Having to subsist on a survival garden may seem like a distant reality right now. But whether you would ever have to live on the produce from your own garden is not relevant here. Your investments in the survival garden in terms of resources and effort adds that extra dimension to your disaster preparedness. It is like wearing that life jacket in unfamiliar waters even when you can swim.
The backbone of your survival garden is a good seed bank. Seeds are the longest-lasting planting material, and they need minimum care and space for storage, too.
Your survival garden seeds should be selected for the ability to produce food in the least amount of time and economy of space. It should consist of protein-rich pulses, cereals rich in carbohydrates and some amount of fats from oil seeds, in addition to the goodness of fruits and vegetables. Look for seeds of heirloom varieties, as they will come true year after year.
Here’s a short list of the survival seeds you should have:
This hot little veggie may not be everybody’s favorite, but this root vegetable tops the list for being the fastest growing. It has a sowing-to-harvest time of just 20-30 days. You plant it today, and harvest it before the month is over. You can have a continuous harvest if you keep sowing the seeds every few days until the end of growing season.
Broccoli is nutrient-rich and gets ready in about three months. It is compact and can be planted one per every square foot. After harvesting the main head, you’ll get smaller heads from every side shoot, prolonging the harvest.
Onions are a kitchen essential; people usually grow them from onion sets, but they can be grown from seeds if you have four months of growing season. Or, grow the seedlings indoors and transplant them when all danger of frost is over. You can harvest some spring onions and onion leaves along the way. They are good companion plants for carrots.
They’ll be ready to harvest in about 50 days, but if you select the loose-leaf varieties, leaves can be picked as soon as they become big enough.
Kale will take about two months to be ready for picking, but it grows well in all kinds of soils and is nutritious and versatile. Think of snacking on kale chips within two months of planting the seeds. You can have them from spring to fall with staggered plantings.
This easy vegetable is one we cannot do without. There’s no excuse for not growing your own tomatoes; you can find a wide variety to grow in any USDA zone from two to 10. Take your pick from current, cherry or beefsteak varieties. If space is limited, you can stake them and grow them as a vertical crop. Excess crop, as there surely will be, can be sundried or processed into sauce.
Grow some sweet peppers and some hot ones if you like. They can transform any bland dish into something special. There’s endless variety to choose from in a variety of rainbow colors. They take about two to three months to bear fruit, and they grow well in warmer months. Those with short growing seasons should sow early varieties indoors and transplant them into the garden when it is warm.
Spinach may not give you iron arms, but it is an excellent source of iron and vitamins. It can be cooked into almost any dish. If you plant in early spring, plants will keep you in tasty leaves all through summer, starting from about 50 days of planting.
This cool weather crop gives you a substantial harvest from each plant. You can have a continuous supply by planting every two weeks, and have both early and late varieties, to extend the growing season. Surplus of winter crop will keep for five to six months in cool storage. Some can be turned into sauerkraut, too.
Corn is one cereal crop that meets the economy of space criteria. Standing tall and lean, each plant will give you at least two ears of corn. The trio of beans, squash and corn, together called “three sisters,” is still a great idea for a survival gardener.
This cool-weather crop should be part of survival gardens because it can give you continuous yield with staggered planting and it can be harvested from under the snow cover in winter. Carrots grow well in USDA zones 4-10, but planting times vary. Each planting will give edible roots within two and a half to three months.
This cool season vegetable is favored for its ability to survive frost. Multiple plants can be grown just a few inches apart. It will take about two months from sowing to be ready for harvest, and will slightly pop out of the soil when it’s ready to pick.
13. Swiss chard
This is a fast-growing relative of the beet, grown for the tasty leaves. They become ready within two months of planting, and can give continuous harvest from the same plant as the outer leaves are used up. Grow in USDA zones 2-11.
How can this crop, known for helping the early settlers survive in the new country, be excluded from the survival seed list? Even though they take about three to four months to mature, the crop is substantial and stores well. Pumpkins can be used in sweet and savory dishes, and offer a wide variety of vitamins and minerals in addition to carbohydrates. The seeds are excellent source of beneficial fatty acids, too.
These warm season vegetables come in so many varieties for the survival gardener to choose from. Bush beans give you yield in about two months of planting, while pole beans take longer, but give substantial harvest over a longer period. They are excellent companion plants. Using corn as their stalk will provide support for these climbers – and the beans will enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen. The young pods contribute to your vegetable dish, while the mature ones give you protein-rich beans which can be cooked fresh or stored for later use when dried.
What can be more delightful than eating peas straight off the plant, whether it is snap peas, snow peas or the good old English peas? Pick them within two months of planting and freeze or dry the excess harvest. Being cool season crops, snow peas can be grown in winter and spring.
Soy gets a bad rap these days, but that should be reserved for processed soy products. The soy bean is a highly nutritious food crop that can be a star in a survival garden. The Chinese were known to tide over famines on the strength of their soybean stock. They can be cooked in the pod as edamame, and the mature dry beans can give you protein-rich flour and soy milk to be used for a variety of dishes. It’s rich in carbohydrates, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and vitamins, besides being one of the few vegetable sources of complete protein.
Not exactly a nut, but this protein and fat-rich legume is an asset. They can be planted two to a foot and harvested in four months. They provide excellent harvest in the warmer Southern states, but early varieties can be cultivated in the Northern areas, too.
This is another native crop; it can be grown in Zones 7 to 11. They are low-maintenance and grow in poor soil as long as they get their share of sun. The large seed heads of each plant will give substantial quantity of tasty seeds. They can act as a support to other plants, too, and who can resist their cheery face?
It is an easily grown prolific vegetable that gives staggered harvest. It is versatile and can be used in stews, baked and grilled dishes or simply sautéed. Suitable for growing in Zones 4-10
Harvest seeds and store in a cool and dry location so that you can enjoy fresh garden veggies year after year — and be prepared for anything that may come!
Which seeds would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below: