If you find yourself in a situation where you will need to reply on yourself for growing your own food, you probably know that being able to save your seeds is crucial – it allows you to replant your garden year after year, even if you don’t have easy access to seeds for sale. But while many people know they should save seeds during an emergency, most do not know how are or why they should start learning to do it now.
The act of saving seeds now offers a variety of benefits… not the least of which is learning how when there isn’t a real emergency.
Firstly, it helps you become more self-reliant, as you won’t have to rely on seed companies to provide you with seeds each year. Saving seeds also allows varieties to adapt to your local conditions, as planting multiple generations of seeds from the same source increases the likelihood of adaptation to your microclimate and soil conditions, resulting in a healthier and more productive crop.
You will be able to practice on how to save seeds. Depending on what you are growing, seeds may come from the vegetable or from the plant itself. You will need to learn how to identify the seeds from each type of plant you are growing – especially when you need to harvest the seeds from the plant itself and not the vegetables.
If you start saving seeds now, you will also learn how to properly harvest the seeds, but also preparing them for storage – for example, you need to dry most seeds before storing. And you can practice replanting them the next year – if they don’t sprout, you can then figure out why that is – and learning now is far better than learning by trial and error during a real emergency!
Saving seeds puts you in full control of your food source, as seeds sold in supermarkets may be chemically coated or genetically engineered. Heirloom varieties are the best option, while hybrids may become heirlooms over time, but sourcing heirlooms from professionals is recommended due to the unpredictability of hybrid seeds.
Saving seeds also promotes biodiversity by allowing you to participate in the reproduction and breeding of seeds. This is particularly important, as industrial agriculture has resulted in a loss of 93% of variety in food seeds in less than a century, and only a few varieties remain of certain crops.
Saving seeds can help contribute to the natural resistance of plants against bugs and disease, as monocultures are less resilient to pests and disease, and more reliant on chemicals to stay bug and disease-free. Crop variety is the most natural and gentle way of controlling pests, and promotes the health of the soil by allowing good soil organisms to thrive.
Another benefit of saving seeds is the ability to extend the harvest by planting early, mid, and late-season varieties, which allows for a more staggered harvest, preventing the wastage of produce. Additionally, saving seeds can result in better-tasting produce, as reckless genetic hybridization has often compromised the taste and quality of many food crops. Saving seeds from heirloom varieties can help ensure the preservation of flavor and color in food crops.
Do remember that you CANNOT save seeds from anything you planted with a hybrid seed. They need to be from plants and seeds most typically marketed as heirloom varieties.