is your local county extension service. Often they will have advice on food plants that can grow successfully in your area. Also, talk to your neighbors. Sometimes they will know of hidden gems that grow well in your area that you may not have previously considered.

Learn About Companion Planting

You should choose plants for your survival garden that will be good neighbors. Consider how well plants tolerate each other when deciding on plant varieties. Have you ever heard that “carrots love tomatoes?” There are also plants that can impede the growth of other plants, like corn and tomatoes, or peppers and cabbage. You should plants away from others because they compete for the same nutrients and will therefore struggle if planted together.

As you begin to understand companion planting, you might want to look into permaculture gardening, or food forests. This garden method utilizes “guilds” that include specific plants for specific reasons. You won’t only have food plants in a guild. You might plant flowers that attract pollinators or pungent herbs that can help repel pests. These types of gardens mimic nature, so the plants you grow are more healthy and productive than if you plant each vegetable in a row. This is something I am learning more about, so expect more articles on permaculture in the future.

Learn to Save Seeds for Your Survival Garden

There are many reasons to start your own survival garden, but one is to rely less on others for food. This includes the seeds you plant. If you have your own seed vault, or if you can organize a seed swap with your neighbors, you don’t have to rely on “the system” to plant and grow your own food.

Buying heirloom seeds is essential if you plan to keep replanting your garden from seed. You can save these types of seeds from your harvest and replanted the following year with the same results. Heirlooms are passed down for generations. Often they have a better flavor, or they may be more hardy or adaptable. This is unlike commercial hybrid varieties that are bred to be durable and provide a consistent, steady supply. While this isn’t terrible, it often sacrifices flavor. Seeds planted from hybrid plants may not produce the same results as the parent plant. A hybrid plant’s seeds tend to be less vigorous, more variable. They usually yield fewer flowers and produce less than their parents.

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