It’s spring time and everyone from professional farmers to amateur homesteaders are getting their gardens ready for warmer weather. It’s really not a surprise that so many preppers are also accomplished gardeners. Not only is knowing the skill of gardening an important asset, it also provides food for eating and stockpiling. It is strange, though, that you less often hear about what happens after harvest time. However, if you’re creating a seed bank, that is one of the most critical times for true homesteading preppers. Harvesting seeds can be as integral to long term survival as stockpiling food itself, and for many reasons should be a part of everyone’s prepping plan.
Different Seed Types
Heirloom Seeds – Heirloom seeds taken from plants that have not been force bred to become a hybrid. They are not modified and have the ability to reproduce generation after generation.
Hybrid Seeds – Hybrid seeds have been modified by breeding– usually to produce larger varieties, more colors, pests resistant qualities, etc. Most hybrid seeds do not have the ability to reproduce generation after generation like heirlooms, partially because the reproduction is often bred out of them.
GMO Seeds – GMO seeds are hybrid seeds that have been genetically modified to resist pests and pesticides/herbicides.
Clearly, there is a lot of debate about GMOs, but for prepping purposes, as well as for other reasons, GMOs are NOT a real effective addition to your seed bank. Hybrids are also less desirable though a few hybrids do have reproductive qualities, for the purpose of preparing for a disaster or a New World scenario they are generally less useful for long term sustainability and bartering situations.
That’s not to say there are not reasons to save hybrid seeds. If you live in a less favorable climate for growing, you may find a certain hybrid that has been cultivated for harsher conditions is a better fit for your stockpile. It’s not a bad idea to have some hybrids just in case, as even if you know the climate and conditions of your area now, these things might change later depending on what kind of disaster you may be presented with.
Popular Seeds to Stockpile
Of course it is important to stockpile the seeds that will grow the food you and your family will enjoy, however, you will want to have as large a variety as you can. The more you have, the more you can share or use for trade when the times comes. These popular vegetables are a good list to start with to give you a wide variety of foods that will nourish your family when they need it most.
Squash – Squash and zucchini are wonderful for you and can be used in multiple applications in the kitchen. Specific squash plants that are also popular including Butternut and Spaghetti varieties.
Onions – Onions will be a popular item for barter as well as a needed flavoring agent when spices and other seasonings become harder to acquire. Beware of short-lived onions and leeks whose seeds do not have a very long shelf life.
Beans & Peas – Green beans and peas grow in vine and bush varieties, though the bush variety might be more useful for growing in situations with limited space and resources.
Lettuce & Greens – Lettuce, cabbage, and greens can come in a variety of forms. Consider the basics, romaine, red leaf, iceberg, and spinach first. Once you have those stockpiled, be creative; think arugula, mustard greens, kale, and all the desirable leafy greens you won’t want to do without.
Beets, Radishes, & Carrots – The root vegetables like beets and carrots are full of nutrients and easy to grow and harvest. Their seeds will always be in high demand.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes are a given; they are popular and when ripe can well to store with ease.
Peppers – From bell peppers to jalapenos, peppers will always be popular. There are a lot of hybrid varieties of these, so carefully choose your seeds to start with.
Harvesting Your Seeds
Remember, not everyone is a green thumb, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t save seeds. While harvesting them is the cheapest way, purchasing your seeds is just as acceptable; just as long as you’re prepared. If you are harvesting your own seeds, you will need to educate yourself on the cycle of your plants to know how and when they will produce seeds. With things like tomatoes and peppers you know right where the seeds are, but how do you get seeds from a lettuce plant? While there will be some research you’ll likely need to do based on your specific plants, there are a few general rules every seed harvester should follow.
Seeds of most plants will dry right in your garden. If you’re not quite sure if the seeds have reached maturity you may need to move it inside if the weather gets colder, or if birds are harvesting your seeds for you. As long as the crop is close to reaching maturity, the seeds will continue to ripen.
If you’re not sure if it’s time yet, let it wait a few days. Even after you’ve harvested them, it is a common rule of thumb to let harvested seed dry for a few more days. Of course, if the seed is a larger variety it will require a longer drying period. Most seeds will dry for storage if spread on screens or even just some newspaper. They will dry faster and more effectively if you turn your seeds over several times during the drying period.
Another method is to place seed heads or stalks in an open paper bag. You should also look for a dark place as the drying process can be rushed if the seeds are exposed to too much warm light. If you’re in a hurry, however, you can speed up drying with gentle heat that does not exceed 100°F.
Storing Your Seeds
Seeds, like most of your prepping stockpile, should be stored under cool, dry conditions. The difference with seeds is temperatures well below freezing will not harm them, if they have been adequately dried. In fact, with most seeds freezing prolongs their shelf life. Sealing most seeds from air, though there is an exception in the case of beans and peas, prolongs their viability.
Most seeds will be usable for years in proper storage though some such as leeks and corn, which are just generally more susceptible to age.
Some people store seeds in envelopes, though if you have the space sealing most of your seeds in airtight jars or moisture proof plastic containers helps keep the air and moisture out. You could also consider storing seeds in Mylar envelopes if available. Either way, carefully label everything. Accuracy with seeds, including names and dates, will go a long way to create a more effective stockpile.
If you are harvesting your own seeds, make sure to add to your stockpile each year to create a cycle that will keep the seeds you save as fresh as possible.
Food is life, we simply cannot survive without it. Your stockpile is your lifeline in a disaster scenario and being able to grow your own food is a basic function you will need to have to ensure your family’s long-term survival. Being able to know how to garden is just not enough; creating a seed bank is truly the “seed” of it all and something you must add to your stockpile today.