10 Survival Crops You Can Grow Without Irrigation


For a SHTF scenario, we can only store so much food, and what we do will not last forever. We’ll need to start generating food eventually, and it’s crucial to make sure we’re prepared for that day. Although, it will definitely not be remiss to store some supplies to look at a garden or to tend crops, the knowledge of how to grow what and when would become much more important.

There is a good possibility that water will be a little harder to come by in a situation of survival, and that transporting it from one location to another would be much more difficult than it is today for us. When you’re planning for the eventuality of growing your own food, your success will depend on whether you remember taking this into account.

We’re going to look at some crops that do well without irrigation or a lot of watering so that you can rely on it.

Black-Eyed Peas

10 Survival Crops You Can Grow Without Irrigation

This plant variety, which is common in the south, will grow even in the hottest, driest summers. Harvest can take some time if you have to do it by hand, but it’s easy for them to prepare for food. The legume developed is high in protein, and they are perfect for a survival garden because at every stage of development they are ready to eat.

If the soil gets over 65° F, plant these. Place them in a pleasant sunny spot, and plant the seeds 2-4 inches apart in rows at least 2 1⁄2 feet apart. They need to be planted to a depth of approximately 1 1⁄2 inches.

Related: Gardening For The Future – Hay and Straw Bale Gardening


You may be thinking of commercial corn, which oftentimes does require irrigation in many climates, but there are far more drought-tolerant varieties out there than the ones currently used by commercial farmers. You may still need to water in drier climates or years, but it’s not impossible.


10 Survival Crops You Can Grow Without Irrigation

Chard is a fantastic crop for survival because you can grow it more than once a year, it produces fast and you can eat both the stalks and the greens. It is rich in nutrients which makes it a survival powerhouse crop.

Plant 2–3 weeks before the last expected spring frost for a spring harvest. For fall harvest, plant 40 days or so before the first frost of the year is expected. Plant seeds in rows 18 inches apart by an inch deep, 18 inches apart. Several times you can harvest this plant, but make sure you pull up the entire plant, root and all at first harvest to ensure that your plants don’t overcrowd each other.


Certain varieties of melon do okay with little water and little effort expended. Cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon are all options, and they’d make a spectacular treat in a SHTF situation.


Berries that grow on bushes, like blackberries and raspberries, often produce without any watering whatsoever. Even some varieties of strawberries may do okay without watering.

Related: Identifying Your Backyard Pharmacy

Jerusalem Artichoke

10 Survival Crops You Can Grow Without Irrigation

These tubers are a very versatile food also known as sunchokes. Sliced fresh, they are very much like water chestnuts. They can also be cooked like potatoes, or pickled. Actually the part you eat grows underground. Good part? They are a perennial, so they are going to come back year after year.

Plant these tubers in early spring and the method is similar to that used for potato planting. You plant 3-5 inches deep whole tubers, or pieces of them. Rows should be 3-4 feet apart, with plants set apart by about 2 feet.


Some varieties will tolerate drought better than others, such as jalapeños and certain types of chili. Either way, in a SHTF situation, peppers have the potential to be both food and medicine, and they pack a flavorful punch that you might be sorely missing if times get tough.

How you plant these depend on the varieties you are planting, so make sure you follow the directions for the particular type you have.

Related: Homemade Hot Pepper Cream for Arthritis & Joint Pain


Amaranth is another dual-purpose crop. You can eat both the leafy greens and the grain-like seeds of the plant. While it’s technically an annual, the falling seeds will oftentimes grow volunteer plants the next year. How you plant this one will also depend on the variety planted.


Hummus, anyone? Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, grow well in dry areas. Another high protein legume, chickpeas can make a great dietary staple in a SHTF situation.


10 Survival Crops You Can Grow Without Irrigation

Okra tends to produce well even in the hottest, driest summer seasons.

It is also delicious pickled, in a survival situation, which makes it good for food storage. It’s great because it keeps bearing fruit for a while, and begins producing sooner than most plants.

Be careful to protect your hands against the small, spiny hairs found on the plants and the okra themselves. They can cause serious irritation.

Other Tips for Raising Food in a Water-Challenged Survival Situation

Here are some additional pointers for growing food where irrigation and intensive watering isn’t feasible:

  • Stick to heirloom varieties when possible. They were developed to thrive before massive irrigation and garden hoses were a thing, so they’re more likely to produce for you under harsh conditions. You may find you can even grow tomatoes or other fruits and veggies that you’d have never imagined possible.
  • Choose varieties of seeds specifically for their drought tolerance. Some varieties are much hardier than others.
  • Use plenty of mulch to help the ground retain moisture. Mulch doesn’t have to be store-bought wood mulch; (seedless) grass or shredded leaves should do the trick.
  • Use permaculture or companion planting techniques to give your plants the best chance at production.
  • Choose your survival crops based on your climate. If you live in an already dry climate, you may be a little more limited. You can test out your survival gardening skills before the SHTF to determine what will work best for your situation.

Final Word on No-Water Crops

There is a system of crops almost without exclusion that you can grow even without irrigation, extensive watering or modern equipment. Be sure to prepare ahead and grow a dry-run survival garden before you really find yourself dependent on it as your main source of food.

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