Stocking up on anything is never a bad idea when it comes to preparedness. So why not seeds? If you have a garden you’re already taking a larger and better step than most emergency seed kit buyers, but does it replenish itself yearly or do you have to by new seed crops every year? If so, it’s not going to do you a lot of good in an emergency. Growing up on our self-sufficient farm there were things that we could easily obtain seeds from and others we had to re-purchase every spring.
So what about a seed vault/stash/Bank? After all, every survival website or magazine recommends you buy their special kit. But before you go sinking your hard earned money in to an emergency seed kit here is a little advice with four points pulled from foodstorageandsurvival.com, because I found the insight superb.
1. False security. Do you really think you’ll be able to pull out the seeds and plant a garden if you’ve never done it before? After about 15 years of having my own garden, I can tell you that it is a skill that takes practice. I still have things I’m learning and I’m not gardening with the knowledge that my family’s lives depend on what I can produce. You wouldn’t purchase a shotgun and stick it in your storage intending to use it just in an emergency. You’d want to get trained on how to use it and get some practice with it so you could use it properly if you ever really needed to. Same with your garden seeds. Don’t think your garden will produce amazing amounts of food if you’ve never planted a seed in the ground before.
This was my favorite point the author made. If you don’t have a garden don’t assume you will be able to shovel a little land and seeds will just sprout. You should be growing plants no matter your living circumstances. If you live in a restricted area consider vertical gardens; if you have some land keep a part of it tilled and cultivated. Otherwise you will likely see your plants and hopes whither simultaneously.
2. Seeds don’t store forever. Some of these companies will be upfront and tell you that the seeds have a shelf life of just a few years. But you probably didn’t pay attention to that when your bought your seeds and set them on the shelf or buried them in your survival cache. Some seeds store very well and still germinate after long periods in storage. Others don’t. So if you want your garden to only grow about half of what was included, go ahead and store it 10 years or so before planting anything. I did, and it didn’t work out very well.
From realseeds.co.uk I found these interesting facts below on the topic of seed longevity.
Do be aware that the way in which seeds are stored will affect their life – the following times assume that the seeds have been stored somewhere cool, dry and dark. If seeds get damp or are kept in warm conditions they will keep significantly less well. You’ll only reach the top end of the seed life shown below if the seeds are really dry and kept somewhere in an airtight sealed packet (not paper) that stays at a steady cool temperature.
Also, germination is not an on/off state, what will generally happen is that as seeds get older the percentage that germinate will start to drop off, and then at some point will fall to zero.
LIFESPAN OF PROPERLY-DRIED SEED:
Type of vegetable Rough estimate of seed life
Beans 3 to 5 yrs +
Beetroot, chard & leaf beet 2 to 3 yrs
Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels, turnips etc) 3 to 7 yrs
Carrots up to 3 yrs
Courgettes & squashes 2 to 4 yrs
Cucumbers & melons up to 10 yrs
Lettuces 2 to 5 yrs
Onions/leeks/spring onions up to 3 yrs max
Parsley up to 3 yrs
Parsnips 2 yrs max
Peas 3 to 5 yrs +
Peppers & aubergines up to 5 yrs
Tomatoes up to 8 yrs
If do you have an old packet of seeds, and wonder whether they are worth sowing, you can always test their germination yourself. Put a couple of layers of damp kitchen towel on a saucer, sprinkle a few seeds on it, and wrap it loosely in a plastic bag (so that it stays damp but is not airtight). Put the saucer somewhere warm – an airing cupboard is ideal – and check after a few days. If your test seeds have germinated, then you are fine to go ahead and sow the rest, sowing more thickly if only a proportion of them grew. If nothing is happening, then you need new seeds.
3. You don’t always get what you pay for. I have purchased three different survival seed packages from different companies. Some of these places actually sell you a lot of seeds for a fair price, others don’t. And 1,000 seeds of lettuce or whatever they’re advertising may sound like a lot of lettuce seeds, but you can probably pick up a packet of lettuce with the same amount of seeds in it from the store or Gurneys or even Baker Creek seeds for a fraction of the cost of what they’re charging you for it. Just make sure you’re getting seeds that are labeled as heirloom, open pollinated, or non-hybrid. One company I was very pleased with the amount of seed I received was Hometown Seeds. So if you do want to purchase the survival seeds, that’s one place that had a fair price for the amount of seed you get–and there may be others as well–I haven’t tested everybody’s seed banks out.
Most of the preparedness companies of bought various products from have been very dependable; but the fact still remains that they are a business and have to look out after their own interests ahead of yours. Look at product reviews; I’ve found them helpful when choosing between brands of products.
4. The varieties are all chosen for you. I live in an area with a slightly shorter than average growing season. Most seeds will grow here. However, if you are in the south or higher elevation or farther north where your growing seasons are other than average, some varieties in the can may not work for you. And what if I don’t like Butternut squash or Bulgarian Carrot peppers? And right now I prefer bush beans to pole beans, they just work better in my garden plot. Well, I don’t get a choice of the varieties that are included in my survival seed can, but if I pick and choose the seeds I want, I can grow the exact varieties of plants that grow well in my area and that my family and I actually enjoy eating. I’d rather have more squash and less lettuce. More beans and fewer radishes. It’s just my preference and I get my preference when I buy my seeds a la carte.
I agree with the author here. Your seed vault should be as personalized as your bug out bag. Find out what climate zone you live in; because every little bag of seeds has a zone recommendation. My father loved all sorts of plants, but misreading the zone when he ordered something for the harsh mountain valley we lived in meant stunted or no growth for fruit trees and the sort.
Also before you stock up on any GMOs or hybrid seeds; both are surrounded by controversy and rife with conspiracy theories. So do your own research and make a decision for yourself. I’m iffy on GMOs personally; but hybridization of seed crops is something we’ve been doing for over 5,000 years so don’t let the term frighten you too much. Make sure you can utilize the seeds and that they do not drastically revert to what they’ve been modified from.
I told my wife about the topic of this article and she brought up some interesting considerations plants are responsive to soil types and your may need additives and enhancements. plants enjoy varying degrees of water for productivity. Seeds require varying degrees of soil over top; not enough and the birds will often get them; to much or to dry on the surface and they will have a difficult time sprouting through. seeds are preferential as to what time of spring they are planted for best results.
I bring these up because these are life lessons in the gardening world. these skills take multiple seasons to develop. when you look out back at the spot of grass you would cultivate into an emergency garden; do you know anything about the soil?