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Survival Gardening after Nuclear Fallout

If a nuclear emergency happens, you may not have any warning. A well-thought-out plan can make all the difference in your survival chances. Food is a primary concern in any disaster scenario. If the worst happens, what will you eat? What, if anything, can you grow? Are there any safety precautions you should take? 

There are many books and emergency programs that have been written on this topic. It’s highly in-depth and depends largely on exactly what sort of radiation you’re exposed to, how close you are to the event, and what your individual situation is like. Obviously, we can’t fully prepare you for full-scale nuclear winter, but we can give you some guidelines to start planning for a more likely disaster like a power plant meltdown or individual nuclear bomb blast.

cover soil with a tarp

Covering Soil & Other Items

If you are far enough away from the blast, you might have time to cover your soil and anything else you might use after you get the all-clear. This will help minimize your exposure later. Having tarps at the ready can help you to protect raised beds, soil, or even your vehicle from the local nuclear fallout dust and debris that will settle everywhere. If you get the chance, quickly cover equipment, raised beds, containers, and large garden plots and then head inside - taking animals and any potted plants you can grab. 

Sheltering in Place & Emergency Food Stores

long term emergency food storage

It's important to get indoors and shelter behind thick walls that will shield you from the worst as quickly as you can. Take off your clothes and shower, washing your hair thoroughly. The bad stuff on your skin will be washed off and removed with the wastewater. 

You’ll be stuck indoors for a while, so hopefully, you’ll have plenty to eat and drink. Emergency food and water supply are the foundation of any survival preparedness kit. 2-6 weeks of shelf-stable emergency food and water stores can save your life in case of a nuclear disaster. Waste as little food as possible. It may seem inconvenient, but you should also save any food scraps for composting. You'll be grateful for uncontaminated organic matter.

Bugout bag

You Need a Bugout Bag

Once you get the all-clear, you may need to evacuate your shelter and move somewhere safer. It’s also important to have a bugout bag ready to go well before any emergency. Make sure you've got some food, first aid supplies (including iodine pills for radiation), clothing, mylar blankets, and canteens in your bag. You'll also need tools for navigating, self-defense, gathering and preparing food, and communication. And it's very important that you don't forget to bring a wide variety of seeds like our Home Garden, Homesteader, or Farmer’s Collections. That way, no matter where you end up, you'll be able to make a new start and feed yourself.

Garden Cleanup & Soil Rehab

Before you go outside and start growing crops, you’ll need to clean all of your equipment and rehab your soil. Carefully remove any tarps that you used to protect your soil and equipment,  put them in plastic bags, and dispose of them somewhere they will not leak. Wear gloves while you work with anything that has been exposed to fallout, and get in the habit of washing well after working outside. 

Soil rehab

After the Fukushima power plant meltdown, we learned a lot about what works and what does not.  Removing the top 5-6 inches of exposed soil is the most effective way to remove the majority of contamination so that you'll be safe to grow food in the future. That may seem like a lot, but other types of environmental contamination typically require much deeper soil removal. This will be hard work, so you may have to take it one garden bed at a time so that you aren't trying to manage erosion on a large scale. 

In Fukushima, they replaced the top layer they removed with new “soil” made of crushed gravel and were able to grow uncontaminated crops afterward. If you have usable soil underneath, immediately putting down a cover crop can help to rebuild that top layer. You'll need to incorporate organic matter - remember those stinking scraps you saved? Shredded newspaper or cardboard mixed with biodegradable food scraps can get you started on fresh compost. if you've got stores of straw, humus, or peat moss, that can help as well. This is an extreme survival scenario, so be patient. 

Growing Food Indoors

In the meantime, you'll need to eat. Whether your long-term plan is to evacuate and find a new place to live, or stay in your spot and work to make your garden safe again, you’ll need a way to grow food inside. An indoor survival garden is a must-have for recovering from a nuclear disaster. It helps you stretch your food stores and gives you more variety to eat. It also will be a lifesaver if dust and debris end up blocking the sun and making it impossible to grow outside. 

Start growing microgreens immediately when you shelter in place. They’ll be ready in a week or two, and you can grow more long-term crops in the meantime. Green leafy vegetables, herbs, root vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, and peppers  are all good options for an indoor survival garden. Potatoes and mushrooms are also good options for low-light growing situations, too. Our Apartment Collection has many smaller varieties that are container friendly and can provide a lot of food in a small space. You may be able to move some of these plants outside eventually. 

We hope you never have to experience this scenario, but worry without a plan isn't going to get you anywhere. Working on building supplies and creating a plan now can increase your chances and minimize the risks to you and your family. 


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