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When you want to add to your survival strategy by including survival seeds, it is helpful to know where to find high-quality seeds and what potential problems you should look for before you buy.
In this blog, we look at:
- What makes quality survival seeds
- Best practices for seed storage and vaults
- Pitfalls to consider
- A few top brands and suppliers
Survival seeds are not new. In fact, there is a world seed vault on the island of Spitsbergen which is found in the Svalbard archipelago and under the control of the Norwegians.
For the home prepper, a seed vault is another means of producing food if a food crisis should occur. For many of us, that is not an if, but when.
What Are Quality Survival Seeds?
For seeds to be worth anything, they must be viable, and viability starts with the quality of the plant producing the seed.
Seeds are genetic packages, and when you choose plants based on genetics, you want the plants the exhibit the best features. What that means for survivalists is that the source of any survival seed must begin with quality plants and selectively harvested seeds.
If you have a summer garden and planted cherry tomatoes, walk out and look at a cherry tomato plant. What you should see is that the plant has a variety of fruit (cherry tomatoes) that are different sizes and colors all on the same plant.
If you were saving your own seeds, you’d want to pick the fruit based on a set criterion. Those rules include:
- Fruit with the best taste
- Fruit that is large
- Fruit that is appealing to you
What you want to avoid is fruit that does not have the best taste, or that is small or not appealing. The end goal here is that your survival crop is 100 percent appealing to you and those that you are feeding.
In short, quality survival seeds produce a crop that tastes good, looks good, and that you enjoy.
So, what else goes into making quality survival seeds? Let’s explore.
Seeds need to be applicable to your general growing area and the time of year in which you might need to plant them. For that reason, a diversified home seed vault is a must. So, in effect, quality survival seeds are somewhat personal – they need to produce plants that thrive in your location.
Quality survival seeds must:
- Represent quality yields and therefore must come from the choicest fruits and vegetables.
- Be applicable to your growing area
- Represent seasonal crops such as summer and winter – diversity
- Offer complete nutrition
- Match your concerns for food safety such as organic, non-GMO, etc.
- Heirloom over hybrids – Heirlooms are tried and true, and from them, you can develop hybrids. Hybrids also represent a genetic shortfall whereas heirlooms offer a complete genetic stock.
- Sold or stored in a quantity that matters
Best Practices for Survival Seed Storage
A good survival seed home storage strategy mirrors the best practices for storing survival food. Seeds should always be kept in a dry, dark place that offers year-round temperatures between freezing and 40°F. Seeds should also be safely stored so that humidity and moisture cannot get to them.
Seeds are affected by seasonal changes, and they act like little clocks. When the temperature drops and then warms, it signals the seeds that it is getting nearer the time to grow. When they go from dark (shorter days of winter) to the brighter light (longer days of summer,) it affects them.
By keeping them in a stable environment where light, moisture, and temperature are without fluctuations, seeds last much longer.
Like food, be sure to use your survival seeds annually. Use the oldest first and replace them either with seeds from your own crops or a survival seed source. How you use your seeds should be dictated by your own food storage needs.
A good goal is a 3-5-year storage cycle. You will always get the best germination using the freshest seeds so by using and replacing seeds seasonally; you ensure a healthy seed vault.
Pitfalls to Consider with Survival Seeds and Survival Seed Suppliers
Your goal is to find and store a collection of survival seeds that meet your food requirements. As such, you want to really shop the market for suppliers and pay close attention to the comments from past users. Look outside of the seed sellers site for recommendations.
Yelp and Google Business are two examples of sites on which past customers can leave comments. Pitfalls to avoid:
- Too Narrow of a Selection: Your seed collection should be broad and very diverse. Choose seeds that are easy to grow and that are not fussy. A great example of fussy seeds is big, slicing heirloom tomatoes which take a long time to mature and require a very narrow set of environmental conditions to produce a good harvest. On the other hand, early season tomatoes and cherry tomatoes make great choices as they produce buckets full of fruit and grow like weeds.
Many supplies have standard seed mixes, but not everything in those packages will:
- Fit your food growing needs
- Grow in your specific area
- Be easy to grow
- A variety of the seeds you need rather than just a single type of squash look for a variety of squash that fit your growing season and environment. You might face seasonal shifts that change your typical growing environment. A variety of seeds/plants gives you the best options for producing a yield that feeds you and your family.
- Smaller Quantities rather than huge bundles: Everything in a huge package of seeds is not what you need. Yes, the volume is great, but the selection is not going to mesh with your food goals. It will cost you more over the long-run to buy smaller quantities, but you gain a lot of control over the quality of seeds that you buy. Another point you should consider is a plan that continually adds seeds to your seed vault. In fact, you should have a gardening plan in place for dealing with a food crisis.
- Stick to Heirlooms as hybrids may not yield viable seeds. Part of the hybridization process results in sterile plants. They grow fruit with seeds that are not ever going to produce a crop. These are referred to as F1-hybrids, and the seed package may not indicate that information. Heirlooms are trusted and complete genetic representations of the plants you want to grow. So, always insist on heirlooms over hybridized seeds.
- Buy from different sources: It is sad to say, but not all seed companies are reputable. Some place the process of selling over being honest. This is one reason that saving your own seeds year-after-year is a good deal. Not only does buying from a few sources increase your chances of obtaining viable seeds but it also means you can find more varieties of specific vegetables.
- Sample packs so that you can test seed germination. Some companies might charge you for these, but it is a good investment. You gain the knowledge that the seeds you are buying are viable and that is important when it comes to food production in a crisis.
- Focus on Labor: In a food emergency, labor is going to be in short supply, and you will not have time to spend fussing over fragile vegetables. Make a food emergency strategy and then work to implement it now. A good example of this is growing a large garden every season. If the grocery stores should run out of food today, then you have a garden already in place to fall back on for feeding your family now. Crops tend to take 30-150 days to produce a yield. While your emergency food stores should help cover that span of time you don’t want to deplete those in the process.
A garden is easy to expand as needed. You can make sure that water lines and water sources are in place and if you design a garden that is much larger than you need, you have the option of rotating crops throughout that space.
In so doing, you are creating an easily expandable garden without the rush of energy needed during a crisis.
Where to find Survival Seeds
There are a million places that sell survival seeds, and that means there are a million sales pitches and marketing angles too. Relax, this does not have to be a difficult process.
What is the difference between survival seeds and regular seeds? Nothing – That’s the big difference.
There are a few advantages that survival seeds offer, such as a guaranteed shelf life or fancy storage buckets, but those things you can cover at home too. Sealing seeds in mason jars with an oxygen or humidity absorber is a good start.
What you need to really focus on is cycling your seeds throughout the seasons. This means using them and then replacing them. When you store your seeds, you need to ensure that they are in a location that offers consistent temperatures and that is out of direct light and free of humidity and water.
A five-gallon bucket with a tight-fitting lid or heavy-duty plastic storage boxes, even an ice chest with a tight-fitting lid and an oxygen absorbing material will help. Some companies ship their seeds in Mylar bags to help extend their shelf life. Well, the good news is that you can buy those in bulk and use them yourself.
The lesson here is that you need not be beholden to a big company with a fancy label that says Survival Seed Vault. My seeds come from organic suppliers such a rareseeds.com AKA Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and a few other nurseries. Not only am I very familiar with their products (I use them every season,) I also love their huge selection.
There are other companies like Patriot Seeds, and it is a good suggestion to look locally for organic seed suppliers. You will often find superior seeds from the best plants and those plants are likely to thrive in your area.
Just Getting Started and Resources
- 8 Tips for Storing Seeds for the Long Term – Backdoor Survival
- How to Plan for a Large Vegetable Garden – The Frugal Farmer
- Maintaining Healthy Soil with Crop Rotation – Mother Earth News
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2 Responses to “Finding the Best Survival Seeds – What to Look for and Where to Find Them”
Don’t demonize hybrids. Every beloved heirloom started out as a hybrid. Hybrids have their place in gardening just as much as heirlooms. Hybrids often offer benefits that heirlooms don’t. One such benefit is hybrid vigor. You must remember that heirlooms are mostly inbred to fix desired traits. This inbreeding can induce what is called inbreeding depression. Best practices tell us to introduce diversity into the heirloom line to combat inbreeding depression. Many hybrids are bred to resist diseases & pests, produce fruit earlier or may be more productive.
If I were going to design my own ‘survival seed’ package I would, in fact, make two survival seed packages. One would be a true survival seed package consisting of mostly hybrid seeds carefully selected for vigor, earliness, productivity, resistance to disease & pests. If you’re caught with your pants down in a true emergency situation, these seeds would probably produce crops much quicker, easier & in better quantities than heirlooms. Don’t discount the hybrid vigor factor. The only real downside to hybrids is the fact that if they produce viable seeds, they won’t produce true to type plants from those seeds. The new plants will take after one of the parent plants from that hybrid cross, which may not have the characteristics that you need or want. For this particular survival seed package I’d want it to feature lots of calorie dense, high carb or fatty fruits & veggies that store well in the short term future. Hopefully you’ll have enough food previously stored to get you through a 30-90 day growing season.
The other survival seed package that I would design would consist of carefully selected heirloom varieties that are well adapted to my growing zone or local climate. These varieties will take over from the hybrids after that first hectic growing season. I would have much more variety in this survival seed package.
That’s only if you get caught with your pants down. The only real survival garden is one that’s already planted & growing. Plant a garden every year. If you produce more than you can consume or preserve, give the excess away to family & friends or donate it to your local food pantry service. If you don’t want to call attention to the fact that you have an excess of food you can always do stealth donations in the middle of the night, etc.
Glad you mentioned Patriot Seeds. I have purchased several varieties of herbs, flowers & vegetables from them. Have found them to offer a great variety, a nice quantity of seeds per packet & the best prices. Every thing I have planted from them has grown well. Even the seeds older than 5 years had good viability. I do order a few things from Bakers Creek and a couple other places. The vast majority of my stored seeds come from Patriot Seeds.