Survival Update

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The Hidden Hazards of a Bug Out Garden

If you have adequate space, many preppers feel the need to create an emergency bug out garden for when SHTF. In addition to the food and supplies you’ve stocked away, a bug out garden will provide a controllable and ongoing food supply that can help sustain you and your family when supplies are scarce. Beware: there are many hidden hazards when establishing a garden. Keep reading to learn more.

What you can’t see can kill you

In a world of pasteurization, antibiotics, preserving, high pressure steam canning, and other ways of keeping our food secure and safe, many of us live in a state of disconnect from the earth and do not understand how to produce our own food.

In a real SHTF scenario, the above procedures, not to mention most medical treatments, may not be available. With some common sense, however, you can take preventative steps that will make finding a cure unnecessary.


Mold, bacteria, spores, and other pathogens are the first hazard new gardeners must understand. These baddies live in the soil and can cause infection if exposed to torn or punctured skin. In other words, always wear gloves and footwear when gardening.

A particularly frightening example is “Rose Gardener’s Disease” AKA sporotrichosis. The infection occurs when fungus mold growing near roses gets into a human body via puncture wounds or cuts. The infection begins as a lump and begins to spread, causing a line of ulcers and nodules that give the victim’s skin a zombie-like appearance. Sporotrichosis is painful and can be life-threatening if left untreated.


Although manure can act as a great fertilizer, it is very important that you do not spread raw manure on your SHTF garden. “Raw manure” AKA improperly treated manure can spawn particularly nasty bacteria like Salmonella, E. Coli, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella, Leptospirosis (field fever), and Listeria.

Without medicine, a simple fever or infection can lead to death. E. Coli can live in manure or soil for 2-3 months. Salmonella can survive for up to 6 months.

To kill pathogens, your animal compost heap must be heated to an internal temperature of at least 140° F. You can do this by covering the pile with a black plastic sheet and letting the sun do the work. Turn the pile frequently to ensure all manure has been thoroughly heated.

It’s also a good idea to cover gardens with a tarp for about a month before planting. The tarp traps solar energy, which heats the soil to kill bacteria. This step combined with the previous step should ensure that all soil and fertilizer is pathogen-free.

Water Management

The water-borne disease giardiasis (AKA “Beaver Fever”) can quickly spread from contaminated water to the soil in your garden. The following quote comes from “Gardens as a source of infectious disease and reducing risk,” a free online resource published by the Miami-Dade County Extension office:

“There is a need to prevent contamination of the site through rainwater washing parasite cysts from the manure or compose pile onto the surrounding ground. This is particularly important if well water is being used to irrigate the garden, since contaminated water supplies have been implicated in most outbreaks of giardiasis. The cysts are resistant to drying, chlorination, and temperature extremes, are able to survive for months in water, and are relatively persistent during treatment of wastewater.”

Even a two step process such as boiling and then running through a filter pitcher (like Pur or Brita) isn’t enough to eradicate giardiasis. Prepper families should purchase a small-scale UV sanitation system to ensure that drinking water does not contain any giardia cysts that may be present in well water. Before you buy a sanitation system, make sure the product has been proven to kill giardia cysts and look into replacement requirements for the system.