The survival garden has become a mainstay of prepping, especially amongst experienced preppers. The idea that we can stockpile enough food to meet every emergency is just not practical, especially when we add TEOTWAWKI events into the mix.
The truth is that there are potential problems in the world which are so big, that it will take longer than any survival stockpile for things to get back to normal.
Even in cases where the recovery period is months, rather than years, that survival garden can be useful, allowing you fresh food in your diet, as well as extending your stored food out to last longer. The trick is holding onto that food, rather than having your neighbors steal it.
We all know that OPSEC is an important part of prepping. If people find out who we are and what we’re doing, they’re likely to come knocking on our doors when things get bad, expecting us to share with them.
But hiding a garden is a different animal altogether. How do you grow food for your family, without having others trying to hop the fence and steal it for themselves? There’s no sense in growing it, if we can’t protect it.
It’s probably going to take a combination of strategies to successfully protect a survival garden from looting. No one strategy alone is going to work, unless you’re planning on running an armed patrol around that garden, day and night.
But then, if you do that, how are you going to get everything else done? Here are some ideas that might help protect your garden. Rather than picking one or two, I’d try to implement as many as possible.
The first and most obvious step to protect your garden is to install a good privacy fence around your yard.
While there are a lot of options in fencing available, the key to any privacy fence is that it can’t easily be seen through, whether it is made of cedar fence pickets or cinder block.
I’d recommend going higher than most, with a seven to eight foot high fence. It’s just too easy to see over a six foot fence.
Mostly, this privacy fence is going to stop the casual viewer from seeing your garden. But it isn’t going to stop your neighbors, especially those with yards that share that fence with your own. In that case, I’d be prepared to bribe those neighbors by being prepared to help them get their own gardens started.
I always keep a good stock of seeds and fertilizer on hand for just that purpose, as well as gas for my rototiller, so that I can help them get rid of their grass and get ready to plant.
In exchange for my help, I expect a bit of what they grow, as well as them hauling water for me to filter for both families to use.
I always have a good dog around, even though it is inconvenient to do so. Dogs are naturally territorial and will make a ruckus if anyone comes into their yard.
It doesn’t really matter if they can stop those people, just as long as they keep guard and let me know when they come. I’ll take it from there myself.
One nice things about dogs as guards is that they sleep lightly. So if someone comes in the middle of the night, you don’t need to worry about the dogs being asleep. They’ll wake up and check things out, raising the alarm.
Of course, having dogs means prepping for them as well. I have a few galvanized metal trash cans, which I keep filled with 100 pounds of dog food each. I have enough food for my dogs on-hand to last them longer than what I’ve got for the family. But then, the dogs aren’t about to eat the vegetables from my garden.
Most people don’t have any idea what they’re looking at, when they look at your garden, unless they are gardeners themselves. Until those plants start bearing fruit, the average person can’t identify what they are. In other words, they don’t know if they are decorative plants or vegetables.
The real giveaway is how we plant them. Rows of the same sorts of plants growing tends to look like a vegetable garden; but those same plants, planted randomly, looks like a decorative garden. The more we can do to make our vegetable gardens look like decorative gardens or even flower gardens, the better.
Those who do see them are less likely to realize what they’re looking at. Hide obvious things like celery and pumpkins, and don’t use normal tomato cages to support your tomato plants. Rather, use some sort of homemade wood trellis to support the tomatoes, so that the cage doesn’t give the plant away.
This gets harder as the plants begin to bear fruit as most people can recognize a tomato or pepper pretty easily.
But if you plant flowers around those vegetable plants, the flowers will provide some degree of camouflage, making it ever harder to tell what you’ve got planted in your garden.
Speaking of planting plants around your vegetable garden, you might want to consider planting a few poisonous plants as well. I’m not talking about the kind that will kill anyone who eats them, but something more like poison ivy or poison oak. That should be nasty enough that if they get into your garden once, they won’t want to get into it again.
Of course, adding these plants to your garden carries risks, as those plants can get you and your family, just as well as they can anyone else who messes around with them. So if you have kids, I’d avoid this idea. Even for yourself, make sure that you have a plan for working on the garden, without coming into contact with them.
An electric fence is a time-honored means of protecting a garden or other area from animals, and it does a pretty good job of protecting them from people as well.
It is not normally considered in the same category as other traps are, so there is little risk of having problems with the law.
The big problem with an electric fence is that it needs electric power. That might be a problem in a post-disaster world, if the grid is down. If you’re getting your electric power from solar panels, are you going to have enough power for the fence as well?
Better make sure that you buy the most energy efficient electric fence and that you know just how much power it consumes. That way, if you need to increase the number of solar panels you have or add another battery to your shutdown system, you can do so.
Besides the aforementioned dogs, there are a wide range of different alarms that you can install around your garden, providing some warning that you have intruders to deal with. This can range from the most high tech solutions, involving motion detectors to the simplest trip wire tied to a can of pebbles.
One simple thing is a solar-charged light with a motion sensor. But the key to any of these is making sure that the alarm is hidden well enough that the intruder doesn’t just see it and find a way to get around it.
Most alarms will require some electrical power as well, just like the electric fence does. The big plus here though is that they will most likely require considerably less power. Still, make sure that your off-grid power system is sufficient to deal with this need, along with your others.
Punji Sticks & Other Traps
You might be thinking the obvious answer is to put punji stakes and other traps around the garden.
While those might be of help, they are illegal in all 50 states.
The basic problem is that traps of any sort are indiscriminate. Once set, they’ll get whoever comes along. While that may be what you want, what if it’s a kid that the trap ends up hurting?
If you’re going to use traps, keep the legal risk in mind. Even so, there may be times when you want to do so. I keep a fair sized collection of caltrops on hand, available to be spread out as traps.
But I don’t leave them out in normal times. Rather I just save them for the time when they might be needed. When that time comes, I will be willing to take that risk.
Don’t Forget Other Looters
But people aren’t the only thing we’ve got to protect our gardens from. Don’t forget that there are plenty of birds, insects and animals that want to get what we’ve got. On one hand, we deal with these all the time, so we should be ready for them. On the other hand, I don’t actually see a lot of gardeners who are ready to deal with them.
I use predatory insects in my garden, rather than insecticides. Not only do they seem to work better, but it also helps keep my food healthier to eat. I’m not exactly a fan of eating pesticides, although I’m not one who runs around complaining about it. Rather, I just try to avoid using them in my garden.
To keep birds and animals out of my garden, I’ve constructed what I refer to as a “reverse greenhouse” around it. This is a structure with poultry cloth walls and a shade cloth roof.
The shade cloth is necessary, as the area I live in is very hot. Adding that has cooled the temperature inside my garden by 5 to 10 degrees, depending on the time of day. It also works together with the poultry fabric to keep birds from flying into my garden.
While the poultry cloth isn’t really strong enough to keep opossums and raccoons out of the garden, it works well. So far, they haven’t figured out that they can break through it. Hopefully they never will. In the mean time, my garden is well protected from these looters.