Growing a home garden is one of the best ways to keep fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. A garden is also a great way to add nutrition and variety to your food storage. Storing a year’s supply of garden seeds in addition to keeping and maintaining a garden is a great way to ensure that, even in an emergency situation, growing a garden is a viable option.
Storing Garden Seeds
When purchasing storable seeds, non-hybrid, open-pollinating seeds are best. When you plant these types of seeds and allow them to "go to seed" at the end of the season, you can save the seeds for a future garden. Most seeds sold today are hybrid seeds and cannot produce more plants. The value of non-hybrid, open pollinating seeds cannot be overestimated. There is an old adage that says, "You can count the seeds in an apple, but you cannot count the apples in a seed." This is true for these types of seeds.
Emergency Essentials’ canned garden seeds or Heirloom Seeds Combo are non-hybrid, open pollinating seeds (except the corn) and include one packet each of radishes, onions, spinach, cabbage, Swiss chard, beets, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini squash, peppers, winter squash, and tomatoes and four packets each of peas, beans, and corn seeds. Each packet is foil lined. This will allow you to plant a garden the size of a basketball court.
Garden seeds should be stored in a dry, cool environment and sealed tightly to avoid moisture. Storing seeds in a freezer prolongs their shelf life—and, of course, you can learn how to harvest, dry, and store seeds from your heirloom garden.
Planning Your Garden
When planning a garden plot, remember:
- Draw a garden plan. This is helpful in deciding what to plant where and can serve as a reminder to rotate the next year.
- Every yard has some space available. You can even use part of your lawn, play area, or flower garden. If you don’t have a yard, window boxes and planters are a great option.
- The area where you want to plant your garden should have at least four to six hours of direct sunshine every day.
- The soil should be able to drain well. (Holes in the bottom of planters or window boxes are useful). Fertilize the soil by adding fertilizer before tilling the soil. Continue to fertilize your garden throughout the growing season. Fertilizers can be organic or chemical—just be sure to choose a fertilizer that will work for the plants you have selected.
- Plant a variety of fruits and vegetables. Dark green and orange vegetables are rich in vitamin A while tomatoes, strawberries, green peppers, cantaloupe, and citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C.
Gardening in Small Spaces
If you don’t have a lot of space available, or the soil in your area is poor, you may want to consider container gardening. Any room in the house can be used to grow plants. Some alternative spaces are:
- Hanging baskets (indoors or out)
- Pots, baskets, buckets
- Boxes, egg cartons
- Barrels, wheelbarrows, oil drums
- Window boxes
- Shared neighborhood lot
In an emergency situation, you can grow seeds in even more unusual areas:
- Open sections between bricks and concrete
- Along fences, river banks, or train tracks
- Around storage sheds or boulders
- On a raft at anchor in a pond (protection from animals)
- Soil beds on a roof built like flower beds and filled with fertilized soil
Be creative. The same places that weeds and other unwanted plants grow can be used to grow vegetables, fruits, or even herbs.
How to Plant
- A good general rule is to plant seeds at a depth three times the diameter of the seed. Fine seeds should be scattered on top of the soil and pressed down lightly.
- Climbing plants such as tomatoes, peas, and beans should be planted near stakes or trellises.
- Plant your seeds with enough room to enable you to move around the plants so you can weed them even after the plants have grown.
- Fruit trees should not be planted in the lawn area. The watering and fertilizing schedule for lawns varies greatly from what fruit trees need.
Saving your own seeds can be time-consuming. However, when you replant from seeds that you save, it usually yields plants that are better suited to your particular soil and climate.
Once you plant your garden, watch for and keep track of the healthiest non-hybrid, self-pollinating plants. These are the easiest to harvest good seeds from. Self-pollinating plants are able to produce seeds on their own, without the aid of wind, bees, or other insects. Hybrid plants will grow great the first time, but seeds harvested from a hybrid plant may yield unusual produce.
If this is your first try at saving seeds, start with beans, squash, dill, and/or marigolds. Drying collected seed thoroughly is essential for proper storage. Excess moisture can cause the seeds to mold and rot. Use a fine screen or a sheet of plastic or glass to dry the seeds on. Do not use paper towels--the seeds will stick and become hard to separate. Dry the seeds in a warm place out of direct sunlight.
You can store collected seeds in coin envelopes, small pill bottles, empty film canisters, or other small envelopes and containers. Label each container or packet with seed type and any other relevant information. Then store in a dry, cool place. If you use envelopes to store the seeds you may also want to place them in a jar with an airtight seal to keep out moisture.
Sometimes you and your family need nourishing vegetables immediately in an emergency. Waiting months to harvest a garden may be too long. A fast and easy approach to obtaining some of the nutrients vegetables provide is sprouting. Sprouting is simple, and some sprouting kits cost less than $15. You can even use items found around the house. Some good sprouting seeds are alfalfa, mung beans, triticale, soy beans, lentils, whole peas, adzuki beans, clover, garbanzo beans, rye, wheat, beans, rice, and oats. The last five seeds mentioned sprout in only two days. The rest sprout in three to five days.
Fresh vegetables, greens, and fruits are an important part of your family’s diet. With a little planning, storage, and hard work, you can grow part of your own food storage.