Agriculture in the Zombie Apocalypse

I’ve had this idea of writing a zombie post apocalyptic story, and I want to keep the survival aspects as realistic as possible, which includes food growth and management. I’ve been doing some research into agriculture, but I’ve been a bit dissatisfied with the lack of scope, so I some questions for the community. For reference, my story takes place in a suburban city with a coastal Californian climate (Hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters; no snow, little frost):

  • What are the best/worst crops to grow in an apocalypse?
  • Space management tactics for suburban areas?
  • How to maintain livestock? What types? (Is it even possible?)
  • How to rotate crops out to ensure no soil nutrition deficiency?
  • How to make fertilizers?
  • How much land is needed to sustain one person?
  • Dealing with pests without chemical pesticides?
  • Plants that need pollinators?
  • How schedule crop plantings, so don’t run out of food or malnutrition?

Any input will be really helpful for me.

You pose some good questions here. And whilst I am no expert, I do grow some of my own crops at home and understand weather patterns, natural pesticides and fertilizers and rotation of crops.

So here’s some tips:

  • What are the best/worst crops to grow in an apocalypse?
    Some of the best crops to grow would include varied vegetables. This would be things like potatoes, pumpkins, peas, beans and zucchini’s.

  • Space management tactics for suburban areas?
    For ingenuity purposes, you can convert indoor areas into self-sustaining greenhouses. This would involve transforming a room into a place with heat management cycles and an irrigation system. You can also grow food in small backyards and probably convert flat roofed buildings and houses into rooftop gardens too.

  • How to rotate crops out to ensure no soil nutrition deficiency?
    Crops need to be rotated based on their growing speed and season. Say you have 2 fields and a whole bag of wheat seeds. To maintain soil nutrients, plant the seeds in one field for one season. Once grown, harvest the product and backburn the field. Plant the new crop in the second paddock and in paddock one, churn the soil. This is repeated every growing season.

  • How to make fertilizers?
    Human sewage. The easiest way is to harvest human sewage and simply lay it over your plants or crops. As gross as it sounds, it will work in a zombie apocalypse when there is no other alternative…unless you have chickens.

  • Dealing with pests without chemical pesticides?
    Is fairly easy. Converting used coffee beans is one trick that works really well at keeping bugs off your plants. Coffee is a natural repellent and when liquidated and squirted onto plant leaves, stops caterpillars from chomping away at the leaves, and thus destroying your plants and crops. Also again, chickens will also help as they naturally feed on caterpillars when they are free range. Another one to stop moths on fruit trees is to lay cardboard around the base of the tree, then heap hay over the top. Then get a piece of cotton, wrap it around the trunk. This provides a nest for the moths so they don’t lay on the leaves. Then, when it comes to spring, rip it off and burn it to destroy the eggs. Repeat again every season. For citrus type plants, take off infected limbs and drown in a bucket of water for about 3 days. Then burn said limbs.

That’s about all I have for now, if you need any more help, feel free to message me.


Thanks for your help!

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You’re welcome. Hope it adds to your story.

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following; such an interesting question.

A “human footprint” (the amount of space an average human needs for food etc) is about 8 km2. You can go back to 250m2 if you limit to vegetable garden, potatoes etc. Wheat, beans etc use lots of ground and give less food back. Life stock works if the animals feed from what’s available (like goats, they eat everything, while cows need much water and high quality food).

Best is to turn the question around: which products grow fast and give high production? Tomatoes, potatoes etc. What’s a safe place to grow plants? The roof of a high building. You can grow tomatoes in a bucket on the top of a building, but you’ll need water and soil there.

Make the lack of “everything” an ingredient of the hard life your MC’s suffer. Make the lack of pesticides a challenge in the plot (when things go rather well, a plague breaks out) and use the invention of fertilizers as a small victory in the story (you can make compost). Your readers will eat your pages when they find out how your characters face all those problems and solve them.

A complete diet is: milk, beans and wheat (bread), but those three are hard to get in your world…

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Thanks for the reply. I’m wondering if smaller livestock would be possible to maintain (Things like chicken or fish) rather than larger livestock like cows.

Fish are the best option: they take care of themselves and all you need is a way to catch them. Chicken are easy to breed, they give eggs and meat, and they need little space, so they will make your people very happy and healthy too. Don’t forget “wild fruits”: if you want anything (wild animals, people and zombies) to keep away from your land, you can plant bushes like blackberry: they give fruits and have sharp thorns too.

Fruit trees need at least 3 years from seed to fruit-bearing tree and most of them need more time plus special treatment, but your people can move to a place where fruit trees already are available or make the trip from home to trees when the fruits are ripe (nuts like almonds are in the same group and they are important in a balanced diet too).

And, of course, there is hunting: ducks and rabbits will reproduce fast in a world without humans and hunting animals. Here in Spain, people ate rats in the early Franco-times when life was hard and poverty gave them no better alternatives.

All this makes it more fun to write such a story, doesn’t it? If you put that fun in your pages, I’m sure your readers will love it.

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ughhhh, so many things to say, but idk if I can remember it all.

  1. livestock. I would recommend goats - can survive in extreme conditions, aren’t very picky about food, good milk (although humans don’t need milk to survive, it would still be nice to have) and a good choice for fertilizer. also bunnies - they breed really quickly.

  2. fertilizer. I wouldn’t use human manure, it can contain pathogens. animal manure is less risky, goat manure is especially good cuz it’s dry. also don’t burn your fields

  3. pesticide. the easiest one I’ve seen is green soap and water. put it in a bottle and spray it on the problem.

  4. good crops. beans, tomatoes and potatoes (can be replanted), also I would recommend the MC steal a few baby fruit trees form a store or someone’s garden, cuz growing trees from seeds is a pain

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@Ronaldo7Siete Oh, yeah. I almost forgot about gathering wild fruit - also using blackberry bushes as a natural defense is something I didn’t think of.

@LoreHarley Thanks for your help! Just wondering what should the ratio between water and soap be for the pesticide?

hmm, we don’t really have any concrete measurements for that, it’s kinda a gut feeling, but I found this article that may help :blush:

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It depends on how smart or destructive your zombies are. If they’re just mindless undead, then I don’t think they’d be harmful to crops. Either way, you may want to construct walls around your farmlands.

  • For the crops: you may wanna grow the crops that grow the fastest, just in case you get attacked.

  • For space management: provided a large portion of humanity has turned into zombies, you don’t need that much food.

  • As of livestock: put them inside walls, preferably in sheds. You may wanna maintain strong breeds like cows, chickens will be easy prey for zombies.

The rest of the points have already been answered before. If you have the money, just make walls around your farms, or just make elevated farms.

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A lot of great things have been said here, so I don’t think I have much to add in the plant department. However:

:honeybee: BEES. :honeybee: There would really need to be beekeping.

Bees are the major pollenators on this planet. Wasps and flies also contribute, but not nearly enough to rely on them. The sad thing is: The bees that exist in the western world mostly do need beekeepers to even keep them alive. Parasites and illnesses are a real issue. My father is a beekeeper and he once lost 29 of 30 hives in a winter because he hadn’t looked after them enough. (Mind you, he HAD done treatments, just not enough of them.) That’s how bad it can get. So I do think your survivor’s community should be keeping bees to not only sustain their crops but even make them come into existence.

The major parasite those beekeepers need to fight is (I just discovered) aptly named the varroa destructor in English. If you’re still looking for a villain - this name would work :smile: They can be fought with things such as essential oils and powdered sugar if you’re in a pinch, but also with various acids - that need to be food safe if you want to eat the honey in the end.

There is no need for fancy beekeeping gear. Those weird suits are for people who are afraid to get stung - if you’ve gotten stung a few times (and are not allergic), you get used to it and barely notice it anymore. If you want to harvest the honey, you might need equipment - or you could always eat it with the comb, unless you want to use the wax for something else. (Which you could. You could use it to make wax cloths, which are basically nature’s cling film. Or you could use it to make salves.)

Other things you could make/harvest if you have bees: Propolis (disinfectant), pollen (source of vitamins and protein), mead (alcohol, doesn’t need much processing or skill), larvae (the male larvae are usually removed if the queen bee is already fertilized as they are a drain on resources and a health risk. as gross as that may sound, they are another source of protein).

Things that honey could be used for: treating wounds, washing hair, making mead, a treat, cosmetic purposes, making medicine (such as cough syrup, works well with radishes). It is also SAID to help with a whole bunch of other things such as hemmorhoids, allergies and insomnia, but I have no experience with those things (and immediately get suspicious if any list contains the phrase “can help in curing cancer”), so I can’t really speak on that.

Bees can easily be kept on top of roofs where they’re safe. You’d just need to be careful with storms.

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I’m currently writing a post apocalyptic story that concentrates on farming.
A lot of where the story is now is about inventory of the food they have and what they can make with what they have. Getting seeds and bulbs for a garden next summer. Right now they’re dealing with winter and surviving the cold and snow.

They’re lucky and started at a farm so they had some fresh produce and also chickens for eggs and just started milking the goats for the milk and to make butter.
Them having a well for access to fresh clean water.

Not sure if I’m allowed to post the link, the story is called No Such Thing As Time.

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I don’t know a damn thing about farming but I had to weigh in with some other questions that might shape your society a bit :slight_smile:

So I’m curious as to how a focus on agriculture might change the way people think about certain roles and professions. Farming needs space and the people working out in a field might be placing themselves in greater danger than sat someone hiding in an abandoned building. So if your farmers are more at risk from watering zombies how does this that job? Is the farmer now the most badass person in the group because they put themselves at risk? Is it something no one wants to do because of the danger? How do you protect the farmers from zombie attacks ? And how does everyone who isn’t farming feel about that? If you’re sending armed guards to defend your farmers does that mean other areas are less protected?

I’m assuming a lot with how your world works but from other zombie stories I’ve seen there’s usually some threat of wandering herds of zombies or good ol fashioned humans being terrible to each other. If you took the effort to make a farm and I’m starving you can guarantee that I’m sneaking in at night to steal some taters and beans for myself.

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@Ariador Thanks for the reply! Do you know any crops that grow particularly fast? I’ve been doing some research and all I’ve gotten were things like cabbage and mustard greens.

@GretaBrand Wow! Super informative post. The only issue is that my MC is terrified of bees, but I think as a community builds around him, maybe someone will be less afraid and give it a shot. I’m just wondering, how can you move/transfer the beehives to a new location closer to the community, so they can readily pollinate?

@CoffeeWithMonkeys I’ll be sure to check out your book! Fortunately for my MC, he lives in a semi-coastal Californian community, so he doesn’t have to deal with snow. How are your characters dealing with food shortages due to winter?

@Poundcake93 My story takes place in a more suburban setting rather than a more rural one, so they don’t have to really worry about being ambushed by zombies in fields, and also, most of the farming is taking place in a parking lot area with blocks of grass that is well defended on all the sides. But you do bring up some good points and I’ll definitely consider them when I’m writing my story.

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I’m also terrified of bees. But the thing about them is that they leave you alone as long as you don’t annoy them, so they’re generally fine in the vincinity - if I don’t have to, say, open a hive.

That would probably depend on the kind of hive they’re in. But usually, you can just pick them up (maybe together with another person, they can be heavy) and put them on the back of a truck or into a trailer or something like that. You’d just have to close the hives up over night so none of the bees leave it in the morning before you leave (or during travel). So maybe they could conveniently have/build a type of hive that’s possible with?

(I’m from Germany, most beekeepers use styrofoam hives here, as they’re easily expandable (stack system) and light-weight. But from what I’ve seen, US-American beekeepers seem to gravitate more towards wood ones? I don’t know too much about those. But I have seen video on them on car trailers, so that should work…)

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