How to design a survival garden layout

How to Design a Survival Garden Layout

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Before you start planting your crops, you will need to plan the layout of your survival garden so you make sure you have everything you need to cultivate strong, healthy plants. In the past, we have talked about how to start a survival garden and why they are important to become a self-sufficient homesteader. But today, we will go into detail on how to design a survival garden layout. 

Read on below to learn what things you should consider when creating the layout of your own survival garden.

Survival garden

Why Do Homesteaders Need a Survival Garden Layout?

Creating a survival garden layout will save you time and effort down the line. Without a layout, while you’re setting up your survival garden, you may notice that something is amiss. For example, you may realize that the area in which you planted your crops is prone to pest infection. So, you’ll end up putting in more time and effort to remedy the situation.

With a survival garden layout in place, you’re effectively planning for – and preventing – problems before they arise. 

What Should You Consider in Your Layout?

Before getting started designing your garden, there are some important questions you will need to ask yourself. Below is a checklist of question to start with.

Watering Garden

How Much Food Will You Need to Grow?

When it comes to survival gardening, there is no one-size fits all solution. You must be able to design your garden based on how much of your food you should expect to source from it. The table below provides information on calories requirements for members of your family.

Adult2,200-3,200 Calories1,600-2,400 Calories
Teen1,600-2,200 Calories2,000-2,600 Calories
Child (9-13)1,400-2,200 Calories1,600-2,600 Calories
Child (4-8)1,200-1,800 Calories1,200-2,000 Calories
Child (2-3)1,000-1,400 Calories1,000-1,400 Calories

For a family of four, it is suggested if you you have a garden of a 2,000 square foot garden. This would mean garden that is 40 by 50 feet. Below is an estimate of how much space you will need for crops to feed a family of four for one year. 

Crop TypeGarden Space (sq. ft.)Pounds (Ibs)
Green Beans300175

However, do keep in mind that the amount of food yielded from your garden largely depends on the soil quality, as well as sunlight and water.

Rain barrel in tropics

Proximity to Water

An important thing you should consider when coming up with your layout is how you’ll water your plants. Sure, you may have some drought-tolerant plants. But the fact remains that most vegetable crops need plenty of water.

Here are some things you may consider to improve your garden’s access to water:

  • Design a rainwater collection system that you can use to collect water for your plants. 
  • Create ditches and hills to gather water and direct it to where you want it to go.

When collecting rainwater for plants, it is a good practice to filter and purify rainwater to remove sediments, toxins, and chemicals from the water. Water that has these pollutants in them make cause the plant to grow smaller or die entirely.

Protecting Your Garden

Protecting your garden is an important aspect to consider when designing your survival garden. 

First, you need to ensure you have a system in place that protects your plants from hungry animals and pests. An easy thing to do is to invest in better fencing around your garden.

Aside from protecting your garden from animals, you also have to think about birds. You may choose to have netting available to defend your garden.

Survival Garden Compost

Compost Location

It’s important to place a compost pit close to your survival garden. You should put it close to your garden so you won’t need to haul wheelbarrows of compost across the yard. Your compost is going to feed your garden with essential nutrients to help the plants grow bigger and healthier. 

What’s more, it’ll also allow you to reduce food waste since you can add organic material to the compost. It may take a few weeks or months for the compost to be ready, but once it is ready, you will have a natural substitute for fertilizer.

Pick a Location and Garden Size

Start by figuring out how big you want your survival garden to be. Primarily, you’ll be thinking of how much food you need to grow.

Keep in mind that the exact amount of space you’ll need will depend on how big your family is, your family’s caloric needs, and your family’s food preferences. A good starting point would be to consider that a survival garden will need about a quarter of an acre to a couple of acres of space to feed a family of four.

Other factors you may consider are the types of plants you want to grow, how much time you can spend caring for your garden, and the length of your growing season.

If it’s your first time setting up a survival garden, start with a space that you can realistically manage. You can always expand later on.

When it comes to the location of your garden, take into account the conditions within your available space. Ideally, you’ll want a location that has well-draining soil and receives at least six hours of sunlight daily.

natural survival garden produce

Crops You’d Like to Grow

The first step in deciding what crops to grow is to make a list of what fresh food your family enjoys eating. Fortunately, you can get creative by mixing different herbs and vegetables for all sorts of flavor combinations. Although there are many crops you can pick for your survival garden, you should surely include some of the more versatile and nutrient-dense plants, like:

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Kale
  • Beans
  • Lentils 

Aside from picking vegetables you and your family enjoy eating, you’re going to need to also keep in mind the caloric and nutritional content of your crops. You should also consider crops that you can prepare for long-term storage.

Finally, don’t forget to keep in mind the climate in your area. Some crops grow better than others in certain climates.

Crop Schedule

Choose your annuals wisely. When choosing annuals, you should include nutrient-rich crops like legumes, potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, grains, and winter squash.

If you’re relying on a vegetarian diet, sunflower seeds will be an easy way for you to eat healthy fats.

You should also choose the crops that thrive in cold weather. Doing so will help extend your growing season.

starting a prepper gardenAside from annual vegetables, a good survival garden should also include perennial vegetables, as well as fruits, herbs, and nuts.

Perennials will supply you with a wide range of nutrients and also grow larger and become more productive each year. This effectively reduces your workload for the same output.

Some high-quality perennial vegetables you may consider include asparagus, artichokes, rhubarb, fruit trees, nut trees, berries, and grape vines.

 You should also include medicinal plants and herbs. Most herbs require little space and little maintenance. What’s more, they have a variety of applications.

Designing a garden that has a wide range of perennials also mimics a more natural ecosystem. Perennials also improve soil quality and drainage, reduce pests and disease, and attract beneficial insects. 

Survival Garden Path

Guide to Starting a Survival Garden

Now that you know what you need to include in your survival garden, you can start making your idea into a reality. Below is a high level guide on what you need to do to go from drafting to planting, but for more details on starting a survival garden you can read our previous posts on the topic. 

Draft Layout

It’s important to draw a physical sketch of your layout instead of simply imagining it. This will help you visualize your space and decide what you might grow where.

Along with your layout, you may also consider creating an annual calendar. Doing so will help you record when you should start seeds and transplants, as well as when you can harvest throughout the year.

Gather Materials and Equipment

survival garden toolsOnce you have your layout settled, the next step would be for you to gather all your necessary materials and equipment. Additionally, you should start buying seeds.

You’ll need to buy seed-starting supplies like containers and potting soil. Don’t forget your hand tools. You may need pitchforks, shovels, pruners, and trowels.

After you’ve collected your seed-starting supplies, you’ll also need other essentials. These may include buckets, watering cans, and a wheelbarrow.

Start Building

If you plan on building a small greenhouse, hoop house, or even a couple of cold frames, now’s the time to do so. Building one of these can give you a head start with planting and may extend your growing season.

You should also start your compost pile or compost pit if you haven’t already. Compost could take several weeks or months before it’s ready for use.

Start Planting

Now that everything’s in place, you can start the fun part – planting. 

Before planting your crops in your survival garden, you should cultivate the land to prepare it for growing. You may do this by collecting any debris or trash, clearing the brush, and leveling your soil.

You should subdivide your land into plots; make sure each crop has its own bed or row. When you space out your plants, refer to your layout to check whether any of your crops have any special requirements.

boy watering plants

How Should You Manage Your Survival Garden?

Taking care of your survival garden isn’t a set-and-forget affair. You’re going to want to check your crops daily to ensure there aren’t any pests sneaking in.

There are many signs you could look out for to check whether your garden has a pest problem. These signs include big holes in leaves, small round droppings, chew marks on crops, holes in the soil from burrowing, and other signs of damage. 

Once your survival garden is up and running, it’s important that you take notes. Make observations regarding what works and what doesn’t. Doing so will allow you to make adjustments and future improvements to help increase your productivity while putting in less effort.

Being able to quickly check back and see what you did in a year or when the final frost hit in any previous year will help you plan for the future.

A few things you may wish to consider adding to your notes include when you start all your seeds every year, what your process is, where you plant them, and how they fare. You may also opt to track weather patterns. 

3 Survival Garden Layouts

To provide you with some inspiration, below are three survival garden plans to help you spur some ideas.

Vegetable Garden Layout

Garden Plan 1: Spring Vegetable Soup Raised Bed

This garden layout is ideal if you have a specific recipe in mind. Simply adjust the crops for the vegetables you will need for your recipe. However, as you design this garden, do keep in mind companion plants and which plants grow well together. 

In smaller garden layouts like this, plant roots may be competing for nutrients in the soil. So, it is important to keep in mind plants that grow well together.

Beginner Survival Garden Layout

Garden Plan 2: Beginner’s Survival Garden

If you are looking to start a survival garden to provide for your family, you will need a garden large enough to provide everyone with calories and nutrients to outlast a survival situation. However, it is easy to get overwhelmed, so we suggest starting small and expanding your garden over time. 

The beginner garden layout below is designed for you to start with a single raised bed but provides enough space for you to expand your garden as you become more comfortable. It also includes compost bins and rainwater within close proximity, so you do not have to go far to collect compost and water.

Garden Plan 3: Small Vegetable and Herb Garden

Fresh and organic vegetables and herbs are nutrient-dense and potent in flavor. Having these plants in your backyard means your family will have access to healthy vegetables to help them outlast a survival situation. 

You can use the garden layout below as a template for your vegetable and herb garden. 

Final Thoughts

The backbone of any successful project is a detailed plan. In the case of a survival garden, the backbone of your project will be your layout.  

Before starting to take any action, be sure you’ve gone over this article a couple of times and considered the important points that you should include in your layout. Keeping a detailed plan and layout will save you a lot of time, money, and energy in the future.

For more resources that will help you create your own successful survival garden, refer to the other articles on our website.

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