a basked of fresh vegetables cultivated in a survival garden

Survival Garden: Planning, Layout & Cultivation (w/PDF)

When it comes to preparedness and self-sustainability, the concept of a survival garden has become increasingly important.

Whether motivated by rising food costs, concerns about food supply chains, or simply a desire for self-sufficiency, more and more people are turning to this practical solution.

In this article, we will delve deeply into survival gardens, covering their definition, creation, layout recommendations, and the best crops to grow for optimum survival.

What is a Survival Garden?

A survival garden is much more than a typical backyard garden. It is a strategically planned garden designed to produce a high yield of various crops to provide a consistent, reliable food source in times of need.

The aim is self-sufficiency and resilience, often in response to potential disruptions in the food supply chain such as natural disasters, economic instability, or other crises.

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The concept of a survival garden isn’t new. It traces its roots back to wartime victory gardens, which were promoted by governments during World Wars I and II to bolster food supply while commercial agricultural efforts were focused on supporting the military. Today, with growing interest in sustainability and self-reliance, survival gardens have made a comeback.

A survival garden is designed with several key principles in mind:

  1. Maximizing Yield: The goal is to produce as much food as possible from the available space. This involves strategic planning and crop selection, focusing on high-yield and nutrient-dense plants.
  2. Diversity: A survival garden should contain a variety of crops to provide a balanced diet. This not only helps meet different nutritional needs but also guards against the potential failure of a single crop.
  3. Adaptability: Survival gardens should be adaptable to various conditions. The crops chosen must be suitable for the specific climate and soil conditions of the garden.
  4. Sustainability: A true survival garden is sustainable. This means taking care of the soil through composting and crop rotation, saving seeds for future planting, and even considering water conservation methods.
  5. Storage and Preservation: A survival garden should include crops that can be easily stored or preserved, ensuring a food supply that lasts beyond the growing season.

In essence, a survival garden is about preparing for the unknown. It is about creating a system that can help sustain you and your family, offering some measure of food security in uncertain times.

It is a practical step towards self-reliance and a valuable insurance policy against potential food supply disruptions.

How Do You Make a Survival Garden?

a survival garden growing in a backyard

Creating a survival garden involves more than just planting seeds and waiting for the harvest. It requires careful planning, preparation, and ongoing maintenance to ensure a successful and sustainable yield. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating your own survival garden:

Choosing the Right Location

Location is critical for a successful garden. You’ll need a spot that receives at least six to eight hours of sunlight each day as most vegetables need this much light to produce optimally. The area should also have access to water and ideally be protected from strong winds and frost pockets.

Prepare the Soil

Good soil is the foundation of a healthy garden. Start by testing your soil to determine its pH and nutrient levels. Most vegetables prefer slightly acidic to neutral pH (around 6.0 to 7.0). You may need to add soil amendments like compost, manure, or lime to improve the soil structure, fertility, and pH.

Plan Your Crops

When planning your survival garden, consider the following:

  1. Calorie and Nutrient-Dense Crops: Prioritize plants that provide high nutritional and caloric value, such as potatoes, beans, and squash.
  2. Storage and Preservation: Choose crops that can be stored long-term or preserved easily, such as onions, garlic, and winter squash.
  3. Climate-Appropriate Plants: Choose plants that are suitable for your specific growing conditions.
  4. Seasonal Planning: Plan for successive planting and harvesting, so you have a continuous food supply throughout the year.
  5. Diversity: Include a variety of crops to ensure a balanced diet and reduce the risk of crop failure.

Plant and Care

Follow the planting instructions for each crop, considering their specific needs for spacing and depth. Regular watering is essential, but avoid overwatering as this can lead to root diseases. Mulching can help retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.

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Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests or diseases. Early detection and treatment can prevent a minor problem from becoming a major infestation.

Harvest and Store

Harvest your crops at their peak ripeness for the best flavor and nutritional content. Some crops, like beans and zucchini, produce more the more you harvest.

Learn about proper storage techniques to prolong the shelf life of your harvest. Many root vegetables can be stored in a cool, dark place for months. Some crops can be canned, dried, or frozen for later use.

Learn and Adapt

Gardening is a continuous learning process. Take notes on what works and what doesn’t, and adjust your plans for the next growing season accordingly. Over time, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of your garden, allowing you to maximize your yield and sustainability.

A survival garden is not only a path to food security, but it also fosters a connection with nature, provides a sense of accomplishment, and offers therapeutic benefits. With patience, practice, and perseverance, you can create a thriving survival garden to nourish you and your family.

Garden Layout Recommendations

a woman picks veggies from her backyard garden

The layout of your survival garden can significantly impact its productivity and ease of maintenance. Raised beds are a popular choice for their improved drainage and soil quality.

A traditional method, known as companion planting, involves planting different crops together to maximize space and benefit from their mutual interactions.

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For instance, the “Three Sisters” method, practiced by Native Americans, involves growing corn, beans, and squash together, where each plant provides a benefit to the others.

Consider integrating permaculture principles into your garden design. This involves creating a self-sustaining ecosystem that requires minimal intervention and is resilient to change.

What are the Best Survival Crops to Grow?

When selecting crops for your survival garden, consider their yield, nutritional value, storage life, and the growing conditions they require. Here are some top choices:

  1. Potatoes: High in calories and easy to grow, potatoes also store well in a cool, dark place.
  2. Beans: A great source of protein. Pole beans, in particular, make good use of vertical space.
  3. Squash: Both summer and winter varieties provide good yields and store well.
  4. Kale: Extremely nutrient-dense and can tolerate colder temperatures.
  5. Tomatoes: Provide a high yield and can be used in a variety of dishes.
  6. Peppers: Both sweet and hot varieties are easy to grow and preserve.

Easiest Things to Grow in Your Survival Garden

For beginners, or those looking for low maintenance options, consider these easy-to-grow crops:

  1. Radishes: These mature quickly, often in just 3-4 weeks.
  2. Lettuce: This cool-weather crop can be harvested multiple times during the growing season.
  3. Zucchini: Known for their abundant yields, a few plants can provide plenty of food.
  4. Cucumbers: These are relatively easy to grow and can be used for pickling.
  5. Spinach: This nutrient-dense leafy green can be harvested as a “cut and come again” crop.

Best Foods to Grow for Survival

When thinking about survival, you need crops that can provide ample nutrients and calories, are relatively easy to grow, and can be stored for long periods. Here are the top picks:

  1. Corn: While it can be somewhat labor-intensive, corn provides a good yield and is a versatile food source.
  2. Winter Squash: Varieties like butternut or acorn squash are nutrient-dense and have a long shelf life.
  3. Cabbage: Hardy and easy to grow, cabbage can be fermented to create sauerkraut, a food source rich in probiotics.
  4. Garlic and Onions: Both are relatively easy to grow, store well, and can add flavor to a variety of dishes.
  5. Carrots: A good source of essential vitamins, they can be stored in a root cellar or sand for months.

Final Tips and Considerations for Your Survival Garden

  1. Start Small: It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the beginning. Start with a small garden and gradually increase its size as you gain experience.
  2. Consider Your Climate: Choose plants that are suitable for your specific growing conditions.
  3. Practice Rotation and Diversity: To keep the soil healthy and prevent pest issues, practice crop rotation and grow a variety of crops.
  4. Preservation Techniques: Learn various food preservation methods such as canning, drying, and fermenting to extend the shelf life of your harvest.
  5. Seed Saving: Learn how to save seeds from your crops for future planting. This increases your self-sufficiency and reduces reliance on external sources for seeds.


A survival garden is a practical solution to food security and self-sustainability concerns. It involves careful planning and implementation, from choosing the right location to understanding the best crops to grow.

While the process may seem daunting, the rewards of a well-maintained survival garden are numerous, from providing nutritious, home-grown food to the satisfaction and peace of mind that comes with self-sufficiency.

With these guidelines and tips, you are well on your way to creating a survival garden that will serve you well in times of need.