by Jason – www.theselfsufficientgardener.com
It’s generally considered blasphemy these days to be a survivalist and not garden. Food is the most important survival consideration next to water for the survival minded. It makes sense to be at least somewhat self-reliant when it comes to food production for you and your family. In other words, if you don’t garden you should really consider starting.
For those of us who do mix gardening and prepping/survivalism, the perennial question waits: What to grow?
Gardening prior to SHTF can be a challenge and doing so afterward will be even more of one. Therefore I’ve devised a rating system for choosing the best vegetables for my garden if I have to rely upon it in an emergency situation.
On a rating scale of 1-5, I rate the following attributes for each crop.
*Reliability—How susceptible is the plant to disease and pests. Can I count on production?
*Season—How often can the crop be grown? Does it take long to produce or can multiple crops be grown in one year?
*Nutritional Value—Not only calorie count but also vitamins and minerals. ATSHTF this will be critical!
*Sustainability—Can the crop be propagated year after year? We won’t know how long a disaster will last in some cases.
*Storage—Feast or famine? Eating great for a week won’t sustain a family. How easy is the crop to store long term?
*Yield—No sense growing things that won’t produce.
*Stealth—If TSHTF, how vulnerable will my garden become?
Of course, everyone’s rating scale will be different. You can even weigh some things heavier than others or disregard certain ones. The important thing is that you think about this beforehand and put it to use.
As an example, I will rate three of my go-to crops if I had to survive on garden produce.
Almost no pests eat beets. They are slightly temperature sensitive for germination and initial growth so planting at the right time is crucial.
Can be started early and grown late. Germination, as I mentioned above, is the critical phase.
High in carbs/sugar. The green tops can be cut and come again harvested and the root, of course, is very nutritious.
Does not produce seeds until it overwinters. This makes seed saving difficult.
Excellent capabilities. Beets will store great in a root cellar. They can be stored in a small box full of sand for a long time.
The greens and the root can be eaten as I mentioned.
Other than the burgundy color, beets and inconspicuous lying low to the ground.
Tally the numbers and I get 24 for beets—not bad.
Several pests like potatoes and we can’t forget about the blight that caused the great famine in Ireland.
Potatoes grow well in cold weather but the require a long growing season.
This veggie is off the charts in nutritional terms.
The tubers can be divided or even just a small chunk can be used to grow another plant.
Outstanding storage life. Kept in a root cellar these will last quite a while.
Use a tire or tower setup and one plant can produce ungodly amounts.
Potatoes don’t really have an obvious appearance for non-gardeners but they do get rather big in some cases.
So potatoes score high as well with a 25.
Almost no pests or diseases to speak of effect amaranth.
The growing season is somewhat long and limited to warmer times.
Very high in many vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Both the greens and the grains can be eaten.
Produces tons of seeds!
Though the greens do not store well at all, the grains will store almost indefinitely once dry.
Tall with bright flowers. The only saving grace is that most people have never seen amaranth.
Amaranth scores a 25.
Just, for example, I’ll give you a crop that most gardeners love but I consider a poor choice for survival gardens.
Cutworms are a problem. A disease is the real killer here. Early and late blights combined with blossom end rot leave tomato harvests in doubt.
Only grows in warmer weather and takes a while to produce.
Good nutritional profile.
The seeds are easy to harvest and store and are generally reliable but only if the plant makes it to production.
Tomatoes are horrible for storage. The best bet is to harvest green and let them ripen on their own.
Everyone knows what a tomato plant looks like and bright red fruit does little to disguise it.
Tomatoes score a 19.
I hope this rating system has at least caused you to look at garden crops in a different way. Its good to know how to grow a variety of things but it’s also good to know which we can rely on when it comes down to it.