As I sit here in early January with visions of crisp lettuce, and zucchini dancing in my head, I can’t help but mull over the top garden crops to grow for a survival garden.
While lettuce and zucchini are tasty Summer treats that definitely have a place in my garden, this year I plan to do things a little differently.
The past 2 years have revealed some weaknesses in our supply chain.
Shortages, and increased prices at the grocery store have become an all too familiar reality.
What’s our answer? We plan to rely primarily on our own garden this year.
Our answer is to be a producer, not just a consumer.
Since we are planning to eat mostly from our own garden this year, certain things have to be taken into consideration.
Some examples are:
- What crops are the best to grow for survival? (Ex. Filling and provide a good source of calories)
- Which crops store well in their original form (don’t require canning or other preservation)
- What grows best in our area?
- How much space is available for growing?
- What do we want to eat?
What crops are the best to grow for a survival garden?
Since we plan to eat almost exclusively from our own garden, it’s important that we grow the right vegetables.
Veggies that are filling and provide a good source of calories are key.
Although lettuce is a fine crop, and one that we will surely grow, it doesn’t store well, and it’s low in calories.
When I consider crops that will truly sustain my family, my mind turns to delicious root vegetables, winter squash, and cabbage.
Here are a few of the most important crops that I will be growing in my garden this year
- Beans (dry, black turtle)
- Corn (flint and sweet)
- Winter Squash (Butternut, Hubbard)
Which crops store well in their original form?
Storage life is one of the most important factors that we will be considering for our plantings this year,
In addition to storage life, we will select crops that store well in their original state.
The main reason for this is that it saves time.
Preserving a large quantity of food is incredibly time and energy consuming.
And if the canning jar and lid shortage has taught us anything, it’s that supplies to can our food may not be readily available when we need them.
We will still can some items, but want to plant as much as possible that won’t require additional processing.
When it comes to storage life of vegetables, varieties do matter.
Take these species of winter squash for instance:
- c. pepo – Average storage life of 2-3 months
- c. maxima- Average storage life of 4 months
- c. moschata- Average storage life of 6+ months
What grows best in our area?
Here in the Northeast our challenge is a short growing season.
This makes it difficult to grow crops like sweet potatoes.
We have been growing in zone 4 for 15 years, so we have learned what grows best in our location.
If you are new to gardening or planting in an unfamiliar location, I would suggest seeking out a local gardener or plant nursery to gather information about what grows best in your area.
How much space is available for growing your survival garden?
We have plenty of space for growing on our 67 acre homestead, however we don’t have many garden beds established since we only moved here last Spring.
Some crops take up more space than others.
Winter squash may be a poor choice for small gardens unless you can trellis and grow it vertically. Be Creative!!
What do we want to eat?
Turnips store very well, grow great in our area, and don’t take up too much space.
It seems as though they would be the perfect vegetable to grow in my garden, except for one problem…my family doesn’t like the taste of turnips.
It doesn’t matter if a food meets all your growing requirements if your family refuses to eat it.
So make sure you grow what you like to eat.
In lean times being able to eat foods you enjoy can greatly improve your outlook, not to mention it would be pointless to spend all that time and energy to grow food that would be wasted.
What are some other great survival crops?
- Sweet potatoes
- Jerusalem artichokes
This is by no means a comprehensive list of vegetables that I will be growing this year.
Most of these survival crops won’t mature until late summer or fall.
I will also be sure to plant plenty of lettuce, kale, summer squash, green onions and other early veggies for fresh eating throughout the Spring and Summer months.
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