Whether you want to increase your self-reliance or provide for your family when times are tough, one of the keys is to have a survival garden. Providing enough food to your family requires a proper survival garden layout and detailed planning.
Growing food for your family seems like a huge task that requires a lot of land, but that’s not true. While it takes work, everyone can grow food for their family even if you don’t have multiple acres of land. A survival garden might be your small backyard, but you can grow your own food anywhere.
Part of growing food for your family is planning and having the best survival garden layout. Here is how to plan out your garden for success and to make sure your family is fed no matter what.
Pick the Right Vegetables to Grow for Survival
When you plan the vegetables for your prepper garden and lack access to a store, you have to make sure your family’s nutritional needs are met, including vitamins and minerals. This means you need to grow calorie-dense foods to sustain everyone in your house.
Adults need 1600-2500 calories per day, and children require 1000-2000 calories per day. Make sure you consider this when survival gardening.
Not only do you need calories, but you need protein, fats, and carbs to stay healthy. A lack of vitamins and minerals in your diet leads to different health problems that you want to avoid, especially during a survival situation.
Planning what to grow in your garden to feed your family for the year varies from family to family. Everyone has different taste preferences, but here are some of the most common plants in a survival garden.
- Winter Squash
- Summer Squash
- Green Beans
- Sweet Potatoes
- Sunflower Seeds
Don’t Forget to Grow Medicinal Herbs in Your Garden
Medicinal plants are essential in a survival situation; they’re the best survivalist medicine when modern medications are limited. It’s best to grow as many medicinal herbs as possible. Some might be located in your area and grow naturally, but many need to be cultivated in a garden.
Some of the best medicinal herbs to grow in your survival garden include:
- Bee Balm
- St. John’s Worth
Consider Your Storage Methods
When you plan out your survival garden, it’s important to consider what type of preservation methods you want to use. The goal is to feed your family from your survival garden throughout the year, and the only way to do that is to preserve what you grow.
Here are the most common preservation methods that you might use.
1. Use a Root Cellar
A root cellar is an old-fashioned long-term storage method for foods like apples, onions, potatoes, cabbages, and winter squash. Some of these crops store well for up to six to nine months in a root cellar. If you want to grow a few of these crops, especially the root vegetables, consider adding a root cellar to your property.
You might be surprised at how many vegetables store well in a root cellar. Many fruits and vegetables store for half of a year when preserved at the right temperature. All you have to do is put them into bins and monitor the temperature and humidity.
2. Try Canning
Every prepper should know how to can foods because it’s so versatile. Most foods are canning safe, and it’s possible to can meats, soups, meals, vegetables, fruits, jams, and more. The list of canning ideas is endless.
There are some problems with canning though.
A lot of foods need to be pickled to be canned safely, and that alters the taste of the foods. You might not like pickled foods.
Also, it’s not practical to take canned foods with you when you bug out. They’re heavy and breakable. You need to have a good storage system for all of your home-canned foods, but they’re easy to reheat. Canning is how most people grow their food supply.
3. Start Dehydrating
Dehydrating is a great way to preserve foods in your garden; there are tons of great foods to dehydrate for survival that store for years. Dehydration creates a shelf life of up to five years when dried properly. Plus, it’s easy to bug out with dehydrated food in your backpack.
The problem is that dehydrated food needs to be rehydrated, and that’s tricky to do at times. If you dehydrate meals, you want to test out how they taste when you rehydrate them to make sure they still taste great.
4. Fermentation is Great
Don’t discount fermenting. It’s an old-fashioned way of preserving food, but if you want to grow cabbages and love sauerkraut, you need to learn how to ferment foods. If you don’t like pickled foods, you probably won’t like fermenting!
6 Different Survival Garden Layouts
You can use a traditional in-ground garden for your survival garden, but there are several layouts that are proven and work well to grow food for your family.
1. Square Foot Gardening
Square foot gardening is a way to grow vegetable plants in small spaces. The guidelines prevent crowding while helping to maximize the space you have and eliminate wasted space that happens when you use row planting.
The goal of square foot gardening is to use all of the space you have, and it requires raised beds that are divided with string, wooden dowels, or twine. You create square foot blocks to plant the crops.
2. Victory Gardens
Victory gardens began during World War II when the USA shipped tons of food to our troops and encouraged families to grow as much food as possible at home. COVID led to a comeback because of the recent turbulent times. It started as a way to reduce reliance on staples to free up rations for troops, but now it’s a way to reduce dependency on the grocery store.
Following the plans for a victory garden helps to provide food for a family of two to four people. It pushes a high reliance on beans because of the ease of drying and preserving them.
3. Back to Eden Gardening
Back to Eden gardening is a simple method that has gardeners spread a thick layer of wood chips over the entire garden and planting everything in the wood chips. The wood chips retain moisture and suppress weeds, and they eventually decompose into the soil.
4. Permaculture Forest
A permaculture food forest isn’t a typical garden, but the plants and trees create a “forest” in your backyard where everything is scattered throughout your property. It teaches you about microclimates, growing conditions, and companion planting.
Building a permaculture forest takes time, but the benefit is that it truly won’t look like a garden. Instead, it looks like a diverse yard with different trees and plants stacked together. It’s ideal for food security.
5. Backyard Homestead
Having a backyard homestead is more than just having a vegetable garden. When you have a backyard homestead, you add in fruit trees and bushes, perennial vegetable plants, chickens, goats, honeybees, and anything else that creates food for your family.
The benefit of using the backyard homesteading method is that you have multiple sources. You continue to add more things to your property that provide food for your family. However, your location might limit the animals that you can raise, and raising animals requires a time commitment that you might not have.
6. Ruth Stout Garden
The Ruth Stout gardening method is similar to Back to Eden gardening, but instead of wood chips, you use hay. Hay decomposes faster, so it’ll amend your soil faster. You plant everything in the hay and continue to refresh the thick layer throughout the gardening season.
How to Plan Your Survival Garden Layout
When you’re ready to plan out your survival garden layout, here are the steps to get started.
1. Plan to Grow Year-Round
If you’re planning a survival garden, having a steady food supply throughout the winter is a must-have. Those living in a mild climate with a long growing season can grow vegetables without a problem all year-round, but if you receive snow, you have to be creative.
The best way to grow veggies in the winter is to use season extenders, such as hoop houses and cold frames. This should be included when survival gardening; you want to have fresh greens to provide essential vitamins and minerals even in the winter months.
Season extenders allow you to start growing in the early spring into the winter months. Make sure you understand your growing season for your garden. It differs for every region, and it’ll determine what plants you can grow.
2. Figure Out How to Collect Water
Consider how you’ll water your survival garden if the electricity goes out permanently. Most vegetable plants aren’t drought-tolerant, so you need a plan to collect rainwater and use methods like mulching to retain moisture in the soil.
If you want to collect rainwater, the system needs to be close enough to the garden that you can use a watering can or attach a hose to the containers. If you want to water from the hose that attaches to your house, you’ll need to make sure you have a hose that’s long enough, and it’s not too far from your house.
3. Incorporate Companion Plants
Companion plants aren’t something silly that gardeners talk about; they help with pest control, balance nutrients in the soil and attract pollinators. Those are some great reasons to use companion planting when planning your survival garden layout.
Make sure you include some flowers in your veggie garden. For example, marigolds help to deter a range of pests because of their unpleasant scent to insects. Consider planting tomatoes near beans and chives, but keep them away from corn. Beans and cucumbers grow well together.
4. Pick a Prime Location
Picking the best location for your survival garden is a big deal. You have to consider exposure to sunlight, water, soil, and accessibility. Here are some factors to think about when you pick the location.
- You don’t want to have to lug all of your gardening tools too far. It should be convenient to access your plants.
- If you live in the northern hemisphere, face your survival garden to the south of your house because it provides the most sunlight, if possible, or far enough north that there isn’t a large shadow.
- Plant taller crops at the north end of your garden to avoid casting shadows over plants, and consider trees closely and how much of a shadow they’ll cast when in full bloom.
- Most plants need six to eight hours of sunlight each day. Other plants need only four to six hours of sunlight. Make sure you know how much your plants need.
5. Sketch Your Garden Layout
Once you know where you want to put your survival garden and the plants that you want to group together, it’s time to start sketching your survival garden layout. Sketching your layout is a great idea because it gives you the chance to make changes before you put plants in the ground.
Draw out your entire property, including fence lines and trees, to help you get a feel for where everything will be located. Know where the sun rises and how much sunlight each plant needs. Write out the plants that you want to grow in each area. This helps you see potential problems ahead of time.
6. Make a Planting Schedule
Now is a great time to make your planting schedule, which you need for survival gardening. Not everything is planted at the same time; some things should be planted several weeks before the last frost date in your region and some cannot handle cold temperatures.
Take a look at the list of vegetables and plants you want to grow in your garden, and look up when each can be planted outside. Mark the ones that are cold-friendly and need to be planted before the last frost date.
Examples of cold-hardy vegetables that you’ll plant in the early spring include:
Then, write those on your calendar. It’s important to know when these plants can go into your garden beds. Next, mark what plants should be planted after the last frost date and mark those on your calendar.
Examples of warm weather crops for your garden that you cannot plant until the last frost include:
- Green Beans
7. Learn How to Feed Your Soil
Knowing your soil is imperative, and you need to learn how to feed your soil without stores available if you want a true survival garden. When you plant your garden for the first time, it’s a smart idea to get your soil tested in your survival gardens; the local county extension office offers soil tests for cheap. This will tell you the nutrients in your soil.
After that, you can amend your soil as needed. It’s a good idea to start a compost; compost is like gold for a garden. It contains nutrients and microbes that your soil needs to be healthy and produce abundant harvests in your survival gardens.
8. Know How to Save Seeds
When you have survival gardens, it’s important to know how to save seeds for the future. Many easy-to-grow plants, like green beans and peas, make it easy to save seeds. Saving sunflower seeds is easy, but it’s not so easy to save lettuce seeds.
Grab a book that teaches you how to save seeds from all of your crops like corn, fruit trees, tomatoes, kale, cabbage, peas, squash, and more. It’s an invaluable part of survival gardening.
Plan Your Survival Garden
Having a survival garden ensures that your family has food to survive. Whether you want to reduce your dependency on the grocery store or want to prepare for a disaster, planning out your survival garden layout ensures your garden will provide for your family.