In an extended emergency, it is essential to have a well-stocked seed collection to rely on for food security. Seeds not only provide dependable crops year round, but can also be used to produce edible sprouts which have an extremely high nutrient and vitamin content, as well as save money in the overall scheme of things. Traditional heirloom varieties of seeds can be saved and used for future harvests, but the hybrid seeds you usually find at the stores have a onetime use and therefore should be overlooked for the most part. Non-genetically modified seeds (non-GMO) or heirloom varieties are the way to go for long-term sustainability.
Having a wide variety of seeds will help get a good collection of seeds with different qualities. Not all plant differences are visible to the naked eye. Some of the diversity which helps plants to resist pests and diseases or adapt to changes in climate is contained in the seed itself. That is why you should collect some seed at random. The random sample makes sure that you get a good mix of different qualities, including ones you cannot see. When collecting seeds from your heirloom or non-gmo seeds, use these tips to get the seeds to store for your next harvest:
Collecting the Seeds
- Collect seeds when they are mature and drying on their stalks. Lay them out in a shady spot during warm weather for 2-3 days. They should be ready to store after that time. Remember: the drier the seed the better. There are some seeds that might take a little longer, so allow for extra drying time.
- Listen to the sound the seeds make when you break them to decide if they are dry enough. When they are dry, large, flat seeds, like pumpkin, they make a “snapping” sound when twisted. Large, thick seeds, like maize or beans, make a “cracking” sound when bitten. And small seeds make a “cracking” sound when squeezed between fingernails.
- Make sure you choose healthy seeds that are not abnormally shaped, very small or damaged.
- Diversifying and finding seeds with special qualities makes crops less vulnerable to disease, pests and unusual weather conditions. At times, having identical crop varieties growing will result in a crop failure. This is due to the seeds that are bought from companies that do not diversify their seeds. They will produce similar plants and tend to be vulnerable to bad elements (weather, insects, disease).
Choose the Seeds In Three Different Ways
- Look for seed from plants that have particular characteristics that you like. For example, you might collect seeds from plants that had high yields or stayed small, because they will need less water to grow. Or you might choose plants with multiple seed heads, or plants whose pods or grain heads are large. You might also look for plants that suffered less pest damage than others. Seeds from these plants are likely to produce more plants the next season that have these same special qualities.
- Choose seeds from plants that are different from each other. Pick seeds from plants of different colors, sizes, or with differently-shaped leaves.
- Select some seed from each area of the field, from a many different plants. Just pick whatever seeds you come across, at random.
In summary, finding the right seeds and storing them for the next season is a must in making long term preparations. Collecting only the best seeds that are without abnormalities and finding characteristics in the plant that are appealing will create a nice variety crop source. If the best seeds and varieties are saved each season, the next year’s crop will be even more plentiful. And having a good seed collection is a great source of trading with other neighbors or locals.
To learn more about seed storage and what the right types of seeds to store are click here.
This blog entry is a paraphrase of the article found on farmradio.org. For more information:
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