Best Plants For Your Bucket Garden

Image via Gary Pilarchik

Growing your own groceries in buckets is the perfect way for urban homesteaders to live a more self-reliant style. Urban gardening requires preppers to take advantage of every inch of space available. Planting crops vertically, indoors, and in stackable containers allows you to do just that.

Even if you live in the suburbs, a small town, or out in the country, container gardening still has many benefits. Cultivating crops in containers allows you to keep the survival food source close to your home and makes it a portable garden. If a bugout situation becomes necessary, a container garden is highly portable.

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Starting a container garden does not need to be an expensive endeavor. Every garden supply store and online retailer sells all manner of single, stackable, and vertical gardening containers. You can also upcycle common household items and find deals at flea markets to use for starting a garden on a patio, screened-in porch, or wall in your home that gets good sunlight.

I am going to let you in on a little secret…you can grow any plant in containers. Yes, even corn, rice, and wheat. But — and it is a big but, fellow preppers — some crops are far better suited to it than others.

If you have never grown your own groceries in containers before, or are a novice gardener in general, it is best to stick to plants that commonly thrive in a container environment — whether grown indoors or out.

24 Best Crops To Grow In Buckets

  1. Beets
  2. Broccoli
  3. Cabbage
  4. Carrots
  5. Cauliflower
  6. Collard Greens
  7. Dwarf Banana
  8. Dwarf Orange
  9. Eggplant
  10. Garlic
  11. Kale
  12. Lettuce
  13. Mustard Greens
  14. Okra
  15. Onions
  16. Peas
  17. Peppers
  18. Potatoes
  19. Radishes
  20. Rice
  21. Strawberries
  22. Sweet Corn
  23. Swiss Chard
  24. Tomatoes

Upcycled Garden Container Suggestions

Always drill or poke holes in the bottom of all growing containers for water drainage.

  • Plastic food tubs
  • Pet food sacks sewn into pouching to use as hanging or vertical planters.
  • Old boots
  • Aluminum cans
  • Tin cans
  • Trash can – drill holes on the sides for small plants to grow out of.
  • Plastic storage tubs
  • 5-gallon buckets
  • Plastic drinking cups
  • Water or soda pop bottles – with the top middle cut out and a hole drilled near the end so it can have rope threaded onto each end and hung like a planter.
  • Milk and juice jugs
  • Laundry detergent jugs
  • Liquid dish soap bottles – great for herbs
  • Milk and juice cartons
  • Egg carton – for starting seeds and growing herbs
  • Cardboard shoe and shipping boxes – lined with plastic with tiny pin holes poked in it
  • Laundry basket
  • Wicker baskets
  • Plastic 55-gallon drum
  • Hanging shoe organizer

Container Garden Space Allocation

Before starting a container garden, you must determine your intentions for the harvested crops so you can adequately determine how much space you will need. Once the decision about what to grow has been made, you will know how much space each plant container will take up on your patio, porch, or inside your home.

Ask yourself these questions before buying plants and creating containers:

  1. Will the crops be my sole source of food during an SHTF scenario, or will they serve only to supplement the long-term food storage pouches — buckets and pantry items I have stockpiled?
  2. How many people will need to be fed solely or in part from the survival container garden?
  3. How many calories per day will each adult or child need to survive?
  4. How many of the crops will require space-consuming trellises or stakes to help them grow to maturity and support the weight of the produce they create?
  5. How many containers will be portable and fit inside the available vehicle(s) if I have to bugout during a long-term disaster?
  6. How many of the crops can be grown year-round either indoors or out, in any climate?
  7. Will medicinal plants or herbs be a part of the urban container garden?
  8. Will the crops I have chosen to grow fulfill the basic nutritional needs for myself and my family?

Benefits Of Growing Dwarf Fruit Trees In Containers

Growing dwarf fruit trees in containers will allow you to garner the nutrients from citrus fruits, apples, and other fruit varieties the body needs, no matter what climate you happen to live in. These types of plants can be grown outdoors most places during the summer months and then moved indoors as the temperatures dip too low.

Even if a fruit-producing bush or tree is native to your area, growing a standard version of it in an urban environment will not likely be possible. A dwarf apple tree, for example, could be grown in the ground if enough space is available — they take up only as much ground area as a standard 5-gallon container, or placed in a container and left outdoors on a balcony or porch year-round if using such ground space is not an option.

For more information, check out my article on fruit trees you can grow in buckets.

Note: When growing indoors on a wall or a table, installing a grow light above the container crop area might be necessary to provide enough artificial sun and heat for the crops to mature and produce — especially if cultivating non-native plants.

How Much Food Is Needed To Feed A Family Of Four?

Growing enough groceries to feed the family need not take a lot of space, just proper planning. When dividing up the available space to grow a survival garden indoors and out, remember to leave ample room for plants with a high protein count.

Living through a long-term disaster is likely going to involve a lot more manual labor and physical strain than most folks are used to. The body will need plenty of protein to fuel it and maintain strength and good overall health.

CropPlants Needed
Broccoli22
Cabbage27
Carrots48
Cauliflower24
Cherry Tomatoes35
Cucumbers14
Garlic32
Green Beans150
Kale4
Lettuce42
Onions96
Peas90
Peppers15
Potatoes100
Strawberries23
Summer Squash14
Tomatoes39

Benefits Of Growing Herbs In Containers

Cultivating herbs takes up a minimal amount of space. You could grow small sets of herbs in aluminum cans that are nailed to porch support posts or mounted on a board and placed on an exterior wall.

Herbs can be grown indoors not only in window sills, but on small decorative shelves inside the apartment or home. Incorporating an apothecary patch into your container gardening patch will allow you the chance to grow your own natural remedies as well. Many of the same herbs that can add bountiful flavor to a bland meal during a survival situation are also heralded for their natural healing powers.

Container Garden OPSEC

Hiding the fact that you have a porch, patio, or small yard full of food is incredibly difficult in an urban environment — or even a suburban one. In addition to strongly urging all preppers to move to a rural area for a copious amount of survival reasons, there are a few things you could and should do to hide your container garden.

  1. Purchase or paint containers in a color that blends in with the landscape — whether that landscape is a natural or man-made one.
  2. Conceal the fact that you are growing groceries by using high traffic areas to cultivate medicinal or edible flowers instead of plants that are easily identifiable as food.
  3. If possible, put up some type of privacy fence, canopy, or decorative screen to hide the container garden — but without casting shade on your survival growing operation.

15 Best Medicinal Herbs And Plants To Grow In Containers

These herbs and flowers boast a plethora of anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Many of the herbs and flowers on the list also help boost the immune system and can help fight fever naturally or treat diarrhea during a survival situation when calling 911 is not possible.

All of these herbs and flowers could be cultivated indoors or out. Grow these natural medicinal crops in either individual containers or small pots that can be toted with you during a bugout situation. Herbs and flowers, just like the traditional crops you will grow in containers, should be preserved to ensure there is food to put on the table during the winter months.

Preserving food does not require a lot of equipment or substantial expense. You can make your own solar dehydrator and use the sunshine to dry the herbs, flowers, or crop produce.

Food, herbs, and flowers can also be preserved with an electric dehydrator that is used indoors and by either water bath or pressure canning. A residential grade dehydrator typically runs between $75 to $150 per unit. Home canning equipment needed to use both the water bath and pressure method of preserving food will generally cost about $200.

When storing preserved food in either Mason jars or vacuum-sealed bags, attempt to place no more than one meal’s worth in a container. The more you open a storage container, the more the food inside is exposed to moisture — reducing its longevity.

Hopefully, you are now clear about the options available to you when it comes to growing a survival garden in buckets. For more info on individual plants, check out our list of fruits and veggies you can grow in buckets.

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