Survival Garden Begins

This started out to be a comment in W.O.O.D., but got long enough I decided to just put in the extra work to make it a posting.

I’ve started making a trial “Survival Victory Garden” at my new home. This isn’t something that looks like a garden at all. In fact, I’m going out of my way to make it “Edible Landscaping” that looks like inedible decorative plants.

In W.O.O.D., David A. pointed to an article about The Netherlands trying to destroy farming and deliberately reduce the food supply: (h/t David A.)


I did not know “The Netherlands is the second-largest agricultural exporter in the world after the United States. It is the largest meat exporter in the European Union.”
I did not know that in September 2021 Bill Gates apparently spent about 600 million purchasing a company that would immensely profit from the current government actions. Yet more evidence that they really are out to do great evil.

The null hypothesis of assuming disastrous acts as being the result of stupidity, versus evil, may now be reversed.

Same playbook as took down Sri Lanka (ban nitrogen fertilizers) but with the addition of drastically reducing farm animals too. Same thing being started for Canada. Expect it to roll out globally (to include Australia and the USA eventually…) So best to prepare for it. I’ve already stashed 2 large bags of fertilizer and expect to raise that to 4 shortly. Enough for several years of gardening if used sparingly and with “waste” composted to recycle the stuff. Planting plenty of beans also has them putting nitrogen into the soil and compost pile. So longer term they are the nitrogen fertilizer source.


I’ve got several Sweet Potato plants in the ground and a few more growing great guns in pots (to be planted out “soon”). Sweet Potatoes are special in a couple of ways. One is that they can be started from “slips”. Basically once you have one growing, taking little bits of the vines and rooting them gives you more plants… And that first one can get started just by putting a little tuber in a pot. Then the leaves are edibles too.

Sweet Potato plants don’t like cold, so I’m hoping they can grow more like a perennial here in warm Florida. I’d like to get a supply of tubers below ground. Even if they somehow become undesirable as food, they form the basis for new crops. (“splits” or getting fibrous or flavor changes? Don’t know what happens over a couple of years.)

The potential for rapid exponential growth of sweet potato supply is huge. It is also easy to grow, has few pests, and tastes pretty good just roasted or as fries.

There’s a lot of places say to slice the tuber in half and put it in water or potting soil. That’s OK, but sometimes they just rot. I had several grow just fine by simply sticking them in a pot of potting soil and keeping it damp. But I also chose the runts out of the grocery store so wasn’t wasting a 2 lb tuber either…

Also, I’ve got about a dozen Runner Bean plants going. 1/2 dozen in the ground, another 1/2 dozen in pots to be planted out “soon”. A Runner Bean plant can make a LOT of green leaves, young pods can be treated like green beans (older pods a bit tough and fibrous…) They make a big bean, about 1/2 tsp per bean. Making chili with them, you get about 1 bean per spoon full of chili ;-)

I’ve had vines of these grow 10 feet + up a bamboo tee-pee in a 4 foot garden square. A 4 x 4 x 10 foot cube of greens is a LOT of greens! has some nice pictures, like this one:

Scarlet Runner Bean, Phaseolus coccineus

Scarlet runner bean, Phaseolus coccineus, is a tender herbaceous plant native to the mountains of Mexico and Central America, growing at higher elevations than the common bean. By the 1600’s it was growing in English and early American gardens as a food plant but now is more frequently grown as an ornamental for its showy sprays of flowers. Unlike regular green beans (P. vulgaris) this is a perennial species, although it is usually treated as an annual. In mild climates (zones 7 – 11) it a short-lived perennial vine, forming tuberous roots from which new shoots sprout annually in areas with frost where it is not evergreen. In Mesoamerica the thick, starchy roots are used as food.

I’m hoping it is perrenial here, and I get to try the roots too ;-)

BOTH of those plants have edible leaves. This matters a lot in a Survival Food situation as you start to get lots of green leaves about week 2 or 3. Way faster than most traditional garden foods. They may not be the most flavorful food ever, but a “mess ‘o greens” will keep you fed. And “bland is good” for survival food as it can be flavored in many different ways from your spice cabinet… or mixed with other foods. They rival the radish in their potential to be “first food” in 20 to 30 days.

A pint jar of dry beans can be rapidly producing bushels of “greens” via planting them instead of boiling them. At about the 3 week point, you can harvest 1 leaf / plant (leaving plenty of other leaves for the plant to grow more…. so about 1 out of 4) and have some kind of food. By a couple of months, the long vines are making buckets of leaves…

i’m planting sweet potatoes and runner beans, alternating, around my back yard fence. This will cover the fence, look nice, and potentially be a couple of hundred feet of edible landscaping.

So what I’m doing now is a trial of that. Just way overplanting Runner Beans & Sweet Potatoes to see just how much how fast, and to find out if Florida has bean weevils or not… (In California, after a year or so, tiny little bean weevils got into my garden. Harvested dry beans would end up full of holes as the eggs hatched and the suckers would drill about 1 mm holes through the beans as they lunched on them. Freezing harvested dry beans for a week or so would prevent that by killing the eggs laid on / in the beans.

Climbing “pole beans” of the regular sort can also be used this way as their leaves are also edible (you could do it with bush beans but they are kind of small plants…).

Lima Beans have “issues” with this due to cyanide. Garden varieties of beans if cooked are OK, but I don’t know how much might be in the leaves:

There are both low cyanide and high cyanide varieties, and the amount of cyanide made in the leaves varies by enough to change how much bugs like to eat them:

But prolonged cooking can destroy cyanide (which is in many other food plants too….) so if extremely desperate they might also be usable in the same way.

FWIW, the bean weevils never bothered my Lima beans… So I like having some Lima Bean seeds just so that if I get an attack of bean weevils I have some beans that survive. Christmas Limas are nice and make big vines ;-)

Jackson Wonder also grew well for me. They are a bush type (so no trellis needed) and generally bush types produce sooner than pole types, but for a shorter period of time. (I think it’s a good idea in a survival situation to plant some bush type and pole type at the same time, so the bush type give a faster first crop, then later can be replaced with other plants for a longer harvest ) Jackson Wonder are a pretty red when fresh, but buff colored when dry.

I’m also starting several other tubers that don’t look like food. More on them later. Some have high oxalate leaves and some oxalate in the tuber, so need “preparation” in how the tubers / corms are used. One or two look a lot like the Elephant Ear decorative plant. So essentially are a hidden food garden that requires knowing the right way to prepare them to make it edible. These I can plant in the front yard and nobody will be the wiser ;-) Malanga, for example. Though I’ll need to be careful about putting it where dogs can find it:

What is Malanga Poisoning?
The malanga can grow up to eight feet tall and about 5 feet wide in its native land of Africa. However, in the United States, they are not able to flourish in any of the states grown outdoors, although the malanga can be a great indoor plant. Those with dogs should always keep the malanga out of their reach because they tend to like to chew on plants. If you believe your dog has eaten part of a malanga, you should see a veterinary professional even if there are no symptoms yet.

Malanga poisoning is a moderate to severe condition caused by the ingestion of the malanga plant, which contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. Biting into or chewing part of the malanga plant produces immediate pain and burning in the mouth as the crystals (in bundles called raphides) puncture the soft tissue. This can cause your dog to vomit, not be able to swallow, and your pet may even have trouble breathing due to the inflammation. In fact, although it is not common, some dogs have such bad swelling that they cannot breathe at all. The oxalic acid in the plant also decreases the availability of calcium, protein, and other minerals. Another toxin in the malanga plant is asparagine, which has been known to cause several kinds of cancer and can affect the kidneys as well.

So while you may know not to chew the leaves, and know that the root is edible, the dog doesn’t know that. OTOH, after a bit of a chew on a leaf, the dog usually stops…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Emergency Preparation and Risks, Food, News Related, Plants - Seeds - Gardening, Political Current Events. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Survival Garden Begins

  1. p.g.sharrow says:

    There is a trick to growing good sized tuber of sweet potatoes, The plant Fills the fat first root shoots so you want to plant nearly root less slips or stem cuttings and you will get a nest of big tubers just under the vine. If you plant potted well rooted plants you will get masses of rope like roots to dig and will have to dig up the whole area to get small tubers. If you have a well growing plant “stake” down a segment of vine and it will throw down roots that will make a nest of fat tubers under it.
    Sweet potatoes like sandy, fairly poor soil, warm and a bit dry, Cold and damp will rot them. The tubers will be making when the plant blooms. tubers left a long time will get tough and fiberous, but unlike Potatoes once the runners are rooted you can dig the mother plant and any rooted daughters will continue to grow and fill their roots, so a bed could be perpetual if the plants do not die from cold or heavy frost.

  2. John Hultquist says:

    I planted a packet of “Yellow wax” beans this past spring. My normal luck held true, and I had one of the coolest and wettest springs ever – just the opposite of the bean’s needs. The seeds did not rot, but it took a month before they sprouted. Then, they did not grow well nor produce a decent crop.
    Now I see there is a variety called Cherokee Wax Beans. There’s a clue they might do better in Florida than in Washington State!
    I tried to find out why such beans are called “wax” – maybe because of shiny black seeds? I Could not find the answer.
    Next year I may try a black plastic cover and maybe 3 varieties.
    Or, I could move to Florida.

    Growers are optimists!

  3. p.g.sharrow says:

    Potatoes like cool and damp so they will make a fall or late winter crop they will need about 80 days of frost free growing. you could plant in ??? September ??

  4. another ian says:

    Not in a garden usually but oxalic acid is a “feature” of buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) a widely used introduced tussock grass in warmer rangeland areas. It causes “bighead” in horses by tying up Ca and Mg, not so much in ruminants.

    The cuticle of plants has finger print style characteristics which can be used under a microscope for diet ID. When doing that you can see the oxalate crystals in buffel grass

  5. Graeme No.3 says:

    Sweet potato crisps are excellent.

  6. another ian says:


    Re the range of agricultural exports from Holland

    I looked at an Oz local tin of mushrooms in butter sauce. Canned in a country town in Victoria with mushrooms from Holland.

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    Thanks for that! I’d figured the tubers would do something “not-good” if left too long. My intent in this first batch is just to get a lot of “mother plants” for future slips / rootings if needed, and get a lot of “greens” on the fence (so if things go sideways I’ve got something while I start farming instead of playing in the garden…).

    FWIW, per regular potatoes and things like “winter crops”:

    Florida’s Winter Growing Season runs between the slow cooling-off of the Fall through the end of Winter. This season is best suited for growing leafy veggies & herbs. Seeds can be started between Late Summer and into the Fall (September to Early December).

    Winter tends to be a dry season in Florida, rainfall is not as common as the Summer Season. Make sure to keep leafy Veggies well-watered and partial to full sun are acceptable during the Winter Season. The cooler it becomes, the more acceptable sun exposure becomes for the garden.

    As the weather cools, the bugs and pests become less active. Think of temperature as a dial, the warmer it is, the more active bugs (leaf mites, aphids, etc) become.

    How long does Florida’s Winter Growing Season last?

    On Average: The Winter growing season typically lasts September through March.

    More Specifically: North Florida is normally September through March. Central Florida runs Mid-September through March. South Florida typically begins in late October and can run as late as February.

    I’m hoping to have my regular potato cuttings started in pots and ready to pot out in September.


    Thanks for that! I’ll be planting some things from there, I’m sure (and doing a field identification trip or two…)

    @John Hultquist:

    I pretty much always start my plants in a pot of some kind, then once they have sprouted and are big enough, remove from the pot and put into the garden. Lets me get started a month or two earlier (indoors) and avoids weeks of “empty dirt” in the garden waiting for seeds to germinate.

    At 70-ish degrees in a pot most seeds reliably sprout in about a week. Maybe 2 for some limited things. Soaking seeds in water for 8 to 24 hours before planing in the pots gains about 2 days to a week.

    Also germination / survival are much higher as the risks of drying out, flooding out / rotting, over heating, being eaten are all much lower.

    “Wax” beans are called that as the translucent yellow flesh looks like wax.

  8. John Hultquist says:

    translucent yellow flesh looks like wax.
    That sounds reasonable, but you must have gotten that from your mother or someone.
    Sites on the web go round and round to cite the differences between green and yellow and don’t say anything, or maybe only that green isn’t yellow.

    Other: Neighbors pump quit. I had to take some drinking water over for them. I had a dozen 28 oz bottles and some larger containers. I can scoop buckets out of a creek for flushing.
    There should be a class in high school about the concept that water doesn’t always flow at the kitchen sink. I’m now in the process of rebuilding my supply of purified (4 filters) bottles.

  9. Pinroot says:

    Here in NC it’s about time to start a fall garden. I’ve been lazy this year, haven’t planted much and what I did plant was late, but we are getting some eggplant. Tomatoes aren’t doing much but I never seem to have good luck with them. Wife manages a local farmer’s market, so we do get some locally grown veggies.

    We’ve done sweet potatoes before and had a bit of good luck. The main thing I learned (and this holds true for most root veggies) is that the soil needs to be loose so that the potato, carrot, beet, onion or whatever can expand.

    I haven’t decided on what will be in the fall garden, but I expect several types of greens (collards, Swiss chard, kale, etc) and whatever else the wife would like.

    Re: wax beans – I’ve heard about the same regarding the name. The wife found some bush beans one year that had wax beans (yellow), standard green and a purple variety, that turned green when you cooked it. I wish I could remember the varieties, they were really tasty!!

  10. cdquarles says:

    Same here. Just another week or two before you start it (late August/early September).

  11. Paul, Somerset says:

    Personally I provide my vegetables with all the nitrogen fertilizer they need by urinating regularly on the compost heap.

  12. Pinroot says:

    @Paul – I do that around the raised beds to help keep the deer away. :)

  13. H.R. says:

    I have an electric fence around my raised bed garden to keep the deer away… and I absolutely, no way, no how DO NOT urinate around the perimeter of my garden. 😲

  14. The True Nolan says:

    @Pinroot: “I do that around the raised beds to help keep the deer away. :)”

    You guys are too shy. Around here we find it much more effective to just pee right onto the deer.

    Of course, you have to be quick!


  15. u.k.(us) says:

    I’ve heard that in winter, the iguanas can be easy to catch :)

  16. H.R. says:

    @u.k.(us) – I have a smoker grill. Everything tastes great cooked on a smoker grill.

  17. Pinroot says:

    @HR – I was in the woods with a cousin of mine years ago. We were just kids, early teens, back behind the family property. My cousin had to pee, so he whipped it out and let it go. Next thing I know, he’s freaking out. Turns out there was an electric fence there that we didn’t know about, and he managed to pee on it.

  18. Pinroot says:

    @Nolan – I’m not sitting out there waiting for them to show up. As a matter of fact, I’d rather that they didn’t show up :)

    Speaking of iguanas and smoker grills, there’s this:

  19. u.k.(us) says:

    How’s life in the Eastern Time Zone :)

  20. philjourdan says:

    @Pinroot – good thing your cousin did not handle Poison Oak before “whipping it out”. My brother forgot that rule. :-)

  21. The True Nolan says:

    @Pinroot: Ah! Mexican Radio! That was on old favorite of mine. A bit odd, but I still like it! Thanks!

  22. H.R. says:

    In rebuilding that small deck and the stairs, I had eight pieces of 2″ x12″ x 4′ that are in decent shape. I’ll be making two 4′ x4′ raised beds with those. Hadn’t planned on it at the start, but when I was trying to figure out what to do with them, the raised beds popped into my head.

    That’s about 9″-10″ of soil above ground and I’ll turn the ground underneath before setting up the boards so anything needing to root deeper can have an easier time of it.

    I also have six 1″ x 6″ x 4′ boards that I’m thinking of using to divide the 4′-squares into 1′-squares for square foot gardening. Those six will get the 1′ division in one direction. I’ll have to see if I have enough scrap laying around to get the 1′ divisions in the other direction.

    Otherwise, I’ll just use those planks to make 2′ x’ 2′ divisions.

    I’m thinking I’ll put another cattle fence panel arch above one section. The one I put up in my original raised bed garden is great for pole beans and cucumbers. I’m not sure what I’ll grow on the second arch. Any suggestions?

  23. p.g.sharrow says:

    @HR, may I suggest indeterminate tomatoes, a bit of work herding them at the start but they love to sprawl over everything as do melons and squash. Most house garden varieties are selected to be Bush type with short inter-nodes but they naturally are vines that crawl over everything. look to heirloom types. As I seed save, I tend to straight bred heirloom types.

  24. H.R. says:

    @pg – Thanks! – I was a month later getting back from Florida this year and getting the garden started. So, I bought tomato plants. I’m pretty sure one or two were an heirloom variety because the are about 7′ tall now, and just starting to produce.

    The weather has been great for tomatoes, so I think they like to grow a bit before producing. The other tomatoes are further ahead in fruiting even though they were planted at the same time. And yes, they are a bit shorter and bushier.

    I know your setup for jumpstarting plants; the PVC frame covered in plastic. I’ve seen the pictures. I made a small cold frame to start my plants out of two wooden screen doors. It’s an A-frame design and it was made all from stuff I already had lying around.

    I removed the screen and hinged the doors together. I put a hollow galvanized gate handle on it for E-Z transport. I used clear 10-mil construction plastic sheet and stapled it to the doors. To close the ends and keep the frame spread at the angle I wanted, I made the triangular ends out of 1″x 4″s and stapled plastic on them, then tacked them to the ends with 1-1/4″ #8 construction screws.

    Then the Mrs. and I just lift the whole thing up and over to place or remove plants or for watering. If she’s not around, I just tip it over to one side. Oh, I put a couple of 1/2-block cement blocks up against each side so it doesn’t take off in the wind. Very important. 😁

    Once done with it, I just back out those screws from the ends, fold it up and put it and the ends in storage. The whole shebang doesn’t take up much room. It sits upright along a wall, but If I needed what little floor space it takes up, I could easily hang it up on a wall by the handle or put it up in the rafters.

    For someone with a small backyard garden like mine, the area under that cold frame is more than enough to start all the plants one could ever want for the season.

  25. p.g.sharrow says:

    Tomatoes and Peppers are perennials.While generally grown as anneals, they are tropical plants that will live and grow until cold kills them. Generally at about 50F for an extended time will exhaust them and they will die. They take 50 – 60 days from sprouted seed to bloom set, so rooting cuttings is a way to multiply plants that will mature early as the plants clock is already aged. I have kept plants alive for years as indoor plants If given enough light. Light is the key for them to make the sugar that they need to thrive.

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    It can be fun to grow small sized squash or related melons / cucumbers over a trellis. The fruit tends to hang down and look interesting, along with being easy to pick. I’m not keen on cucumbers but did grow Lemon Cucumbers that are pretty. They are about lemon sized, shaped, and colored.

    Commercial growers want everything to mature at once, and fast, for one “pick then plough under” process. Heirloom varieties for home gardens were more often vining / pole types, also called indeterminate. They tend to take 10 to 20 days longer to get started, but then keep growing until frost takes them. They also tend to keep making produce continuously… (especially green beans and summer squash where if you keep them picked off, you get more ;-)

    I generally plant a couple of “Bush Type” that I’ve started indoors in pots (so about 15 of the 40 days done before they even hit the dirt) then set them out as early as possible. That gives me one quick pick just before the pole types get going well.

    Personally, I’d plant Royal Purple Pod pole type “green” beans as they are a beautiful purple and that makes them very easy to find and pick. They turn green when cooked. Hard to find as most folks stock the purple bush type. Also “Violetto” Italian beans.

    Purple pod beans tend to germinate in cooler soil too, so can get started earlier.

    Put a mix of a yellow summer squash, purple pole beans, pole cherry tomatoes and maybe even a lemon cucumber or Scarlet Runner Bean on it, and you will have something amazing to look at, and producing a load of edibles ;-) Or patty pan for a different look

    Oh, and for bigger arches folks often grow various winter squash / small pumpkins.

  27. E.M.Smith says:

    Gee… Kentucky Wonder grows long vines, and it looks like there’s a “yellow wax” version. That would look way cool alternating with the Violetto…

    Christmas Limas make a green pod, but the dried beans are pretty and tasty too. Vines up to about 12 feet long…

    There’s lots of climbers to choose from :

  28. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh, and if you really want folks wondering what the heck kind of mad garden skilz you have, plant yard long beans. Come in green and purple ;-) Close to green beans in flavor, but I find it just a little more interesting.

    So folks can look into the tunnel and see these 15 to 25 inch purple beans hanging down and wonder ;-) (They can grow longer, but taste better less than 30 inches…)

    Dang it… now you got me started on more climbing things ;-)

    And more:

    I’d forgotten about Hyacinth Beans…

  29. H.R. says:

    The first year I had the arch, I had wax beans, Kentucky Wonder beans, and the Lemon Cucumbers.

    From the video on the arches posted here a few years ago, I remembered some squashes, but I couldn’t recall any of the varieties. And I wasn’t aware of the vining nature of tomatoes.

    Anyhow, that climbing vegetables link looks like it will give me plenty to choose from.

  30. The True Nolan says:

    Edible landscaping. Some good ideas in this video, but much of it more appropriate for higher, drier, areas than Florida.

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