How to Plant Your Doomsday Garden


    Regular viewers of Blanket Fort, DNN’s cult show on DNN On Air, have been watching with bated breath as Mega Tron‘s vegetable garden has begun sprouting through the Michigan soil. It is hard not to imagine Mega as a useful person to have around should decades-old predictions finally come true and America descends into a Mad-Max like apocalypse.  After all, even in a doomsday scenario, a person has gotta eat. And, it is also desirable if you can do so without others taking advantage of your own good foresight to be prepared for the doomsday you always knew was coming.

    However, a true survivalist garden requires more than just a knowledge of what seeds to plant and how much to tend them.  After all, in a Mad Max scenario, you don’t want to be out in your garden all day where anybody could take a shot at you.  A survivalist garden must produce the greatest possible yield in the smallest possible area, and it should require minimal attention and care.  Ideally, it should only have to be planted once, and it should be able to thrive without  pesticides, weeding, or fertilization.  It also would benefit if it did not resemble a traditional vegetable garden, to discourage looting.

    A world without electricity, supermarkets, fertilizer, pesticide, refrigeration, or seed stores might sound apocalyptic to Americans, who have lived a relative life of luxury for a long time now.  However, this is how much of the world has always lived, and indigenous people in many corners of the world still practice farming techniques that have worked for thousands of years.

    A secret garden
    A secret garden

    The first tip to take from the indigenous people’s playbook is to stick to perennials. Those are plants that only need to be planted once; they produce a yield every year after that.  The modern supermarket shopper tends to fill their cart with annuals, the plants that must be replanted every year.  Planting annuals is akin to milking a cow, while planting perennials is more like owning the cow.  Perennials develop deeper roots than annuals, enabling them to reach sources of moisture and minerals that annuals cannot reach.  It also gives them a level of protection from seasonal changes in climate and weather.

    One should also discard the notion of growing vegetables in neat little rows.  In nature, this isn’t how they grow, and the sheer act of separating one plant from another means you are depriving the plants’ natural tendencies to develop symbiotic relationships with other plants. Plants grow to varying sizes; enabling some to protect others from too much direct light. Plants can share nutrients very efficiently, and can even protect each other from insect invasion.

    This 2-square-foot garden contains peanuts, mint, mountain mint, cucumbers, beans, comfrey, oats and clover
    This 2-square-foot garden contains peanuts, mint, mountain mint, cucumbers, beans, comfrey, oats and clover

    The best way to arrange your plants is to mimic nature. Plants will often grow in clusters around a central plant which is usually taller than the others.  A good centerpiece for your survival garden would be a fruit or nut bearing tree. This provides shade for the plants that need shade.  Beyond those, a ring of berry shrubs can enclose the more fragile shade-seeking plants. Then, another ring of herbs will provide the perfect battleground for predatory insects to devour the pesky ones who come seeking free fruit. The herbs will also attract the beneficial insects that you need: pollinators.  An outer perimeter of ground cover will help trap nitrogen to nourish your plants.

    By positioning your plants in such a manner, you are encouraging the plants to intermingle as they would in nature, while also drastically conserving space.  Such a plot will often produce as much as 500% the yield of a traditional patch of vegetables grown in tidy rows.  The resulting cluster of plant life is also nicely camouflaged; it does not resemble a traditional vegetable patch, and will be easily overlooked by rampaging survivors of the apocalypse.

    Since you’ve planted perennials, you’ll be assured of food to eat (centuries-old methods of preserving fruit and vegetables can get you through the lean winter months), even if you don’t tend to the garden at all.  Sometimes letting nature do all the work is the sensible way to go, especially when you have an apocalypse to deal with.