Planning a Fall / Winter SHTF Survival Garden

Let’s take a few minutes and talk about planning a fall and winter survival garden after SHTF.  There are a number of variables in planning a fall or winter survival garden, such as location and growing season.

In the southern part of the United States we have a long growing season.  Depending on location, we may not have our first frost until late November or early December.  Sometimes we may not have a frost until mid to late December.

Turnip as part of a survival garden

The northern portion of the United States has a rather short growing season.

Due to the various lengths of the growing seasons, first and last frost, please adjust the dates listed in this article to your geographical location.

The fall and winter survival garden will be divided into two sections:

  • Fall
  • Winter

The difference between the two?  First heavy frost will kill the fall crops, while the winter crops will survive until the most severe cold weather sets in.  An example would be the difference between acorn squash and turnips greens.

Fall Survival Garden

Fall crops will be planted at least a couple of months before the first average frost.  Also, we should consider maturity time. Simply put, on average how long does a certain survival crop take before it starts to produce?

For example:

  • Bush beans: 60 days
  • Okra: 60 days
  • Peppers: 60 days
  • Pole / climbing beans: 60 – 90 days
  • Watermelons: Up to 90 days

Let’s say we plant beans in our survival garden on September 1st. Under ideal conditions the beans should be ready to harvest around the first week of November. Depending on weather conditions here in the southern part of the United States, that would give us several weeks to harvest snap beans before the first frost.

As mentioned earlier, adjust the dates to match the readers location.

Winter Survival Garden

These are large leafy green crops:

  • Cabbage
  • Mustard greens
  • Rutabaga
  • Spinach
  • Turnips

If those were planted in the summer, bugs would feast on the large leaves.  Some winter crops are better suited for the cold weather than others.  Some may survive a light frost, but be killed by a heavy frost or freeze.

Some plants of the winter survival garden are entirely edible, such as the radish, rutabaga, and turnip, while others just the leaves are edible, such as spinach.

Winter Squash

Contrary to popular belief, winter squash is not grown in the winter.  Winter squash in grown in the late fall, then stored through the winter.


  • Acorn squash
  • Butternut squash

Winter squash have a hard outer shell which allows them to be stored in a cool dry location for several months.  Summer squash has a thin outer shell which quickly rots after harvesting.

If winter squash is grown as part of a survival garden, give the squash plenty of time to ripen before the first frost.  Harvest the squash, then store in a cool dry location.


The most difficult part of prepping is having a steady food supply in the harsh winter months, such as January and February. Chances are the cold temperatures will kill off the most enduring of winter crops, which leaves us with preserved food.

The key to having a successful survival garden is not just plowing the ground and planting, but knowing when to plant.

Then there is the issue of rainfall.  Some months get more rain than other months.

Stay tuned and we will be planting the fall and winter survival garden for 2018.