Being self sufficient not only requires growing your own food but also providing your own seeds collected from the previous years crops. These techniques have become a bit of a lost art to most people today who aren’t farmers because seeds can just be repurchased every year from the store.
The problem with gardens that are started by your typical hybrid store bought seed is that the seeds produced by these plants will most likely be sterile, leaving you no choice but to rebuy seed every year. If there is ever any interruption in the availability of new seeds, you are simply out of luck and will not be able to regrow those crops. Another drawback to not using your own seeds is that you cannot breed plant traits that are specific to your needs and environment.
Lets say you live in an environment that has a lot of rain and moisture causing your crops to be susceptible to mold. When creating your own seeds you can choose to pollinate only plants that show resistance against mold. After a few generations all your plants should show this same resistance resulting in a better harvest. The same can be done for plants the are most resistant to pests that are most prominent in your area or better acclaimed to the temperature in your area. When you buy hybrid seeds that may have been grown in a completely different area from yours, you pretty much just have to hope your crops will be able to handle the different environmental factors in your area compared to where they were grown.
Here are the most important factors to think about when saving seeds from your last crop or purchasing seeds for a new garden.
- Purchase or collect seeds only from open pollinated non hybrid plants. Open pollinated seeds will breed true and allow you to pick the traits for future crops that are best suited for your growing environment. Hybrid seeds will usually produce plants the will create sterile seeds or seeds that grow plants that are not uniform and can vary drastically.
- Only save seeds from the healthiest most robust plants that thrive and are resistant to insects and disease that are most common in your area.
- Avoid cross pollination from other varieties of plants of the same species or family. One of the best ways to avoid this is to not plant multiple varieties of the same types of plants. Even different plants that are closely related can cross pollinate each other.
- Use multiple plants for producing seeds instead of just a few. This will ensure your plants preserve their inherent genetic diversity and continue to grow strong and healthy for many generations.
Remember, open pollination is the key to a healthy garden and successful seed saving. Plants that reproduce naturally over time tend to thrive and adapt to their local conditions, evolving into reliable performers that will create a healthy and robust garden.
Before storing, fresh seed must be dried to below a 9% moisture level. Humidity and moisture is to be avoided because it promotes the growth of micro-organisms that degrade seed quality. Dried seeds should be stored in an air tight, moisture proof container. Placing seeds in a ziplock bag, and then in a glass air tight mason jar would be ideal.
The second important variable to storing seeds is temperature. Seeds should be stored at cold temperatures with as little temperature variation as possible. Most seeds can last up to 5 years with good germination rates at temperatures comparable to your fridge. For even longer lasting seeds, freezing them in an air tight containers could make them viable for many more years.