If you are interested in survivalism and prepping, you’ve probably considered growing your own survival garden. This is a very prudent idea, and spring is a perfect time! If this is your first time gardening, you might feel confused and lost, or, possibly even worse, over-confident!
Gardening is an inexact science, and there’s a lot of ways to get it right or get it wrong.
We’ve put together some helpful tips for first-time gardeners to help make your first year of gardening a success.
1. Know Your Zone
First things first, you need to figure out which plant hardiness zone you live in. This will determine what you can grow, what to expect out of your garden, when to plant, etc. You can easily Google a plant hardiness zone map and check what zone you live in. If you check the back of seed packets, they typically have specific instructions for planting in each zone, and/or whether or not those seeds will do well there.
2. Ask the Experts
Consulting local gardening experts will give you a very solid foundation with which to start with. Talk to employees at your local nursery, volunteers at a local community garden, friends or family members who have flourishing gardens, or farmers at the farmer’s market. They can give some great pointers from their years of experience.
3. Opt for What’s Easy
When it comes to what you should plant if your first garden, refer to the knowledge you’ve gained regarding your gardening zone and advice you’ve received from experts, and plant a few crops that are known to do well in your region. Some easy plants to start with are bush beans, kale, sunflowers, and herbs. This, of course, might not be true of your zone, but it is in many zones across North America.
4. Keep it Simple
This applies to not just growing a few, staple crops, but also for the equipment you buy! It can be very easy to get caught up in the allure of lots of fancy garden tools and equipment, but it’s actually much smarter to simply wait and see what you need.
5. Use Containers
If you are not sure how to go about digging a garden bed and building soil, opt for a few large containers to try your hand at gardening. You can build your own garden boxes using some basic pieces of lumber or repurposed pallets, or simply buy large garden pots (consult with the employees of the gardening store you are purchasing your pots at which would work best for what you plan to grow). Growing directly in the bed is ideal for lots of situations, but not all! If you have poor soil in your area or rent and can’t dig in the ground, container gardening can be a great alternative. You’d be surprised how much you can grow in a container!
6. It’s All About Water
Water and sunlight make up the primary resources that plants need to grow. Before you start worrying about nutrients and compost, you will first make sure you have what you need to water your plants frequently. If you have an in-ground garden bed, you’ll want to make sure you have a good, reliable hose that can reach your plot easily. You can use a large watering can for this as well, but before you rely entirely on that, make sure that hauling a watering can over to your garden beds, possibly several times, twice a day, is something you’re up for. For the most part, this can be very cumbersome. But if you are growing a few small vegetables in containers, a watering can be not only sufficient but actually more practical.
7. …and Also Sun!
Again, plants need sunlight too! Before you decide where to put your garden bed or containers, observe the area you are considering planting in for a few days to see how much sunlight it gets. A particularly sunny area of your front yard, for example, might actually end up covered in shade for the better part of the afternoon. It’s not impossible to grow anything in areas with very little sunlight, but it will limit your options. On the other hand, some vegetables and herbs do prefer partial shade, so don’t rule out these areas of your garden either!
8. Ok, Plants Need Food Too
Finally, you will want to make sure your plants have the proper nutrients. This can be as easy as purchasing nutritious soil from the start, and following up with some pre-mixed fertilizer as needed. This is where advice from the experts can play a big role because they can help you figure out what the best prices are in your area for these items. If you can afford pre-mixed soil and fertilizers, they’re definitely worth it, especially if they’re organic. But there are of course lots of organic, DIY options for fertilizing plants you can do at home. Coffee grounds and egg shells are old classics that most households produce anyway.
You might be wondering if you should compost. Composting is a fantastic way to add wonderful, organic nutrients to your soil, but for your first year of gardening, you might want to hold off. Do some research in the meantime to see what kind of compost method might work best for your needs (it can be difficult for most people living in cities or suburbs to compost, for a few different reasons).
We hope these tips are helpful in getting you set up with your first survival garden! Remember, it’s all a learning process, and any mistakes or failures you experience this year will only help you the next year. So don’t be afraid, just go for it and see what you can grow! You’ll be glad you did.