Survival Gardening

In this video we are going to pretend like the apocalypse has hit us and based on some of the news I think we’ve all been hearing lately, sometimes it can seem like that. But let’s put the scaremongering aside and discuss nine crops to grow in a survivalist setting. Kevin Espiritu here from Epic Gardening where it is my goal to help you grow a greener thumb.

Let’s talk about this with a survival setting and this is something I have pretty good experience in. Last year, June 2019 to the end of June 2019, I did something called the apocalypse grow challenge. I covered it really heavily on Instagram. I have footage that is still sitting on my archives waiting to edit for you guys here on YouTube, but the rules were simple.

I had to live off of only what I could grow, fish, forage or barter for at fair market value, and I did that for 30 days. So I’ve done that in a really urban setting and that made me really think, okay, what do I have to grow in order to quite literally survive for a month? Now, the first thing you have to think about is, number one, calories.

So we’re going to be talking about crops that are the easiest to grow for their caloric density and nutritional profile. And nutritional density is another thing. Some of our calorie heavy crops aren’t necessarily the most nutrient rich. They’re serving that caloric energy perspective, but they’re not serving the perspective of nutritional density.

So our two categories that we’re going to discuss are going to be our calories and our nutrients. And before we go any further, stay tuned at the end for a bonus category of crops to grow to make this whole survival experience a lot more fun. Let’s go ahead and jump into it. Crop number one is the humble bean.

It makes sense to look back at more ancient cultures to figure out what they grew in order to subsistence farm or subsistence garden, because that’s just how life was back then. And beans were a staple crop across many different cultures. Now, the reason why they’re so good is number one, they’re pretty calorically dense compared to other things you can grow, but also a good amount of protein, all sorts of vitamins and minerals in them.

But on top of that, you can grow them in many different ways. First of all, you have your categories of bush beans and pole beans, and so based on your unique growing conditions, you can choose which one you want. This of course, is a vertically stacked system growing bush beans. You wouldn’t want to grow pole beans in a system like this because of course then you’d need to trellis all these different ones up, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

But then if you wanted, you could go ahead and throw some pole beans on a trellis arch like this. And you have many, many ways to grow beans. So as far as growing them, direct sowing is almost always going to be your best bet. Although I will say they take okay to transplanting. I’ve done that many times.

In fact, I transplanted this entire thing. And besides the top suffering from a little bit of spider mites, the rest of these are doing really nicely and I expect to go to harvest out of those. Beans can be preserved. Beans can be dried and stored for many, many, many months and years. And then beans can be worked into more or less almost any type of cuisine and any type of recipe from soups to Mexican food to all sorts of different things.

And so beans are extremely high up on the apocalypse garden list. Crop number two is going to be corn. It’s gotten a little cold, little windy, little rainy here. So I’m hanging out under the awning. But corn, if you’ve listened to number one and number two, beans and corn, you probably know number three, so drop it down below if you know it.

But let’s talk about this. Most of us are growing sweet corn in our gardens. I did a lot of that last year. Super rewarding to come out to the garden and grab a stalk and grab an ear off the stalk and eat it fresh off of the stalk. It’s so delicious, but in a survival scenario, you wouldn’t really want to do that.

You may want to opt to grow a Dent corn variety, let it dry on the stalk to somewhere below 15% moisture, and then what you can do is use it as a dried corn meal, corn flour, that type of thing. That’s going to be a lot more versatile. It’s going to be a lot easier to store and preserve and you can just use it in so many more different recipes.

So corn also plays nicely with our first one. So if you use the corn stalk as a makeshift organic trellis, then the beans, if you choose a pole variety, can grow straight up it. And that leads us right into our third pick. Apocalypse crop number three completes the trilogy and that of course would be squash.

So yes, for those of you who guessed it, props, it is the three sisters combination for our first three recommendations. So you have squash, specifically winter squash. What that does is if you grow it on the ground, it’s a sprawling crop. And so it’s going to be a faux ground cover, a green ground cover.

And what that’s great for, if you combine it with your beans and your corn, both of those are shallow-rooted crops that really do prefer nice moist soil that’s protected from crazy fluctuations in moisture. And so what you’ll do there is then you’ll throw squash out on the ground and you can have your beans climbing up the corn if you so choose to do a pole bean and the corn of course providing that support structure.

So it’s a really good triple threat. And then of course squash on its own is nutritionally great. Calorically pretty good and also a fantastic storing crop. Crop number four on our apocalypse list, I’ve chosen cabbage. Cabbage is a pretty easy to grow crop and it’s special because it retains most of its nutrients even when it’s cooked.

And if you want to preserve it, then you can of course do that by fermenting it and creating sauerkraut or other cabbage-based ferments. So it’s great raw, it’s great cooked and it’s relatively easy to grow and many varieties are pretty cold-tolerant. So you can grow it in most regions throughout most of the year, barring the hottest and absolute coldest parts of the year.

So it’s a really, really good crop. No, it’s not the most calorically dense but pretty nutritionally dense and combined with the fermentation angle, you can actually do quite a bit with this crop. This next crop is absolutely number one in my heart as a gardener and that of course is the humble but really not so humble potato.

These are a Norland red variety and potatoes, right out of the gate, is a staple crop in a survival scenario. In fact, potatoes and specifically this Norland red potato right here is the one that provided most of my calories, my base level of calories, for my apocalypse grow survival challenge I did, as I mentioned earlier in the video, June 2019 that entire month.

Now these ones right here, you may be wondering how do you still have some left? Well, these ones grew out of tiny ones that I had forgotten and just didn’t dig up in my raised beds and the other ways that I grew them. In fact, these ones here came out of my cold compost pile. Just the pile that I throw a bunch of different things in.

Of course, I guess some of them slipped through the cracks and now I have a healthy amount, maybe like two or three pounds. They’re not the most sizeable, but they’re completely free. And that speaks to how easy potatoes are to grow. So easy. I’ve grown them in five different ways – I’ve grown them in grow bags, I’ve grown them in five gallon buckets, I’ve grown them in raised beds with hilling, raised beds without hilling, in ground, both with and without hilling.

And you know which one performed the best, surprisingly in the ground, buried deep. And I never hilled them and I never touched them. I let the natural weather, the rain throughout the season water them. And I got a massive haul of maybe 25 to 30 pounds just out of one bed of these Norlands on a friend’s property.

So from a survival standpoint, potatoes are one of the few foods that you can eat just potatoes and you won’t be deficient. You’ll, you’ll be okay. You’re not going to be thriving, but you’ll be okay. Calorically pretty good. Good amount of magnesium, good amount of vitamin C. They are a great crop to grow and they really are a set it and forget it crop that all you have to do is just not harvest 100% of them every year and you’re going to have them coming back year after year after year.

They’re just an amazing crop. So versatile. You can turn them into hash browns, you can fry them, you can store them in cool, somewhat humid place. They’re going to last for a long, long time. You can even turn them into dehydrated potato flakes, whatever. The sky’s the limit with potatoes.

Clearly they’re the favorite of mine and these are probably gonna make it into a meal tonight. Our next apocalypse pick is the humble kale. Now, is it the most calorically dense crop? Certainly it’s not, but it is extremely nutritionally dense and the reason I picked it over many other greens is because of its cold tolerance.

You can grow this in almost any climate throughout the winter provided you provide some cold protection like a cold frame or a frost blanket, whatever the case may be. And it actually surprisingly stores pretty well. If you were to cut it up and you were to dehydrate it as kale chips, throw a desiccant like silica pack in the container you’re storing them in.

This can be a great nutrient dense little crunchy snack in the apocalypse. So kale, of course you have this curly style. There’s the dinosaur or Lacinato style, many different varieties, some more cold tolerant than others, some more, like I would prefer, heat tolerant than others. And so definitely pick your variety, but kale does make it into the top nine apocalypse list.

Next up we have sweet potatoes, which despite the name aren’t really related to potatoes and grow slightly differently. They take a lot longer to mature than the average potato. So if you’re looking for expediency of calories, you probably wouldn’t choose this. But there are some interesting benefits, namely that the greens are edible.

Whereas with potatoes they certainly are not edible and in fact potatoes even exposed on the surface you shouldn’t eat. We call those green potatoes. They have a lot of solanine content in them. You don’t want to eat that, but with sweet potatoes, not only can you eat the greens, but you can just let this keep going and going and going and you’ll be pulling up these gnarly tubers.

These are not even close to the max size you can achieve. Of course, there’s definitely a sweet spot, but a great storing crop, good sugar content in here, good overall calories and nutrient density. It’s really hard to beat provided you have the climate and the space to grow them. Our final one before the bonus is the lentil.

Lentil is a legume. It’s a fantastic crop to grow. It’s about 110 days for a dried lentil, so it’ll get it all the way there in just over about, well I guess just under four months or so. So fantastic. You can grow in at scale. You want to plant them maybe five inches or so apart. You can put a low trellis on if you want to, you don’t have to.

You just want to make sure there’s nice air circulation. And again, these are in a jar and these are stored. What does that tell you? It’s a great dried storage, food, calories, protein, bunch of good stuff going on with lentils. So make it a part of your apocalypse survival garden. But those of you who have stayed, you have your bonus apocalypse tip and that would be growing a ton of herbs.

So I’ve got, what do I have? Rosemary, lavender, basil, dill, thyme, oregano, sage – all that stuff is popping off in this tiny little herb garden. And trust me when I say that you will eventually get sick of eating potatoes, lentils, beans, squash, all of this stuff, unseasoned. And speaking from someone who literally did this for 30 days, I went through a love-hate bordering on true hate of potatoes for a while and it’s been nine months since that challenge and I’m only slowly starting to like them again.

So I got sick of them and having a bunch of herbs that I can dry and dehydrate and mix into spice blends is going to go a long, long way. What did you think of my apocalypse list? This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you have a suggestion that you think I really missed out on, drop it down below so everyone else, including myself can learn from your apocalypse garden recommendations.

And what I’d like to say is, first of all, thank you so much for watching. If you enjoyed the video, cultivate that like button. And the last thing is if you like the raised beds I have in my front yard, a link is going to be in the description. I now am the distributor in America for these Birdies raised beds, which I really like.

It’s starting to rain really hard. So I’m going to wrap this up. If you like them link in the description, link in the comment, check them out. And until next time, good luck in the garden. Keep surviving and I’ll see you on the next video.

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