Growing Your Own Food; Survival Gardening in a Changing Climate

By Chris Gilmour | Uncategorised

Mar 17
Survival Gardening & Climate Change Adaption

​Some Food for Thought & Practical Food Growing Tips for a Changing Climate & Self-Reliance

​Since my late teens, I have dreamed about self-sufficient homesteading, survival gardening, and asked myself what can I do about climate change and food security? I also wanted to have a real connection to where my food came from. ​

If you have considered these questions then I think you will enjoy this post. If you have not, consider reading the next couple paragraphs about why you may want to reconsider.

For me this dream has turned into an ever evolving adventure and lifestlye.​

Growing Shiitake Mushrooms

​Harvesting from our Shiitake Mushroom Logs

​This post if for complete beginners, experienced gardens, people who want to grow all their food on a farm, or a tiny amount on a balcony in the city.

I know a lot of people who would like to grow some or more of their own food but have various reasons holding them back. No time, lack of space, and not knowing how can all feel like barriers.

In this series of blog posts, I hope to make growing some of your food and adapting to climate change feel doable. If you already garden and grow food, you may find this post thought-provoking. I would love to hear your thoughts, tips, and suggestions on the topic in the comments below.

Growing Your Own Food

I want to help you get quick results through high leverage choices in how you approach survival gardening. Growing food is for fun, health, and resiliency.

​Growing your own food can be very rewarding. The process of tending the land, as well as eating from it, nourishes the mind and body. It can bring enjoyment to life, connect us to nature, and can save money. We know exactly what we are putting into our bodies and reap the health benefits of this. In a changing climate and this often unpredictable world, it has many other benefits as well.

Have you ever heard the saying, "we are only four days from anarchy"?

​This may sound like an extreme statement, and it may or may not be truly accurate depending on where you live. The premises of this statement is that most grocery stores would be empty in less than four days if traditional supply chains were shut down.

Does this sound unlikely? Well, it is happening right now (March 7, 2018) for hundreds of thousands of people in the United States from a recent string of back-to-back Noreaster storms.

Disaster Survival and Growing Your Own Food

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6 Tips on Growing Food for Climate Change, Food Security ​and Disaster Survival​


​​1) Grow Low ​Maintenance​ Foods; Leverage your time ​and choices for maximum effectiveness

Perennial Vegetable Asparagus

​To accomplish this, consider planting foods that are relatively low maintenance yet still produce high yields. You want foods that once the initial work is done, mostly just grow themselves with minimal tending.

An example of this would be planting low maintenance perennial crops. We planted twenty-five asparagus plants when we first bought our homestead and twenty-five more a few years later. 

There was an initial bit of work to prepare the beds adequately. Now we have more asparagus than we can eat each spring with very minimal upkeep. It comes back on its own every year. Another bonus is that Asparagus comes up in early spring before many other plants are ready to harvest and it is a very nutrient dense food.Another high yielding perennial crop that is very resilient is Jerusalem Artichoke. It is incredible how much food they will produce in a small space. They take almost zero maintenance once established. Be careful where you plant them though, they can spread rapidly and can take a bit of work to remove from an area permanently.

​If you are looking for a great book on planting perennial vegetables, I recommend this great resource:

​** Please note, if you purchase it through this link I get a very small % of the sale to help fund this free resource blog!


​​2) ​Maximize Your Space & Time with High Yielding ​Crops

Growing Kale and Survival Gardening

​If you are thinking about growing your own food, self-sufficient homesteading, and survival gardening, you want to make the most out of your space.

Whether you are growing on a balcony in the city, or a hundred acre farm, the more you leverage physical space, the more food you have to eat and preserve. ​\

​Vegetables such as brussel sprouts, eggplants, bell peppers and certain types of squash, are nutrient-rich, but the plants grow very large and take up a lot of space. They often only produce a couple of meals worth of food per season, per plant (at least where I live in central Canada). There are techniques to create better yields on all of these but remember, we are talking survival gardening. Thus we want maximum efficiency of our time, efforts, space and resources.

Bush Beans, on the other hand, are relatively small plants. Beans produce a ton of food in a small space. One of the best parts is they will keep providing new beans for several weeks up to two months depending on the species and region.

 They also help improve soil quality through nitrogen-fixing reducing the amount of work you need to put into soil building. Climbing beans and peas are similar.

Kale & Broccoli are two of my other favorites for high yields in small spaces. We let our broccoli produce a full head first, usually by late July. It continues to provide smaller edible shoots that are very tasty and nutrient dense right up until October. It keeps on giving!  

Growing Your Own Food Broccolli

​Six to eight kale plants will also produce a lot of food as they are very fast growing and can be harvested over and over again. Keep in mind that these plants are pretty susceptible to specific pests like cabbage moths. You will have to see if they do well in your area.

Zucchini is another excellent option. They grow and produce prolifically.


3) ​Plant for Extreme and Unpredictable Weather; Consider How to Prepare for Climate Change and Food Security

What can I do about Climate Change?

In my region, South Central Ontario, the short-term predictions for climate change are already revealing themselves. We have seen lots of unseasonable weather, more period of intense rain, floods, more hail, mixed with periods of drought. Spring may come earlier some years, but then we get a frost way past the usual last frost date.

So how do the predictions and effects of climate change influence the way we garden and grow food in the future?

Make sure at least some of what you plant is cold hardy and can survive a late frost. Make sure some of your crops are drought tolerant, and that some can handle lots of rain and wet soil. Diversity is key here with a mix of plants that are hardy and resilient to inclement, unseasonal or extreme weather.

​An example of another perennial plant that is very hardy is Day Lily. You can eat the flowers and bulbs; they produce a fair bit of food over a month or more, they can tolerate poor soil, drought, and wet conditions.

Do some research on the best drought tolerant, cold hardy and wet tolerant plants for your region and plant a mix of them!

Edible Plants and Wild Food Foraging Day Lily



​4) ​Plant & Harvest Things that Store and Preserve Well ​


Survival Gardening Tomatoes and Acorn for Food

Many major disasters would have a good chance of wiping out a lot of your current year's crops. This is why storing food is so essential in a changing and unpredictable climate.

Pick foods that store well and still maintain nutritional value when preserved through drying, canning and fermenting.

Potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and garlic are four great plants for over winter storage when prepared correctly.


​5) Learn to grow food indoors for year-round nutrition and as part of your Disaster Preparedness Plan

Sprouts and Survival Gardening

There are lots of options for growing indoors. From advanced hydroponic set-ups to very simple micro green and sprouting set-ups. The beauty of this is you can grow year round and even in an urban landscape. Some techniques can even be done when the power is down.

A lot of research has come out in recent years around how nutrient dense sprouts and microgreens are. Sprouts and microgreen are the sprouted seeds of plants such as kale, broccoli, radish, mustard, peas and many other plants. You can grow these indoors by a window or under lights and produce high-quality food year round even when the power is down (as long as they stay warm enough and you have some light).

This is a great survival gardening food and a fun and healthy year-round food option. There is a ton of research out there on how to do it. Consider ordering yourself a big bag of bulk seeds to sprout now or put them in your home disaster supply kit.

Many species of mushrooms can also be grown indoors such as Oyster Mushrooms, Shiitake, and others. Mushrooms are very nutrient dense, have protein in them and can be a great supplement to your diet. There are more materials involved and a little more work than growing sprouts, but it can be a pretty fun experience as well.

​Want to get started in indoor Sprouting , Micros-greens or Mushrooms? Here are three products I recommend:

​​​** Please note, if you purchase it through this link I get a very small % of the sale to help fund this free resource blog!


​6) Learn about Permaculture, Forest Gardening ​and Wild Food Foraging

Permaculture and Climate Change Adaption

If you are serious about being resilient, self-sufficient and adapting to a changing world, then permaculture should be on your list of things to learn about.

Permaculture is too vast a topic to dive into in this post. The essence is setting up self-sustaining closed loop systems for producing food and energy. From increasing yields in small spaces to building soil to making the waste of one product the fuel of another. From reducing the amount, you need to water crops and thus helping you prepared for droughts. Permaculture and climate change adaption should go hand in hand.

Forest Gardening is about working with nature in the original garden of life. It is about tending and harvesting food from the wilds while leaving ecosystems intact to fulfill the many other essential functions they fill in the world. Forest gardening can include things such as foraging for wild foods and medicines, pruning native trees & shrubs to get better yields, planting and propagating seeds and plants in the forest and growing mushroom logs or collecting maple syrup.

You can
learn more about wild food foraging and medicine at https://wildmuskoka.com/

​If you are interested in ​Permaculture & Forest Gardening, I recommend the following books:

​​** Please note, if you purchase it through this link I get a very small % of the sale to help fund this free resource blog!


​I hope you enjoyed my latest post. Please share your thoughts, questions and own tips in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy reading: Getting Started in Personal & Family Disaster Preparedness

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About the Author

Nature Connection Mentor, Wilderness Survival Instructor, Emergency & Disaster Managment Professional

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(6) comments

Liz Couture March 17, 2018

Hello Chris, Thank you for the excellent newsletter with great tips and links!

Recently, I’ve joined Project Drawdown (see Drawdown.org based on book of the same name, edited by Paul Hawken) through UnifyToronto (even though I live north of Toronto, in Richmond Hill. We are preparing workshops, courses, and grassroots projects to invite people to work towards transition.

At this time, I find myself volunteering to coordinate the Food Summit which will be held in Toronto on April 25th and I am looking for speakers/panellists and participants. Would you have time to chat about this with me? Perhaps you would be interested to help out?

Please get in touch soon, as things are moving forward quickly. In any case, would love to add you to our mailing list.

THANK YOU FOR THE GIFT OF YOUR TIME.

Reply
    Chris Gilmour March 17, 2018

    Hey Liz, Thanks for reaching out. I just took a look at the “Project Drawdown” webpage as well as Unify Toronto. Thank you for introducing me to these great projects, this is wonderful work you folks are up too. I could touch base by phone sometime between Mon & Wed of next week. Send me an email at chris@changingworldproject.com and will connect about it.

    Cheers,

    Reply
Dylan Siebert March 27, 2018

This is a great article, Chris.

I am reading ‘The Resilient Gardener’ by Carol Deppe, which outlines a similar approach to low-maintenance, high-yield crops that store well. She focuses on just five: squash, corn, beans, potatoes, and duck eggs.

Thanks for this writing, I found it helpful, especially having seen your place and being able to picture how it fits together in real life.

Reply
    Chris Gilmour April 2, 2018

    Hey Dylan, Thanks for reminding me about the book. It was on my “too read list” and I had forgotten about it. I’m going to order it and have a look!

    Reply
Brandon April 2, 2018

Thanks Chris! Read this a few times and did some great research and journaling about it…

I had two thoughts on this subject concerning my own experiences:

One, seeing what the local government/systems have to support these projects, like community garden plots, hydroponics in schools, and for me it was FREE truckloads of compost from my municipality (created from our own green bin program).

Two, in case of an emergency, restructuring diet and eating patterns to accommodate for LESS FOOD. ‘Four days of anarchy’ had me thinking seriously about fasting and reducing calorie intake in a healthy way.

Looking forward to the next one!

Reply
    Chris Gilmour April 2, 2018

    Awesome Brandon, glad to hear it inspired you to dig a bit deeper. This is a topic I feel deserves some attention. I love point one you made around taking it to a local community level. Using fasting to develop mental fortitude is such a useful skill set in survival as well. After teaching survival for close to 10 years it is amazing how people often make food and daily calories a bigger hindrance than it needs to be through their own thought process and focus. It is pretty empowering to know you can go several days without food and still maintain a relativly high level of energy and brain function (assuming you do not have underlying medical conditions that inhibit your ability to do this). I do several 4 day fasts per year as part of my mental training.

    Reply
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