The importance of survival gardening for food security arguably has never been greater. But what on earth is a survival garden, and how do you cherry-pick the best crops for your survival garden project?
Whether you're a newbie in the gardening world or an old hand aiming to focus more on food security, survival gardens are your ticket to an upgrade, in Florida and beyond. In this snappy guide, let's discover how to start a survival garden and lay the groundwork for a green-thumb future.
What is a Survival Garden?
According to the World Bank, food security isn't just about having food available. It's also about being able to afford it, use it properly, and maintain those conditions in the long term. But food security isn’t just a big picture issue. It's also about knowing you've got enough grub to keep your family's bellies full.
Enter the survival garden. In the simplest terms, survival gardens are personal plots of land where you grow enough fresh produce to keep your family well-fed, no supermarkets needed. You can find them on homesteads, allotments, or other plots of land.
Now, any survival gardening enthusiast will tell you that, without support from other food sources, you'll need a truckload of crops to provide your family with the necessary calories and nutrients. After all, you can't forget the fats, carbs, and vitamins.
But the rewards of successfully creating a survival garden that can sustain your family? Absolutely massive. Not only do you get peace of mind knowing you're prepared for anything, but you also save some serious coin and promote healthy living. Now that's what we call a win-win-win!
Why Sustainability is Essential in a Survival Garden
Before you dig into your survival garden, hit the books and get to grips with the key elements of successful survival gardens. This knowledge will help you design your survival garden layout, choose your survival garden seeds, and make other essential decisions.
Of all the factors to consider, sustainability should top your list.
Why, you ask? Well, sustainable living is one of the main reasons to have a survival garden in the first place. And a focus on sustainability only strengthens this goal. Consider this: if you lose access to outside food, you don't know how long you'll need to rely on your homegrown produce. We use four times as many food resources as we have, but sustainable survival gardens lighten this load. Plus, sustainability helps us combat carbon emissions to protect the planet and reduce food waste. So really, sustainability isn't just a garden feature, it's a superpower!
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Start a Survival Garden
Fancy starting a survival garden? Awesome! But achieving it might feel a bit like climbing Mount Everest right now. Don't worry, we've trimmed it down to just three simple steps:
Picking the perfect location
Sure, survival gardening is all about 100% self-sustenance. But let's be real, that's not a feasible goal for everyone. So first things first, set your targets. Once you've done that, you can start the hunt for the perfect location and layout for your survival garden.
You'll need a space big enough to grow adequate food to meet your family's caloric needs. The exact requirements depend on a few factors, like your family size and the crops you choose. It's estimated that an average family of four will need between 0.25 and two acres of land. To give you an idea, the average yard space in the USA is half an acre.
And remember, you might want to save some of your outdoor space for other activities. After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!
Prepping the soil
The quality of your soil plays a pivotal role in your harvest's returns. A soil test can give you valuable insights into your garden or allotment's soil texture and composition. You'll also need to think about water access and sunlight exposure. The soil's pH levels are particularly important as they'll guide your plant choices.
If you're starting a new garden from scratch, timing your soil prep process is crucial. You want to avoid the winter sogginess that could damage the soil structure. Mix the compost before turning (rotovating) the soil to create the best growing environment. Speed is crucial here, you don’t want to be left in the dust. This is also the perfect time to weed out any existing plants in the area.
And if you're starting your survival garden from zero, choosing high-quality soils that suit your needs is non-negotiable.
Choosing top-notch crops for a survival garden
Choosing the crops for your survival garden is a critical step. The right choices can make your gardening journey feel worthwhile. Consider your local climate (this guide to Florida, for example, can steer you in the right direction), and make a list of the foods your family will actually enjoy eating.
If you're a gardening greenhorn, it's worth considering which crops are easiest to grow. You might also want to decide based on the tools and equipment you have. Nutrient-dense annual crops like potatoes and corn are a fantastic starting point, but you'll probably want to include some leafy veg, perennial berries, and culinary herbs too.
No matter which crops you select, prioritize organic seeds. They'll boost your chances of a high yield. And hey, who doesn't like a bountiful harvest?
The Role of Organic Soil Amendments in Survival Gardening
Picking the right location, layout, and seeds for your survival garden sets you on the path to success. But to keep your soil in top-notch health, you'll need organic soil amendments. In fact, they're often the difference between an average yield and a yield that can sustain your family.
Soil amendments are like a supercharger for your soil. They make up for your soil's natural nutrient deficiencies and improve its structure, water retention, permeability, infiltration, drainage, and aeration. In a nutshell, they create a better environment for root growth, which increases the volume of your yield.
This guide to organic soil amendment options provides more information, but here are some standout options:
- Basalt - a source of calcium, magnesium, and iron.
- Kelp meal - boosts soil fertility and biodiversity.
- Neem cake - protects against nematodes.
- Worm castings - supplies nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Organic soil amendments are truly the unsung heroes of survival gardening. Far beyond just bolstering your initial harvest, these amendments are like a long-term investment in your garden's soil, enriching it and setting it up for sustained success. They work tirelessly, improving soil structure, enhancing moisture retention, and providing a buffet of essential nutrients for your plants. It's all about playing the long game - setting up your soil for not just the next season, but for many seasons to come. So while they might not get all the limelight, remember that these amendments are doing the heavy lifting below the surface, ensuring your survival garden's prosperity for years to come. It's a bit like baking a perfect loaf of bread - the yeast might not get all the credit, but without it, you're just left with a flat disappointment!
You might also want to consider starting your own Vermicompost. This is a way to ensure that you always have access to an organic fertilizer, even if purchasing it becomes more difficult. Thankfully we got you covered. We wrote a whole article on how to get started with Vermicomposting at home. Check it out!
Practical Tips for Maximizing Crop Yield in Small Spaces
One of the biggest hurdles survival gardeners face is growing enough produce to keep their families fed. So selecting high-yield crops is a must.
But there are more ingredients in the recipe for success. Here are seven simple tips:
- Pay extra attention to your survival garden layout. Using triangles instead of rows, for example, can cut down on wasted space. It's not just geometry, it's gardening magic.
- Complement your main gardening spaces with potted plants. Container gardening is particularly great for crops with lower volume requirements. We love GreenStalk Gardens & Rain Science Grow Bags.
- Embrace succession planting. Remove veggies as soon as they stop being productive and replace them with something better. It's like a relay race, but with plants.
- Introduce staggered planting for your favorite crops. This way, you'll have fresh produce throughout the year. Who said you can't have Christmas in July?
- Focus on your soil choices and soil amendments to reap a rich return. It's like baking a cake, you need the right ingredients to get the perfect sponge. You can never go wrong with high quality Worm Castings.
- Shelter your gardening environment and use additional tools to create the ideal place for crops to grow. Because every plant deserves a comfy home.
- Concentrate on companion crops that work well together. This ensures each square foot works harder. It's like a plant buddy system.
And here's a final tip. Besides maximizing your crop yield, consider setting up a mutually beneficial trade with a neighbor. Grow different crops than them and share some of your yield in return for some of theirs. Together, you'll find it much easier to sustain both families. It's like a neighborhood potluck, but with a twist!
Wrapping Up: The Future of Food Security and Survival Gardening
The future of survival gardening and food security hinges on families' ability to sustain themselves with ample fresh produce year-round. With over 117 million Americans already being gardening enthusiasts and a surprisingly high popularity of that being Gen Z, it's safe to say the future is here.
If you need more help with natural soil amendments for your survival garden, don't hesitate to reach out. Because remember, no gardener is an island!