Posts tagged: gardening for self-sufficiency

Your Survival Garden Worst Enemies: Pests You Should Watch Out For

Aphidimage – wikipedia (PLoS Biology) lic. under CC 2.5

Planning and setting up your own survival garden is no easy task. It requires knowledge, precision and a bit of practice to get it done. But once you got the project going, doesn’t mean you can just let nature take care of everything while you relax and wait to pick the fruit of your labor. Mother Nature works both ways and that which creates can also destroy.

Leaving things to chance is not an option, so you have to take your role as a farmer seriously and watch out for those pesky insects, that if left to their devices, can destroy everything you worked so hard for. It takes a bit of studying the phenomenon in order to understand it, so you can identify the type of pest you’re dealing with and what’s the best method to apply according to the amount of damage that has already been inflicted. If the infestation is light, picking the insects by hand should suffice, but if we’re talking heavy infestation, you’ll probably have to resort to insecticides. Next, I’m going to walk you through a list comprised of some of the most common garden pests and how to read the signs they leave behind.


They are probably THE worst garden pest imaginable, as they have no preferences when it comes to garden vegetables; they simply go for everything that’s green. The easiest signs to read are visual: you know you’ve been attacked by aphids if you happen to find clusters of small, soft-bodied on buds and growth tips. Sticky secretions can also be found from place to place and leaves tend to get curly. Aphids never invade in small numbers and it’s very unlikely hand-picking will do you any good. The best way to deal with them is to spray insecticidal soap or neem oil. There are also specialized poisons that can be sprayed directly on the vegetables, but I strongly advise you to consult a specialist before purchasing or using such products.

Root Maggots

They’re food of choice is usually cabbage, carrots, turnips, squashes, spinach and radishes. Their presence is clear if you happen to find wilted plants or yellowish quarter-of-an-inch insects on the root of the plants. The first thing you need to do is to actually stop the flies from laying their eggs near the seedlings: simply put plastic or paper shields about 4 inches in diameter near the plants. If the situation gets out of control, you’ll have no other option but to drench the soil in root maggot insecticide, but do so under the supervision of a professional.

White Flies

4 These tiny flying insects have a real craving for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and sweet potatoes. They’re easy to spot as they’ll easily fly around from plant to plant if disturbed. If in large numbers, they can cause serious damage to plants, because they’ll feed on the nutriments of the underside of the leaves. Light infestations can be easily dealt with by simply spraying neem oil or water.

Slugs And Snails

They’re not the fastest insects out there (possibly the slowest), but don’t get fooled: they can inflict serious damage to your tomato, carrot, lettuce and turnip crops. They are voracious eaters and if you happen to find irregular patterns of holes in the plant’s leaves or stems, doubled by slime trails leading from plants to plant, you’re dealing with slugs or snails (or both). During the day they rest under all sorts of debris, so removing them out of the way and keeping the garden as tidy as possible will keep you out of harm’s way. But if you’re dealing with an infestation, you’ll need more than just a tidied up area. You can simply attract and drown them in shallow pans of beer or special baits that are available on the market.


They prefer melons, pumpkins, squashes and cucumbers. If you stumble across wilted plants or just wilted growth tips, then you might suspect you have a borer problem. And if you happen to spot small holes drilled in the plants (usually where wilting begins), then you know for sure you have a borer problem. Plants can still be salvaged from borer infestations by simply cutting out the borer, but if they get to infest the base of the plant, it’s compromised and needs to be torn out. In order to avoid such an obnoxious parasite, spray the base of the plants with the right kinds of insecticide during late spring / early summer, but only under the supervision of a professional.


There are many varieties of beetles out there and they can affect all sorts of crops imaginable. Beetles don’t need special methods when it comes to detection: they’re easy to spot as many are brightly colored and shiny, and they’re feeding methods leave irregular holes in the foliage. As they’re not that hard to catch, picking them by hand would be a cost-effective method if you’re dealing with a light infestation. In the case of heavy infestation, just spray the area with the appropriate insecticide, recommended by a qualified professional.


Gophers don’t have very specific cravings, and go for everything they can get their tiny paws on. They’ll voraciously eat any sort of root they’ll stumble across in their underground tunnels. But they also eat the above-ground plant if not disturbed; the mostly prefer carrots, sweet potatoes, and peas. If left unattended they can ruin a whole garden in a matter of days.

The most eco-friendly approach in dealing with your gopher problem would be to encourage the presence of birds of prey in the vicinity, by placing birdbaths or keeping the garden as tidy as possible so they’re easily spotted by the winged predators. But if the bird method seems a bit drastic, you could just let your dog or cat roam freely in the garden. Gophers are easily scared and will behave if constantly pressured. Flooding their tunnels is also effective and easy to do.

Dealing with garden pests is no easy task, but it’s not impossible either. There’s a solution to any sort of problem you might stumble upon and nothing can stop you to achieve your goals in survival gardening. But I strongly advise you to never deal with poisons and insecticides on your own, always consult a specialist in the matter before doing so. You not only risk damaging your garden, but also your health. Pest poisons and insecticides are very dangerous if not handled properly.

By My Family Survival Plan

The Survival Garden: Fundamentals

The Survival Garden: Fundamentals

In this article, I’m going to discuss the fundamentals of gardening for self-sufficiency. Most folks are grossly unprepared to meet their family’s food needs in the case of an emergency. At the same time, many underestimate what is required to grow or raise enough food to feed their family. This article will explain what self-sufficient gardening looks like, and how to get started.

The food supply is a delicate thing. While the US is one of the most agriculturally productive countries in the history of the world, a number of recent events have highlighted how vulnerable our food supply is to drought, pestilence, economics and government policy. Food prices have seen dramatic fluctuations in recent years, primarily in response to natural disasters, drought, and government mandates. And, according to all indications, this insecurity is only going to get worse. To complicate the issue, a smaller percentage of the population is engaged in agriculture today than at any other time in the history of the world. The result is a knowledge gap that has removed the knowledge and ability to farm from a majority of the population. In essence, we’ve forgotten how to provide for ourselves, and we take for granted that the supermarket shelves will always be stocked with affordable food.

Some folks realize the potential danger in over-reliance on a potentially insecure food supply chain. To compensate for the potential disruption of this supply, many of these people choose to store food, relying upon a fixed, finite resource to feed their family. This is a fine short-term strategy and will supplement or replace food purchases for as long as supplies last, but usually isn’t a viable long-term strategy. Stored food also raises certain health concerns when consumed for long periods of time. Whether food stores are stolen, spoil, or simply run out, they are no substitute for a long-term, sustainable food production plan. For people interested in being able to provide for their family’s needs, a better solution must be found, one that provides a consistent source of nutrient-rich food year after year. Imagine knowing that all of the food you need for the year is stored in your root cellar, or still hidden in the soil of your garden. This has been the comfort of small farmers for thousands of years, and it is a peace of mind that many today should consider reclaiming.

A large garden or small farm can typically provide almost anything a family needs. Depending on where you live, and the crops that you can cultivate, most people require between 0.4 and 0.6 acres of fertile land to grow enough food to meet one person’s dietary requirements for a year.

Unless you live in a temperate climate where year-round production is possible, you will have to focus on crops that can be stored or some type of controlled environment agriculture, i.e. growing in a greenhouse or high-tunnel. With something as simple as a high-tunnel, the growing season can be extended with very little energy inputs. There are also many passive greenhouse designs out there that enable low-cost year-round production.

To know what you must grow, you must know what your family will need to survive and stay healthy. A good assumption for anyone trying to meet their families nutritional needs, each person will require around 2000 calories per day. To achieve this, we will have to grow enough produce that this need can be met. This means that we’ll need to grow high-calorie crops in addition to nutritionally dense crops.

To start, you must put together a crop lineup that offers the maximum productivity (in calories and nutrition) and minimal input per square foot of garden space.

Here is a list of productive garden vegetables that I would recommend based on that space available and the amount of labor required to harvest and cultivate them:

Calorie dense crops should compose around 80% of your garden. These crops should be a mixture of potatoes and grains. In areas where grains cannot be grown, potatoes can be substituted, and in areas where potatoes cannot be grown grains should be substituted.

Calorie Dense Crops:

Potatoes: Potatoes are at the top of the list. Potatoes are one of the most calorically dense crops you can grow per square foot of garden space. Fairly easy to cultivate, harvest and store, they grow well everywhere from Alaska to the Southern United States. Potato production should compose between 50-65% of your survival garden (around 11,000 square feet).

Grains: (15-30% of garden area, around 6,000 square feet)

Corn: Corn is a productive grain that’s much easier to harvest for beginners. Corn is a calorie dense crop that stores well and grows well in most of the US. Corn and other grains should compose between 15-30% of your survival garden area.

Barley:  Barley is a hardy, grow-anywhere grain that fed much of the northern hemisphere before the introduction of wheat. It’s highly tolerant of a number of soil conditions and is adapted to a number of climates. Barley also takes up a great deal of room though and requires specialized harvesting and processing. If you have plenty of room, barley is worth considering.

Winter Wheat:  Similar to barley, winter wheat is a great northern grain crop that is calorie dense. However, like barley, it requires a lot of room for cultivation as well as special processing.

Legumes are another important part of a survival garden. These crops are typically beans, and they are an excellent source of protein as well as nutrients. In addition, these crops fix nitrogen, so using them in rotation with other crops improves the fertility of your garden.

Calorie/Protein Crops: 

Peas: Shell and snap peas are a valuable addition to the garden. As nitrogen-fixing legumes, they also increase the fertility of the soil that they are grown in. They are relatively nutrient dense and are relatively simple to grow.

Soybean:  Another legume, soybean is easy to grow and productive. The protein-rich beans from this crop are easy to store and can be eaten in a variety of ways, including raw, cooked, dried and ground. This plant also increases soil fertility where it is grown (380 calories/cup of soybean).

Field bean:  Field or dry beans represent many different types of dry bean, with different types well adapted to environmental conditions in a variety of locales. Dry beans store well and are nutrient and calorie dense (610 – 660 calories/cup of dry beans; excellent protein content)

Nutrient Crops (10% of garden area)

Carrot:  Carrots are an excellent easy to grow root crop that stores well and are nutrient dense. They are an excellent source of beta-carotene.

Beet:  Beets offer a nutritional double whammy, offering a great deal of nutritional value in the form of beet tops or greens, while the storage-friendly beetroots offer calories and nutrients.

Brussel Sprouts:  Brussel sprouts are a good spring and fall crop for survival and victory gardens, tolerating cool and cold weather, and keeping well into the cold months- often on the stalk. Some varieties bear prodigiously, offering excellent production per square foot of garden space. Brussel sprouts are a great source of minerals and nutrients and a great addition to any survival garden.

Cabbage:  Cabbage is another cold-tolerant crop that will tolerate a frost and stores well. Some varieties grow heads up to 22 lbs in size, offering excellent productivity per square foot of garden space.

Garlic: Garlic has a surprisingly high-calorie density, can be grown in a broad variety of climates, is simple to cultivate and stores very well. It also has health benefits and tastes great. Consider adding garlic to any survival garden.

Squash: Along with beans and corn, squash was one of the original “three sisters” in American Indian agriculture. Squash are vining crops that store well and have a good balance of nutrients and calories.  Consider trying pumpkins and melons in addition to squash.

Other Crops:  There are a number of other great crop selections for victory gardens and survival gardens. When choosing crops, take into account the caloric density of the crop – i.e. how much energy is stored in the crop, and nutritional qualities of the crop. Remember that staple, calorically dense crops will form the core of your diet, with nutritionally dense crops keeping you healthy.

Also, consider how densely the crop can be planted- i.e. how much you can produce per square foot of garden space.

Growing these crops in these proportions will supply a single person with all of the calories and nutrients not just to live, but to live well. More Americans need to consider supplementing their food purchases, if not replacing them. Most folks are not prepared to provide for their family if the food supply is disrupted. By planting these crops, you can take charge of your food future and take part in this old American tradition of self-sufficiency.

So here are the beginning plans for a victory garden, the launch pad for taking charge of your food supply. You do not need to depend on an unreliable or overpriced food supply. If you follow these guidelines you’ll be on track to produce enough to feed yourself. The results may not just be life-saving, but life-changing. There is a great deal of power in having a garden.

By Nate Storey