So you want to grow a survival garden. But first off, what makes a garden a “survival garden” and how do we plant one? Plus, what are the crops we should focus on in our survival garden?
We will discuss survival gardening in today's podcast (episode #386). We'll talk about what it is, why it's important, which crops I recommend growing, and the purpose of talking about this topic.
What is a Survival Garden
A survival garden is a way to provide the majority or a large portion of the food your family is growing to survive.
Other people may call these “prepper gardens,” and sometimes they have a negative connotation. It's unfortunate that these terms can cause fear and an overall negative mindset because just a few generations ago, our definition of a survival garden was just the way people lived.
However, with the industrialization of food, these backyard survival gardens started to disappear. And instead of the grocery stores supplementing gardens, backyard gardens now supplement the grocery store.
Why Gardening is Important
If you're wondering why you should grow a garden when everything you need is readily available at the grocery store then I'm glad you're here. There are many reasons why gardening is a better option…
- Home-grown food is fresher and generally tastes better.
- If you're growing food in high-quality, nutrient-dense soil, your food will actually have more nutrients than those purchased at the grocery store.
- You're picking food at the pique of ripeness. Grocery store food is picked long before it's ripe and continues to ripen during shipping and once on the grocery store shelf.
- There are environmental benefits to growing a garden. Whether in an in-ground garden or even in pots or raised garden beds. You're bringing in diversity for pollinators, insects, and more.
- The microorganisms in the soil act as an anti-depressant!
What Do I Need for a Survival Garden
If you're looking to move more toward a “producer” mindset rather than a “consumer” mindset, it's important to consider what's needed to start a survival garden.
Most vegetables will need at minimum 6+ hours of full sunlight. You'll want to make sure your survival garden area gets at least some sun during the day.
If you want to grow some shade-loving plants, you can utilize those shady areas in your yard. But for the main survival garden area, 6+ hours of sunlight is ideal.
For more information on choosing the right garden location, read these helpful tips for the beginning gardener.
Healthy soil is imperative for growing a productive garden. If you want to learn more about building up healthy soil, check out some of the following blog posts:
- How to Improve Soil Health
- Sheet Mulching: The Easy Way to Build Soil
- Six Natural Fertilizers to Improve Soil
- 11 Tips to Improve Your Soil (in the Fall)
- How to Test Soil pH & Amend Acidic or Alkaline Soil
- Soil Remediation – How to Fix Tainted Soil
We'll discuss more on what crops you should grow further down in this blog post, but for the sake of knowing what's needed for a survival garden, you obviously need crops!
When choosing your crops, it's important not only to choose the right crops but also the correct variety. Different onions, for example, will have a longer or shorter shelf life.
So if you choose a variety that has a short shelf-life, you may grow enough onions to feed your family for a year, but those onions won't last a year in cold storage.
What are the Best Survival Foods to Grow
Growing crops that are calorie-dense with good storage or preservation capabilities are the best options for a survival garden.
Remember, we're talking about survival and not necessarily pleasure.
When you think about a potato, it can almost be a full meal on its own. You can cut it up and add it to soups and stews, you can make a hash, fry it, bake it, microwave it, etc.
Potatoes are also very calorie-dense, and most are a decent size, so you don't need many to fill up a plate.
Per potato plant, you'll get a fairly large yield (versus planting an onion, you only get one onion per plant). Depending on the size of the seed potato, you can get multiple plants from that one potato if you hill it up (indeterminant varieties only), and each plant generally produces upwards of 10 potatoes.
To learn more about growing potatoes, check out my post on planting potatoes and choosing the right varieties here.
Carrots are another root vegetable that is very nutrient-dense and also stores well. Parsnips are very similar to carrots and also store well. In fact, I store my potatoes and carrots in the garden all winter long! I live in the Pacific Northwest and we experience lows of 5 degrees F in the winter and can get up to two feet of snow covering the garden.
However, I'm able to harvest my potatoes and carrots well into the springtime and they're perfectly good!
This may not be an option with your climate, however both potatoes and carrots are great storers, even without a root cellar.
Onions & Garlic
Not only are onions and garlic fairly easy crops to grow and store, but they are power-houses when it comes to flavor.
Again, be sure to choose a good storage variety so your harvest lasts a long time in storage.
If I had to choose just four things to grow in a survival garden, it would be potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic. Think of all the amazing dishes you can make with these staples! They're so versatile, calorie-dense, and nutrition-packed, and they don't require any special forms of preservation.
You can also turn onions and garlic into homemade bone broth and homemade fire cider (a great medicinal remedy).
The other root vegetables that are great to grow would be something like radishes. Not only do they grow very quickly (they take about 30 days to mature), but you can also eat the radish greens, so you get a two-for-one crop.
Beets are also something you can eat the greens and the root.
If you're thinking about growing food in your survival garden year-round, you really should consider kale. Though many of us don't like the flavor, kale that's grown in the colder months actually tastes sweeter than summer-grown kale.
I can plant kale in the early spring. Because it's a cool-weather crop, it will germinate (or grow) in colder temperatures. It's one of my first crops to come up in the spring. It will grow all summer long (during the warmer months, if you can plant it in the shade, it does better… I grow mine in my bean tunnel so they're shaded by the beans).
The kale will grow throughout the entire summer, and I'll still be harvesting it well into the winter. At the end of the winter, we'll pull up the plants and start fresh in the spring.
Spinach is also great, but it does tend to bolt once the weather gets warm.
Though berry bushes aren't something you'll be able to plant now and get a harvest the same year (autumn-bearing raspberry bushes are the only exception), they are a perennial that will continue to grow and produce for you year after year.
Getting these bushes in the ground now means in years to come, you'll be able to harvest the fruit. Depending on how many bushes you plant, you could grow enough fruit for an entire year!
Read this post to learn how many fruit and berry bushes to plant per person.
In the same way getting berry bushes planted right away, you'll also want to consider fruit trees. There are storage varieties of apples that will store for a year or longer!
Check out this podcast on historical varieties of apple trees here.
Beans and legumes are another great crop to grow because, especially if you grow pole beans, they grow vertically and take up very little space but produce a lot for one seed.
You can preserve them in an old-fashioned way by making leather britches that require no special tools.
Furthermore, you can allow beans to go to seed on the bush, which you can harvest for a hard shelling bean, as well as your seed for the next year. Once they're completely dry, you don't have to do anything special with them in terms of storage.
Beans are also a great way to add in protein if you're not self-sufficient in raising your own meat for a year.
Cabbage is high in nutrients, and it can be stored for a long period of time. It can be grown in the spring and fall but is not always best during the summer. If you deal with extremely hot summers, you'll want to stick to spring and fall. Or, if you have very mild winters, you can plant it in the fall and grow it over the winter.
A head of cabbage grows quite large and can feed a lot of people. You can also bury your head of cabbage in the ground and store it there like a root cellar.
Fried cabbage with some onions and meat is a great meal! You can also ferment cabbage and make sauerkraut or curtido (Spanish sauerkraut) with just salt and water.
If I were going to add in a few extra crops to my survival garden the first would be indeterminate tomatoes. You'll get a harvest off of your tomatoes up until your first frost. I also prefer a paste tomato so they can be preserved into other pantry staples like canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc.
Check out these posts I have on growing, harvesting, and preserving tomatoes:
- 10 Tomato Growing Tips for a Disease-Free Harvest
- Preventing Early Tomato Blight (and Potato Blight)
- How to Prune Tomatoes for a Better Harvest
- Weston Tomato Press & Tomato Sauce Recipe
- Storing Green Tomatoes for Fresh Eating
- Water Bath Canning Tomato Sauce
- Homemade Tomato Soup (From the Pantry)
If you want to grow squash, I highly recommend choosing a winter squash variety. First off, they store well, are calorie dense, and you'll get a lot of fruit from one seed.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend summer squash or even cucumbers. Although these are both great crops, and I grow them yearly in my garden, if we're strictly talking about a survival garden, both summer squash and cucumbers can't be stored long-term, and they really don't do well when preserved (save pickles, of course, but those aren't really a survival food).
It's important to know that a squash plant will take up a large amount of space. This is why it's not at the top of my survival garden list because, if you're limited in space, this will take up a large portion of it.
A solution to this would be to grow them vertically. This is a great option if you're limited on space or if you're looking to create some shaded areas for those shade-loving plants.
When winter squash is cured properly (variety dependent), they will sit on your shelf for 6+ months.
How Do I Start a Self-Sustaining Garden?
If you're looking to take your gardening skills to the next level, consider coming to my IN-PERSON live workshop here at my home.
The workshop is called, “Grow a Year's Worth of Food in Your Backyard” and will be held at my home on May 20, 2023. Click here to reserve your spot!
Many of you have heard me talk about Azure Standard before. They're my go-to for products that I can't raise myself. Things like bulk herbs and spices, flour, and many other pantry staples.
However, you may not know they also have a large nursery, and you can order plant starts. I have purchased them many times in the past and have always been extremely pleased with their plants.
If you're a first-time Azure Standard customer, you can use coupon code “Melissa10” for 10% off your first order of $50 or more.
Verse of the Week: John 10:11-14
Hey, pioneers. Welcome to episode number 386. Today's episode we are going to be talking about survival gardening, but I first want to define what I mean by survival gardening, and the importance of survival gardening and the purpose of this episode. So first off, survival gardening is something that I think of in the context of this episode and the blog post that will accompany that is it's a way to provide the majority or a large portion of the food that your family is eating and in order to survive off of it. And in a lot of today's modern society or today right now, people will use the term survival garden or prepper garden, that type of thing, and it has a negative connotation for some folks or like, "Oh no, that sounds really pessimistic, or it means things are going to go really bad. And so I have this survival garden," and it can kind of get wrapped up in this package of anxiety and panic and in a bad frame of mind.
And so a survival garden shouldn't be thought of in that way. Yes, it can definitely feed your family during a crisis or an emergency situation. And so there's going to be specific plants and types of plants that you're going to be thinking about that you should have in your survival garden, and we're going to get into that. But honestly, if you look back just a few generations ago, what we have in the context of a survival garden right now is really the way most people just lived. But instead, once we had the industrial revolution and large supermarkets came on the scene and more and more people moved off of the farms and into cities and got away from growing their own food, then gardening was looked at as more of a way to supplement with some fresh things from your backyard, from what you were buying at the grocery store when just a few centuries back, or not even centuries back, honestly, just a few generations back, a century back from right now in time, buying outside food sources was to supplement what you weren't providing and growing for yourself, for the general population.
Of course, there's always outliers and exceptions to things, but generally most homes had a kitchen garden or was growing a garden and producing a good portion of their food and they were just supplementing from other farmers, maybe the grocery store, different things like that, but they weren't relying on the grocery store for all of their food needs. And we are at a very interesting place in time where that has reversed in a relatively short period of time. And so I'm saying that because I don't want anybody to hear the term a survival garden and think that that just means doom and gloom or anything like that. This was actually, I hate to use the word normal, I don't like to use those terms, but I'm not really coming up with a better term quite honestly. This was the way that most people did survive and it was their way of living.
It just seems a little bit foreign to that for those of us in this day and age, if you didn't grow up in the country or didn't already grow up having a garden, that type of thing. So I wanted to preface this episode with what is a survival garden? And it's something that will be feeding your family and if situations, whatever they may be came up, that you would be able to survive off of the food that was grown in this garden. So for those of us who are looking to become more producers, producing our own food in a greater percentage than what we consume, so instead of buying everything from an outside source, that would be your consumption. We're moving further and further into producing more and more of our own food or whatever it may be. And this topic is obviously around gardening, so we're talking about food, but that could be even clothing, different things like that.
But instead of always just consuming, consuming, consuming, even though yes, you are consuming the food you grow, you are producing it for yourself and possibly for others, but taking on more of that producer role. So we're going to talk about a survival garden that I wanted to put it into that context because there tends to be, as I said, a lot of people will hear that term and sometimes panic or think along those lines instead of realizing that this was the way. As you look back throughout humanity and history, most people did survive off of the food that they grew themselves and it was actually the norm. And I'm not saying that gardening can't be hard. Anything has its challenges, but it can definitely be done and it's not something that we need to be scared of or to be afraid of. And there's actually some incredible benefits by raising your own food and having a survival garden.
Of course, food security in times of crisis be whatever that can be, food disruption. We've seen supply chain issues obviously within the past few years. If there's inflation, like let's be real, inflation can be something that creates food security issues with people because they don't have the money. Their wages aren't inflating as fast as the cost of goods are inflating. So having a survival garden where you have more of the food that your family's going to need to get through definitely helps with inflation, very cost-effective alternative to buying produce in many, many cases. And you guys, the health benefits and environmental benefits of having a garden and growing your own food are immense. We are seeing more and more unfortunately within the United States and the FDA proving things or increasing levels, approving increase of levels of different pesticides and herbicides and things that are sprayed on our food, constantly increasing them.
We are seeing with larger modern agriculture, we're actually seeing a lot of different things being depleted in the soil. And if it doesn't, it's not in the soil, it can't be in the things that are growing on that soil as high of levels as it used to be. So we're actually seeing decreased nutrition a lot because the soil is not being treated as it should. We are using a lot of synthetic nitrogen thinking that yes, plants do need nitrogen, and by using synthetic nitrogen you can see an increase in crop, but over time and over application at what cost, what other things are being affected.
So the health benefits of growing your own food from that standpoint can be really great. And then the simple act of harvesting your food and eating it from the backyard where it's not being shipped, it's not being picked early and by the time you get it at a big grocery store, it could have been shipped from either across the country, from another country and it's been off the vine for a lot longer time than if you were just harvesting it yourself in your backyard or from a neighbor, a local farm that's within pretty close proximity to you because the longer that a vegetable or fruit is off of its plant that it's growing from the minute it's picked, it's slowly and sometimes more fastly, but the minute it's picked, it begins to lose the height of its nutritional value.
It just is a slow downgrade from there. So being able to pick something off of the vine and eat it immediately or within the next day, maybe two days, like you are never going to get that level of nutrients provided your soil is healthy, that you can get from store bought food. And then the environmental benefits of growing a garden, those are huge. You're bringing in diversity. There's generally by having a vegetable garden instead of just a lawn, if that's what you have, or even if you're growing in pots or raised beds where maybe it would've just been gravel or cement or something like that, or just a patio depending if you just have a backyard, excuse me, not a full-on backyard, but just a patio environment. But by bringing plants in, even if it is in pots and it's not larger garden beds, you are still bringing in so much diversity for pollinators and insects and then your own health, not from just a nutritional standpoint, but the mental aspects of gardening.
There's microbes in the soil and when our hands touch them, they are actually act like serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or SSRIs is a classification of pharmaceutical antidepressants. Well, there's actually microbes in the soil that provide that same benefit that is nature's way. And so that's why when people say like, "Gardening is stress reliever, our gardening makes me happy, it's my happy place." Those are very, very true, and gardeners, of course, have known this for a very, very long time, but there is actually scientific evidence that is showing why that is true and how it is true, which is really fascinating. So that is in context of this episode, what we're talking about within survival gardening and the benefits of survival gardening. So now let's dive into planning your survival garden. And if you want to go to the blog post because there's only so much that we can cover in an episode, you can go to melissaknorris.com/386.
That's melissaknorris.com/386 because this is episode number 386. Now, like I said, we won't be able to go over all of the nuances of doing a garden from completely start to finish. So if you go to the blog post, we'll make sure that we put this in the show notes as well. When it comes to planning and putting in a garden bed, I've actually been getting a lot of questions from people requesting different things like that. And we've got a lot of these resources are on the website, melissaknorris.com, that you can go into in much greater location. Some of them have videos even on there, but helping you choose the right location. So really quick for choosing the right location, of course, most of your vegetables are going to require at minimum, at least six plus hours of full sunlight. So you want to make sure that you have an area that's not in the deep shade that's getting adequate sunlight.
And then when we talk about soil health, there is so many nuances to soil health. So we've got a lot of different episodes. You can go and check those out where we talk about soil testing, the different micro macronutrients of soil. We get down more into the nitty gritty on those. So just know that those are available for you and go and check those out. But for the context of this episode, really deciding what to grow is going to be one of the most important parts of your survival garden. So when I look at the survival garden plant options, I am looking at things that provide you with a good amount of calories and that have easy storage or ways to preserve capabilities because there's a lot of tools, and I dive into food preservation hardcore on this podcast, my newest book, everything Worth Preserving Covers Food Preservation.
But when we look historically at the ways to preserve food, the invention of the canning jar is actually relatively new. Glass canning jars as we know them, were invented in the mid latter part of the 1800s. They really weren't even widespread until about the early 1900s, 1890s, early 1900s. And so canning, as we think of it today, water bath and pressure canning, of course, pressure canning came a little bit later. Those are relatively newer forms of food preservation and humans have been preserving food to feed themselves for many, many thousands of years prior to that. So looking at some of those older methods of food preservation and those crops and focusing on those within your survival garden. So first up is going to be your root vegetables, things like potatoes, you think about a potato that can almost be a full meal.
We use it in soups, we use it in stews, fried potatoes. You can make a hash and mix it with other things. It is starchy, but it has a decent amount of calories. Your potatoes themselves are of decent size, so you don't have to have a ton of them in order to fill up a plate. The potato plants themselves per potato, per potato plant, I should say, you're going to get a large yield. It's not like a onion. We will talk about onions in a minute where you plant an onion seed or a onion set, you're only going to get one onion from that, right? But you can take a potato and depending on the size of the potato, you actually can get more than one potato plant out of a seed potato, and each of those potato plants are going to produce multiple potatoes.
And if you grow indeterminate varieties of potatoes, then you can continue to hill up around the plant and it's kind of like a tomato. They're both in the nightshade family, but the part that's covered by soil will grow more roots and will produce more potatoes. So if you hill your potato plants up, this is for indeterminate varieties, it doesn't really work with determinate varieties, then you are increasing the amount of potatoes that you're going to get per plant. I've got a whole blog post article, I'm sure you knew that was coming on planting potatoes, including picking storage varieties, and this is key within a survival garden and a preserving garden is knowing the varieties based upon if you are planning doing food storages or not, it's critical for potatoes. You want to make sure that you have got storage varieties of potatoes as well as onions and garlic though even hard neck and soft neck garlic will store.
In my experience, the soft net garlic stores longer than the hard net garlic, but it's not quite as critical. But with your onions and your potatoes and other types of vegetables, but those are really the ones that come to foremost and the most importance. You have to know what varieties will store because not all potatoes will, and not all onion varieties will either. So potatoes in within the root vegetables, carrots, carrots are great. Carrots will overwinter really well. Carrots obviously provide a lot of good nutrition. We've all heard about how good carrots are for our eyesight, et cetera. They're a base of soups. You can have carrots as a side dish. Carrots are in broths, so very versatile and can be stored using root cellar techniques even if you don't have a root cellar. That's the beautiful thing about potatoes and carrots and beets. But beets don't store as long in the ground, but you can store all of these in some parts of the country and your climate, you're going to be able to leave them in the ground.
I can do that with potatoes and carrots and overwinter them. We are zone seven and we get down to five degrees Fahrenheit and we can get a couple feet of snow. I can store my potatoes and carrots in the ground all winter in those types of weather conditions just fine. They make it through the whole time. Now, of course, if you are in the negative attempts and double digit negative temps, that's going to be a little bit different scenario. You probably will have to pull them up or have a root cellar, but you can store them in bins. There's lots of different ways that you can store these root vegetables that doesn't require a freeze dryer or canning or dehydrating, though we can do that with these, but they provide a lot of good nutrients and are fairly ... I shouldn't say they're easy to grow because I know someone's going to be like, "No, they're not."
I have struggled to grow potatoes and I've struggled to grow carrots. They're not that easy to grow. But once you get a few things established as in soil health and understanding what that plant needs in order to thrive, they're not super hard to grow. All right, so those are some of my top favorites. Potatoes and carrots and then onions and garlic. Now onions and garlic are great because if you plant long storage varieties and cure them properly to put into storage, you can just store them in your pantry, in your kitchen, in a closet of your house and they will store almost 12 months. I have had garlic actually store almost two years, not that that was my goal, but I've had garlic that have lasted for two years just hanging in my pantry, and I have had onions that have went an entire 12 months until we were into harvesting the next crop.
So I love those types of things, plus onions and garlic, I mean, think about it, if you've just got potatoes, for instance, or green beans or just any vegetable and you add some sauteed onion and some sauteed garlic to it instantly gives it flavor. I mean, we use onions and garlic pretty much daily. Those are one of the workhorses and staples of the kitchen and even medicinally. So talking about a survival garden, we also kind of want to look at the medicinal part. And so broth, which I consider to be medicinal, a really good bone broth, onions and garlic go in that fire cider, onions and garlic are going to go in fire cider, and I've got recipes for both of those on the website. So you can go and check those out further if you want to. But I would consider those as far as root vegetables go, if you were only going to pick four root vegetables to grow personally, I would go with potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic.
Of course, beets are great turnips radishes. One of the nice things about radishes is they're a fairly quick growing crop and you can eat both the top part of the radish, the radish greens, same with the beets and then the actual root part, the radish and the beet. So you're kind of getting two crops in one. So that's a really great way. If you are limited in the amount of space that you have to grow and you want to have some greens and also have a root crop, then instead of just growing, for example, like collared greens, you could grow your radishes and you would have the greens. I think you get where I'm going with that, right? So those could be a really great option. Okay, if you are wanting to grow leafy greens because they can have a lot of vitamins and minerals, when you're thinking about a survival garden, you definitely should look at kale, especially if you live in an area that has cooler winters.
The reason I say that is because kale, I can plant kale in the early spring. It is a cool weather crop, meaning it will survive freezes and frost and it will germinate in lower temperatures. You don't have to have your soil temps as warm as you do for other things. So I can plant it early in the spring and it will start to grow. So it's one of my first crops that we can actually harvest because we can get it in the ground early in the springtime and then it will grow all summer long. You do want to make sure that once you hit those warm summer months, if you can plant it where it's in the afternoon shade of something else, that can work really good. So I will often plant it and then purposely put one of our bean tunnels over top of the kale.
So when this hot part of summer comes, it is shadowed in there. So it's a little bit kept cooler. And then those kale plants will go all winter, they will go through snow, they will go through freezes. I don't do anything. I don't put any type of protective frosts covering over it or anything like that, and I can literally harvest that kale almost an entire year and then we'll pull it up and start again in the spring with some new plants. So kale is one of my favorites just because I can leave it out in the garden pretty much year round and always have kale. Of course, you've got things like spinach. Spinach can be great. Spinach tends to bolt, and you can freeze spinach and you can dehydrate spinach, you can also can spinach. It's not something I've actually ever canned. I would much prefer just to leave the kale out in the garden and not have to deal with that.
Now, lettuce, we grow lettuce, but I would not consider lettuce a survival garden crop because it doesn't have as high of nutritional values as you're going to get in some of those other greens. You can't really preserve it. So it can be something fun to throw in there, but it's not something that I consider a survival garden crop per se. Now, of course, if we're talking survival garden, if you look at your fruit trees and berries, however, that's not something that you're going to be able to plant right now and get a harvest off of the same year with the exception of raspberries. If you plant them autumn, berrying, raspberries, and you get them in the ground early in spring, you can't actually get a raspberry harvest first year. But most of your other fruits and berry plants especially are going to be at least a couple of years.
Certain fruit trees can be up to seven years. So there's something to think about putting in. There's that old adage that the best time to plant a tree, and I will definitely say this is true of fruit trees and even berry plants was, I'm not sure if the actual saying is like 20 years ago or 10 years ago, but you always wish you had planted them much sooner. You wish you're like, "Man, I wish I had put this in seven years ago, for example, with the apple tree." So you definitely want to think about layering those items in because they take time to produce. But the great thing about them is once they're in, then they are in, and you just have a little bit of yearly maintenance, usually in the act of pruning and just watching them for disease. But it's not something you're going to have to seed start, you're going to have to plant every year, et cetera.
And if you did not listen to the Historical Variety Apple podcast that I just did, oh my friend, you're going to want to go and catch out that, episode number 385, because we talk about historical varieties of apples and same things. There are storage varieties of apples that will store up for a year if not longer. And so you're going to want to make sure that you are picking those varieties to be putting in on your homestead. Okay, up next in our plant list of survival garden must haves would be legumes, think beans, peas, lentils. These are all high end protein. They can be simply dried and stored, so you don't have to can them, you don't have to freeze them, et cetera. I have where my grandmother for green beans would string them and just let them air dry, and they're called leather britches.
So it's a very old timey way of preserving your fresh eating green beans. So we'll link to that, of course, in today's blog post, I've got a video on that in a full written article that shows you how to do it and then also how to prepare them to eat them. But we've got our beans and peas. I almost said beas and peans, got those backwards there. Those are fabulous for growing because you do get the fresh eating green bean part when they're small and mature. But if you let them go to seed, which is how you get your shell beans, so think things like black beans, kidney beans, et cetera, but it's also how you get your seed for the following year. So you've got your dried bean and your fresh eating green bean in one plant, which is phenomenal, and they are high in protein, and you can literally just let them dry on the vine and bring them indoors.
You can shell them out, of course, for the shelly beans. And once they're fully dried, then you can just store them in jars, but you don't have to do anything special to them. And you've got that food source and your seed for the following year right then and there. Plus, as I said, they're high in protein, which if you're just relying on vegetables, we know it can be a little bit hard to get your full protein counts in. But those are great ways to add in extra protein to stretch other food items, especially if you're not self-sufficient in meat yet. It can be a way to stretch the meat you do have by adding in some of those legumes to the recipes. Okay, one of the other staples that I would consider for a survival garden is going to be some of the coal crops.
And first up specifically is cabbage. Cabbage is high in nutrients and the great thing about cabbage is it can be stored for a long period of time. Cabbage can also be grown in the spring and the fall in the middle of summer, especially if you live in a warmer hotter climate, it can bolt. So it's not always the best to grow summer here. If we start it in spring, it's ready to harvest at the beginning of our summer, and our summers are typically fairly cool. And so I can actually grow cabbage spring, summer, and fall. But if you have hot summers, you're going to want to stick to spring and fall. If you have really hot climate, then it might be something that you start in the fall and you grow over winter and you just avoid growing it in summer, even in early spring because it's going to be too warm.
But pretty much almost any climate, this is where I'm going with this, can grow cabbage. So cabbage is great too because per plant, you can get some varieties of cabbage and you're going to get a large head of cabbage. It's actually going to produce quite a bit in comparison to a head of cauliflower or broccoli, though I love both broccoli and cauliflower and we do grow those. But a head of cabbage is definitely on your survival list, and one of the reasons for that is because you can bury that head of cabbage in the ground and use root cellar techniques to store it without having to do anything else. As I said, as one of my favorite things about looking at survival garden crops is easy ways to preserve this and things that produce a large enough amount to feed you and be a meal.
And you can do fried cabbage with a little bit of onions, and if you've got some meat to throw in there, that's a full meal like all in itself. Cabbage also ferments really, really well. And as sauerkraut or curtido, which is a Spanish sauerkraut, one of my favorites. So the great thing about ferments is all you need is some salt and a container in order to do it, and then you do want to keep it in a relatively cool spot. So for some people that's the refrigerator. Others, it's crawlspaces, root cellars. If you do it in fall, a room that is kind of kept off from the heat source of the rest of the house, so it stays ideally 50 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler. The warmer the room, the more it's going to ferment and it's going to shorten that storage time. But people have been doing sauerkraut for centuries because it's a way to keep that cabbage all throughout the year or you will pull up the entire cabbage plant, leave the head of cabbage on, pull it up, roots and all, on the stock, and then the outer layers of the cabbage.
If you've never grown cabbage before, you might not realize there's a lot of outer layers of the cabbage that get removed and leaves that get removed, and then you just have that pretty little presented head of cabbage that you're usually buying in the store. Well, when you pull it all the way up like that by the roots, and this is to store it, you're going to actually turn it upside down and then you're going to take those outer leaves and wrap that head of cabbage with those outer leaves, and then you're going to dig a trench in your soil and deep enough to bury the entire head of cabbage and the stock so that only the top of the roots it's upside down are sticking out of the ground. And then of course you can mulch that if you have a area that freezes pretty heavy so that it doesn't freeze and then you just leave it in the ground all winter and when you need cabbage, you simply go out and then you pull it, because it's upside down.
Grab that stock, pull it up out of the ground, pull back all of those outer leaves, rinse it really well, it's going to be dirty, and then you have got your cabbage. So that's something that a friend of mine have done for decades and we will be trying it this year. I actually didn't plant enough. I was going to do it this past year. I was going to use this method, but I didn't actually grow enough cabbage. I ended up turning all of it in curtido so that we had enough curtido to last us throughout the entire winter, and I didn't have any leftover heads of cabbage to test using that method. I would not recommend just getting cabbage from the grocery store and trying to store it like that. You definitely want to have the length of the stock with the roots so that you can bury it deep enough and then be able to identify where it is and to easily pull it up.
So if I had to pick just six main crops and I kind of grouped the root vegetables together there, because those were definitely more than it, those would be the ones that I would focus on for a survival garden because they have the most versatility both within cooking and eating, but also within preserving and our nutritional standpoints and actually feeding our families. The other great thing about picking those crops, as I said, like the cabbage and onions and garlic, those can be grown in the spring and/or in the fall, which then leaves your, if you're very limited on your growing space, means that then for summer you could grow your beans. Beans are not cool weather crops. They don't depreciate any type of frost that would kill them. And so you can also grow, again, climate dependent to a degree here, but these are crops if you've got smaller amounts of space that you would actually be able to grow these and stagger them based upon your seasons and the temperatures.
So a few other crops that I would definitely put in here would be tomatoes, indeterminate tomatoes specifically because you are going to get a tomato crop all the way until a frost comes and wipes them out. Indeterminate are the ones that usually require staking. They can get really tall and viney, but I find that I usually get more tomatoes per plant and it would definitely be a paste variety of tomatoes. Now if you want to know exactly which varieties we grow of everything, then we will link to that blog post and podcast episode because I go over that. I know people are always curious like, "Well, what's your favorite variety?" My favorite varieties of tomatoes are the Amish paste and the San Marzano Lungo.
They are heirloom varieties paste tomatoes, which means they're great for preserving, they have less water, so they make thicker salsa and they don't have to simmer sauces long, those types of things. And with tomatoes, you actually can pull them when they are green or lightly green, they will continue to ripen off the vine. Green tomatoes will actually store for quite a while. Once they get close to being ripe, then, of course, they're not going to sit at room temperature for as long as a green tomato, but those are something you actually can pull. Once you get close to having frost, you can pull those and keep them for at least a few more months in the house in a protected area.
Now, summer squash is great just for eating and because it's so prolific, I mean you think about if you just have one or two zucchini plants, you're going to have enough zucchini for your family for the entire fresh eating. And I love cucumbers. Those are great pickled and fermented. However, you're not going to be able to use root cellar techniques. You're going to have to freeze them or pickle them and can the pickles, other things like that. You're not just going to be able to put a zucchini and a cucumber on the shelf because they're going to rot relatively fast. That's where your winter squash comes in. So there's a lot of great varieties of winter squash. They are somewhat sprawling, but that can be a good thing in the garden, believe it or not, because as they sprawl out, a lot of times you'll hear what people will plant them next to green beans or things that are growing upright.
And that's because as they sprawl out, they can actually help keep the soil cooler for other rooted plants in the heat of summer, which is great. And then they also produce a compound, and I don't remember the name of the compound right now, but it helps inhibit weed growth. And that's because the winter squash know that if weeds are growing that it's going to steal nutrition from them that they need to be able to produce. So it's like a defense mechanism that the plant puts out. But gardeners can definitely use that to help keep weeds down and combat your weed population. So that can be really great. And a lot of your winter squash, especially the smaller ones like acorn squash or pie pumpkins, et cetera, butternut even I would throw in there, Delicata, a hundred percent. You can grow those on trellises too. And so if you need to provide more growing space, growing vertically is a great way to go.
And if we're talking survival garden, usually it's growing as much as we can in the amount of space that we have, that can be a great way to go. And your winter squash, if you cure it, then it will store on the shelf. Pumpkins usually have the shorter shelf life for me, and they'll usually last about three to four months. Occasionally, I'll have some that go five or six months. But things like spaghetti squash, butternut squash, Delicata squash, those, I still have some just in our pantry. And at the time of this recording, it is April and I harvested those in September and October. So that is well over at six months and plus, because some of them will be fine. There's no signs of them turning bad, so we'll probably finish them off for the amount that I have left in May. So that's pretty impressive though.
I didn't have to can them. I didn't put them in the freeze dryer or dehydrate them or in the freezer, anything like that. Just cured and sitting on the shelf. Now I know that there was only so much that we could go over in this episode. So if you are looking to grow more of your own food and specifically raising and growing a year's worth of food for your family in your own backyard, we are doing and hosting a very special in person, yes, you will be coming to my homestead to the farmstead in Rockport, Washington, and we will be spending an entire day together. There are still a few spots left to reserve your spot. Go to melissaknorris.com/events, melissaknorris.com/events. Click on the gardening workshop to see if there are any spots left, and I cannot wait for that full day.
We will be getting our hands in the dirt and going strong. We'll be starting in the morning and going all the way through until supper time so you can go and check out all of the items that we'll be including what we'll be teaching, what you'll be taking with you. We've got some physical things that you will be getting as well. So make sure that you go and check that out. While we do still have a few spots available and the grow a year's worth of your own food workshop will be held Saturday, May 20th, 2023. And speaking of growing things, one of our sponsors for today's podcast episode is Azure Standard. Now, many of you have heard me talk about Azure's Standard when I talk about not being able to produce everything yourself though working towards the goal of becoming a producer instead of a consumer.
Azure Standard is one of the places that I purchase and supplement with what we're not raising ourself. And many people know them for being able to buy bulk groceries from, but they also have a live plants and gardening section. So if there's something that I haven't seed started myself or need to get starts from, and sometimes that has been some of my herb plants that I'm not yet growing, I get them from Azure Standard. So they have a nursery that will start the plants organically grown and they will send them with your order. They come in a box and I have had great success. They have been very healthy plants and have done very well for me. As I said, they have flowers, herbs as well as vegetable starts in the spring and summer months. And the great thing is for brand new customers who have never used Azure Standard before with your first time order of $50 or more, use the coupon code Melissa 10, that's Melissa 10 for 10% off.
And now on to our verse of the week. I've been sharing with you guys over a couple of episodes that the Bible study that I have been attending, which I don't know, I made you like a personal episode. Let me know if this would be something of interest. I'm always curious to see what you guys find interesting or would like to hear more about the way that this Bible study has came together and the people that God has brought together and barely any of us knew one another. It's just been extraordinary. And so for this Bible study, we are going through the Book of John. So we do one chapter, we meet on Wednesdays and we do one chapter a week. And we're just reading literally through the book Book of John. We're not using an accompaniment guide or like a Bible study book. We are just in John.
And chapter 10 was last week's chapter and it was ... As homesteaders and farmers, I feel like a lot of the parables that Jesus uses to teach really take on this deep meeting because you understand a lot of what he was sharing at a deeper level when you've experienced some of the things that he's talking about. So specifically we're in John 10. This is the amplify translation of the Bible, but we are in, I'm going to actually read you 11 through 14. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd risks and lays down his own life for the sheep, but the hired servant, he who merely serves for wages, who is neither the shepherd nor the owner of the sheep. When he sees the wolf coming, deserts the flock and runs away and the wolf chases and snatches them and scatters the flock. Now the hireling flees because he merely serves for wages and is not himself concerned about the sheep, cares nothing for them. I am the good shepherd and I know and recognize my own and my own know and recognize me."
And now I actually highly recommend just reading the whole chapter because it goes into greater context as to what that means by being known and recognized by Jesus and vice versa. It's really beautiful. But if you have ever had livestock, you know exactly what he's referencing here, because with our flock of chickens, for example, I've actually never raised sheep, so I don't know that from the sheep standpoint, but with our cattle and with our pigs and with our chickens, those are the livestock that we raise, we had coyote and we've since no longer free-range any of our poultry because even during the middle of the day, we can be out in the yard with the chickens.
And for example, we had the chickens and I'd let them out of the coop and it was about 10 o'clock in the morning, sunny, nice day out. And I was putting clothes on the line in the backyard and the chickens were just across the fence from me in our top pasture, I mean, they were literally maybe 20 feet from where I was, very close and we weren't near the edge of the woods. This is the middle of my backyard in the middle of my top pasture, and I am out there putting clothes on the line, so lots of movements, holding towels and clothes and putting them on the clothes line to dry.
And I look and there is this coyote in the middle of my pasture and he is stalking the chickens. And the chickens don't even see the coyote. I see the coyote and I'm like, "He's going to grab those. Obviously he's after the birds and the birds aren't seeing him, so they're not flying to safety or running. They're oblivious, but I see the danger." And so it was just a knee-jerk reaction. I go into protective mode. That coyote is not going to kill my chickens on my watch. And so I just immediately go running into the pasture from the yard with nothing. I have nothing in my hands. I mean, I don't have a gun on me, I don't have a knife on me. I didn't even think to grab the laundry basket because, well, I wasn't about to dump my clean laundry because it wasn't all out of the basket on the line yet.
So I literally have no weapon with me, nothing, but I am hightailing it out into the field so that I can get the chicken shooed into safety and to get this coyote out before he manages to sash one. I didn't have a plan, but I am running screaming like a mad woman at this coyote using my voice, waving my arms, and this coyote looks at me. He finally notices me. He was so intent on the chickens, he didn't care that I was in the yard and he had to have seen me. I mean, coyotes are wild animals. Let's be real. He had to have seen me, but he didn't care. And I got within, I'm not kidding you, probably about 10 feet from this coyote, because I like to think I was running pretty fast at that time, 10 feet from this coyote.
And as I'm approaching this coyote and it's not moving, in fast motion time, I'm like, "Melissa, what are you going to do if you get all the way up to this coyote and he doesn't run away?" And I had this fleeting thought like, "I don't know, I guess I'm going to kick it. I'd rather you try to bite through my foot than my hand." But when I got within about 10 feet from him, he finally turned tail and lightly jogged off. I'd like to tell you like I'm so intimidating. He was scared of me and booked it off. No, he lightly jogged to the tree line. And so I went and got grubs and put the chickens all back in the coop and locked them up because at that time I was actually still working my day job and I had to leave for work and I let them out in the morning while I was still home.
And so after the fact, everybody was safe, coyote was off, and I got back to the house and finished putting my clothes on the line. I realized, "What would you have done if that coyote hadn't have finally turned tail and ran? Like that was really dumb of you." You got to have these, yeah, after the fact and the adrenaline kind of went down, you're like, "Yeah, that was probably not my brightest move, but I was going to protect those chickens at all cost because they were my chickens." I was not going to let something come in and get them. Would I have ran after a coyote if it was my neighbor's chickens like that? Would I have put myself in that close proximity to a wild animal without any means of defense? I don't know. I mean, I think we'd all like to be noble and be like, "Well, of course I would do that for my neighbor."
But would I have? I couldn't tell you the answer unless I was actually in that moment. I don't know that I would've ran after that coyote to that same degree. I certainly would've yelled at it, but I don't know if I would've put myself in that close of danger when they weren't my chickens. And so it's interesting when we read these verses and we think about hired or even in the context of business, if you've ever been in business for yourself or if you've worked for someone else, you've likely been in either of those two positions at some point when you're working for someone else. I've always been someone who's been very dedicated to whatever my job was. My father had and has and did have an incredibly strong work ethic and instilled in all of us kids from the time we were very little, that if you were going to do something, if you were going to bother doing something, it should be a job that you did well or don't bother.
Basically, it was like you do something and you do it well or don't do it, don't do anything ... I'm trying to say my dad would've probably used a word that is not great for me to put on air, but don't do something halfway. There we go. That is a better way of saying it than dad would've said it when I was a kid. So anyways, sorry, the little tangent there. But when you work for someone else, even if you are dedicated to your job and you will do a good job, it's not your business. And I can say this, having worked for wages and worked for a lot of different jobs over the years, and now having been a business owner and owning my own business for multiple years, the way that I care about my business, I can never expect anybody else to.
They can do a great job. And I have people who do work for me and they are so devoted and they care so greatly about home setting and helping other people learn. If you're in the Pioneering Today Academy, then you know Rachel and you know Michelle, you've seen them, they helped me so much and they are so dedicated, but I can never expect them to put the same amount into my business because it's mine. There's just a different level, and that's how Jesus feels about us and much deeper than that. But that's just a little bit of context about how he feels about us and the way that he knows and recognizes us.
And once we have that relationship with him, the way that we begin to know and recognize him and the things that he is doing in our life in a way that until you've experienced ... I have a hard time putting it into words, but once you begin to know Jesus in a personal relationship and the Holy Spirit and really diving into God's word and cultivating a true relationship with him, you begin to see him in so many aspects of your life that you didn't see before. And you begin to know when it's him working and it's his leading and it's truly incredible as well as very freeing and very comforting. So I highly encourage you to go and read all of ... well, all of John, but definitely chapter 10, that's the portion of today's scripture and motion that comes from, so highly encourage you to go and read that further. And thank you so much for joining me today. I know that this solo episode ended up being a little bit longer than some of them, and I will be back here with you next week, so blessings and mason jars for now.
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Great episode, as always! At the end, you started saying something about maybe doing a podcast, I believe you were gonna say about your Bible Study. I personally would LOVE that!! I always love hearing your verse for the day, but love even more hearing you dive into it. Really, the only podcasts I listen too are either homesteading or Christian. So listening to you (and others) combine the two, it really thrills my heart and helps affirm that this is the lifestyle that I am to pursue. Thank you for not compromising your beliefs, cause I know there are many out there who don’t appreciate or agree with that aspect of it. But everything we as Christians do, should be to the glory of God. So thank you, Melissa!!! May God continue to bless you and your family! ❤️
I was going to say that, I must have lost my train of thought. Thank you for the feedback!
Hello! Thank you for your podcast, could you please explain or add a link where you have previously explained what is and how do you cure winter squash to make it shelf stable for longer? Thank you.
If you don’t see a link, just use the search button at the top of the website, I’ve most likely covered it. Here’s the direct link https://melissaknorris.com/podcast/10tipsforstoringvegetableswithoutrootcellar/