Gardens can be a wonderful resource to have during emergencies and day-to-day living. And while they may be a large expense upfront, you will get the return on your investment for years to come. When planting a garden, it is important to include foods that you will both enjoy and that will prepare you for an emergency. It is possible to live off of your garden and the literal fruits of your labors, you just need to plant the right stuff to make that happen.
Survival crops are foods that you can grow yourself that are easy, reliable, and are nutrient dense. Some of the best survival crops to grow in your garden are sweet potatoes, potatoes, beans, squash, carrots, spinach, onions, lettuce, strawberries, beets, and tomatoes. These crops are nutrient and calorie-dense, can grow with relatively low maintenance, and work well together in the garden and in your favorite recipes.
There are many other options for survival crops to grow in your garden depending on where you live and how much water and sun you get. Make sure to determine which crops work best in your area before you jump into planting things that will freeze over during an early frost.
Sweet potatoes make a great survivor crop as they can be used in a variety of ways. You can add in sweet potatoes to everything from breakfasts to desserts, sweet baked goods to savory dinner dishes. They are generally low in fat, moderate in protein, and high in vitamins and minerals that are crucial to have in your diet.
Sweet potatoes are incredibly versatile and grow rather easily. Sweet potatoes thrive in moderate climates that avoid frost as well as extreme heats. Any soil that drains well and maintains an even temperature will be well suited to grow sweet potatoes. Another great thing about sweet potatoes is that you can grow them from seeds, a starter plant, or even from the potatoes you get from the grocery store.
Potatoes are probably what first comes to mind when you think of a survival crop. Depending on where you live they can grow easily and produce a large harvest. Potatoes are high in protein and fiber. They provide a great base or side for any meal due to how versatile they are, which will help you not to get sick of them if you ever become reliant on potatoes alone.
Potatoes generally grow best in mild climates, but can grow year round depending on where you live. This makes them a great survival crop as they don’t have to stay in one particular season. Potatoes can be grown from seeds or any potato purchased from the grocery store that has eyes and has sprouted.
Beans come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They also come with varying nutritional value and growing seasons, so make sure you know which types of beans grow well where you live as well as which beans will give you the most nutritional value in case you become reliant on them. Some of the best choices for beans as a survival crop to grow in your garden are kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans.
Kidney and black beans are bush beans that thrive in the warm summer months. Pinto beans are a pole bean that will need a trellis or other type of support to help them grow. They all provide good amounts of fiber and protein so the best type to grow are the ones you know your family will eat! One other thing to keep in mind is bush beans tend to be easier, while pole beans will probably give you a bigger harvest.
Along with beans, squash comes in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, textures, colors, and flavors. Some of the best options for squash as a survival crop are winter squashes, zucchini, and crookneck squash. Winter squashes include butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and pumpkins. These types of squash all produce a rather large harvest, can be stored for a good amount of time, and are very versatile when it comes to cooking them.
Zucchini squash and crookneck squash are incredibly easy to grow. They require very little maintenance and often produce many pounds of produce per plant, so make sure not to plant too many! Winter squash grow best in the summer and have a longer growing season, so you will be able to harvest in the fall and enjoy your squash all winter long.
Carrots are a great survival crop as they can be eaten straight from the garden or added into a number of different meals. Carrots are full of vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin A, that are so needed when you may have a restricted diet during an emergency.
Carrots grow well in a range of climates, so they are great options to plant all year round. They aren’t really affected by an early or late frost, so you can plant them in early spring and fall. Carrots need to be grown from seeds rather than the leftover carrot top from your grocery store. Carrot tops will only produce a lovely plant, but no additional carrots.
Similar to lettuce, spinach is a good choice for a survival crop as it has a quick growing time and will produce leaves in as short as 30 – 60 days. Spinach is high in fiber as well as many other nutrients, so it provides a great balance to the other vegetables that are more calorie dense.
Spinach grows well in cooler climates and should be started from seeds directly into the ground as they do not transplant well. Spinach can also be grown in intervals to vary the harvest times, as it does not stay fresh for too long. Another great benefit to spinach is that it can be cut and harvested again and again, as long as you leave the base of the plant intact.
Onions are one of the most important and most common survival crops because they can be stored for long periods of time. You may not love the taste, especially if you have to eat them by themselves, but you will surely be grateful for them when they outlast your other stored foods.
Onions can technically grow all year round, but do best during the summer months. Onions can grow from the cut ends of other onions. They need space and lots of water to grow, but will produce a good harvest after about 3 months.
Lettuce is usually not what comes to mind when you think of hearty, survival crops. But there are many surprising benefits to growing lettuce that you should take into account. Lettuce has many essential vitamins and minerals, as well as a high water content. Eating a lot of lettuce, especially romaine lettuce, will give you a good balance of vitamins, fiber, and water.
Lettuce is rather easy to grow and is ready to harvest quickly. Lettuce takes around 30 days to mature and can be harvested beforehand if you want a smaller leaf size. Be mindful to not plant too much lettuce though, as it does not keep long after it has been harvested. Planting a few lettuce plants every 2 – 3 weeks will spread out your harvest so that you can enjoy your fresh lettuce for a longer season.
Strawberries are a great addition to any garden, not just as a survival crop! Strawberries can grow in a relatively small amount of space, so you can fit them in where needed. They work well in raised gardens, hanging baskets, or even in rain gutter gardens. (Check out my post here to read all about how to make your own rain gutter garden! )
New strawberry plants should be planted after the last frost to make sure they survive the summer. Strawberries that have been planted previously and survived the winter will regrow in the springtime. This is another great benefit to strawberry plants as you usually do not have to start over with them every year.
While beets may be less common than other vegetables, they are great for adding nutrients, different flavors, and color to meals. Beets offer a lot of folate, among other vitamins and minerals. They are low in calories as well as carbs, so they are great to throw in salads and have for a snack.
Beets are one of the few plants that do well in colder temperatures. So if you live in a colder climate, or have early or late frosts, beets are a great option. They are also pretty hard to mess up, so if you are new to gardening or have not had much success in the past, beets are a reliable place to start.
Tomatoes are probably one of the most common home grown foods, and rightfully so! In addition to tasting superior to store bought tomatoes, they are easy to grow and can be made into a wide variety of foods. Everything from spaghetti sauce to sloppy joes to salsa will benefit from your homegrown tomatoes. This is a great choice for families with children as kids tend to be more familiar with and enjoy tomato based foods over other survival crops.
Tomatoes are also a great choice due to their many shapes and sizes. You can grow large beefsteak tomatoes for hamburgers, sandwiches, and salsa. Smaller tomatoes such as grape or plum tomatoes are great options for salads and snacking.