Gardeners know the importance of matching the right plants to the right climate to produce yield. Planting and caring for a low yielding plant takes more work than for one that will produce a big crop, so why bother? Garden plants grow from seeds. We may buy them yearly as seedlings, but seeding one’s personal garden from known producers is rewarding and ensures plant consistency.
The most important thing to remember when planning your personal seed bank is that you can only save and store HEIRLOOM Open-Pollinated, non-hybridized, non-GMO seeds. Genetically modified and hybridized seeds have been tinkered with by large corporations such as Monsanto, which don't want you to be able to save your own seeds. They want you to have to buy seeds from them year after year. Hybridized or GMO seeds frequently have sterile first generation offspring (F1 is a designation you might have seen). This means that while you’ll get viable plants from the seeds you buy, the seeds you save from those plants will likely be sterile. If they’re not sterile, they’ll produce offspring that are so unlike the parents with such a wide variety of characteristics that they will be a disappointment and not useful. Only buy HEIRLOOM, Open-Pollinated seeds from trusted sources.
Heirloom, Open-Pollinated plant varieties are the only bet for a successful personal Seed Bank. You have probably heard of Seed Saving, where you save a plant’s seeds at the end of a growing season to serve as the seed source for the following year. This is great, because choosing the proper plants and practicing proper Seed-Saving methods gives you to a free, self-perpetuating garden year after year. Saving seed also means you can share seeds with friends and neighbors, so everyone can start growing their own. Seed sharing also allows some specializing, so if one person may have a talent with tomatoes, as an example, and another with herbs, seeds can be traded, shared or bartered. This system is one of the original forms of commerce, used by ancient cultures way before the concept of money. In fact, seeds were a precious commodity, needed for survival, and very valuable.
What is a seed bank?
Many people, however, are not as familiar with the concept of a personal seed bank. A personal seed bank has you saving seed for the coming season’s planting, but you also bank seed for longer storage, just in case.
What that “just in case” might be varies. Some people have created a personal seed bank as insurance against crop failures. Others believe a personal seed bank is necessary in the event of a partial (or total) societal collapse. Many people just like the idea of being Sustainable and Self Sufficient. Seed saving can also be a fun hobby.
Saving seeds from plants that work for you ensures good future crops. While legitimate seed developers try to breed plants for specific growing regions, many sub regions and local “climates” exist within a zone that spreads nationwide. Soil characteristics, water levels, sunlight variations, and other local conditions all affect product yield. So, if a specific type of tomato has grown well in your neighborhood, it is probably a great candidate for a “mother plant.” Saving the seeds from several of the same variety that have yielded well will help preserve and naturally select the strongest of the lot, eliminating flukes.
How to start
The second thing to decide when planning a seed bank is what kinds of seed you want to save. The best seeds to save are from fruits and vegetables you enjoy eating the most, but experience comes into play, too. If you’re a beginning seed saver, start by banking seeds that require the lowest skill set. This way you can focus your first growing season on learning seed saving techniques and still have viable, usable seed banked in preparation for the following growing season, at which time you’ll expand your skill. The easiest seeds to save and bank are self-pollinated seeds. They are less human- fussy, since they are nature pollinated (wind, proximity, insect). In general, seeds with a harder shell may be more resistant and easier when starting out. Flowers also make a good companion bank plant. Marigold, morning glories, sunflowers (although varieties are also food) and other larger seed flowers are easy to harvest and save.
What to save
The third thing to decide when planning a seed bank is what seeds would be best to save. This can vary greatly depending upon the reason why you are choosing to create a personal seed bank. If you’re banking seed as insurance against a crop failure in your garden or to be more self-sufficient, then banking what you like is the best option. If you’re banking seed as insurance against a societal collapse, then you’ll need to bank a wider variety of seeds and include many types that you may not have ever grown before, including grains. Be advised, though, that in these cases it is a good idea to get some experience growing these seeds before a collapse occurs; your seed bank will be useless if you don’t know how to grow the seeds you have.
Ready-to-order Seed Banks, or Seed Packages, are great options until you have a chance to store your own varieties. The Seed Guy is one great source for starting or adding to a seed bank. They offer a 55 Variety Heirloom Seed Bank, all Non GMO, with 23,000 Seeds all individually packaged, and then put in a 10 x 14 silver mylar bag for longer term storage. All Heirloom Seed is Home-Grown and fresh from the 2013 harvest. See their webpage for details, other options, and pricing. Check out their Facebook page, too.
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