Practical Preppers Garden Chapter 3 – Plant Selection

Practical Preppers Garden Chapter 3 – Plant Selection

In my previous article, we established our plant hardiness zone, as well as some basic human nutritional requirements.  With that information in hand we can now begin selecting plants for our practical prepper’s garden.

To review, our goal is to focus on perennial plants, hardy to zone 5, that will provide us with a mix of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, fat, vitamins and minerals.  There’s several ways you can go about doing your research for this.  I found the easiest was to begin by searching for types of plants that are well known to correspond with the different macro, and micro-nutrients.  For example, beans for protein, tubers for carbohydrates, fruit for vitamins, and so on.  Then it’s just a simple matter of locating a perennial variety that will grow in your area, and comparing it’s nutritional content to your dietary needs.  While you’re researching your plants you should also keep a few other considerations in mind.

Some of the factors you should way when making your selections include:

  • How long do these plants stay in season?
  • How much food do they produce?
  • How easily can they be stored, or preserved?
  • Are there especially hardy/more productive cultivars?
  • Do they have any medicinal properties?

Using the USDA’s Interactive DRI tool from the previous article, you can get as in-depth with your nutritional research as you like, but for the sake of time and pacing I’m going to jump straight to my results.


Beginning with protein, I’ve selected Scarlet Runner Beans and Groundnuts.  Scarlet Runner beans are a natural choice since they grow extremely fast, produce beans for most of the year, and can be eaten fresh, or dehydrated and stored.  Groundnuts are a little trickier in that they take two-three years to reach full size, but the fact that they’re prolific growers and can be harvested in all four seasons makes them worth the added hassle.


Next up is carbohydrates.  Once again, Scarlet Runner Beans and Groundnuts are fantastic sources of carbs.  To complement these I’ve also decided on Sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem Artichokes) and Chinese Artichokes.  Both Sunchokes and Chinese Artichokes are loaded with carbohydrates, grow like weeds, and can be harvested year-round or pickled and stored.  As carbs form the basis of energy, it pays to have plenty on hand, and these four sources should provide us with loads.


For fiber we’ve got Asparagus, Scarlet Runner Beans, Miner’s Lettuce, Blueberries and Strawberries.  I’ve chosen the Jersey Giant Asparagus cultivar because it’s highly disease resistant, and produces large crops under poor conditions.  Likewise I’ve selected Ozark Beauty and Fort Laramie Strawberry cultivars because they’re both ever-bearers, meaning they produce multiple crops of fruit throughout the year.


Fats are a bit trickier with plants, but again we have Scarlet Runner Beans, and Groundnuts.  Fats are also easily supplemented with stored foods, so I’m not particularly worried about them.

Vitamins & Minerals

Finally we have our micro-nutrients, otherwise known as vitamins and minerals.  The first one is our previously-mentioned Jersey Giant Asapargus.  Asparagus is one of the healthiest and most nutritionally-diverse foods you can eat, with a huge number of vitamins and minerals.  Following it closely is rhubarb, which likewise contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals including calcium, which can be challenging to get elsewhere.  In addition to the berries we already covered, I’ve chosen Red Currants for their vitamin content, and the Fall Gold Raspberry cultivar, another ever-bearer that’s extremely hardy in cold weather.  I’ve also thrown in some Garlic for good measure, which is convenient since Garlic not only contains a number of hard to source minerals, but also works as a natural disinfectant and anti-fungal agent.


As I mentioned earlier, it’s very important to make sure you’ve got a good selection of plants that will produce in different seasons and conditions.  There’s not much point in having a preppers garden that’s only available in the Summer.  Tubers like Sunchokes, Groundnuts and Chinese Artichokes can produce over a hundred pounds of food in a year, which can be harvested in all four seasons.  The beans, asparagus and ever-bearing fruit bushes have a narrower window, but produce heavy crops from Spring to Fall.

Many of these foods can also be left on the vine, dried, pickled, or canned if required.  This is important since it provides us with the ability to store food during power outages when refrigeration isn’t available, or ahead of the Winter when production drops.

Now that we’ve established our plant selection, we’re ready to move on to the construction phase of our project.  In the next article we’ll be taking a look not only at how we’ll be building our garden, but also how to source the materials for it on a shoestring budget.

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