Monthly Archives: April 2013

  • Storing (and Understanding) Heirloom Garden Seeds

    Garden seeds probably aren't the first thing most of us think of buying for our long-term food storage supply. But if you’re thinking ahead, or you’re working on becoming more self-sufficient, then seeds should be on your list. You can’t just throw any old pack of seeds into your storage room or freezer and expect them to last, though. When you’re planning to store seeds, look at the seeds themselves, how they’re prepped for storage, and the packaging they come in.

    Heirloom Garden Seeds (canned)

    Heirloom seeds are the way to go when adding seeds to your long-term food storage. Emergency Essentials offers non-GMO (not genetically modified) Heirloom seeds that are non-hybrid and open-pollinated. That means these seeds will breed true or that they will produce a plant with the same characteristics, not just once, but over and over. You’ll be able to harvest seeds and replenish your storage. It’s a perpetual storage program! (Learn more about non-hybrid, open-pollinated plants on Granny Miller’s blog.)

    Our supplier tests each seed variety personally and on a regular basis to make sure that we get the best non-GMO seeds on the market. Here’s what they test for:

    • adaptability to a variety of growing conditions
    • ease of growing, so even a first-timer can successfully grow a garden
    • nutritional density so you’ll get as much nutrition per square foot as possible

    Now let’s talk about how they prepare the seeds for storage. In order to preserve seeds for long-term storage, you have to get the right balance of moisture. Too much moisture means the seeds will rot over time or, if frozen, will burst. Too little moisture means the seeds will die. Emergency Essentials’ Boxed and Canned Heirloom Seeds are prepared to ensure optimum moisture content. You’ll be able to store these seeds in a storeroom or freezer with the confidence that they’ll sprout when you plant them years later.

    How long will your seeds last? Let’s assume a base storage temperature at 70° F (storing your seeds at temperatures above 70° F will reduce their longevity). We generally say that seeds stored at 70° F will sprout for up to 4 years. But, if you refrigerate or freeze your seeds they’ll last even longer. We estimate that every 6° drop in temperature will double the life of your seeds. You could really extend the life of your seeds and turn them into a true family heirloom! Our supplier’s tests show that these seeds will successfully germinate even after 13 years of storage! (We don’t know at which temperature they stored the seeds for this test.) However, because seeds are living organisms we suggest that you rotate your stock at least every four years.

    Grandfather teaching his grandkids about gardening.

    Much of the longevity of our Heirloom Seeds is due to packaging. The seeds are heat-sealed into triple-layered foil bags before being packed into a box or #10 can. Each bag has an E-Z Lock seal so the bag is reusable – you can return the seeds to storage in the same bag—even after you’ve opened it.

    All in all, storing a few seeds now means more independence later. Emergency Essentials’ Heirloom Seeds will allow you to oversee your own food production. You’ll be able to plant a garden on your own time. You’ll have fresh produce during a time when you might not be able to get it from the grocery store. Best of all, you may just create a family heirloom for the next generation to inherit.

     

     

     

    Sources:

    http://www.garden.org/subchannels/care/seeds?q=show&id=293

    http://www.ars.usda.gov/main/site_main.htm?modecode=54-02-05-00

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: garden seeds, gardening, food storage

  • Thinking Outside the (Planter) Box

    Flowers in an old boot

    “If you feel guilty throwing aluminum cans or paper in the trash,” the Internet recently told me, “you live in Washington.” As a native Northwesterner, I can personally vouch for this. Yes, we wear sandals with socks; yes, we assume you’re a tourist if you’re carrying an umbrella; and yes, we can be a little fanatical when it comes to the environment. Which is why this Seattle times article from a few years ago, titled “Turn your old junk into garden treasures,” struck a chord in my rainy little heart. Recycling? Gardening?! And DIY?! Swoon!

    Of course, the trend of repurposing rubbish for use in container gardening is hardly brand new. Home and garden magazines have been telling us for years how cute our herbs would look peeking out of old bathtubs and galvanized watering cans. And using containers you already have on hand both reduces waste and saves money. But before you go ransacking the woodshed, here are a few points to consider.

    Materials. Growing food in containers requires some extra diligence. According to the University of Louisville’s Center for Environmental Policy & Management, one major consideration in safe container gardening is chemical leaching. Fantastic flea market furniture could contain lead paint; galvanized metals may contain zinc or cadmium; and even salvaged lumber has sometimes been treated with creosote or asbestos. Additionally, the container’s color can affect soil temperature (darker = hotter), which might harm small shoots. And materials not meant for outdoor use could break, rot, or dry out.

    Succulents growing in rusty oil can

    Size. Yes, your husband’s collection of Scooby Doo lunch boxes could be put to better use than taking up space in the coat closet. However, a tall tomato or deep carrot won’t really thrive in something so shallow. Consider the size and depth of the container in relation to plants’ needs. The University of Maryland’s Home & Garden Information Center offers a handy set of recommendations by plant. (P.S. They also have an ingenious how-to for a self-watering container out of a five gallon bucket!)

    Drainage. No matter what container you find, be sure it will stand up to a quarter inch drill bit. Proper drainage is crucial and can get tricky with containers not originally meant for garden use. Drill, poke, or punch enough holes to allow for quick drainage; consider lining the bottom of the container with gravel; and, if possible, mount the container on blocks—even one or two inches is better than setting it flush on flat ground.

    So, even if you’re not the sock-with-sandals, guilt-ridden-because-you-threw-paper-away type, think carefully before making that next dump run. And if you think that “reduce, reuse, recycle” needs to be your new gardening mantra, here are a few other ideas to make your greens even greener. Look for later posts on these!

    • Seed harvesting
    • Natural pest deterrents
    • Foraging for mushrooms and edible weeds
    • Sprouting beans and seeds
    • Re-growing from kitchen scraps

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: DIY, recycling, gardening, garden, skills

  • Solar Power: Clean, Quiet, and Safe

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    field of grass and sunset

    Hey, did you know that today is Earth Day? So let’s talk about getting prepared by using one of our planet’s incredible eco-friendly (and free!) resources: the Sun.  Gathering sunlight and turning it into power is one way to be prepared for a variety of electronic needs in an emergency.

    It seems like the electricity goes out during almost every disaster situation, so it’s wise to have items on hand that will provide light and power when you need them. Solar power is a clean, quiet, and safe source of electricity. And, bonus: No gasoline or propane is required for solar power, so no flammable chemicals will be hanging out in your basement or garage.

     

    How does solar power work?

    Goal Zero, a company that makes solar power products, gives three steps on how the system works:

    1. Collect Power: As sunlight hits a panel made out of silicon, electrons begin to move in the material and it creates electricity. The silicon material can vary between different panels.
    2. Store Power: Once the electricity is created the panel can charge a battery for future use. This can be done with a large battery or a smaller internal battery in a cell phone or tablet.
    3. Use Power: You can use the stored power to run a variety of needed devices.

    Remember that there are different sized solar panels for different needs.  A portable panel that fits in a backpack may only produce 7-13 watts an hour.  This can only power small electronics like radios, UV purifiers, tablets, or GPS units.  Larger panels charge batteries used for T.V.’s, CPAP machines, or even a fridge.

     

    What are some items that use solar power?

    The Nokero Light: this light has a solar panel built into the top.  You hang the light in a window or outside during the day to charge the internal battery, and a built-in sensor turns the light on when it gets dark. The battery can last 6+ hours between charges.

    Voyager Radios: a built-in solar panel is one of several ways these emergency radios can be charged. The solar panel will still charge the radio as it plays important information during an emergency.

    Goal Zero Nomad 7 and Guide 10 Plus: the Nomad 7 is a solar panel that can produce up to 7 watts per hour.  It charges AA or AAA batteries in the Guide 10 Plus.  The battery charger has a USB port that charges cell phones, tablets, or other hand held electronics (cool, huh?!).

    Goal Zero Boulder 30 and Yeti 1250: the Boulder 30 is a larger solar panel that can draw up to 30 watts per hour. Multiple panels together can charge various units, up to a Yeti 1250.  The Yeti is a large battery with enough stored power to run some fridges up to 48 hours per charge. This system can light your whole house—and it’s surprisingly compact, considering all the power it offers!

    Goal Zero Yeti

    Click here to see all our solar-powered items. Have you used solar power before? What’s your favorite thing about it?

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Goal Zero, solar power, emergency power

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