One thing just about any prepper can agree is necessary to survive an extended SHTF event or economic collapse is the ability to feed yourself and your family especially as your food stockpile dwindles.
One great way to do this, of course, is to have a survival garden and grow your own food. If you’re in an urban location, this can be difficult to do due to limited space. And what happens to your garden if you and your family suddenly need to bug out and leave your home?
Regardless of how well you think you have your home or bug out retreat fortified, there is always the chance that you will have to leave unexpectedly.
If you haven’t planned for this possibility in advance, you may have to leave your well-tended hidden survival garden full of food behind and risk your family going hungry.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to plant your garden so you can take parts or all of it with you when you bug out to a safer location.
Portability Factors to Consider
When planning a portable survival garden, you will need to make absolutely sure that you have the ability and the muscle needed to move it from one place to the next.
It will be very important to think about and consider each of the following factors in how to make your garden portable:
- Hardiness-you must think about the hardiness of your plants when planning a portable survival garden. Make sure that the plants you choose to plant will hold up to being moved and shaken during an extended road trip. Plants that need a lot of daily care or are delicate are probably not good plants for your portable garden.
- Loading-have a plan for how you will load your garden containers. Know which containers you will load first. Think about how much help you will need to get everything loaded quickly. Be sure to actually practice loading everything several times.
- Transport-It’s important to consider how you will actually move your containers or garden system. In some cases, it will be better to transport your garden inside your bug out vehicle. For others, it will make more sense to have a separate trailer that you pull or a second vehicle to move your garden. You may need materials to brace taller pots or vertical gardening systems to prevent them from tipping over during the trip.
- Weight-Obviously weight is a consideration when you are making a garden portable. Always consider lighter weight materials for containers instead of heavy ones. Remember that the soil you add to containers will contribute to the overall weight. Make sure you can actually lift your planted containers and carry them. It doesn’t do any good to plant in portable garden containers if you can’t lift them to get them into your BOV when the time comes.
- Size-Definitely consider the size of your portable garden containers. Measure their height, length, and width to ensure that the containers will go into your BOV or on the trailer easily. Practice loading containers several times to make sure everything fits into your BOV together as you expect it to.
Plan for things to go wrong. If your bug out plan includes a second vehicle, have an alternate loading plan if your second driver is unavailable for some reason.
If you are using a trailer, make sure you keep it in tip-top shape and take spare tires or anything else that might break during a bug out trip.
Murphy’s Law, “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” applies to bug out planning. Because a SHTF event is largely unpredictable, your child may have a friend over for a sleepover who will take up extra space in your vehicle temporarily or perhaps your elderly aunt is here for a visit at Thanksgiving.
Prioritize your garden plants in advance so you know which ones to leave behind if the amount of transport space you have changes for some reason.
Gardening Tools and Supplies
When planning to bug out and take your portable food garden with you, make sure that you include a checklist of gardening tools and supplies that you will need to easily maintain your plants.
You will need to plan to carry extra water so you can keep your plants hydrated during the bug out trip.
It’s also a good idea to collect and properly store extra seeds for herbs and vegetables in case any of your plants don’t survive the bug out trip for any reason. Include typical gardening tools such as a hand trowel, twine, even extra containers, and fertilizer or compost if space allows.
Types of Portable Garden Containers
- Portable raised beds (on casters or stilts)
- Portable mini greenhouses
- Fabric Smart Pots
For those in urban areas or those with limited outdoor space, vertical gardening can be a great alternative to the traditional garden. It’s also possible to create vertical gardening systems that can be portable.
Vertical gardening can allow you to grow a large number of plants in a much smaller space than is required for a traditional garden. No matter which option you choose, make sure materials are lightweight and that they will fit into your BOV or trailer.
- Panel grids
- Living wall planters just make the wall they are attached to lightweight and portable so you can load the entire wall into your truck.
- shoe caddy
Another great option for anyone who has limited outdoor space or who is interested in having a portable survival garden is micro-gardens. With a little creativity, you can grow your own food in various small containers around your house and yard.
When doing your bug out planning, make sure you create a plan or checklist in advance for loading of your micro gardens so you don’t forget to load your most crucial plants.
You are probably familiar with hanging baskets filled with beautiful flowers and used as decoration. Many people hang them throughout their house or on their porch. But hanging baskets are also a great way to plant herbs and vegetables in small quantities.
The baskets can hang in various locations around your home or property and be gathered up easily when it’s time to bug out. The nice thing about hanging baskets is that older children can help with watering and can also help load basket gardens with a little practice.
Some people have had success with planting edible cacti in large shells. If you’re a shell collector, this is one way to put your collection to work as more than just décor. Most edible cacti come from the Opuntia species of cactus.
Opuntia cacti are well-known for their paddle-like leaves which are covered with tiny spines. The prickly pear is one edible cactus popular in southwestern U.S., central America, northern Africa, Australia, and even the Galapagos islands.
Edibles planted in shells can be kept in the house or yard and then gathered into a box or basket and transported in your BOV quite easily when SHTF.
Shell gardens are great for those who don’t have a lot of extra space in a BOV because they can be tucked into small spaces or even held on the lap of passengers if absolutely necessary.
Of course, you will need to peel or remove the spines and some cacti taste better when cooked, but you’ll have your own mini-food source while on the run.
Recycled Pallet Garden
This is similar to a raised bed concept but uses recycled pallets for the bed. Purchase weed mat at the local hardware store and staple it to the side of the pallet that will be the bottom. This will help to hold the soil in position. Add soil and plant your herbs, wild edibles, or medicinal plants, even some vegetables.
If you have a larger truck as your bug out vehicle, when it’s time to bug out, simply load the pallet gardens into the truck bed. If needed put spacers between the pallets to keep plants from being crushed.
If you don’t have a truck, consider a pull-behind trailer with a tarp over it. Make sure you plan to have help when loading pallet gardens as they can be quite heavy.
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Consider planting your most crucial edible plants in a wheelbarrow or even several different ones. Just drill a couple drainage holes in the bottom and add your soil to the depth needed. Plant your vegetables and keep watered.
Wheelbarrow gardens work great because you can move the garden around during the day to make sure it gets the right amount of sunlight or shade during the day for your plants to flourish.
When it’s time to bug out, wheel your micro garden up a ramp into the back of your BOV and brace it so it doesn’t fall over during transport. If you do end up having to abandon your vehicle at some point and continue on foot, at least you can take turns pushing your wheelbarrow garden.
Anything with a Handle
When you’re thinking about portable gardening, anything with a handle can be a good choice from clear plastic shopping bags to old toolboxes or even a small wagon. As long as the container is sturdy, can have some drainage, and will hold up to watering as needed, you can try it.
Smaller containers work best for succulents, for cooking or medicinal herbs, and for starting seeds. A large washtub with a handle on each end can work if you drill a few holes for drainage in the bottom. Even a charcoal grill on wheels can be turned into a garden that is quick and easy to move.
Other ideas for garden containers:
- Plastic CD towers/cases
- Large Tin Cans
- Medium or Large Plastic Pails with handles
- Old dresser drawers
- 2-liter plastic bottles or 1-gallon plastic jugs
- Hanging gutter garden
- Muffin pans
- Plastic kiddie swimming pools
- Wooden crates or boxes
- Suspended String planters
The type of portable garden system you create will depend largely on your location and the amount of help you may have available to load and transport your garden during a bug out situation.
No matter what type of containers you choose, make sure you have considered important factors such as weight, size, and plant hardiness in addition to what it will take to load and transport your food supply quickly and easily.
updated 06/18/2020 by Dan F. Sullivan
Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart.
For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared for whatever may come along. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of nine grandsons and one granddaughter, is learning everything she can about preparedness, basic survival, and self-sufficient homesteading. She is passionate about sharing that knowledge so that others can be increasingly prepared to protect their families.