By Travis Birch
In the event of a cataclysmic catastrophe, the world has prepared itself for the worst result. In a remote island along the Norwegian coast, a building in the town of Svalbard houses the world seed collection, the World Seed Banks.
Nation and individuals are able to secure seeds to repopulate the earth, or to maintain a backup to for personal use, seeds to feed the world. These seeds may be a one of a kind pepper that has long been lost to the dustbin of history, or it can be a specific hearty strain of wheat that will be pulled out and fertilized to replenish a common food staple.
This philosophy fits right into what my wife and I, our kids, even my faithful dog Chester do every day. We don’t pray for the demise of the modern world, we prepare ourselves for when and if that day should come, so that we can take care of ourselves properly.
We maintain two gardens on our property by our cabin. First is a smaller garden that is closer to the house. It is bigger than most average backyard gardens. Fleshy vegetables like tomatoes, and squash, along with greens take root here, seeds. Out on the property we have a larger garden. We grow corn, and root vegetables on this second spot. We are slowly growing this larger garden to accommodate more and more. The best thing though, is that we haven’t had to purchase seeds or seedlings in a few years. We cultivate our crops, using prime specimens to harvest seeds for next year, and stowing away a second years’ worth for our own personal seed bank in case a sickness or disaster befalls our food supply.
We start off with standard seed varieties. No hybrids here. We want consistent fruit and vegetables to come from our ground. Through trial and error we have found that hybrid varieties don’t always come in uniform sizes.
Keeping with that in mind, we don’t grow different varieties of the same item close by to one another. It’s possible that the wind can assist in cross pollinating, and we don’t want to chance that. Lastly, when preparing your planting, be aware that some plants are biennials. These biennials will take two years before producing a fruit or vegetable after the seed is germinated.
With any harvest you will find some exemplary samples, and some sub-par samples. To optimize future crops, chose the best looking, most desirable fruits and vegetables to gather seeds from. Ideally, they will produce a similar harvest in your future. Remove the seeds, and spread them out over a large flat sheet to dry out. Legumes should be left on their vines until they are dry and appear flakey. Corn needs to stay on the ear until they have little dents on the top of each kernel.
Potatoes, onions, and garlic can be stored in boxes or mesh style bags so they can breathe. We’re in the process of digging a root cellar on our land. This will stay dark, and maintain cooler temperatures, this is the prime environment for storing these types of root vegetables.
Assembling Your Seed Bank
You have your seeds prepared and ready for your future. You can put your seeds in jars or cups. We use envelopes because they are easy to store, they don’t weigh a ton, and they are easy to write on Seed Envelopes. We label the envelope with the original source and date, the current year it was harvested, and then the description, example, Calloway’s 2010, September 2017, Roma Tomatoes.
Now we can add our seeds to their respective envelopes. A fair amount seeds into two envelopes. One envelope for next season. This second envelope for the seed bank, gets rotated to the back of the bunch, and now we have a rotated envelope to discard from the front. This is the oldest envelope left in our seed bank. We do one of three things with this. First, we always try to germinate a few just to see if it takes root, using seedling trays. Second we offer them to neighbors to try, they understand our seed bank policy, or lastly, you can throw them away.
Finally we add a desiccant to each envelope. If you open your vitamins at home you see the little container with silica in it, same thing here. The idea is to keep the seeds dry by absorbing any moisture. We use rice, powdered milk or powdered nondairy creamer. Add them directly to your seeds. Store in a cool dry place, like a root cellar, and you’re done.
The following is an idea of what to expect. A seed supply, for free, for your next season’s sowing, remember to use a fertilizer, following the directions. A backed up seed bank that insures you and your family an ongoing supply of food. If you increase your yield, share with your neighbors, hold envelopes for them, they hold some for you in the event of a flood or fire on your land. An idea of how long your seeds will last is as follows. Legumes, about 2-3 years. Fleshy vegetables, about 3 years, and squashes should last 4-6 years. Now go forth and reap what you sow.