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I need help learning about "Survival/Crisis Gardening"

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

For lack of a better title, I would appreciate some help learning about "Survival/Crisis Gardening". What I would like to do is educate myself and prepare for a "food crisis" in the event of a catastrophic event in our country that ends our ability to go to the grocery store to get our food and we need to live off our own land again. I need to find varieties of seeds that will produce not only their 'fruit' but also produce seeds to plant for the following year. I need to learn how much seed you need per acre, how many acres per family, what the best crops are to meet nutritional needs, etc.? ...Do you follow what I mean? If anyone here knows what I'm talking about (LOL) I would deeply appreciate their help. :) ....Hopefully the "need" will never happen, but I think it's wise to be prepared.

Also, If you know of anyone on here who is a wiz at doing Survival/Crisis gardening, please point me in their direction. :)

Can't wait to hear from you all!

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

Glenda Need to know hoe many people you are feeding This is an out of print book but I think it is an excellent book to provide you many answers
(Five Acres And Independence )
by M.G. Kains First printing was 1935
My Copy was by Dover Publications Inc.
copyright 1973

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

Hey Dave719,
I'd say I need to plant for 15 people. Our daughters, sons-in-laws, grandchildren, and my dad would all be working the garden. My husband and I have 25 acres if "the big one" ever happens, but I don't know if that is enough acreage to feed a family of 15 for a year. Is there a formula for figuring out how many acres you need per person, per year? I'll see if I can find the book... Thanks for your help!!

Is anyone else doing Survival Gardening?

Poolville, TX

This message was edited Mar 16, 2009 11:15 PM

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

I've started to post to this several times and backed off. I guess I'm not sure what you're asking us for. Most farm families around here garden. We put up, in one way or another, a year's worth of vegetables and fruit and use our own meat. I think the term Survival Gardening is a catch phrase that perhaps has put us off. We were taught (and we taught our daughters) how to raise our own food, make our own clothing and generally do for ourselves as a regular part of our growing up. I'm afraid when you put a question about survival gardening on this forum, you are asking people who think of that as everyday stuff.

When my two daughters lived at home, we regularly had a 1/2 acre garden with an equal sized potato patch. Having our own meat and milk, we would have many meals during the year when the only thing that wasn't home grown was the bread, although it was homemade.

My suggestion to you is to start a garden, keep track of how much of each vegetable you plant and see what your harvest is. Build on what you are able to grow until you reach the level of output that you feel necessary. If you are new to vegetable gardening, beans and peas and carrots are perhaps the easiest to grow and get a good harvest from. Tomatoes are another plant that isn't too difficult, squash and cukes and onions are also quite easy. Just remember that like everything else you plant, there are bugs and weeds.

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)


I can't thank you enough for replying... I see your point and appreciate you pointing out the errors in my post. ...Please let me see if I can be clearer in what I'm asking.

While I was born in Kentucky, I was raised in the city (metro-Detroit) and did not move out into the country until after I was married and we had our first child. I'm sad to say that I know virtually nothing about gardening other than I know one when I see one. lol ...Fast-forward to today.... With the way the world is going and with the threats to our country that did not exist in the past, I thought it would be wise to learn about what it takes to grow a garden. In a survival situation, one would need to have enough crops to not only produce enough food for an extended family of 15 for a year, but they would also need to produce crops to make enough seeds for the following year's planting. I don't know how to calculate that. Is there a formula for calculating that? Until a few weeks ago, I didn't even realize that there was a difference between hybrid seeds and open pollinated seeds - I thought seeds were seeds. I know that farmers, including the Amish, know how to plan and calculate how much seed and land is needed to feed a family, along what their favorite crops and varieties are to plant. That is what I am hoping to learn from you all. ....Maybe you have a favorite book that you know could educate me on this or one that specializes on all kinds of things regarding self-sufficient living. Yesterday I ordered the book, "Five Acres and Independence" that Dave719 recommended. I had it shipped two-day delivery so I can't wait for it to get here! ...Maybe some of you remember your parents' or grandparents' favorite crops to plant or ways to put in their garden and maintain it; tricks of the trade, you could say. Ways to control pest, or ways to make crops more productive. Maybe you know of some definite do's and don'ts - mistakes that greenhorns like me often make. You might even have favorite tools that you would consider "must haves". ...I'm hoping to glean gardening/farming knowledge and wisdom so that should the worse case scenario happen, we can hit the ground running and are prepared. ....All the time praying that the need never presents itself.
.........Does that help clarify things? I guess I could just go to the book store and start buying books on living-off-the-land, but quite frankly, I trust the folks here on DG more than a random book in a store. You all have a life-experience to draw from. ....Boy I wish my Grannies and Papaws were still alive. They could have taught me so much about this....

Please, let me know if you need more clarification or have any questions. I appreciate your help and patience with me...


Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Ok, that is more clear. I'd have to think about books to recommend. The one that comes to mind is a companion planting book called "Carrots Love Tomatoes" by Louise Riotte. There's a second by the same author called "Roses Love Garlic".

I can tell you that I used to buy 1/2 pound bags of green beans, yellow beans and peas and froze more than I wanted and gave away more. In a good year, we had bushels of beans. If you're just starting out, I'd say buy no more than that this year.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I agree with Kathleen, you need to learn what works on your land. County extension office can probably give you some idea of what grains do well without irrigation in your area and some idea of how densely to plant, though today's densities are much higher than when things were harvested by hand or horse-drawn machinery.

Learn how to use a scythe ("The Scythe Book") and a flail. Learn how to use horsepower (Tiller's International, Small Farmer's Journal, Rural Heritage).

Read Countryside magazine for lots of ideas with low overhead. Read "From Seed to Seed" about saving seed.

Some thing to consider, beyond the garden, if society collapses, which I think is what you're thinking of.

Storage... root cellar, canning, drying, smoking. All storage must be self-sufficient, not relying on electricity or off-farm fuels.
Meat... the hard physical labor of sustenance farming requires meat and fat, so you'll need to figure out what animals you will raise and how to feed them.
Lighting... in the old days, animal fat was rendered for candles. Solar charged small batteries are a medium term option, they'll last about a year of recharging.
Defense... if society collapses, look to your guns. Learn how to handle firearms safely. Remember Hurricane Katrina? Prepare for the cities to empty out and come visiting.
Water... how will you get and how will you purify water. You've got 3 days to figure it out if you're not prepared.

There's a lot of information on survivalism on the web, especially in terms of food and water storage, first aid, and general preparedness. There's also a lot of hyperboli, so take it all with a grain of salt.

You might want to start a little smaller than society collapsing... like, what would you do if the grid went down for a week? Do you know enough first aid to stop a major artery bleed, ease someone having a heart attack, heat stroke, frostbite, hypothermia? Just walk over and throw the breaker on your house and live without electricity for a week. No car, either. Fun, huh? =0)

Once you've got a week under your belt, then try a month. The scenario I've heard, if the bird flu becomes a human pandemic, is the grid will be down for a month, services will be stretched to the limit or gone. So think water, safety, food.

Keep working on your gardening skills. Get to know your neighbors. Come practice self reliance with us on the Homestead Forum...
Spring is here, what a great time to start!

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

OH this is going to be fun Dw came from Detroit middle of I 96 just north of grand river three blocks from tiger stadium That was where their home set My next question do you have sand or loam for soil That will be a good starting point as to where to start and how much compost you will need to work in I see you have ordered the book So I won't send the garden lay out that is in it But there is a long garden lay out for a family of 6 that should give you a good ideal of the land you will need.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

A Ball canning book also has a chart for how much of each thing should be planted for a family of six. It also has a canner's planning guide for one year. Mine is from 1991... the canning times are no longer up to date, but the planting and planning info is still good. I don't know if that's still included in the new guides.

Oh, and you can't wait until everything goes to heck in a handbasket... you've got to be ready and doing it when that happens. Then it's just a minor inconvenience, not a mad scamble to grow food that's going to take several weeks to produce anything, and that's only if general mayhem ensues during the late spring, early summer. Late summer, fall, winter... you're nothing but a victim waiting for the National Guard to show up with... what was it they first took into New Orleans?


Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

Oh my - thank you everyone!! This is EXACTLY what I was hoping for!! And yes, what to do and how to do it if society collapses is the scenario I have in mind; I want to educate myself and prepare for [that]. ...I was a Girl Scout back in the 60's (Motto: "Always be prepared."), and being my father's daughter means that safety and being prepared are top priorities..... You'd have to know my Dad, Glen, to get the significance of that! LOL

Kathleen, your recommendation of how much is perfect. I will start there! Also, I will find the books you mentioned, along with the ones Jayryunen recommended! Jay, I'm going to print off everything you covered. It will make a perfect check off list as I stay on task. Last year I bought myself a 12 gauge Remington shot gun and have been target shooting. ...Apparently, I'm pretty good at hitting my target, be it a stationary one or a target thrown into the air. ...Ha, who would have guessed this city girl could hit anything? ;) My DH says it's my Kentucky hillbilly genes coming through! lol I've always wanted my own gun, and I figured we might have to go hunt for food some day, or heaven forbid, protect our family, so I went out and bought myself one. :-D ...You know, you mentioned New Orleans... Now this wasn't as bad as New Orleans' situation, but I have vivid memories of the Detroit Riot in the 60's; seeing the National Guard rolling down 8 Mile Rd, headed into Detroit. I grew up at 8 Mile and Hoover in Warren, MI. Those mental pictures of the troops rolling by pop into my head now and then.... I do know my neighbors very, very well and I am blessed to have wonderful ones! We all have acreage and a couple of us have half-jokingly talked about if the "big one" ever happens how we can get together and use all our land as one big farm if we have to. My neighbor across the street raises meat goats, another one has horses (I only know a horse when I see one!), I already have chickens, and the rest of our neighbors have valuable talents that will be needed too. So that's all good too. Dave, I will find that chart as soon as my book arrives. I sure hope it comes tomorrow....

I was thinking today that I need to go through Farm Life and Homesteading Forums and just read as much as I can - post by post, and see what I can glean, so you WILL see me there too!! ..............Boy, do I feel better! Thank you all very much!!!! I appreciate any and all information you're inclined to share! I know this is such a broad subject... We never know what the future holds - hopefully it's all wonderful days, but just in case.....I'm going to cram as much knowledge about self-sufficient living into this brain as fast as I can. ...I'll sleep better that way. :)

Bless you all!!
~ Glenda

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Keep us posted on what you get into... er, up to! LOL It's always an adventure, that's for sure. =0)

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

Glenda, you might check out the Sustainable Alternatives Forum, too. There were loads of ideas discussed, especially last summer, about being self-sufficent. Robin

Bend, OR(Zone 5a)

I stumbled in here because I've been thinking about this since I was at the AFI Dallas Film Festival last weeked and watched "Houston We Have A Problem", A new documentary on old oil and renewable energy.

One of the things that was said was if the middle east and Venezuela (who are buddies) decided to cut off our oil supply.(Which I think isn't out of the realm of possibility)...which translates into gas & diesel, the outcome would be in 5-10 days our country would run out of food.

I was thinking that my flowers & tomatoes wouldn't sustain us for very long. Maybe I should at least plant some potatoes and other veggies. We have goats,donkeys and chickens so we would have the meat and "horse power" taken care of and we are gun owners with experience.

I guess my addition here is something simple. Learn to make soap and cheese. Both are easy to do and you'll need them.


Saginaw, MI

One other thing to keep in mind, along with your vegetables and grains, do not forget your herbs and spice garden. If your goal is to be completely self sufficient you would also need the old herbal lore of good and bad plants, plants that can harm you, plants that can be of medicinal use, plants that can make your food taste good.

One of my personal goals this summer is to hit up some of the estate sales in my area to look for old garden journals and personal garden / plant libraries that may be for sale. Luckily my 90 year old grandparents are still around and I can use their old farming/gardening knowledge.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

You are lucky!
One of the things that's disturbing around here is the climate has changed so much that even the old timers are a bit baffled. Of course, many of the old skills do still apply, but the timing of when to do what is changing.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Jay's advice is excellent! Read it again, and again.

When that same possibility (shortage or non-existence) was a big possibility before Y2K, I did extensive online research. As a result, I always have a fair amount of food and seed saved and I have schooled myself in self-sufficiency and survival skills (with lots of help and input from many folks).

I store grains like wheat berries in 5 gal. cans with dry ice (initially) which creates an atmosphere that won't let bugs survive. I don't store bagged flour because once wheat berries are ground, the oils go rancid quickly. Whole, they last a long time. I don't have a hand-operated grinder YET but I could figure how to grind grains for bread if I had to.

As I understand it, a basic program for all LDS members/households is to always keep a year's supply on hand, regardless of what might be going on in the world. To that end, the LDS organizations have a LOT of information on how much per person to grow, can, store... I also got a lot of information from Walton Feed and although they DO sell dried foods for long term storage, I found the information they had online on many food groups to be very helpful.

Many companies sell large vacuum-pack cans of vegetable seeds for long-term storage, but no list I ever saw seemed suitable for me. So now I grow many OP veggies so I can save my own seed. I also save some potatoes to plant the following year, but I have a root cellar which makes it easy.

I suggest you hang out a bit on the Homesteading forum and the Sustainable Alternatives forum; quite a few of us are doing what you hope to do. Start stocking up on things you cannot grow... salt, for example. I often buy an extra bag of sugar and a box of salt every month.

You have many potential helpers... divvy up the things to learn. Buy hand tools. Learn to use them. Learn to can; learn to butcher; learn to milk a cow/goat and make yogurt, cheese... Learn to make a snare for capturing game; make a solar dehydrator. Dried foods take up less storage space. Make a WAPI... (look it up! ^_^). Learn to count on yourself first, then your family, then your neighbors. Start up a neighborhood group for self-sufficiency and enlist some old folks in it too... they are full of hidden or almost-forgotten information about old skills.

There is a good know-how library online at Journey to Forever; most are 1-2 page articles, old-time skills type stuff. Many of the groups that are dedicated to teaching in Third World countries have some amazing information online. A lot of it is applicable in a crisis situation here: most rural people in Third World countries have no electricity; many have no water, or unsafe water...

I'd better quit before I write a book... but here's a couple of misc. links:

Bend, OR(Zone 5a)

Darius.. You are so right about people having almost-forgotten info. Until I read this I forgot that the well for the orphanage I am on the board of has a well operated by bicycle....


So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Cool, Ginger!

I bought a used bicycle (not the simple bike I need, though), and stumbled upon an old wheel used for sharpening. I plan to use some of the bike parts to run the wheel, but also to power other things like a grain grinder...

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

"Make a WAPI... (look it up! :-))."

Only you could pique my interest with a statement like that, darius! :>)

Got it! Yet another bit of useful info/trivia/and knowledge to share has become added to my brain cabinet. Pretty interesting.

Glenda, and others, somewhere on DG I came across an online test you could take to help determine your sustainability situation and knowledge, might've been linked somewhere in Sustainable Living, that was pretty interesting. Maybe someone here will remember which thread it was in.

Shoe (who's been sustainable in some form or fashion all his life cus he's such a dang miser!) τΏτ

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a) was this the one you were thinking about?

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

That's it, podster. Wow, you search fast! Thanks!


So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

LOL Shoe... yes, that was an arrogant statement, wasn't it... but looking it up gave you a much better answer than I could have written... ^_^

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Naw, not arrogant at all. That's the teacher coming out!

And I'm big on research and seeking/learning, at least learning things of interest to me. So much of it,"new learnin's", seems to tie in with "old learnin's" and other interests and the bits and pieces merge together quite often. Ain't it grand!

Okay, off to find someway to not work today. The sun is shining, temps in the lower 60's, and maybe I should splurge with my time and stare at a cork bobber floating across a farm pond or sumpin'.

Happy Day to All!

Clarkson, KY

Late come here, but I find while I'm learning better how to 'take care of myself' the ground I'm farming is in a horrible state of need...and I haven't seen much better.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Grow... just was reading about possible complications from long term yearly manure/compost additions to maintain organic matter in the soil. One of the really interesting bits was that turning large wood chips maintains organic matter, creates a bank of long term nitrogen and encourages those wonderful soil micro-fungi while not adding much in the way of phosphorus and potash... which after 20 years of compost/manure additions had built up to very high, imbalanced levels. So why not start with that, I figure, in addition to some initial compost/manure boosting.

I'm making my new beds with wood chips this year. =0)

Bend, OR(Zone 5a)

That is very good to know. Last year I had 20 yards of chips delivered and I spread over everywhere 3" thick to deter knapweed growth.

HA! I'm ahead of the game for once.


Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I remember as a kid my mom got a dumptruck load of fresh green wood chips for our new house's yard... they sat and composted on the drive all winter... as soon as the soil could be worked she had them all tilled into the raw desert dirt. In years to come, she had the nicest garden on the block. The only thing that vexed her were the fairy rings that grew in the lawn... as a kid, I couldn't imagine why she didn't want fairies dancing in the yard. LOL

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

We've got 2 large "fairy rings"! Don't know how they came about or what caused them, but I love seeing them out our big kitchen window.

Bend, OR(Zone 5a)

I want fairy rings!


So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

What's a 'fairy ring'??

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

Beats me, but they're cool! They are just big rings (mine are 10-12' across) in the yard with the 5-6" wide outline being a much brighter color than the surrounding grass.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Thanks! Guess I better google them...

Bend, OR(Zone 5a)

Sometimes the ring is made of flowers. Usually daisys of some sort.


Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Fairy rings are a fungus that exhibits its above ground parts in a ring, simply put. There are lots of myths about them that I've mostly forgotten.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Yup, fairy rings are seen as a ring of little mushrooms. Ours were about 2' in diameter, just big enough for a little kid to dance in. =0)

The underground mycelium (?) draw nutrients away from the grass, so the grass isn't quite as green in the center, but it's not like the grass died or anything, least not as far as I recall. But it did ruin the picture perfect lawn for a little while, I suppose.

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