Five Plus Two for Survival Gardening

By: Tom Chatham

In a crisis situation the need for growing your own food increases with time. Many factors determine if you can grow anything and what that may be. Location, soil, water and weather are primary concerns that must be evaluated. In a crisis you need to grow the maximum amount of food in the smallest space possible. The ability to store your harvest with few modern conveniences is also a problem you need to address.

What you grow will depend on available seed stocks, personal preferences and location. There are no ideal items that fit every situation or location but there are some that will fit in most locations and situations. The following are some good choices to keep in mind when planning for the unexpected.

Five vegetables


Potatoes are an ideal food for year round consumption. Potatoes provide a lot of starch that helps to fill you up when food is at a minimum. That’s one reason the military feeds soldiers potatoes almost every meal. They can be prepared in many ways to help avoid taste fatigue and when stored properly can last many months. Yield per 100 foot row is about 2 to 3 bushels.


Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and also help to curb your appetite. They can be stored in many ways such as dehydrating or canning. Long keeper tomatoes can be harvested and kept for three or four months without refrigeration while they ripen providing you a source of fresh tomatoes well into the winter. The many uses for tomatoes will help diversify your meals to help expand the limited foods you may have. Tomato plants also provide a large return for the space used. Yield per 100 foot row is about 4 bushels.


There are many types of beans that can provide needed protein when food is scarce. The type of beans you grow will depend on your taste and growing conditions. Beans that are good for drying and canning are stressed. With a shortage of meat, beans become a necessary food to provide the protein humans need. When combined with a grain such as rice it provides a complete protein. The ability to store beans dry and in small spaces, make them a great survival food. Yield per 100 foot row is about 2 bushels for lima and snap varieties.


Cabbage is a good plant to grow to provide a leafy green food. Cabbage is a good choice for a winter garden. In many areas of the country it can be left in the garden throughout the winter and provide fresh produce during winter when fresh greens are in short supply. A good variety is late flat Dutch cabbage. It can produce heads as big as 12 pounds and provide more than one meal for a family especially when small potatoes are added. In areas where the winters are too cold, it can be dug up and kept in a root cellar for several weeks until needed. A few dozen heads of cabbage in the winter garden can be the difference between staying fed throughout the winter and starvation. Yield per 100 foot row is about 45 heads.


Turnips are usually easy to grow anywhere and can provide the root itself as well as cut greens. Turnips are a good cold hardy crop that can be left in the garden during winter like cabbage. The addition of turnips to potato soup is an easy way to spice up your soup. Turnip seeds are small and relatively inexpensive and the plants take up very little space. Yield per 100 foot row is about 2 bushels.

Two Grains


Corn is a staple that can be used in many ways to expand the limited supplies you may have. It can be eaten whole or ground into flour for cornbread or used in a dipping batter. It produces a large amount of seed for the space used and can be dried and stored easily for later use. Heritage varieties will provide better nutrition and growing capabilities than conventional varieties when matched with the climate they are raised in. It will also provide a good animal feed if small livestock is kept. Yield is about 1 bushel per 500 sq. feet.


Oats are a good source of nutrition and can be used in many ways. Oats rank the highest in protein and run neck and neck with wheat as the all around most nutritive grain. It also provides a good livestock feed and the straw makes excellent bedding. Yield is about 1 bushel per 620 sq. feet.

In a crisis situation that may last for months or years you must decide what you can produce yourself for minimal sustenance. Keeping at least a minimal supply of strategic seed varieties will make a major difference in how you are able to cope with the crisis. Your decision may be determined by the amount of space you have to grow food. In that instance you must choose foods that are nutrient dense and will produce a heavy crop in minimal space.

You also need to keep in mind that desperation may cause others to target your garden. In a situation like this plants that others do no recognize as food plants will play a major role. Don’t laugh but there are many people in this country that do not know that potatoes grow under the ground. In many instances a potato plant will look like a weed that will be passed over by many looking for food. The same can be said for a crop like oats. Without the knowledge and equipment to process or cook it many people will pass it over for more readily recognizable foods.

These things should be kept in mind when you plan your crisis garden. While the listed varieties will give you a good selection to keep you fed, you must determine what will work best for you. Making your own five plus two list is the least you should do to prepare. Beyond this list of seven, any seed you store is an additional hedge against future crisis events.


Posted on May 7, 2013, in Preparedness and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Good article. Few points I would add:

    1. The time to learn to grow a garden is NOW…..RIGHT now…….while you still have a grocery store to back you up…..not in a crisis situation when there are a whole lot of things to do. It takes many seasons to figure out what works and doesn’t in your area, and how to deal with bugs, drought, and so on…..and when your life depends on what you can grow is not the time for a learning curve.

    2. Corn. Pick an open pollinated field type corn. Most of what you’ll see sold is a hybrid, sweet corn variety…..great for fresh eating or freezing, but not what you use for animal feed or grinding into corn meal. We grow Hickory King, an old time OP white corn that produces 1 large ear per stalk ( and sometimes a smaller, second one ). You can save your seed easy and grow it forever. If you grow much, pick up a hand sheller, like an old CS Bell, and you can shell a bushel in 10 minutes, easy. You may want to also pickup a small, hand grist mill, like the CS Bell #2. You can use it to crack any grain by setting the stones for the size grain. They claim it can also be used to make flour, but I’ve never tried….I would think it would be REAL coarse flour….but to make chicken scratch or rolled oats, it’s great. Corn/etc needs to be processed for livestock to make the most efficient use of the feed, otherwise a lot of it simply passes on thru the digestive tract with little nutritional value.

    3.. Oats. Good choice of small grain. The type you want to plant is HULLESS oats. Regular oats require a special process to separate the oat groat ( the actual seed you eat ) from the hull…..they don’t give it up easy. Hulless oats, on the other hand, can be threshed fairly easy from the outer hull

    • Absolutely, you don’t want to have to learn how to swim while the ship is sinking beneath you. Just growing a few plants now will help you learn what works for you and help you determine what tools you need. I have some Virginia Gourdseed corn I’m raising this year for extra seed and I have some Pennuda hulless oats to try. I also have some Mississippi brown cotton I might try this year also. You can do just about anything with the right seeds.

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