We can only store so much food for a SHTF situation, and what we do manage to store won’t last forever. Eventually we’ll need to begin producing food, and it’s important to make sure we’re prepared for that day. While storing some supplies for staring a garden or tending crops certainly wouldn’t be remiss, your knowledge of how to grow what and when will be even more valuable.
There’s a distinct chance that water will be a little tougher to come by in a survival situation, and that moving it from one place to another will be far more complicated than it is for us today. When you prepare for the eventuality that you must grow your own food, your success can hinge on whether you remember to take this into account or not.
We’ll take a look at some crops that do well without irrigation or a ton of watering so you can plan ahead.
Popular in the south, this variety of plant will grow in even the hottest, driest summers. Harvest may take some time if you have to do it by hand, but they’re easy to prepare for eating. The legume produced is high in protein, and they’re great for a survival garden because they’re good to eat at every stage of development.
Plant these once the soil gets over 65 degrees F. Place them in a nice sunny spot, and plant in rows at least 2 ½ feet apart with the seeds 2-4 inches apart. They’ll need to be planted at a depth of about 1 ½ inches.
You may be thinking of commercial corn, which oftentimes does require irrigation in many climates, but there are far more drought-tolerant varieties out there than the ones currently used by commercial farmers. You may still need to water in drier climates or years, but it’s not impossible.
Chard is a fantastic survival crop because you can grow it more than once a year, it produces quickly, and you can eat both the stalks and the greens. It’s rich in nutrients, making it a powerhouse crop for survival.
For a spring harvest, plant 2-3 weeks before the last expected spring frost. For fall harvest, plant about 40 days before you expect the first frost of the year. Plant seeds an inch deep, 18 inches apart, in rows 18 inches apart. You can harvest this plant several times, but make sure you pull up the whole plant, root and all, at first harvest to make sure your plants don’t overcrowd each other.
Certain varieties of melon do okay with little water and little effort expended. Cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon are all options, and they’d make a spectacular treat in a SHTF situation.
Berries that grow on bushes, like blackberries and raspberries, often produce without any watering whatsoever. Even some varieties of strawberries may do okay without watering.
These tubers, also known as sunchokes, are a very versatile food. Sliced up fresh, they’re a lot like water chestnuts. You can cook them like potatoes or pickle them, as well. The part you eat actually grows underground. The best part? They’re a perennial, so they’ll come back year after year.
Plant these tubers in early spring, and the method is similar to that you use for planting potatoes. You plant whole tubers or pieces of them 3-5 inches deep. Rows should be 3-4 feet apart, plants placed about 2 foot apart.
Some varieties, like jalapenos and certain types of chilis, will tolerate drought better than others. Either way, peppers have the potential to be both food and medicine in a SHTF situation, and they pack a flavorful punch that you may be sorely lacking if times get tough.
How you plant these will depend upon which varieties you’re planting, so make sure you follow the directions for the specific type you’ve got.
Amaranth is another dual-purpose crop. You can eat both the leafy greens and the grain-like seeds of the plant. While it’s technically an annual, the falling seeds will oftentimes grow volunteer plants the next year. How you plant this one will also depend on the variety planted.
Hummus, anyone? Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, grow well in dry areas. Another high protein legume, chickpeas can make a great dietary staple in a SHTF situation.
Even in the hottest, driest summer seasons, okra tends to produce well.
It’s also delicious pickled, which makes it good for food storage in a survival situation. It’s great because it continues to bear fruit for a while, and it starts producing sooner than most plants.
Be careful to protect your hands from the little spiny hairs found on the plants and the okra itself. They can cause major irritation.
Other Tips for Raising Food in a Water-Challenged Survival Situation
Here are some additional pointers for growing food where irrigation and intensive watering isn’t feasible:
- Stick to heirloom varieties when possible. They were developed to thrive before massive irrigation and garden hoses were a thing, so they’re more likely to produce for you under harsh conditions. You may find you can even grow tomatoes or other fruits and veggies that you’d have never imagined possible.
- Choose varieties of seeds specifically for their drought tolerance. Some varieties are much hardier than others.
- Use plenty of mulch to help the ground retain moisture. Mulch doesn’t have to be store-bought wood mulch; (seedless) grass or shredded leaves should do the trick.
- Use permaculture or companion planting techniques to give your plants the best chance at production.
- Choose your survival crops based on your climate. If you live in an already dry climate, you may be a little more limited. You can test out your survival gardening skills before the SHTF to determine what will work best for your situation.
Final Word on No-Water Crops
Almost without exclusion, there’s a cadre of crops that you can grow even without irrigation, intensive watering, or modern equipment. Be sure you plan ahead and plant a dry-run survival garden before you find yourself actually relying upon it as your main food source.
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