Survival Food: Thoughts on upcoming spring garden……

survival gardening, SHTF, garden, food, production,
Main Garden

Over the past 8 years I have worked to learn about gardening and prepare for a time when a garden will be necessary to help provide nourishment for my family. It has been rewarding and fun – but very difficult at times. Gardening has become more popular over the past few years as seeds are less expensive than the full grown grocery store alternative. Flavor of garden grown produce is incredible as well. The advantages and reasons to have a garden are many. I have had my main garden as well as raised beds covered with plastic for the past few months. Covered to kill off weeds and other unwanted vegetation. This past weekend I removed the plastic off the main garden and am curious to see how successful my efforts into ridding the garden of weeds will be. Anyways – February is here and planting time for most crops in my area are but 2-3 months away. Have a few things on my mind and starting to plan my gardens. On my small piece of property I have 5 gardens:

  • Main Garden – approx 40′ x 25′
  • Raised Bed #1 – 4′ x 8′ raised bed
  • Raised Bed #2 – 4′ x 8′ raised bed
  • Raised Bed #3 – L-shaped raised bed
  • Raised Bed #4 – 4′ x 10′ raised bed

Main Garden: I will start planting lettuce in Main Garden in several weeks. One row provides all we need. Other crops in the Main Garden will follow every week or so until all is planted. I like to stagger my planting times to get longevity out of each garden. Crops planted here include cucumbers, tomato’s, crookneck squash, zucchini, and peppers.

Raised Bed #1: A variety of plants are packed into these 12 square feet. A couple tomato plants (cherry tomato’s especially), pepper’s, climbing cucumbers, and maybe an eggplant or two.

Raised Bed #2: Dedicated to blackberries and blueberries. This will be the second season for this bed – hoping I will get some fruit this year.

Raised Bed #3: One section is dedicated to green beans and sugar-snap peas. Another used for cucumbers, peppers, and whatever I feel like at the time.

Raised Bed #4: Strawberries – nothing but strawberries. This will be the second season and hoping for some ripe fruit.

This year I am going to take measures to store away some seeds (mostly non-hybrid), as well as other gardening supplies such as fertilizers. Although I plan to package and store some seeds myself – for redundancy I will likely pick up an Emergency Seed Bank. Gardening tools is another area I need to improve in. An expansion in my tools is needed and I would like to pick up a used tiller. Currently I borrow a couple of tillers from neighbors.

So….do you garden?


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  1. I have a good sized garden (92’X76″). About half of that is taken up with my orchard where I have 14 fruit tree’s. The rest of it is in raised beds. Around the edge of the garden and orchard are all my Blackberry bushes. In the orchard area I have my Chicken coop (they free range the whole garden and orchard area) asparagus bed, rhubarb bed and strawberry bed. This is only our 4th year on this property and I have planted all of the trees and other plants. I have already planted some radishes (they were coming up as of yesterday), carrots, lettuce, and spinach. I will also be planting some corn, tomatoes, peppers (sweet and hot), squash (multiple varieties), melons, cucumbers, potatoes, beans, lots of different herbs and a few other things as the mood strikes me.
    Nothing beats the quality of food that you grow yourself. I have one of the emergency seed cans stored in my refrigerator, but once I use them I will just pick up varieties that we like better and use those. In one of my gardening books it says that in order to feed yourself you need a total of 4000 sq ft of garden. That area will include grains, starch crops like potatoes, and other vegis. I am no where near that number, but I am getting closer every year. We have a horse and goats along with my chickens so I have fertilizer to go in the garden and that really makes a difference. I am currently working on double digging all of my beds to get them ready for planting a little later. Inside I have a lot of my vegis already started (cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, artichokes etc). I should be ready to plant my tomatoes in their wall o waters in about another 6 weeks. The Wall O Waters really help them get a good start on the season.
    Hopefully this year will be gentler to my garden and not cook everything with the heat and drought so I can have enough produce to can up. My family wants more salsa and I need tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Good luck with your garden.

    • Amy –

      Sounds like and awesome place. Great idea to let the chicken free roam.

      Southern heat here in SC was brutal last year.

      Take care – Rourke

  2. Gardening is great for living well and cheaper. as for you saying you wanted to get a cheap tiller? Buy new and get a 4cycle matiis, they are great and easy to operate, small enough to handle easily but strong enough to get the work done. It is the most used of all the tillers, can weed the garden with it or deep till. just my 2cents.

  3. 144 acres of pasture – 19 cows (I have a 25% share in an Angus bull, but he stays at the neighbor’s place), 4 beefalo calves (new for this year – 1 is a male, might keep him fertile), random goats (usually 20 to 30, but they wander off and come back), 3 mares (nothing special, but they are fairly young, healthy, and easy riding), and 2 llamas (had a wild hair one day, never again – they spit, bite, muddy up the stock tank, and tear up fences). We have a healthy deer population, too many hogs (killed 2 last night), a variety of birds including turkey, and every 2 or 3 years I get an Axis or Red Stag wander in from a nearby exotic game ranch. Got a medium sized aodad wander through last October – that was a new experience (good eating though).
    10 +/- acres of fruit and nut trees – mostly pecans, some peaches, pears, apricots, and plums.
    12 +/- acres of mixed hardwoods (mostly oaks, some sycamore, sweetgum, hickory, and elm) with a few pines along the road frontage.
    13 +/- acres of water – 1 stock tank and 1 bass lake.
    2 acres of garden – mostly corn, beans, squash, melons, potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic. Tomatoes and peppers in containers near the house. A few containers of herbs (rosemary, basil, oregano, parsley, mint, and dill near the house. Barn cats generally keep the rabbits under control – kids go out at night with .22’s and q-beams and help the cats whenever they come over.
    4 +/- acres around the house, guest cabin, barn, garage, gazebo, smokehouse, wellhouse, pool, grandkids’ playhouse, workshop, and 200 yard rifle range – gravel drives with concrete parking areas. House is partially buried in a hill with a sod roof. About 50% of our power is self generated (could be more if the spousal unit would be more efficient) and one well has a hand pump.

    188 acres – worked almost 30 years to get it (I’m 52 and still working as a Civil Engineer), all paid for, no debt. It may not be as fancy as Bill Gate’s or Al Gore’s mansions, but it’s our family’s home and I am more than satisfied with it.

  4. I don’t garden for a variety of reasons, but I wish I could. For some reason I had to fix your math. A 4’x8′ plot is 32′ sq. not 12′ sq.; 4 x 8, not 4 + 8. Sorry, I’m just a bit compulsive with math errors.

  5. I currently have several small square foot raised boxes. I was amazed last summer at how much produce could be grown from such a small area. I also have large planters that I plant potatoes and sweet potatoes in. While we certainly don’t produce enough to sustain our family, we’re working toward that. My blueberries and blackberries did pretty well last year. The blueberries grow very slowly. Our blackberry bush has grown and multiplied and we get a very good crop each year. Bird netting is a must have!

    We compost, but this year we are going to try worm composting as well. I think my kids will really like helping with this.

    Happy Gardening!

  6. How about some llama manure? Heck, you can come get the llama maure factories too!

    I’ll admit the place needs a few things (like more time, more money, less fire ants, less coyotes, less taxes, and a beer well), but it’s home and given the right incentive (SHTF, zombie cockroaches, and Pelosi moving to Texas come to mind) we can live very nicely on what we can produce within its boundaries.

    If you plan a visit to Texas, let me know – I’ll give you the nickel tour (and, pack you a llama for your trip home).

  7. i’m doing a garden again, this year. only my second time but i’m expanding with a few containers. given that i’m in NYC i don’t have much space but i’m lucky to have any space at all for it. i’m doing intensive gardening to try to really get the max out of the space i have. i also have a worm bin for compost and find that to be really handy. i like to try to be eco friendly when i can, i find that many eco friendly practices on a personal scale (not talking politics) fit hand in hand with self sufficiency.

  8. Rourke,

    Awesome looking gardens. I gave it my first go last summer and had a good time. Even though I was super late in the season, I was able to harvest some squash and radishes before frost.

    Starting to get excited and plan out this season’s efforts. Given my smaller yard, I’m planning to do some raised beds (a la square foot gardening). It looks like you are doing a version of this with a couple of your beds. Do you subscribe to Mel’s soil recipe? (equal parts vermiculite, peat moss, and compost).

    It sounds like there are some definite advantages to this, but one disadvantage is having to buy it all. Wondering if there are secrets to getting good deals on these, or if you would advise another soil mixture.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Dan –

      I have not tried Mel’s soil recipe. Why? Because of the expense like you said. I probably should give it a shot as I have heard good things. Glad you brought that up….have me thinking.


  9. In my concret and asphalt yard, I hope to put in three 4’x8′ beds this spring. Tomatos in bushel baskets on the deck and green onions in 10′ section of rain gutter on the south side o the deck. Sweet potatos in large flower pots (not expecting a lot of yeild), berries in the other large pots up the stairway. I figure why not dress out the place in something eddable… eatable… its all green……. and one ceder potato tower in 4 layers. If I grow enough for one salad…… count me happy

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