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Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.


Saving Seeds After the Harvest

Seed saving is a skill that has kept us alive since the dawn of agriculture as we slowly drifted away from hunting and gathering cultures. In this age of GMO frankencrops, climate change and the inevitable global financial crash that will accompany the failure of Keynesian economics, it is becoming more important.

Where Does Your Seed Come From?

The first seed company in the United States was the Landreth Seed Company, established in 1784. Before seed companies were established, farmers saved their own seed. If you are like most of us, your seed comes from a store or mail order catalog with a web-based business. There is a great list of seed companies from MOTHER EARTH NEWS. But what are you going to do if the worst prepper nightmare arrives one day. I mean, like, if super storms wipe out the port cities on the East and West coasts, or like when the Federal Reserve Bank loses control and the government collapses and the country divides into Jericho like regions plagued by marauding hoards?

seeds

There Are Many Reasons to Save Seed

Saving Our Seeds lists the following reasons:

“The genetic reservoir and uniqueness of our vegetable seed heritage resides principally in three places: (1) the USDA seed bank (2) small specialized seed companies, and (3) small family farms, especially those in ethnic communities. Unfortunately, these are all at risk. Federally sponsored government institutions such as the USDA seed bank are subject to periodic funding crises. Small, specialized seed companies (which offer many unique varieties) have low market penetration, are labor intensive, and are subject to market pressures which put them at risk. Small family farms are at risk from urbanization, rural outmigration, and economic change. Multinational corporations are replacing multi-crop fields with monocultures, replacing traditional varieties with hybrids, and polluting open-pollinated varieties with genetically modified crops.

"Gardeners and farmers have assumed that the primary sources of seed will always be available as raw material for the food production system. Yet increasingly this assumption is unsustainable. We need to teach ourselves and our children that stewardship of our seed resources is a community responsibility that begins on the local level."

After the Harvest, What Should We Do With These Leftover Seeds?

After the harvest it is time to clean up the gardening workbench. In the rush of life, the left over seed packets always seem to go to the bottom of the list as shown below in my garage workspace:

The first step in saving seeds is to make sure they are dry. Store them in a cool dry place or in a refrigerator. If you store them in plastic or glass containers be sure to use a desiccant such as powdered milk or silica gell as described on the Organic Gardening website.

How Long Will My Seeds Last?

Here is a chart provided by Dayna Mcdamiels of Seed Savers KC.

Vegetable

Years

Vegetable

Years

Asparagus

3

Kohlrabi

3

Bean

3

Leek

2

Beet

4

Lettuce

6

Broccoli

3

Muskmelon

5

Brussels sprouts

4

Mustard

4

Cabbage

4

New Zealand spinach

3

Carrot

3

Okra

2

Celeriac

3

Onion

1

Cauliflower

4

Parsley

1

Celery

3

Parsnip

1

Chard, Swiss

4

Pea

3

Chicory

4

Pepper

2

Chinese cabbage

3

Pumpkin

4

Collards

5

Radish

5

Corn, sweet

2

Rutabaga

4

Cucumber

5

Salsify

1

Eggplant

4

Spinach

3

Endive

5

Squash

4

Fennel

4

Tomato

4

Kale

4

Turnip

4

 

Watermelon

4

seed packets

The Best Deal on Seeds

The best deal on seeds is of course after the harvest in the local seed store, nursery, or food coop. Seed packets go for half price or less. Now that you know how long seeds will last in storage, grab the seeds with the longest projected viability knowing that by the time you plant them more than a year will have gone by since they were packaged. Here is a post growing season seed sale rack at The Merc Food Coop. in Lawrence, Kansas.

References:

The Political Failure of Keynesian Economics, Atlantic Magazine, Megan McCardle, Feb, 16 2011
Kansas Native Seed Society
The Landreth Seed Company


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