Project Zomboid, aka the most intricate, detailed, frustrating game in the universe, is a game that takes survival a little too seriously. You must manage your character’s body temperature, understand woodworking and carpentry, and pay attention to the seasons, among hundreds of other equally important mechanics. Living past a few days won’t be easy at first.
Making it through your first week will be even more challenging. But if you manage to clear out most of the zombies in your area, find enough resources, and live long enough, you can pick up the soothing hobby of farming.
Farming can be an easy way for you to obtain plenty of food. Food to last you through winter is essential, and farming can help with that. It can also provide you with all the seeds you need to keep farming, so it’s pretty self-sustainable.
But it’s only for those who have patience. Finding all the tools necessary will take time and a good eye, and then you have to wait for your little buggers to grow, protecting them from zombies and harsh elements all the while.
Buckle up, Farmer Joe, we’re about to get dirty. Welcome to a Project Zomboid Farming Guide.
Key Info Up Front
There isn’t much I can say that will summarize all farming in PZ.
You’ll need the following:
- Tools to dig
- Buckets to water the crops
- Protection from zombies
- Water supply
- Lots of time
Get that going, wait about a month, and you’ll have your harvest.
So You Want to Be a Farmer?
So you’ve decided to build a farming character, huh? It won’t be as glamorous as a police officer or burglar profession, but you’ll eat much better than most others. In the wide open world of Project Zomboid, farming isn’t something you can usually start until later in the game once you’ve established a home base and have procured enough supplies.
The sooner you start it, however, the better because your plants will barely produce anything once winter comes, and you’ll need more food than usual to make it to spring.
If you’re going for a Farmer Joe character, which is the most wholesome character you can make, you’d best pick the farmer profession at the beginning. It wouldn’t hurt to grab the Fast Learner, Herbalist, and Nutritionist traits as well. If you want to choose something other than the farmer profession, you can pick the Gardener trait to get all the same perks.
What’s the difference, you ask?
The Farmer Career: When you choose the farmer profession, your character starts with +3 in the farming skill, a 125% boost to farming experience, and will know the recipes of all fertilizers. It means you can understand your crop better, care for your plants more efficiently, and level up your farming skill much more quickly.
The Gardner Trait: If you choose the Gardener trait instead of a full farmer career, you’ll start with +1 skill in farming, a 50% boost to experience, and all fertilizer recipes unlocked. It’s a way for players to get most of the benefits from the farmer profession without sacrificing so many skill points.
Though not each level up in the farming skill has benefits, it’s still worth getting as much experience as possible. Once you have a high enough farming skill level, you’ll be able to see everything happening with your crops by just hovering your mouse over your plants.
Farming skill 1 – NA
Farming skill 2 – Name of current growth phase, color-coded crop health
Farming skill 3 – NA
Farming skill 4 – Color-coded water levels with bar graph, disease name (if applicable), info shows when hovering the mouse over plant
Farming skill 5 – Number and name of the current growth phase, health and water levels shown as a number of out 100
Farming skill 6 – Disease health out of 100
Farming skill 7 – NA
Farming skill 8 – Next growth phase countdown in hours
Farming skill 9 – NA
Farming skill 10 – NA
The Different Kinds of Crops
Not all plants in the strange simulation of PZ are created equal. Some take more water, are more prone to sickness, or take longer to sprout fully. Knowing your crops and what they need will only make the process of stocking your fridges easier. The plants listed below go from the least amount of time to sprout to the most.
Carrots and cabbage only take about ten days to mature.
Only ten days. Yeah. Some players can’t even survive ten days, let alone survive long enough to plant seeds and then another ten days on top of that.
By the time we get to strawberries, you’re looking at a solid 25-30 days to harvest.
Knowing how many days until harvest is helpful, but so is understanding the current growth phase. There are four phases of life for crops in PZ.
- Ready to harvest
When you first plant your seeds, they’ll immediately start as seedlings. After a few days, they’ll be younglings. Wait a bit more, and you’ll have ready to harvest crops. If you want to harvest seeds instead of food, wait a few more days until they enter the seed-bearing phase. You will harvest fewer crops, but you can plant more seeds for another batch.
There is technically another phase past seed-bearing: rotten. If you leave your plants out for too long and forget to harvest them, they will rot on the vine. Don’t do that. All your hard work will be for nothing.
When you first start farming and your skill is low, you won’t see these phases on your crop’s info. This is why it’s crucial to build your farming skill up so you can see as much information about your plants as possible.
Tools of the Trade
I already listed the items you’ll need to procure for your farm earlier, but let me explain where to find each one, how to use them, and why you’ll want multiples of each. Some of these items you’ll come across while foraging, clearing out houses, and just generaling surviving in PZ. Others, you’ll need a vehicle, a map, and enough gas to get you out of town and back.
You can’t grow food by wishing it to appear magically. You’ll need seeds. Seeds are not easy to come by. Depending on the city you choose to spawn into, seeds may either be a simple walk to the store or a painstaking search through every shed and garage in 40 square blocks.
You’ll find seeds in garden stores, malls, farms, and in sheds and garages. If you spawn in Rosewood, your best bet is to drive out of town toward the warehouses near Muldraugh. They not only have plentiful farming supplies, they always have several packets of seeds. If you spawn in any other city, you’ll have either farms or stores within a manageable walk.
You might think a few seeds per crop is all you’ll need to grow a feast, but you’d be wrong. Each plant requires a specific amount of seeds for you to grow anything.
You’ll need the following number of seeds to grow anything worthwhile:
- Carrots – 12
- Cabbage – 9
- Radish – 6
- Potato – 4
- Broccoli – 6
- Tomato – 4
- Strawberries – 12
If you only have ten carrot seeds, you won’t be able to plant another batch. Same with strawberries. This should be easy to keep track of, as packets come with dozens of seeds. And you should find several packets throughout your scavenging phase. And even once you’ve grown your first batch, make sure to leave a few that will produce seeds, and you should be fine.
This is the easiest thing to obtain in farming. Soil. Dirt. Aka, the ground. It’s everywhere. I mean, sure; you can’t grow crops on the street where there’s concrete, but you can grow food just about everywhere else.
The ground isn’t good in its default state; you’ll need to till it and dig a few furrows. That’s where the next step comes in.
But before we move on to tools, it’s important to remember you can transport soil around. If you have a sack in your inventory, you can fill it with soil and drop that soil somewhere else. Say, somewhere safer…?
Tools to Dig
Shovels. Garden Forks. Trowels. Your bare hands.
Whatever tools you have at your disposal will be used to dig your crop’s furrows. I strongly recommend finding yourself the proper tools, as digging furrows with your hands will cut them up, and you’ll need to perform first aid to heal. Instead, use those hands to hold a shovel and dig furrows that way. Work smarter, not harder.
Buckets for Water
There are watering cans throughout PZ that were made for this specific purpose. They hold a lot of water and will thoroughly irrigate more than one of your crops at a time. If you find them, you’re off to a great start.
If you can’t get your hands on official gardening supplies, a bucket, tumbler, coffee mugs, and water bottles will all do the trick. You’ll have to make more frequent trips to your water source to quench your crop’s thirst fully, but they’ll grow all the same.
Protection from Zombies
This is a big one. You might think that your farmhouse and home base are far enough away from the city that you don’t need a perimeter defense. After all, you barely see any zombies out here, right? Why waste all that time and resources building fences and walls if they won’t be put to use?
They will always be put to use. The sinister thing about PZ is that zombies will respawn on the map over time unless you fidget with the controls under the Sandbox menu. This means even if you survive 30 days in the woods and you’ve cleared out all your enemies, more will spawn into the world, often in places you already cleared out.
So even if you think you’re safe, even if you only see one zombie a day, build a damn wall around your crops. Because that one zombie can get in when you least expect it and ruin all–yes, I said all–of your crops.
Why did I say build a wall instead of a fence?
Because zombies can still climb fences. They fall right over fences like they’re little more than speedbumps. Walls are impenetrable by zombies. Yes, they take more resources and time, but it’s worth the investment.
Zombies will spell the end for your plants. If zombie blood gets on any of your plants, they will immediately become sick. If zombies walk on your plants, they’ll get trampled and die. A single zombie can wreak all the havoc necessary to render your garden completely useless. If one gets in while you’re sleeping or on a supply run, it will decimate everything and you won’t be able to save your crops.
At the risk of sounding like a Republican, build that wall!
I hope you know enough about plants to remember that they need water to survive.
You do? Good.
Water in Project Zomboid is tainted easily. Natural water sources like rivers and the rain are contaminated and will make you sick if you drink from them. But they won’t make your plants sick. This is helpful when your purified water sources are scarce but your tainted water sources are abundant. Use the tainted water for your plants and keep the good stuff for yourself. As time progresses in Project Zomboid, the power and water supply will shut off, forcing you to find something more natural.
Find yourself a stable supply of water. Rain is good, and if you build yourself rain collector tanks, you’ll always have a ready supply of water for your crops nearby. But if you’re short on supplies, you can always set up base next to a lake, pond, river, or well. All provide water for crops, and aside from the well, all offer the ability to fish as well.
Time. Our most precious resource.
So, we know carrots take about ten days to grow, and strawberries take 25. And we know to keep the plants watered throughout that time, to keep the plants protected from zombies, and to keep an eye on the crop’s health.
That’s about it. Aside from ensuring they’re watered and protected, you can only twiddle your thumbs. Find a few books, head out on supply runs, or make a few projects for yourself to work on. You can always use the time plants are growing to trick out your vehicle, shore up your base’s defenses, or increase your electrical skill.
Your Crops Are under Attack!
You did everything you were supposed to do.
You watered your crops diligently. You built sturdy walls. You monitored the seasons and rotated your crops to ensure the least amount of soil degradation.
And yet your plants still become afflicted. Mildew, flies, rot; it doesn’t matter what’s attacking your plants; they are helpless on their own. It’s up to you and you alone to save your plants.
This is where having the farmer career or the Gardener trait comes in extremely handy. Each gives the player recipes necessary for saving their plants.
If your plants are afflicted by mildew, they will grow slower. And if you don’t do something about the mildew, they will eventually die and rot. To save them, you’ll need the mildew fertilizer recipe. Since you’re a farmer, you already know it. But you also need the supplies to make it–a gardening spray can and milk. So it’s a good idea to ensure you have both before investing in your farm. It’s important to note that any kind of milk works for this recipe, even rotten milk.
If flies afflict your plants, they’ll need almost double the amount of water to survive. And just like mildew, they’ll die if you don’t treat them soon enough. The insecticide recipe requires a gardening spray can, three units of water, and five cigarettes.
If you aren’t a farmer or gardener, you can always search for the Farming Magazine in bookstores and libraries. The magazine teaches your character the necessary fertilizer recipes.
Both mildew and flies can spread to your other plants, so you should never plant crops side by side. It might look nice and orderly to dig long-ass furrows stretching over a dozen tiles, but since all the crops are touching, sickness can spread much quicker. Spread your crops out, plant them diagonally, and give a tile or two as space between them. This will ensure infection spreads much slower in your garden. In the beginning, I found myself just digging up plants that were diseased.
My skill was too low to give me any information on the sickness and I didn’t have the defenses and weapons for supply runs to make fertilizer. I dug up the afflicted plant before it could infect the rest of my crop. In the beginning, you may have to resort to ripping them up before the sickness can spread.
There is one disease in PZ that has no cure. If your plants get infected with it, you’ll need to rip them up immediately to ensure they don’t contaminate your other plants.
Devil’s Water Fungi.
The devil’s water fungi will only appear if you let your crops stay sick for too long. If your plants get mildew or flies and you leave them as is, they’ll eventually grow devil’s water fungi. And then your whole farm is fucked.
So if you see your plants struggling, do something about it immediately. Otherwise, you’ll end up with nothing to harvest.
Time to Harvest
Holy cow, you did it! You protected your little buggers all the way to maturity, and now you can harvest them!
Well, I hope you have a power source somewhere nearby and a refrigerator attached to it because your harvest won’t last long without either.
If you’ve survived long enough to harvest a few crops, the power has probably failed in most of Kentucky. This means you’ll need to rely on generators for energy, which is a whole different story. The point is: don’t just harvest your crops and leave them in a cabinet. You’ll need to care for your food just as you cared for the crops, or you’ll never see spring.
Question: Is there a way to prevent my crops from getting mildew and flies?
Answer: Nope. Just make sure you take care of them and stay vigilant for any signs of sickness. The best you can do is be aggressive in treating any disease that appears.
Question: What’s better, foraging or farming?
Answer: Oh, man. Foraging. Hands down. I am entirely biased, but foraging is OP, in my opinion. Sure, you can’t grow tons of cabbages with foraging, but you can find dead squirrels, berries, nuts, and tons of insects. Not to mention you’ll find usable tools like chipped stones, branches, and sometimes car keys. Farming is cool, but it’s singular, takes forever, and involves so much work. Foraging is where it’s at.
Question: So farming is essentially useless until late game when I have a car, a base, and tons of resources?
Farming in Project Zomboid may seem like a chore, tedious, and time-consuming.
And that’s because it is.
But that’s deceptive because all of Project Zomboid is like that. Farming might take a lot of patience and resources, but it can pay off in a big way. If you’re playing multiplayer, it’s more than wise to ensure you have a farmer in your group; it’s downright necessary. With enough diligence, you can produce enough food to last through winter with a surplus. Farming in Project Zomboid, much like in real life, can be nutritious and rewarding if you maintain consistency and dedication.
And avoid zombies.
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