How To Build A Portable Survival Garden

There are several reasons why you’d want to build a portable garden, but today we’re going to focus on building a portable garden for bugging out.

Some of you may only have space in the back of your car or truck, and some of you have a hitch that can pull an entire shed or trailer.

If you’re planning on building a large portable survival garden, it should probably have walls for two reasons: you don’t want to damage your plants when traveling and you don’t want others to know that you have a truckload of food.

Weight and Size

The first thing that you need to consider when planning your portable garden, besides the space you’ll have available, is weight. How many people are going to be available to help you load up and how strong are they? Raised beds can get heavy fast when you factor in the weight of dirt along with the weight of the plants.

If you have access to a forklift or have plenty of people to help you load, then larger raised beds may not be an issue. If you’re going it  alone or with people who aren’t so strong, then you should probably go with small beds or some of the other options that I’ll discuss.

Size, of course, depends on how much space you have and how you’ll be transporting the plants. You won’t want to plan portable trellises or large beds if you’re going to put them in a truck bed, car, or low-roofed trailer. As with everything, think ahead when planning your portable survival garden.

Types of Portable Survival Gardens

There are several different methods  that you can use to grow your garden so that you can take it with you if you bug out. You can also combine methods so that you  can take more of your garden with you.

Potted Plants

poted plants

If you have limited space, you can always plant your veggies and spices in pots and hanging baskets. Since you can adapt the sizes of the pots to the size of the plants, this is a great way to make your plants portable, and to use space efficiently.

You can put the smaller planters in between the larger ones while transporting, or even put them in the floorboard of your car.

Portable Raised Bed Survival Gardens

There are a couple of different ways that you can make your raised beds portable. You can adjust the size to meet your needs and capabilities.

Portable Raised Beds on Stilts

First, you can make your raised bed survival garden small enough that you can pick them up and move them. This works great for plants that grow low to the ground or for short plants that can be grown close together such as peppers. Here’s an inexpensive, easy plan for building one.

The idea is similar to window boxes except they’ll be on the ground. Build them on stilts so that they’re easy to pick up. If you plant them on the ground, they’ll likely sink and be difficult to pick up. A huge advantage here is that you can load them into the back of the truck.

Larger Portable Raised Beds on Casters

If you go with a larger raised bed, you can put casters on the bottom to make them portable. If you go this route, it needs to be built on concrete or on placed on 2x4s so that the castors don’t sink in. Here’s a great instructable for portable raised beds. You can adjust the size to meet your needs.

raised bed

Vertical Gardening Made Portable

We’ve talked about vertical gardening before, but most types of plants grown vertically would travel well in the back of a truck or in a closed trailer. If you’re using potted plants, you can always pull them right off the latticework and carry them with you as described above.

diy vertical gardenThe only adjustments that you’ll have to make when planning a portable vertical garden versus a stationary one is ease of movement.

Of course, this isn’t an issue if you’re using potted plants but if you’re using vining plants, you need to make the vertical structure so that it’s easy to disassemble, or small enough that it will fit into whatever method of transportation that you’re using.

You should also use durable material to build the structure.

PVC works great because it’s light and can be built to disassemble.

Panel  grid wire is also a good choice because it’s light, sturdy, and comes in a variety of sizes. You can always cut it down to meet your needs.

Ladders are also another good option.

Portable Survival Garden Houses

I absolutely love this idea, but you’ll need a hitch and a vehicle with enough power to pull it. If you’re travelling on level roads, you won’t need as much horsepower as if you’re traveling on mountainous or hilly terrain.

Portable Greenhouses


You can buy or build a greenhouse fairly inexpensively and they’re multi-purpose. You can use them to extend growing periods in good times, but if things go south, you can always pack them up and go with them.

Portable greenhouses need to be a bit sturdier than the average greenhouse, so I’d recommend using Plexiglas instead of plastic sheeting. Buildeazy offers a free plan that is not only versatile, but you can also modify it to suit your size. It provides several different options for building materials, so that’s good, too. Remember that you’ll need a solid floor if it’s going to be portable.

If you really want to make a greenhouse portable, build it on a trailer base so that all you have to do is maintain the tires and hitch it to your truck if you need to go in a hurry. It’s also easy to load your vertical gardens, potted plants or gear into this, so you can use the space efficiently.

To add to the internal stability of the plants, I would probably modify the shelving so that the pots can be attached, or make them so that the plants sit down in the shelf. Just off the top of my head, I’d either cut pre-sized holes in the shelves or use some sort of sturdy wire mesh shelving that can be adapted with different size holes since most planters come in standard sizes.

Finally, this structure could actually serve as a shelter for wherever you’re going after you unload the plants. My imagination is running wild with the possibilities here; solar panels, rainwater collection systems, etc.

Tiny Homes

This idea kind of feeds off of the last one. If you really want to get the biggest bang out of your portable survival garden idea, then this is the way to go. There are many tiny homes that are built in such a way that many of the inside structures fold up to make them easier to transport.

You could, of course, transport small vertical plant structures, potted plants, window planters and even small raised beds inside of them and unload them when you arrive at your bug out destination.

tiny houseOne idea that I have, though, is to make a tiny house with a covered porch  that can be enclosed with hinged doors that open to provide a really cute serve as storage for such items as pots and pans, hanging plants, garden tools, or just about anything else that you’d want to hang.

In the meantime, when traveling, the doors would be closed and serve as additional storage for gear or plants.

Another house with this theme is shown in the article that I wrote about tiny houses.

The one in the picture is a bit pricey, but you could build it yourself for much less and adapt the size and insides to suit your needs. I even like the idea of the window planters on the outside, modified so that they can be covered for travel, of course.

Once you get to your bug out destination, you’d be ready to quite literally unpack an instant house and garden. Again, build it on wheels and add a hitch so that you can load up, hook up, and head out.

There are many different ways to make a portable survival garden; you just need to think a bit ahead and plan according to what transportation you have and what plants you want to take.

Think about the old ways our ancestors used for survival and click on the banner below to learn more of their secrets!


This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

Written by

Theresa Crouse is a full-time writer currently living in central Florida. She was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, where she learned to farm, hunt, fish, and live off the land from an early age. She prefers to live off the grid as much as possible and does her best to follow the “leave nothing behind but footprints” philosophy. For fun, she enjoys shooting, kayaking, tinkering on her car and motorcycle, and just about anything else that involves water, going fast, or the outdoors.

Latest comments
  • First, Theresa, I commend you for writing this article and for sharing your ideas. It is an important subject and you are the first one (that I have read) to address this subject.
    However, like most Americans I don’t have a truck and no trailer to haul; and if I were to “bug out” in a car (with family and only the most essential gear), I would not have much room at all for carrying any sort of portable garden; and I am not sure why I would want to do this since in my experience transplanting edible plants is more risky than bringing along edible sprout seeds that can be both eaten and transplanted in new soil elsewhere. As much as I do not want to ask you if you have ever eaten Sprouts (that you grew yourself, from seed, such as in a Qt Mason Jar, and ate the Sprouts in merely 4-days from when you first added non-tap water and let them soak to germinate….) To me this IS THE SOLUTION for most single car households (in a bug-out context), and maybe even single car homes that are carrying a trailer. As a generality, a 1 pound bag of sprouts contains about 48 TBSP of seeds and costs between $10-$25 per pound. I am still eating the same organic seeds that I bought two years ago; and I way-way over bought Sprout Seeds my first time (2 yrs ago): daikon radish, Fennegreek, Broccoli, and about a dozen other seeds. Altogether it weighed about 20 lbs. and it was enough to provide vegetables daily for my family of 3 adults for a whole winter (which is why I bought them). But not only that, I could have planted some to grow the vegetables we buy at the store (some of which are the ones your pictures suggest transporting). So, you see, my point here is that I can carry 20 lbs of dried sprouts in a vehicle (and lesser amounts in a backpack) and eat a QT size jar of vegetables (within 4 days of germination), very high in vitamins and minerals, and filling (and I say this as a physical laborer worker who works steady, and fast, sweating during summer 8+ hrs/day…and sprouts fill me up for about 6 hr each day during hard labor). I bought bean sprouts, but I haven’t even tried them yet (and 2 years later), because micro-sprouts taste good-enough, make me feel good, the grow in 4 days (but I could even start eating them after one day, though I’d be eating germinated seeds (kind of like sort of a vegetable-oatmeal).
    In my garden I grow raspberries, blueberries, asparagus, green+ beans, and then tomatoes, cukes, and tree fruit. None of these would do me any good at all in a bug out situation for hauling purposes because at my experience-level of gardening what I would try to haul would not survive well beyond a few days.
    But even if I wanted to just move and transplant my garden, the way my wife orders small trees and shrubs from 1,000 miles away (OR to WI) is BARE-ROOT (in other words, the dirt is not hauled at all, and instead some sort of moisture holding material is kept around the roots to keeps these plants alive during their 1,000 mile trip to my wife’s workplace. Please do not ask me how professional growers dig out plants with enough roots (with dirt washed off) to transport them “bare root”. I have no idea. All I know is that the most successful landscape nurseries buy that way because they don’t have to haul the weight of the dirt which greatly lessons the shipping costs (by semi-truck).
    In conclusion, I am certain that I am a dummy about gardening, though I have been fulfilling my wife’s gardening labor demands for six years now (planting or transplanting, fertilizing, watering, picking produce, and more). What I don’t understand about your article is what you recommend people to take with themselves in a bug-out, since many items cannot be regrown (unless the seeds are saved). But if the seeds are going to be saved, and in a bug-out situation, why not just start with seeds, when you can carry months’ worth of daily food as edible seeds (when they germinate into microsprouts), and you will have plenty of microsprouts to plant into a new year’s crop (provided you grow them indoors (or weather protect them from snow, if that is your geographical region [as it is for me]) for the next year.
    Theresa, please, buy a one pound bag of microsprouts and wet it (following instructions) the with non-chlorinated, non-flouride water and check this out for yourself. Then, examine your suggestions for what foodstuffs really need to be carried “plant size and in dirt” in order to eat and harvest the seeds (I would guess I would need to transplant “nut” trees with dirt, as a good example). There must be certain plants that must be transported, in dirt or bare root. But what they are, I do not know; and what I thought I knew as a kid (a long long time ago) was that Johnny Appleseed (as well as farmers now long-gone) planted their stock from seeds and some of that is still available today our in fields (evidencing long gone places).

  • Moving planters full of dirt is just about the most impractical thing you could think of to do. Too much weight, the trauma to the plants, the list goes on and on.

    Better to have actual food to last till you can grow new food in your new location.

    But you can take seeds with you quite easily and seeds contain all the genetic information in them to build / grow a new plant. A seed bank takes up no space and weights next to nothing.