It’s easy to put off planning for the next gardening season when your beds are covered in a foot of snow. Right now it seems like it’s going to be forever until we can get back out there and start planting. However the winter months are a great time to do some indoor gardening projects to get ready for next season.
Today we are going to be discussing seed banks. Most prepper sites have gone over seed banks before, usually talking about the benefits of buying some overpriced, doomsday seed-bunker that shouldn’t be cracked open until the apocalypse is upon us.
I’m going to take a little bit of a different approach to seed banks today and hopefully give you guys some ideas on how to start your own seed bank for next to nothing and answer some commonly asked questions about seed banks.
When is the best time to buy seeds?
Most people think that the best time to buy seeds is at the beginning of the growing season. The selection is usually the best and if you keep an eye on the sales you can usually find a good deal. Typically the sales will run in a 3 week cycle, 2 weeks normal price, 1 week on sale. I agree, I get a lot of seeds that don’t store well more than a year at the beginning of the season on sale.
However…if you REALLY want to save some money and stock up on a ton of seeds for next to nothing you should buy as much of your seed as you can right after the gardening season is done in your area.
The best place I’ve found to get good deals on seeds is Dollar General. Dollar General usually has cheap seeds anyway even during the gardening season, but I went there a few weeks ago and essentially cleaned out everything that was left in their seed display. I brought 27 packets of seeds up to the counter. They rang in for a nickel a piece. 27 packets for $1.35+tax. Yeah you’re not going to find that kind of deal anywhere near gardening season.
I ended up with only 5 different varieties of seeds from this haul, but that’s more than OK with me, as I will simply add the extras to my growing stock of seeds.
One of the most obvious, yet often overlooked ways to stock up on seeds is by saving seeds after harvesting your vegetables. If you’re a typical peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and squashes gardener, there really is no reason to buy seeds after your first harvest unless you want to. Simply remove the seeds from a few of your veggies, wash them off, let them sit out on a try on your counter to dry for a few hours and then bag them up. Buying seeds every year for vegetables like these, which produce more than enough seeds, is kind of silly.
Long-term seed storage
Different kinds of seeds can store for different periods of time. A lot of seeds can be easily stored for several years. Some will only give you reliable germination rates if they’re stored for less than a year.
While doing my own seed research I found an extremely useful chart at growingtaste.com that shows the longevity of vegetable seeds by year. You can check out the chart HERE. It’s pretty accurate, however you can greatly extend these storage times if you take a few more steps when storing your seeds.
There are several different ways to store seeds. The biggest hurdle with it is keeping moisture and air away from the seeds so they don’t begin to germinate or rot. There’s several ways of doing this but we’ll go over 2 of the most effective today.
Mylar bags are my favorite way to store seeds. They resist moisture, are airtight and store extremely easily. Simply put 1 variety of seeds into a small mylar bag, seal the end until it’s almost closed, suck out most of the remaining air from the bag (there’s equipment you can buy to do this but I’m cheap and just do it by hand…or lips I guess) then finish sealing the bag. Label the outside of the bag with the type of seed and the date it was sealed. You’re good to go, unless the bag gets ripped those seeds will last for a very long time.
This method is a little more expensive and is more fitting for storing a large amount of seeds in one container. Go to your local paint store and ask if they have unused sample paint cans. These are usually 2-3 inches wide and a couple inches tall. They come with lids that are airtight when closed and have a nice little wire handle. They also stack very well for easy storage.
Since there’s more air space within the can, it’s better to use this method when you have a larger amount of the same seeds to store since the more seeds in the can, the less space for air. One of these cans full of seed can actually double the expected shelf life of the seeds themselves. If you’re looking to make your own “Doomsday” seed bank, this is the method you’d want to use.
Are premade seed banks worth the money?
There are dozens if not hundreds of vendors out there selling pre-made seed banks. Some of them are a decent price and some of them are ridiculously overpriced.
The thing to keep in mind about these premade seed banks is that I have yet to see one that is tailor-built for the person that’s actually going to be using them. Usually these seed banks include a huge variety of seeds, which is great, except for the fact that a lot of people will only be able to actually grow a handful of the plants that are in there. You can’t just plant any old seed in the ground and expect it to grow if your area isn’t suited for that particular plant.
Now if there were someone that could tailor-make a seed bank specifically suited to each growing region then it might be worth the money if you don’t want to take the time to put it together yourself. That being said, if you’re going to go to the effort of tracking down a seed bank provider (if there is one) that would actually do this, you’ve probably got enough time to do it yourself.
In my opinion, it’s actually a heck of a lot easier to just harvest the seeds yourself from your own vegetables and use one of the methods above for storing them. You’ll know exactly what kind of plant it is, if you’re concerned about GMO products you’ll know with certainty if it’s a GMO seed and if you’re a proponent of buying locally, you can’t get much more local than your own backyard.
One last helpful tip…
A lot of people seem to have trouble with their germination rates on their stored seeds. The reason behind this is that the shells on some seeds can actually harden over time, which means that even if the seed is completely healthy and would normally germinate without a problem, storing the seed has turned the shell hard and the plant doesn’t have enough energy to split the seed open.
An easy way to fix this is to put the seeds you want to germinate into the freezer a few days before you plant or germinate them. It will not damage the inner seed. In fact, many varieties of seeds have to go through a freeze period (just like they would do in the wild) in order to weaken the shell enough so the plant can break through. Without that freezing period, you’ll continue to see very low germination rates on these types of seeds.
Have any more seed storage tips you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below!
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