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As survivalists, we all know that one of the first steps toward self-sufficiency is obtaining a sustainable food source that we can control. Growing your own food isn’t new to humans, but it does seem to be less common than it should be these days. Many of us are reliant on large-scale farms and grocery stores, but these conveniences can easily be interrupted during a disaster. If you’re not prepared, you’ll end up with an empty pantry and a growling stomach.
Getting started in gardening can appear to be a daunting task. Knowing what to grow, when to grow, and what plants will thrive in your region can be burdensome without the proper guidance. The cold winter months provide a great opportunity to dive into some books and do a bit of research before putting trowel to soil in the spring.
The first step towards a successful home garden is to do your homework and learn the basics about plants and soil health in your area. Be sure to understand what plants should look like — or shouldn’t — and get to know what bugs are helpers and which are the enemy. As the saying goes, knowledge is power.
The following six gardening books can help any gardener, advanced or new, be successful in harvesting a bountiful crop to feed their family. They’ll also give you another valuable skill set that can mean the difference between failure and success when times are tough. Whether you have several acres or a small patio, these books contain helpful knowledge of the basics and some more advanced gardening techniques.
Mel Bartholomew helped popularize gardening in small spaces with this book. This book is geared toward small scale gardening perfect for backyards and smaller families and maximizing growth for different food types. Bartholomew covers a very specific, yet proven method for growing fruits and vegetables for beginner gardeners. The book is easy to understand and outlines how to create and maintain small scale gardens that can, over time be applied to larger productions.
What We Liked: This book clearly outlines the basics of starting a garden and making it successful.
What We Didn’t: They left out some common vegetables we would like more information on.
Let it Rot! Is not necessarily a gardening manual as much as it is a book to assist the gardener. Gardens inevitably produce enough that some goes to waste, either by the plant simply dying or the core of a bell pepper after you have cut it up to make dinner. Let it Rot! Covers how to create an effective compost system that helps the gardener reduce waste and ultimately create some of the best growing soil possible. Everything rots but when certain items are combined and tended to they can create the black gold (dirt) every gardener pays top dollar for, and this method is generally free.
What We Liked: This book covers virtually everything you’ll want to know about composting.
What We Didn’t: The author is clearly passionate about compost to the point of over explaining some things and making them excessively complicated.
The Urban Homestead is better-rounded for a survival gardener than the previous mentioned books. The Urban Homestead covers more topics than just gardening to include chicken and livestock care, food preservation, foraging, as well as other skills valuable to your survival. The gardening approach in this book is more suited to a city dweller that may have very limited space but wants to grow as much as possible and maybe even covertly.
What We Liked: This book gives great examples of ways to maximize small spaces.
What We Didn’t: The tone feels a little too hippy for our tastes.
Louise Riotte originally wrote this book in 1975. This book is a how to guide for the ever important aspect of companion planting. Companion planting is when you grow things together so they can benefit one another. The best example of this is the Native Americans “Three Sisters”. Squash, corn and beans would be grown in the same space. As the corn grew, it gave a place for the beans to climb, the squash provided ground cover to keep weeds down, and the beans provided much-needed nitrogen to the soil. Carrots Love Tomatoes helps the gardener in the planning stages of the garden and can help maximize harvest of all crops when grown together properly.
What We Liked: This book covers several types of plants and helps match them to companions.
What We Didn’t: The organization in this book needs improvement to make it easier to find pairs.
The Whole Seed Catalog isn’t technically a book however the information presented toward the back of the book can help a gardener be successful with less common plants that may be better suited to the growing region. This catalog is annual and is updated with new information and new varieties each printing. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds have hundreds of varieties of seeds available and give information to help with growing them all.
What We Liked: This catalog covers several varieties and gives tips on how to make them thrive.
What We Didn’t: Although informative, it is a catalog, so it’s trying to sell you something.
The Prepper’s Garden Handbook is a basic overview of gardening principles with the added bonus of being relatable to a survivalist. The book helps give working knowledge on growing staple fruits and vegetables without going into too much depth that may be boring or unnecessary to a beginner. It offers a synopsis on everything you need to know and gives the building blocks to go out and get more information on the topics you want.
What We Liked: This book touches on several topics and also has great prepper-focused recipes.
What We Didn’t: By covering so many topics, the author doesn’t dive into detail about what could be vital information.
These six gardening books can add value to your SHTF library, and help you nurture a thriving garden to supplement your diet. Even if your survival never ends up depending on the fruits and veggies you grow, they’ll serve as a tasty and frugal addition to your everyday meals.
Alexander Crown served as an Infantryman with the Scout/ Sniper Platoon of the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Ft. Richardson, Alaska, where he specialized in radio communications and reconnaissance. Since separating, Alexander spends his time as an avid outdoorsman and hunter with an appreciation for self-sufficiency in the form of gardening. He also enjoys woodworking, firearms, and reloading. You can follow him on Instagram @acrown509.