Emergency Food in Your Garden

Most of us have a garden in order to have delicious fresh produce, not to live off of its production. However, if you’re already gardening, it’s only a little more trouble to prepare some crops for storage. During the rest of the year we’ll find out what I can do in a small garden space.




A few tomato plants:

I was already planting tomatoes for slicing, so I planted some canning varieties too

And here are some potatoes. I was a little concerned because I got a late start, but we’ve had a very cool spring, and they’re doing great. At this writing it’s May 16, and the high is in the upper 50s (around 15 Centigrade). I planted Pontiacs and plan to store them in the ground, covered with a thick mulch. We don’t often get deep freezes, so it should be fine.

I planted forty-five pounds of potatoes. We'll find out how much they yield in a few months.

I’m trying some sweet potatoes too. They don’t like the cool weather, but I hope they’ll rebound when the heat comes.

Sweet potatoes don't like cold weather, and they don't store very well unless you can them, so I'm just trying a few.

Here are a few herbs. This has nothing to do with long-term stock — just fresh stuff for the summer.

Two kinds of parsley; curly and Italian

Dill goes great with fresh cucumbers, in salads, potatoes, fish, and lots more.

Cilantro in the foreground, parsley in the upper right, dill, lettuce, and thyme in the upper left, and aspargus in the background

We’ll see how cucumbers do in this space. Last year they were a little weak, but I recently trimmed a nearby tree that was casting too much morning shade on them.


Here we have a mixed crop. Three varieties of onions interspersed with various leaf lettuces and radishes. The red and yellow onions will store well, and the sweet onions we’ll eat during the summer. The lettuces and radishes should help with weed control.

Mixed crop: three onions, some lettuces and radishes.

Closeup of the mixed crop

Lettuce patch

In summary, for storage we have potatoes, tomatoes, and onions, and we’re experimenting with sweet potatoes. When it heats up we’re going to sow field peas, okra, squash, and other hot-weather crops.

Last fall this entire area was covered with purple-top turnips. We got greens well past the first frost, and then harvested all the turnip roots we could handle. Some we pickled, but most we just harvested as needed. My wife cuts them into one-inch cubes, tosses them with olive oil, herbs, and salt, and roasts them with garlic cloves still in the skin. It was late winter before they started getting too fibrous to enjoy, and then in spring they made greens again. Amazing. We pulled them all up and started the spring garden.

If you’re already tending a small garden for fresh produce, it’s just a minor adjustment to make it supply food for storage, but it can make a tremendous difference in tough times.


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  • Kimberly Edwards

    I'd love to see some pictures taken later in the year, to get an idea how well the garden did. Can you tell us how much you harvested?

    • sn0man

      That's a good idea — but it's too late, my garden is gone!

  • Ordinary Joe

    Looks like you have a lot of land. I am in the city and use square-foot gardens. Going to tyr potates this year.

    • SN0man

      My uncle raised potatoes in 4×4 raised beds, and I’ve used the same method without raised beds. He buried the seed potatoes about 3 inches and then covered the bed with a thick layer of straw (I’ve used leaves, too), about 4 inches thick when it settled. This makes it very easy to harvest, as you can rob new potatoes that grow right under the mulch, then dig out big spuds from the ground late in the season.