Ideally, to have truly achieved emergency preparedness, you will have thought beyond food storage and water supplies into how a garden might be a necessity to you and your family. Storing seeds for an emergency is not as simple as it may sound, as you will see from my latest experience, but here are some tips that will help get you on the right track with your survival seeds.
Recently, my brother sent me a link to a seed bank that was for sale online. For $200 (or the “discounted” price of $130), you can buy 505,000 heirloom “Emergency Survival Seeds.” The description boasts that the clear container is ready for long-term storage and promises “perpetual food production” for survival food. People bought it, too. As I write, that package of seeds has seven happy buyers that have written glowing reviews. How embarrassing! These people obviously do not know much about gardening. It’s understandable, really. Most of us haven’t grown up on farms, and we know little about food production, so it’s easy to make rookie mistakes.
Let me help you out. I’ll save you some serious time and money—and your life, if you were planning to live on that emergency garden.
Here are the top three mistakes people make when buying seeds for an emergency:
- They DON’T store emergency seeds properly. The whole point of having seeds for an emergency is to have them ready to plant at some unforeseen time. A clear container is about the worst way you could possibly store seeds! To preserve seeds, they need to be stored in a dark, dry location. The freezer is a great place. The seeds sold by eFoodsDIRECT are packaged in a can, which is ideal for storing survival seeds since it eliminates light and moisture.
- They DON’T know the risk of gardening experimentally in an emergency. Growing a garden in an emergency is such a fun idea—you can have your own survival food, just like having your own grocery store or farmer’s market, right? Uhhhhh… no. In an emergency, your resources will likely be stretched pretty thin. There is a good chance that contamination, broken lines or cost will limit your access to water. Many seeds will only thrive in particular climates and conditions. In an emergency is exactly the wrong time to try to figure out which things will grow where you are! You need to already know what is going to grow so that you’re not wasting time, precious water or other resources. I have learned this myself in non-emergency conditions. What you don’t want is a whole bunch of seeds that sound “fun” to grow; you need emergency seeds that are “hardy” varieties.
- They DON’T know anything about collecting seeds. I think when most people become excited about the idea of heirloom seeds and saving seeds, they think about collecting pumpkin seeds: Once your food grows, you just pull the seeds out and save them for next year. By being smart and saving the seeds, you’re ensuring your family’s survival food next year, too, right?
No. This is a huge mistake! Saving seeds requires careful planning, attention and practice, and sometimes it doesn’t even work. Some seeds need to be collected after the produce is riper than you would usually pick it, so you may end up with seeds that rot or are not ready. Some seeds need to be collected in a special way and some need to be stored in a special way. One of the biggest risks is cross-pollination.
If you can’t control everything that is grown within a few miles and you don’t plan ahead, your new seeds will almost certainly be hybrids of who-knows-what, and the next generation of plants will be totally unreliable.
So, how can you avoid these problems?
- DO store seeds properly! Protect your seeds by storing them in a cool, dark space.
- DO know your area. If you like gardening well enough that you would want to rely on a garden in an emergency, try growing that garden before your emergency! Or, at the very least, find out from other gardeners in your area what grows and what doesn’t. In an emergency, don’t bother trying to grow stuff that sounds good to you but isn’t realistic for your climate. If you take the time to try out your emergency seeds ahead of time, you’ll be much better off because you’ll be able to choose things that grow well for you, and you’ll know how little water you can get away with using.
- DO learn to save seeds properly or have enough seeds that you don’t need to rely on saved seed. It is possible to save seeds, and if you have the space (and dedication to particular varieties) to grow without worrying about cross-contamination, this will certainly be an asset to you. On the other hand, if you don’t want to bother with growing different varieties of tomatoes away from each other, and you know your neighbors half a mile away will be growing a garden and you don’t want to cage your plants, just don’t plan on saving seed at all.
It isn’t that big of a deal, really. Many good types of seed are very inexpensive right now, and if you’re not planning to save seeds, you can grow hybrid varieties if you want, which are popular for a lot of good reasons, but often times, if you are looking to harvest seeds and plant them again hybrid seeds are not a good choice. Seed saving is a really cool project, though, and a worthwhile pursuit if you have the interest. “Seed to Seed” by Suzanne Ashworth, is the best book I have seen on the subject.
eFoodsDIRECT does offer an excellent emergency seed vault, which contains varieties that are packaged appropriately, are viable in a variety of regions and are relatively inexpensive. I have two of those, one for an emergency and one for a trial run.
Or, if you want to avoid the hassles of a garden, you can also just get a long-term food storage that contains vegetables. For many, this is the most realistic best option.