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In a long-term disaster, your food storage will only last so long. Eventually you’re going to run out. But even if you don’t, you’ll be eating food that isn’t very nutritious. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a survival garden. It will give you more food to eat, and it will make a great nutritional supplement to your food storage.
The problem is, if things are so bad that you’re relying on a survival garden, then there are probably a lot of hungry people out there. People who wouldn’t think twice about harvesting all your food while you sleep.
It’s not hard to identify a garden: Plants in straight rows, usually with bare soil or mulch between them, and paths leading to it. This means you need a survival garden that either doesn’t look like a garden or is completely hidden from sight. The good news is there are several methods for doing this.
Before we cover the methods, let’s talk about the content of your survival garden. In a SHTF scenario, annuals will grow out. And unless you save your own seeds, the seeds will run out. If you want annuals, plant ones that will self-seed and take over open or normally grassy areas.
Orach, spinach, some lettuces, and some edible flowers will turn a grassy yard into an edible meadow in short order. Leave the dandelions in, too, and add a few small fruit-bearing plants if you want.
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Perennials, however, should be the mainstay of your survival garden. Thorny plants are particularly beneficial around the outside of plantings. No one’s going to push past a thick barrier of hawthorn, especially if the area under the hawthorn is covered in stinging nettles.
Hawthorn is a useful herb tree, while nettles are edible when young, and you can get fiber from the older stalks. I would recommend using stinging nettles more than poison ivy or poison sumac as it’s much easier to treat a nettle sting than a poison ivy rash.
All of the following methods can vary in size depending on how much land you have to work with and how well the plants do in your growing zone. Now on to the list.
1. Indoor Gardening
If you’re in a crowded urban area or a neighborhood with very small yards, an indoor garden is probably the best way for you to keep your survival garden hidden. Cover any windows facing your garden with slightly opaque plastic to prevent prying eyes from spying your food. Paint walls white or reflective to provide adequate lighting, and use full spectrum grow lights as well as outside light.
Have fans and vents to keep a steady supply of fresh air and mimic natural wind. If you can’t have vents to the outside, try growing mushrooms as well as plants because mushrooms produce a lot of carbon dioxide which the plants need. Hydroponic growing may also help you to use your space efficiently.
2. Nobody here but us… roses?
Most people, in cities at least, do not recognize flowers as food. So plant roses. Climbing roses left to trail over the ground can make a thorny barrier that will protect your ground growing perennials (for example, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, and herbs) from detection.
Hedge-type roses, on the other hand, can provide shade to shade-loving perennials and yummy flowers and rose hips (a great source of vitamin C) for you, too. You can also plant other edible flowers, or flowers that produce edible seeds, as part of your planting. Beans and peas can grow up sturdy bushes and flower stalks as easily as up a trellis.
3. Spread It Out
People think of gardens as places where plants are laid out in nice, even rows. Let’s mess that up. Instead of a row of four or six tomato plants, drop the plants throughout your growing area. One tomato over there, another in the middle of a bunch of orach or herbs, and so on.
The less your garden looks like a conventional garden, the better. Companion planting gets a bit of a different meaning here. Who would suspect strawberries of hiding among asparagus plants? Who would think this forest of random leafy stalks and thick ground cover would be hiding corn, beans, and squash?
4. Plant Mini Forests
If you have land, anywhere from half an acre and up, you can plant mini survival garden forests on different parts of your land. These mini forests should be planted in a circular pattern with a food-producing tree at the center. A nut or non-obvious fruit works best.
Around the tree you can plant shade-loving edible perennials. And around those you can plant bushes, preferably the kind with thorns. Around those bushes and outward you can plant lower growing, sun-loving perennials and herbs blended together.
On the very outside of the circle you can plant thorny vines, stinging nettles, or any other plant that would deter intruders. As long as there’s no obvious path to and from these little forests, there will be no indication to passersby by that they’re a source of food.
5. Use Permaculture
This method is similar to the mini forest method. Just plant perennials in thick groups or in a section of built-up organic matter (logs and branches stuffed with hay and straw, covered in manure, and buried in a thick layer of soil).
This type of bed works best with perennials, including some trees, and the organic matter within the bed helps retain water and reduce the need for numerous visits. As the planting degrades, it looks like a mound of soil and the plants on it look more like random plants than a garden bed.
6. Plant Not-So-Obvious Plants
Most people know, or can at least guess, what a tomato or pumpkin plant looks like. They may not, however, know what a lemon cucumber looks like, or what certain unusual looking squashes are. Obvious plants should be planted near the center of your property, out of sight of the average passerby. Less obvious plants, however, can grace areas slightly closer to the edges.
Heirloom plants, with unusual coloration or growth patterns, are good options for this. And they will also grow true to seed, so you can save your own, too. Root crops are also highly recommended. Most people would have no idea what potatoes, sweet potatoes, ginger, turmeric, peanuts, and other root crops look like when they’re growing.
7. Plant a Sacrifice on the Border
At the edge of your land, in front of the thorny or stinging barrier (a barrier that is hopefully inter-grown with your fencing), plant some obvious spreading perennials like dandelions or other local and wild edibles. If someone can get something at the edge and the barrier is obvious and not so friendly, then hopefully they won’t bother trying to see what is on the other side.
8. Make it Impossible to See
In closely packed urban areas, a tall fence, say one made out of concrete blocks and about six feet high, will make it impossible for anyone to see your garden. Add a large, sturdy gate as well.
The only downside is that some people may think that if your yard is that well hidden, there must be something very valuable inside. This could make certain people even more determined to get past your fence, so it might be better to have a less visually imposing plant barrier (but no less difficult to penetrate).
9. Use Water
Aquatic and semi-aquatic plants can also be utilized, especially if you already have some water on your land. If you’re in a city location, creating a small water retention zone and planting a few water-loving plants can increase your survival garden options substantially.
Planting wild semi-aquatic plants like wild rice, cattails, water lily, or arrowroot can provide a wilderness border to your watery hiding place and plenty of food options for you, too. A network of floating mats, either as is or covered in soil for non-water plants, can also increase the hidability of your survival food sources. And what marauder wants to get all cold and wet?
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