Building Your Own Survival Garden: For Preppers and Homesteaders


Chances are, you don’t own a crystal ball. So, when disaster strikes without a warning it can be an unnerving experience.

Unless you have already outlined the right SHTF plans to preserve your family and ensure a steady source of food supply during the crisis.

And one of the best ways of doing that is setting up an off-grid survival vegetable garden. Make no mistake about it. It’s something you need to take seriously.

Initially, the idea of growing all your food off-grid might sound daunting.

But once you start going, survival gardening isn’t such a difficult task after all.

What is a Survival Garden? 

I get it. Gardening is not your forte.

But consider this…

Life seems easy when you’re getting a regular supply of food from the market or grocery store. Now, imagine what it would be like living in a world plagued by food scarcity.

And the reasons for it can be crop failure, hyperinflation, natural calamities, supply shortage, grid failure, and more.

Let’s admit it. No matter how much food you stockpile in your survival shelter, you can run short during a long-term SHTF emergency.

This is where a survival garden can be a lifesaver by providing your family with enough food for necessary self-sufficiency. Apart from a steady supply of food, such a garden can also give you much-needed peace of mind when the going gets tough.

The process involves choosing plants that will supply you with the right amount of daily calories. At the same time, you need to pick plants that will survive in your climate conditions.

That said, to reap the benefits of survivalist gardening, you need to be patient and take the right steps. Veteran survivalists will also tell you the importance of managing your expectations and setting realistic goals. 

Not every seed will end up giving you a harvest. In reality, probably one-third of the total number of plants may end up delivered for the dinner table. Besides, you need to invest time and practice to become a successful backyard survivalist.

How to Design a Survival Garden?

There are many aspects to designing a survival garden. However, the most important aspect of a survival garden layout is the land area that you have.

Obviously, the more land you have the larger the number of crops you can grow. As per some estimates, you need around 1.76 acres of land to grow sufficient vegetables for a family of four. The calorie requirement is considered 2,300 calories per person in a day.

If you add dairies and corn, you will need close to two acres of land. Frankly, not all backyard survivalists have that much land to work upon. 

Fact is, the requirements and preferences of each family are different. So, there’s no rule of thumb to determine the exact size of a survival garden. 

It’s best to discuss the daily food requirements during an emergency with your family to determine the calorie requirements. 1,000 square feet of land can be a good area to start with.

When you have a small space, you can check out the ideas of vertical gardening or square foot gardening

But make sure not to cram the plants together. This will lead to underperformance of the crops.

Other than that, succession planting is a great idea. This involves planting different varieties of plants at intervals to extend the harvesting period. While the process is more complex, it allows maximum utilization of the garden space and ensures a supply of vegetables throughout the year.

And you can always supplement the garden products with your food stock. In addition, try fishing and hunting to add items to the plate.

Here are some other important factors that you need to keep in mind.

  • Apart from the size, the location of the garden is extremely important. You need to ensure an optimal growing condition for your plants. Choose a well-drained area that receives six to seven hours of direct sunlight in a day.
  • While you need to eat every day, the growing season will only last for a few months in a year. So, do some research on the climate zone that you live in. This will help you to pick the right crops. Take help from experienced gardeners to make the right selections. If the growing season is short, you need to pick items that can be stored well.
  • Use the concepts of permaculture gardening to reduce waste, create compost, and use the dead plants as mulch.
  • Set goals that are attainable. If you are a beginner survivalist, don’t expect to obtain all your food from the garden during the first year. Setting a target of obtaining 50% of your calorie requirements from the garden should be good enough.
  • Make sure to build the soil. Topsoil that’s rich in organic content will deliver a better crop and also reduce water requirements for the plants. That said, it takes time to build up the soil gradually. With the right methods, it can keep on improving each year. Try the no-till no-dig method of gardening which is not only time-saving but also delivers rich results.
  • Determine the amount of time that you have to work on your garden on a daily basis. Growing crops involve multiple steps like planning, planting, harvesting, and more. So don’t get carried away and plan to work on a two-acre garden if you don’t have the time. You can always grow your garden when you have more time and skill.

Gather the necessary equipment and materials that you will need to work in the garden. While there are a wide variety of garden tools, you can’t expect to have everything at your disposal in an emergency situation. Collect essential items like a trowel, garden fork, and hand pruners. Otherwise, you can use your survival tools to work in the garden.

Best Plants to Grow for a Beginner

When it comes to choosing food crops, it’s best to mix them up. Plant nutritionally dense vegetables, along with perennials, legumes, and herbs.

One more thing…

When your survival depends on food security, it’s not the time to risk it on delicate crops like carrots, eggplants, or sweet corn. Pick crops that are easy to grow. Fruit trees take time to deliver their products. So they might not be the best idea.

What are the best plants a beginner backyard survivalist should grow?

Here’s a list of crops for beginners that can be easily grown in typical American climates and don’t need excess water.

PotatoesThese are one of the easiest crops to grow and are a must for any survival garden. In fact, you can even grow them in buckets or grow bags. On the whole, a carb-rich plant that’s also delicious.

Peas- Edible-podded peas are one of the best choices for growing in a survival garden. They can be consumed with a variety of dishes and can be stored in dried or frozen forms. 

Bush beans– Green beans are a nutritionally dense food that comes in a small package. Moreover, they are super easy to store. Other than Bush beans, you can also grow pole beans.

SquashYou can try growing both summer and winter squash varieties. Summer squash is quick and easy to grow. Winter squash takes more time to grow but it’s easier to store.

TomatoesJuicy, ripe tomatoes are a great choice for any survival garden. They are easy to grow and deliver high produce. You can eat them fresh or dry them up for future use.

CabbageIf you’re looking for nutrients, cabbage is one of the best plants you can grow. They need little maintenance and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Herbs-  Nothing spices up your food better than the right type of herbs. Mint, basil, thyme, rosemary, and parsley are some low-maintenance varieties that you can try based on your climate. And the best part is, you can even grow herbs indoors, in small containers.

Berries Berries are one of the best perennial plants for any survival garden. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are some of the healthiest and most antioxidant-rich foods you can consume. 

Best Plants to Grow for an Intermediate Prepper

As you get familiar with survival gardening basics, you can try to grow some more complex crops as well.

SpinachSpinach can be grown in a variety of climates and the fleshy leaves are loaded with a variety of nutrients. If you choose the right variety, you can enjoy them all through the year. You can even store spinach by drying and crushing it into powder form.

Cucumbers– Cucumbers are another popular choice for survival gardens as they take little effort to deliver a large harvest. However, they need well-drained soil and aren’t the best growers in extreme temperatures.

Garlic– Garlic is not only a kitchen staple, it’s also used for pest control. It requires a small place to grow and can be stored for long periods when dried. For the best results, choose the correct planting season based on your local climate.

Sweet potatoes– This calorie-dense root vegetable has more nutrients than the average potato. Also, they are more flavorful and the greens can be consumed as well. However, they need more time and patience than the standard potato.

Corn– Corn isn’t very easy to grow, but once harvested, it can be dried and ground for prolonged storage. Many backyard survivalists also prefer to grow sweet corn which is more delicious.

Best Edible Flowers to Grow

Edible flowers are easy to grow and will add a lot of color and flavor to your daily dishes. Chances are, you might find some of them already growing in your backyard.

In addition, they will also brighten up the gloomy days brought about by an apocalypse.

Ideally, edible flowers should be consumed raw. They taste the best right after they have opened. 

Here are some survival flowers you can grow.

Calendula– These flowers usually come in yellow and orange shades. The petals can add spice to a wide variety of dishes. The plants are easy to grow and can keep flowering from summer to late fall. Just make sure to remove the spent flowers.

Nasturtium– These colorful flowers have a sweet and peppery taste that can spice up your dishes. The leaves and flowers are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants. Many indigenous cultures have used the flower as medicine for many centuries. Besides, they can be easily grown indoors, as well as outdoors.

Marigolds– Marigold is a plant with minimum demands and the flowers have a fresh citrusy taste that can be added to cooked dishes. Marigolds can also act as a very effective trap crop. That means, they can attract some harmful insects and prevent them from damaging your primary crops.

Violas– These little flowers grow like weeds and are edible as well. You can choose from a wide variety of colors. They can be used in salads or sandwiches, and also for making tea. Even the leaves are edible and have medicinal value.

Chives– This wonderful purple flower has a pungent and spicy taste and can be used as a substitute for garlic. It has plenty of health benefits as well. You can also make chive vinegar to use the flower for longer periods.

Roses– There’s much more to roses beyond their grand beauty and smell. The flower has a good flavor that can be combined with salads. The flowers and leaves also have plenty of medicinal value. All varieties of roses are edible, even though they don’t taste the same.

Sunflowers– If you have the space for them, sunflowers are great for any survival garden. The buds are easy to cook and taste like artichokes. The petals from blooming flowers also have a texture that makes them perfect for salads. The leaves can also be consumed with other greens.

What Makes a Good Survival Crop? 

The first step is to find out the crops that grow best in the climate zone you live in. A Plant Hardiness Zone map is a useful tool for that.

Here are some other points that you need to keep in mind while selecting seeds for your survival garden.

  • In a real survival scenario, every calorie counts. So, you need to grow energy-dense foods that deliver the best levels of nutrition with the least resources. Potatoes, squash, and corn are some of the major card suppliers.
  • Choose vegetables that are easy to store and come with a long shelf life. This will help you to maintain your food stock during the winter months. Cabbages, beets, and sweet potatoes are a few such vegetables.
  • Crops that are easy to harvest and more forgiving are a better choice. You can’t afford to expend your energies on cultivating crops like wheat which requires intensive manual labor and more time.
  • Don’t pick crops based on your taste. Even if you detest crops like squashes or potatoes, they are some of the must-haves in a survival garden. Quite simply, the taste factor isn’t more important than survival.
  • Choosing carbs is important, don’t neglect proteins and nutrients. Legumes like peas and beans will deliver a rich supply of protein. Herbs, berries, and green veggies will deliver the necessary micronutrients.

Storing Survival Garden Crops

Want a private larder stocked with home-grown vegetables to ride out the emergency?

You need to know the tricks of long-term storage.

Remember. always pick unblemished products for storage and check them regularly to prevent mold formation.

The Right Temperature and Humidity

Temperatures between 32°F to 35°F and 65% relative humidity are ideal for storage in cold conditions. However, attaining the right range of temperature is not so easy in a bug-out cabin. For each 10°F rise in the temperature, you can expect a shortening of 25% in the storage life of the vegetables.

Using cool and dry basements for storage is a good idea. Root cellars can be used for maintaining cold and moist conditions. Keep in mind, vegetables also need ventilation to stay fresh.

Some vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes need a higher level of moisture to stay fresh. If it’s difficult to provide such a condition, it’s best to consume them fresh.


If you have a working refrigerator, freezing is an easy and effective way for storing fruits and vegetables. Freshly harvested vegetables are the best choice for freezing. Use airtight plastic containers or freezer bags for storage. This will prevent the formation of freezer burns or dry patches on the items. 

Another method is to blanch the vegetables before storage. This will preserve the flavor and texture and will also reduce the loss of nutrients.

Drying and pickling

You can store veggies like tomatoes, beets, and peppers for long periods by drying them. Cut them into thin slices and leave them under the sun to dry out. Once fully dried, store them in airtight containers.

In addition, you can also try the process of pickling to preserve the products. All you need are some mason jars, salt, and pickling vinegar. Apart from that, you can also make jam with berries to enjoy a sweet treat for months.

Protect the Food from Rodents

Rodents are a menace that you need to protect your harvest from. For that, keep the area around the house clean and use the right containers for storage. Other than that, you can also use traps and unpleasant smells like ammonia to keep away the mice.

One of the challenges which has faced mankind since the beginning is that most food sources don’t keep for an extended time, without going bad. We’ve solved this by a number of different methods of preserving our foods. If you’re going to be growing your own food, that’s an important part of the process. Make sure that you’re ready to preserve the food that you grown, so that it will see you through the winter.

Final Thoughts

Get this: in an actual SHTF situation, the only person you can rely on is yourself. 

A survival garden is one of the best sources of readily-available, healthy food without having to depend on other sources. Homegrown products will deliver better flavors and higher nutrient density than commercial varieties.

And self-reliance during a survival situation is great for your morale.

Trust me. It’ll all be worth it.