I am not one to “prep” for an apocalyptic future, but I do feel the need to be prepared for natural disasters and a very possible economic downturn. Food preservation is at the top of my list when it comes to preparing for the future, no matter what that future might look like. The first thing that comes to my mind when I say “food preservation” is canning and freezing garden produce. What happens, though, if you have no access to seeds to plant in your garden? What if other farmers near you are struggling to feed their own families so they can’t sell their produce at the farmer’s market? This is where the need to start a seed bank comes in.
What is a Personal Seed Bank?
A personal seed bank is a little different from the concept of seed saving that many gardeners practice each year. With seed saving, a gardener saves seeds out of plants that grew in their garden for use in the next growing season and, possibly, to share with neighbors. A seed bank contains seeds for use over a much longer time period just in case food or money become scarce which, if you think about it, isn’t that unlikely to happen at some point in our lives.
How to Start a Seed Bank for Your Family
Before you start a seed bank you need to decide what seeds you want to save. I suggest saving seeds of fruits and veggies that are favorites in your family and following those up with lesser-liked varieties for use “just-in-case”. It is a good idea to save seeds for grains as well after you have started building your fruit & veggie seed stash. The easiest seeds to save are ones that are open-pollinated heirloom or self-pollinated (tomatoes, peppers, beans, and peas) varieties. It is not recommended to save hybrid seeds because the seeds are often sterile or produce traits that are different from the parent plant.
1. Start a seed bank with seeds from your own garden.
You can start saving seeds from your own garden now. This is a great way to save money on next year’s garden and to save for the long-term future. There are some great videos and articles that can walk you through the steps to save seeds from each of your plants. Make sure that you are choosing seeds from healthy plants and harvest these seeds near the end of the growing season when they are mature.
You must be sure to preserve the seeds properly or they will not even last until the next growing season. You can scroll down a bit to see preservation techniques. Typically, seeds saved from a personal garden can last up to about 3 years. Check this seed life chart for the life-span of specific seed varieties.
These articles share great seed saving techniques from specific vegetables and herbs:
2. Start a seed bank from locally grown fruits & veggies.
If you don’t have your own garden, then you can visit your local farmer’s market. Seeds can be saved from fruits and veggies grown by other farmers just like they would be saved from your own garden. However, you should be aware of how the veggies were grown and the specific variety of each so that you are only saving seeds that match your preference.
The issue with this method of seed saving for your personal seed bank is that the fruits & vegetables were probably not picked as mature plants at the end of the growing season. You will have to be discerning when choosing this way so you don’t end up with a seed bank full of unviable seeds.It is important to label your seed packs properly and keep them organized so that you always know what you have on hand. You can use a photo album or this sectioned photo box to keep all of your seeds neatly organized.
3. Start a seed bank with a ready-made seed kit.
I recommend saving your own seeds if you can, but if you would like to have a kit ready before your next harvest season just in case (like me), then you should consider purchasing a pre-made seed bank kit. I have the Emergency Heirloom Vegetable Seed Bucket from Heaven’s Harvest.
This bucket has 38 varieties of vegetable seeds…that is enough to plant 10 acres of veggies! You can then save seeds out of these veggies. A never-ending supply of food sounds like great security to me! The seeds are packed in mylar bags. If they are stored properly, then they have a shelf life of ten years. All seeds from Heaven’s Harvest are non-hybrid, open pollenated, and non-GMO. They offer several different sized kits as well as survival food packs and water filtration systems.
It is great to know that I can still provide food for my family regardless of our country’s (and our family’s) economic state.
Preparing Seeds for Storage
Wet seeds are seeds that are found inside fleshy fruits and vegetables. When “wet” plants fall to the ground in nature, they ferment as they rot. Since we are essentially removing these plants from that natural fermentation, it is vital to mimic it if we want the seeds to be viable in the future.
We can mimic natural fermentation by removing as many seeds from the fleshy material as possible and placing them into a bucket or bowl of water for 2-4 days. During this time, the seeds with go through fermentation which will separate good seeds from bad seeds as well as removing germination-inhibiting substances such as viruses & mold. You should find that the good seeds sink while the bad seeds, mold, and pulp float to the top. Remove the good seeds after fermentation and dry them thoroughly. You can now place them in the freezer to be sure that any pests still hanging around are killed.
Dry seeds are found on plants that do not have a fleshy covering (beans, peas, peppers, herbs, etc). Allow these seeds to dry as much as possible while still on the plant. They can finish drying in a single layer in a dry room or in a solar oven. Now you can remove the pods or other outer coverings/shells/chaff. If you have plants that have tiny seeds, such as herbs, place the head of the plant into a bag and shake. The bag will catch the seeds as they fall out.
How to Store Seeds for the Long-Term
When you start a seed bank, you want to be sure that your storage containers will keep moisture, bugs, and rodents out. Use air-tight containers like mason jars or mylar bags. Add silica gel or powdered milk wrapped in cheesecloth to help absorb any moisture that might get into the container.
Label seed containers clearly so that you know what you are planting. You can use pre-made seed pack labels to keep your seeds properly labeled. Store your labeled seed containers in a cool, dark, and dry place.
Test Seed Viability Before Planting
Before you plant seeds that you have saved, wrap them gently in a damp paper towel. Place them in a plastic bag with a small opening for air in a warm and well-lit room. If they start to sprout, they are viable and ready to be planted. If you want to plant more seeds than you can put in this paper towel, just try this method with 10 seeds to determine the germination rate. For example, if only 4 seeds out of ten sprout, then your germination rate is 40%… If 9 sprout, then you have a 90% germination rate.
Make Seed Saving a Community Activity
If you have friends & neighbors who garden, you can plan to grow different varieties to save seeds out of and share them with one another. You could also use seeds in a barter system if your neighbor has something that you could use and they will take seeds as a payment. Sharing is caring, y’all 🙂