During WWII there was such a shortage of food that the British Ministry of Agriculture started the ‘Dig for Victory‘ campaign asking citizens across the country to turn their backyard gardens into food-production plots. The idea that we need to take such drastic measures in these modern times seems almost impossible to comprehend.
However, if there is one thing to be learned by the COVID pandemic is that we are not invulnerable to a worldwide crisis. It is wise to remember our past, but it is important that we prepare for the future. When it comes to survivalist backyard gardening, it is a win-win situation. It is a healthy sustainable way to live and, regardless of future outcomes, it offers us a lifestyle of physical, mental, and environmental well-being.
What You Should Consider Before Growing?
It is a misconception that growing food requires acreages of land and loads of sweat. And we definitely do not want to fall into the “all-or-nothing” trap, where the only way to succeed is to exile ourselves from the familiar environment of the city and move to the vast countryside to grow every variety of vegetable known to mankind…and all in one season!
It is completely acceptable, and even advisable, to combine the familiar with the new. Planting lettuce seeds in a balcony planter will eliminate weeds and allow for easy harvesting; a few scattered seeds in the ground will help increase germination; using inexpensive bamboo poles for extra support; producing beautiful flowers and delicious beans; harvesting a few onions from a corner bed are fun and manageable ways to introduce sustainability into our lives.
For some people, it may be wise to let go of the very popular idea of growing tomatoes, which require stacking and can easily get unruly and out of hand; or zucchinis, which need loads of space. So let’s discuss 10 great foods that can be the start of a very successful survivalist backyard.
9 Best Survival Crops to Grow
1. Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes
If you are wondering what every survivalist should grow, its potatoes. I found growing potatoes in a sunny spot a lot easier, where I planted a few potato pieces with the eyes pointing up and, except for the usual garden watering during dry spells, pretty much forgot about them until harvest time. And how I enjoyed the mashed potatoes and French fries that resulted! There is a reason potatoes have been a major focus of survival during many famines around the world in the past.
This is no time to cancel out something that clearly works. Have a little fun and try planting some sweet potatoes instead or in conjunction with the classical kind. Though they may seem similar, they are actually from two separate families. This means they may need different growing techniques as well. Potatoes need full sun and cooler weather. Sweet potatoes need four months and a long hot season in comparison. Despite them actually being quite different, they can be planted side by side as long as they are far enough to avoid competing for ground space.
Lentils are a great way of bringing some heartiness into any meal – from breakfast oats to a stew to vegan patties. Full of proteins and vitamins, lentils have almost 18 grams of protein per serving. As a legume, it is a resource that must be included in your garden to fill those tummies within your family. To this day, lentils in first world countries seem to be seen as an oversight. They are underrated powerhouses that are cheap on the wallet and rich in the stomach. They were, in fact, one of the first domesticated crops by humans. Lentils are best grown in cool weather conditions – choose between green, yellow, brown and red lentils for your backyard!
Beans! When we’re speaking about beans we are not referring to the classic green beans. We’re talking those beautiful, highly nutritious, black, red, and kidney beans. Rich in protein and high in starchy carbohydrates, this food is not just a big punch in a small package but allows for a massive amount of meal options. Ranging from Mexican styles to bean stews to beans on toast, you will be sure to ingest plant-based protein, a high level of potassium, and an excellent source of iron. In terms of planting beans, make sure you soak the seeds prior.
This helps reduce the germination time resulting in more food for less time. They are great being sewn directly into the ground and can be planted in the spring or the fall. Spacing for beans and for most foods that you plant is a necessary part of the research process to ensure success in your survivalist garden.
Cabbage may seem like an unexciting crop to plant in your survivalist gardens, but with a little opening of the mind, you’ll soon realize cabbage can be more than for just salad. It is a rich source of Vitamins B6 and C and also includes a healthy dose of fiber. Cabbage can be cooked or served raw in salads, slaws, and for bases. However, the real opportunity that comes from cabbage is what happens when you get around to fermenting this beautifully underrated crop.
This includes Sauerkraut or Kimchi for those who enjoy an extra kick. Not only can you benefit from the microbiome properties of fermented foods with these green and purple leaves but you’re able to jar and store fermented cabbage that can be used for a variety of dishes for a long time after. Being quite a tough vegetable, it is quite easy to grow. It takes roughly 80 to 180 days to grow. Not bad considering the numerous benefits that can be had.
Kale is strong for the stomach and strong in growing terms. Loaded with antioxidants and one of the best sources of vitamin K, kale will be necessary for having a well-balanced diet in a world that may be limited to having easily accessible healthy resources. Kale is simple to grow and can be started indoors before being moved outside or can the seeds can be directly sown into the ground. However, full sun is preferred for good leaf growth. As long as you keep proper harvesting up, kale will continue to regrow and produce new leaves, making it a promising selection.
Spinach is another superfood, that like kale, has some extremely necessary health properties. While kale is great for weathering the cold, spinach is a great back up option because of the possibility of freezing or dehydrating and turning it into powder form in order to make it last as long as possible in dire situations or even just for convenience. A good tip for spinach plants is to ensure you loosen the soil about a foot deep before planting into the ground!
7. Onions & Garlic
Onions and garlic are essential foods for your survivalist backyard garden. While we have looked for foods that can fill you up during a time where survival may be necessary, it is important to be wary of how much we’re intaking. Onions and garlic are light in carbohydrates and great sources of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, folate, thiamin, calcium, phosphorous, copper, and manganese. These benefits are amazing and vital for your immune system. They can also be made into powder form for storing.
Furthermore, just because you may be making a survivalist backyard to create a more connected meal plan for yourself, just in case to have a backup option for your family during hard times or because it is actually necessary during a pandemic – you deserve to have great tasting food. Onions and garlic are a staple when it comes to bringing flavor profiles to the forefront of any dish.
Onions are best grown in the cooler seasons and require 90 days. Like the leaves of kale, full sun is advised. They also need loose and well-drained soil for success. As for garlic, autumn is also the best time for harvesting. Planting different varieties can create different flavor options but also helps in the actual growing process. Diversity is key for any successful garden, despite what we see from mass farming practices.
From strawberries to blueberries, cranberries to blackberries, you can get extremely creative in finding the proper one for your taste buds. For your breakfasts, for your snacks, or even frozen for your dessert meals. They can be dehydrated and saved for muesli long after expiry, frozen to be kept for ages, put in the blender to make smoothies, or even cooked in a saucepan and made into jams and jellies. Its a great survival garden option!
Fruits are a necessary part of a healthy diet and with all the options berries offer, it’s hard to think of any other fruit that can be used in such a versatile way. Helping fight inflammation, lowering cholesterol levels, and protecting against cancer, berries have amazing properties. Berries need the proper sun and moist soil to really flourish. Protect them against birds using thin netting that still allows the outdoor characteristics to seep through.
We’ve covered vegetables, legumes, grains, and fruits but one thing we’re missing in our survival garden is nuts! Like kale, peanuts can withstand various climates making them one of the most resilient snacks you can grow. Making things that are easy and able to one, withstand the heat and cold; two, pack nutrition, and three, are simple to carry around during difficult times will be an asset to any survivalist garden. As long as an allergy is not an issue, they are filled with fiber, protein, vitamins B6 and E, zinc, antioxidants, so many more minerals, and a great filler.
Use the peanuts to make a trail mix or create a peanut sauce for one of those homemade dishes. In order to grow peanuts, all you need is raw peanuts with the shell on to be dug into your garden about 5cm deep. Make them in a row to harvest enough for your whole family. If peanuts do cause allergy issues, other nuts you can grow at home include pistachios, macadamias, almonds, pecans, and walnuts.
Bonus! Bake Bread
Food sustainability comes in many forms. Besides growing a few easy vegetable choices, I have also taken to baking bread. It is almost a miracle that only a handful of simple, healthy ingredients can be transformed into a loaf that smells and tastes so amazingly good. The illegible list of ingredients in bread labels prevents me from buying store-bought and the artisan breads are often financially out of reach. If baking our own bread can teach us something, it is that it requires a lifestyle of slowing down, being home, and being present.
Other Plants to Grow in Your Survival Garden?
- green peas
- various herbs
- and many more!!
Survivalist backyard gardening requires a change in lifestyle, an insight into what truly matters, and an awareness of a possible future need. Survivalist backyard lifestyle, even in the form of growing only a few vegetables and kneading a few baked goods, offers many rewards, including insight, awareness, and presence, not to mention delicious produce. However, one of the greatest rewards of embracing the survivalist backyard lifestyle is connection and the desire to share. For who is not tempted to show friends and neighbors our greatest accomplishments, the (literal) fruits of our labor. No doubt you will become an inspiration for others to start harvesting and creating a more sustainable lifestyle that will better their well being and their sustainability towards our planet.
Remember though, survivalist “backyard” can be a survivalist front-yard, balcony, windowsill, and kitchen counter. Even a tiny pot of basil on a sunny window is a beginning. No matter the size or the variety, what matters is to start. In a world of uncertainty and mass-produced products, survivalist backyard practices may yet be the best place to turn to and be open to the merit of well-bein
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.