Author Topic: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?  (Read 21309 times)

Offline Nicodemus

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Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« on: July 09, 2012, 10:15:04 AM »
Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?

First let me state that I'm a beginner at the art of gardening. It is from the perspective of what little I've learned thus far that I approach this subject.

I started thinking about all of this quite by accident. Initially I was searching for and reading about various ways of saving and storing seeds. However, most likely due to Google Adsense, I was getting returns for Emergency Seed Bank/Vault/Kit offers both in the paid advertiser listings and in advertising space on various pages that I visited.

Google is indeed watching...

Eventually curiosity got the better of me and I clicked a few links to read about some of these emergency seed kits. My mind then wandered into the territory of "What If".

What if this year, my first year attempting a garden, had been at a moment in time where the survival of my family depended on me making use of and successfully growing produce from an Emergency Seed Bank to fill holes or extend the length of time my storage food could last?

The quick answer to that is that an Emergency Seed Bank would probably have helped a little, but probably wouldn't have done much if my only tools were the seed bank, land and hope.

While I can see the usefulness of Emergency Seed Kits, banking on them to save your bacon in an emergency, especially if you've had little or no experience in gardening could result in disaster. And I certainly wouldn't rely on one as my only source of potential food in a crisis. It'll be obvious to most of the people that frequent this section that it's not just a matter of planting seeds and waiting for a harvest, but I thought I'd write down my thoughts anyway just in case someone wandered through who was contemplating a seed bank as their go to means of weathering a crisis. (I also didn't want my 5000th post to be something like "That looks great, dude!" and something that a few folks might find useful.)

Simply put, for the best chance at having a successful garden you need more than seeds and land.

First of all I considered the prep time that went into my gardens this year.

For a lot of us, we just don't have the time needed in a growing season to sew all of our seeds directly into the ground with hopes to get much before the first frost. So, we have to start a lot of our seeds indoors. That requires at least a few prepositioned supplies or the ability to scrounge something up that will work. A quick trip to the local garden center, nursery or big box store for seed starting cells, soil and other items might be a problem in an emergency.

I started some seeds indoors around mid February. After seeing some germination going on I was quite excited. At the end of that month my cat had discovered how to open the bifold doors to the sunroom. The result was a complete loss of everything I had planted. The cat and the dog got into the seedlings, knocked them over, dug around and used the mess as a litter box. This all happened in only a few hours. This disaster was all my fault. I hadn't even considered the possibility that my own pets would be the first pests that I encountered on my way. Still, it happened and had I been short on seeds it would have been a big problem. It was a lesson learned.

I started from scratch again within a few days, this time with a bungie cord tying the sunroom doors closed. Within a week or so, seedlings were starting to pop up again. I would say that I had a successful germination rate of approximately ± 90%. Even so, due to one factor or another several seeds of a few different varieties failed to germinate at all. I don't know if the conditions in the sunroom were unfavorable or that the seeds were old. They were sealed in the original packaging, but had no date on them. I had no real way of knowing if they ever would have worked. This makes me wonder about the seeds in a lot of emergency kits. It also makes me wonder about how long they can be stored and remain viable.

Everything seemed to be progressing until I noticed there was a problem. Within a month 100% of my tomato starts had died and my peppers were slightly yellowed and had stopped progressing. Other seedlings seemed to be doing fine. So I resigned myself to the idea of picking up starts from the local organic nursery. This year I had gone with organic starter cells that were capable of being planted directly into the ground and coconut coir as a starter medium. I never sufficiently diagnosed the problem, which means that next year I could witness similar problems if I take a similar tack. If I move to soil cubes next year to start my plants it will be like starting from scratch. If there had been an emergency where I couldn't drop in on the local nursery I wouldn't have been able to grow any tomatoes and few peppers.

Aside from that, I began laying out my garden beds in mid April thinking that I would have them done in a couple of weeks. Despite a lot of hard work, I didn't have them completed and ready for planting until the end of May. It took me more than a month to prepare 192 square feet of raised bed/hugelkultur garden space. Now if it had been an emergency, I would have gone straight to tilling and skipped all of the leveling, terracing, hugelkultur and bringing in compost, chicken manure and mulch. The problems with that approach however would have been many, at least in my imagination. The first problem is that my back yard is on the side of a small mountain. The slope goes from about 17º at the top of the hill to almost 30º near the house thus erosion could have been a major issue. The second problem is that I only have a few inches of topsoil followed by thick red clay. The land you have available to you may be problematic and you may never know until you start working it.

Many of the various seed banks that I looked at boasted that they contained more than an acre's worth of seeds. That's a lot of seeds and a decent amount of food if all goes well, but it's also a lot of land that you have to prepare ahead of planting. You have to put in some significant work in on the front end of a garden and from what I did this year for 192 square feet, I can't imagine preparing an acre to be planted especially with only a shovel, maddock and a rake. I'd at least want a rototiller for that first year and hope that I could maintain the gardening area with heavy mulching. I learned pretty quickly that equipment becomes an important part of gardening, and if you don't have the equipment to use as a force multiplier, it's going to take even more time and effort.

While on the topic of equipment, I can't imagine the amount of effort I'd have to put into maintaining the garden's health if I didn't have the use of good hose of the regular and soaker variety. For me at least, this brings in the public water works as a tool that would have to be covered if an emergency arose in which the taps weren't working. If you don't have access to some kind of water supply that you can move in large amounts on your own, you're probably going to have to figure out a way to keep a garden thriving when it's dry. I'm working on putting together a rain catchment system at the house, but that still would mean that I have to get the water to the garden, and for me that would mean a pump of some kind since my garden's elevation is higher than my home. I don't want to be in the position of having to carry water up to the garden in a bucket at around eight pounds per gallon. 

I'd also have to hope that the soil I had could be useful and heavily productive without a lot of amendments if I didn't have them on hand or the ability to go out and get them in an emergency. As mentioned previously, here at the house, there was only a few inches of good topsoil before I ran into a layer of red clay. I can imagine it would have been tough going. My neighbor, who lives upslope from me, has managed well with a bit of rototilling, but I have no idea if he used any soil amendments or not.

Let me get back to my garden and actual problems that I've run into thus far. My next problem was pests. Other than the rabbits that I know are living under the neighbor's shed and the opossum and raccoons that have been seen by others, I know that we have a significant deer population in the area. The rabbits, opossum and raccoon started taking a toll on my direct sewn seeds as soon as they broke soil. I lost 100% of my radishes, 90% of my sunflowers and about 25% of my beans. I ended up using wildlife netting to keep the furry pests at bay, but I had to go out and buy it. I'm also building some live traps to make use of in the future. I figure that I can use my garden as a lure to procure more food, but that's another topic entirely. What this means is that I would have had to have even more tools and supplies on hand if this had been an emergency.

Luckily I've not had too much damage from insects or disease this year, otherwise it would have meant that I would have needed more supplies on hand or some way to fight to keep my garden healthy in an emergency. I can imagine that I've only been lucky because the only thing I've done to keep bad insects out of my garden is to transplant some beneficial insects that I've found around the yard and house up to the garden. Regarding disease, I've been quick to get rid of any plants or parts that appeared to be suffering from one ailment or another, but that's about it. I'm sure that I'll run into more disease in the future and have just been lucky thus far.

With all of that in mind, there's a concept that practiced gardeners understand that I'd not even considered until I started my first garden. A garden has a timeline and just because you have seeds it doesn't mean that you plant them all at once. Aside from the idea of starting seeds indoors, a lot of plants simply have different growing seasons and depend on the temperature not getting too hot before they bolt or simply can't tolerate. I planted a few things out of season just to see what happened and the outcome made me giggle a little bit. At least I'd learned enough to know what the most likely outcome was.

Another potential problem I see with seed banks is that from what I've seen so far, they don't seem to be region specific. While I could potentially grow most of their contents where I live, I don't think this is the case with some of the other areas that I've read about gardening within.

I also wonder about basic information on how to garden. I've only seen a couple of kits that have any kind of included information on the subject. I can't count how many articles I've read, podcasts that I've listened to and friends I've called for information on the subject. If the internet hadn't been here for me to use, I didn't have the use of a phone and I didn't have any books on the subject I can't imagine how badly things would have gone for me so far.

If anyone has any additional thoughts on the subject, I'd really like to read about them. It might save someone from disaster in the future.

Offline Medicineball

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2012, 04:08:41 PM »
What an absolutely fantastic post - a real wake up call! Thanks!

Offline Frugal Upstate

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2012, 06:24:37 PM »
I agree--fantastic post.  There is quite a steep learning curve with gardening, I'd hate to be trying to learn while in a true survival situation.

I find that I frequently go online to  look up gardening information -- as you point out that info might not always be available.  I need to start building up a resource library for gardening.  I also need to start keeping a better gardening notebook with specific notes about gardening in my particular location.

Offline Freebirde

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2012, 06:33:36 PM »
Nicodemus, if you can get public television, I would reconmend a show called "Volunteer Gardener".   Here is some information about seed storage: http://www.extension.org/pages/41500/will-seeds-marked-for-one-growing-season-be-viable-for-the-next-season    http://www.extension.org/pages/36230/what-is-a-good-way-to-store-seed-left-over-from-this-years-garden   
Some seed starting info: http://www.extension.org/pages/20982/organic-potting-mix-basics   http://www.extension.org/pages/13060/vegetables:-planting
There are several helpful publication you can pick up at your County Extension office or go to the home page of the links I gave you.   The yellowing could have been from not enough light or from low planting medium nutriments.   With your slope I would reconmend extensive terracing or containers.   
If possible, try to take a Master Gardener course or other courses provided by your Extension service.
In a TEOTWAKI case you will be saving seeds from what you grow and if you chose carefully you will keep seeds from what grows best at your location.

Offline Calichusetts

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2012, 06:40:01 PM »
This is also my first year of seriously trying to learn how to garden.  I've tinkered with potted herbs and peppers before, but this is a whole different ball of wax.  I agree with every one of your points, and I wasted a fair amount of seeds and starts in the process.   I've had very similar results/experiences.

For anyone who has a plan to produce food in a prolonged emergency from a seed bank, you must practice some basic gardnening skills beforehand.  You don't need to do a 1/2 acre row garden, but you need to have some idea of what will and will not grow succesfully in your climate/soil...what kind of pests you have to contend with.  When to plant for your area...etc, etc... 

For anyone new to gardening, this is one of those things where you just have to get started and not sweat the details too much.  Don't worry if you haven't had time to gather materials or do intensive research...just get started.  Your own experience will be your best guide.   For a person with a prepper/planner mindset, this might seem counter-intuitive, but it's the fastest way forward.

Don't get hung up too much on "What's the best" or which advice and methods you should follow because it will just slow you down.  You will make mistakes.  There will be unforseen events.  You will learn from them, and the worst thing that happens is your plants become food for someone other than you, and you get to try again for the cost of a few seeds.  Better to learn some of those lessons now when the cost of failure insignificant.

When you do your basic research, consider reaching out to a local garden club for advice.  Getting advice germain to your locale, climate and soil is key.  There are a lot of great books out there, but much of the information can be somewhat generic and may not adress issues unique to your area.  I've tried a number of different gardening methods all at once, containers; bags, wicking beds, etc...one very easy way to start is sqare foot container gardening.  Not to plug just one guy's book, but anyone can purchase a raised bed kit for $50 or less if you shop the sales, (or make your own for less) and just follow some basic guidelines from Mel Bartholomew's book, "Square Foot Gardening".  It's dead simple, and all the supplies can be had with one trip to the home improvement garden center...even his own special blend of garden soil.

Also, YouTube is pretty good resource for learning the basic points of just about any new skill you could wish to acquire.






Offline Nicodemus

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2012, 06:54:51 PM »
I appreciate everyone for reading the thread and I appreciate the replies as well. It ended up being a little longer than I had originally intended when I started typing.

There's a lot of good information in your responses on where to start and where to go for information while the resources are plentiful and readily available. And that's really the key it seems, getting started in gardening at a time where you can make mistakes and learn from them and when the compounded impact of those mistakes doesn't affect your families health and well being.

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2012, 07:25:45 PM »
Congrats on a great post # 5000.  This is so good and will benefit so many people that I'm going to set it as a sticky.

I agree with everything you posted.  I've spoken out on here many times when it seemed like people were planning on banking on an emergency seed bank for their food in the future without any practice.  But I've never posted anything so comprehensive about why this will likely not work. 

I'd like to add that this is not my first year gardening, but I am so disorganized this year that I'm way behind on where my garden should be at this time of year.  It doesn't take a newbie to have issues staying on the ball with a garden.


Offline TwoBluesMama

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2012, 07:50:05 PM »
+1 Nic -  absolutely great post. 

One thing I don't think you mentioned specifically and that's something we have absolutely no control over - the (blankety-blank-blank) weather.  We've been gardening for more than 30 years and this year the weather has been a real pain. Hopefully we'll have something to harvest.

Sometimes gardening even under the best circumstances can fail.  I will say that we do save seeds - our seeds from our crops that we know work for our climate, our soil, etc. but you never know.  I still think seed saving is a great idea but as we know here on TSP that two is one and one is none so storing food is a priority.

Offline Nicodemus

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2012, 07:54:30 PM »
I finally got a sticky, and it only took me 5000 posts over a year and three quarters! :D

Seriously though, thanks Fritz!

Something else that just struck me, which I should have included in the thread starter, is that in most cases there needs to be a gardener available throughout the year to tend to the gardens. Sure, there are some permaculture solutions to this, but you're not going to get those from an emergency seed bank.

This year I stepped on a piece of glass that broke up in my foot and subsequently caused an infection that had me out of commission for a couple of weeks. Luckily I had family members that could step in and with a little guidance do some of the work that I was incapable of doing. If I'd been incapacitated in such a way where I wasn't capable of doing work on the garden, couldn't convey what needed to be done to someone else or had no one available to step in and help it would have been a big problem.

Offline Nicodemus

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2012, 08:07:21 PM »
Thanks, Two Blues!

Weather! How could I have forgotten to include that?

Just a few days ago we had a few severe thunderstorms with high winds that rolled through the area. About 30 feet of the top of our huge oak tree cracked and fell. Luckily, it fell between my fruit trees and the power lines and didn't make it far enough to hit the garden.

I'm also reminded of our friend Cedar here. She is definitely an accomplished gardener and seed saver, but due to heavy rains on a continual basis had a lot of trouble last year. She's working on hoop and greenhouses now to fight that kind of problem in the future.

Floods, drought, storms and similar could take out our gardens quickly or over an extended period of time. And it takes quite a bit of effort to build in protection against the elements for our gardens.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 08:16:07 PM by Nicodemus »

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2012, 10:47:28 PM »
Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
...
What if this year, my first year attempting a garden, had been at a moment in time where the survival of my family depended on me making use of and successfully growing produce from an Emergency Seed Bank to fill holes or extend the length of time my storage food could last?

The quick answer to that is that an Emergency Seed Bank would probably have helped a little, but probably wouldn't have done much if my only tools were the seed bank, land and hope.
Nicodemus, thank you for having the time and guts to actually go out and try this.  Like you, I keep getting those ads.  As a beginning gardener too, I know that I'd have a low success rate with a seed bank, but keep telling myself "Yeah, but it'd be better than nothing, and I'd have more time to spend on the garden if the SHTF.  Or maybe not, what with fending off zombies and all."

Thanks for giving us some hard data on how well it worked out.  Not sure what I'm going to do for the fall garden, let alone next spring, but from my tiny bit of experience these last two years plus your post I can see that a pre-packaged Emergency Seed Bank wouldn't do me much good.

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2012, 11:54:39 PM »
Awesome post, Nicodemus!  A worthy 5000th post for sure.  I think your experience is very typical of a first-year newbie gardener, so that post should help a lot of people.

I've always been of the opinion that those seed banks are worse than worthless, because they give uninformed people a false sense of security.  I'd be willing to bet that if you picked an average newbie prepper (the kind of person these are marketed towards) who had little to no gardening experience and no established garden, gave them an acre of decent land in a temperate part of the U.S. and a seed bank, they'd end up harvesting at most a few dozen pounds of food in their first year, and most of it likely wouldn't be top-quality stuff.

A lot of the issues have been covered here,  but a big one (to me) is the seed selection is made by someone else, not you.  So you'll likely have a bunch of seeds for stuff that you don't like, don't know how to prepare, don't know how to store, or can't grow in your climate.  I guess in a SHTF scenario they might have some barter value, but not very much. 

Calichusetts' advice to just jump in and start doing it is absolutely the right answer.  I've had gardens in the past, usually a few plants here and there, but I'm now in my fourth year of what I'd call serious gardening, as in trying to actually grow enough food that it makes a difference in my diet.  This is the first year where I'd say that goal is being met.  It takes several seasons of growing to learn the particulars of your site and climate.  Just something as simple as knowing how much water each plant needs takes quite a bit of trial-and-error, and it will be highly dependent on the day-to-day weather.  You can't get that knowledge without doing it. 

One of the reasons gardening is so rewarding is because it's a complicated process that's dependent on lots of factors that are difficult or even impossible to control.  Getting a good harvest is part skill and part luck.

Offline TexasGirl

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2012, 01:47:12 AM »
Nic,

I agree wholeheartedly! 

I run into lots of prepper types that buy those seed vaults and store them on a shelf next to the Berkey and Mountain House.  It usually takes a good bit of explanation and illustration before they understand that the seeds are just one small part of the grow-your-own food equation.  All the big hype seed vault commercials don't help either.  They make it sound like just owning their product will fill your tummy magically on it's own!

Thanks for keeping this in the forefront of preparedness.

~TG

Offline Nicodemus

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2012, 08:15:32 AM »
Thanks for all of the nice replies, folks!

I hate to keep making additions or perhaps hate that I forgot to include something in the original post, as if the it needed to be more longwinded, but another thought came to mind about a potential problem.

Some garden staples don't simply produce just enough to eat within a certain period of time and continue to so on a long timeline so that a person to go out to the garden and just pick what they would need to eat on a daily basis. Some plants produce a flush within a relatively short window of time. Therefore, if the gardener doesn't have the ability to preserve a portion of the harvest when it's optimal, a lot of that food might go to waste. This means the gardener needs even more knowledge and perhaps more equipment.

The knowledge of canning, fermenting and dehydrating along with the equipment to make these options possible would be important in an emergency.

I guess there is some kind of staggered planting options that could be used in some cases, but I haven't read about this very much so I don't know how viable an option it would be.

There are of course some plants from which you can pick edible parts that will stay alive and that you can continually pull nutrition from for a certain period of time, but you've got to make sure that these are in your supply of seeds. 

Offline TwoBluesMama

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2012, 08:28:14 AM »
Absolutely Nic!  That's why we need to keep encouraging one another (I know I rant about this all the time) to learn to can and dehydrate even experimenting with ways to do this without electricity. Learn to bake bread, how to make yogurt, cottage cheese and other cheeses (from your dried milk supply of course) and the list is endless.

And yes staggering the planting is something we do so that we have anywhere from a week to a couple of weeks between for harvesting.  Or example - just harvested peas a few weeks ago and then planted beans where the peas were.  Yesterday harvested garlic and will be planting something else there in the next few days.  It helps when I have buckets of food to be processed (but secretly I love being overwhelmed!) not to have everything ready at the same time.

You are right there are so many facets that extend from just beyond growing food.

Thanks again for such a great post - hopefully this encourages at least one person to think about what they will do or what they need to learn. Blessings TBM 

Offline Frugal Upstate

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #15 on: July 10, 2012, 10:00:56 AM »
This whole conversation makes me think of a book that I borrowed from the library months back called "the resilient gardener" (which actually I should read again)  The lady who wrote it seems to be of the prepper mindset-her introduction & first chapter talked a lot about diversifying so that you have a harvest despite weather issues, the fact that our current plant spacing recommendations are made with the assumption that you can water easily ( larger spacing means more soil for each plant to draw water from in a dry season), historical changes/weather that caused farming changes (I had never heard of the "little ice age" or how it changed the way Europe farmed). She does talk heavily about growing winter squash (she's gluten free) and how she air dries/preserves things. All in all an interesting read that is very pertinent to this topic!

I've been wanting to read the book "gardening in hard times" but my library doesn't have it.

Oh-and one more weather related point for new Gardeners.  It's easy to assume when you have a crop that does terribly that you messed up--but ask around!  It may be that it was just a bad year for that crop.  I was so dissapppimted in my first attempt at corn last year until I realized that all the professional farmers locally had a lousy year too.

Offline macmex

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #16 on: July 10, 2012, 11:44:12 AM »
Nicodemus,

     I bet your problem with the dying seedlings could have been that your soil media ran out of nutrients. I've been gardening since I was four, and am now 53, and I STILL made that mistake, this year, when I started potatoes from seed. They all died because of starvation.  Seed starting medium is not like real soil. Once the plants have their first true leaves you need to fertilize with fish emulsion or Miracle Grow, on a weekly basis, until you plant them outdoors. And don't forget to harden them off by giving them a little and then increasingly more, real sunlight, before planting them out there. If you don't harden them off, they'll probably burn and die

Your comments on seed banks are right on. I do know that one can store most seeds in a sealed container, in the freezer, for a LONG time. I once grew out some seed, from such a cache, after 25 years, and they all came up as if they had been stashed away the year before. But the larger issue is that one be growing and learning, using and learning to eat, what they grow. A beginner would do best to grow only a couple of things he or she really enjoys, to begin with, and then branch out.

Climates and soils differ greatly. So sometimes there are few who can help one skip the trial and error aspect of gardening. Whatever you are really going to need, to survive, you had best be doing before you need it.

Incidentally, "The Resilient Gardener," by Carol Deppe, is perfect for a beginner, wanting to learn to be more self sufficient. It's also my favorite gardening book.

Here are a couple of threads discussing the book:

George

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/okgard/msg1208403331376.html

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/cornucop/msg010646407371.html
 

Offline Freebirde

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2012, 02:37:16 PM »
Some garden staples don't simply produce just enough to eat within a certain period of time and continue to so on a long timeline so that a person to go out to the garden and just pick what they would need to eat on a daily basis. Some plants produce a flush within a relatively short window of time. Therefore, if the gardener doesn't have the ability to preserve a portion of the harvest when it's optimal, a lot of that food might go to waste. This means the gardener needs even more knowledge and perhaps more equipment.

Tomatoes, strawberries, and some fruits are the most common of these.   When it says 'determinate' or 'June bearing' on the seedpack or pot, that means most of the fruit will be ready for harvest in a short period of time.   This is good for growers who want to preserve/process all their crop at the same time.   When it says 'indeterminate' or 'everbearing', that means the fruit will be ready to eat over a longer period of time.

Some other good sources of gardening books are your local Goodwill, thrift shops, estate sales, and yard sales.    Estate sales and yard sales are also a possible source of canning supplies and garden tools.

Offline Nicodemus

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2012, 08:16:36 AM »
Nicodemus,

     I bet your problem with the dying seedlings could have been that your soil media ran out of nutrients. I've been gardening since I was four, and am now 53, and I STILL made that mistake, this year, when I started potatoes from seed. They all died because of starvation.  Seed starting medium is not like real soil. Once the plants have their first true leaves you need to fertilize with fish emulsion or Miracle Grow, on a weekly basis, until you plant them outdoors. And don't forget to harden them off by giving them a little and then increasingly more, real sunlight, before planting them out there. If you don't harden them off, they'll probably burn and die

Your comments on seed banks are right on. I do know that one can store most seeds in a sealed container, in the freezer, for a LONG time. I once grew out some seed, from such a cache, after 25 years, and they all came up as if they had been stashed away the year before. But the larger issue is that one be growing and learning, using and learning to eat, what they grow. A beginner would do best to grow only a couple of things he or she really enjoys, to begin with, and then branch out.

Climates and soils differ greatly. So sometimes there are few who can help one skip the trial and error aspect of gardening. Whatever you are really going to need, to survive, you had best be doing before you need it.

Incidentally, "The Resilient Gardener," by Carol Deppe, is perfect for a beginner, wanting to learn to be more self sufficient. It's also my favorite gardening book.

Here are a couple of threads discussing the book:

George

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/okgard/msg1208403331376.html

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/cornucop/msg010646407371.html

I'm glad that I happened to look in on this topic so that I could catch your reply, macmex. This is a different thread.  ;D

Maybe a Mod or Admin can move these over to the Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank? thread.
  [DONE.]

My problem could have been nutrients. I added some calcium and magnesium, but nothing got past their first set of true leaves. I tend to think it might have been a perfect storm of problems with light, heat, water and nutrient problems.

The pepper plants that were yellowing, never got more than an inch or so high and only had about four leaves started a growth spurt once I repotted them and moved them outdoors. They probably got too slow a start to do much this year, but they're all the container variety and if they do well enough this year I'll take them indoors and try to keep them alive.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2012, 12:19:31 PM by Mr. Bill »

Offline MissAnthrope Plant Nerd

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #19 on: May 19, 2013, 02:32:52 PM »
Interesting post.  I chuckle to myself every time I see an ad for one of those cans of seeds.  Yes, I have a couple sitting in the back of the extra refrig - but I wouldn't have actually paid for them - they were freebies and I am definitely keeping them set back.  I chuckle because I can see lots of folks - after the meltdown - run for their cans of seeds.  I can see the sad, dismal failure of their novice gardening efforts - they will stick all the seeds in the ground and . . . nothing but a few runty little plants.  I don't have a problem with keeping an unopened seed bank, BUT you had better have serious experience in gardening or the seeds will be wasted.  Those seed banks are sold as a magic button - with no forethought of what growing survival food will really entail and the months you have to baby your plants along until they start to produce.

Offline deanabess

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #20 on: June 07, 2013, 10:09:56 AM »
Hi Everyone! I love this post but then I'm a little biased - I'm a gardener and have been most of my life in one way or another except while serving on active duty when I couldn't. I am going to go through this post and make sure there are not any unanswered questions and if I find any, I'll be sure to respond. I've gardened in MI, CA, LA, Washington DC, PA, and now FL.

I have taken time to publish some articles you might find helpful at  my web site www.deanasgarden.com. Feel free to check it out and please, if you have a question, ask it because I probably know and will definitely find out from a big garden network of experts if I don't.

The more people who know how to grow their own food, the better! That is my mission, I help people grow food, save seeds, prepare food, preserve food, and so on! BTW, I'm an organic person; chemicals create imbalance and dependency which isn't helpful for survival in my opinion.

Deana

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2013, 11:48:42 AM »
SEED STARTING: Believe it or not, seeds will germinate without light! Some seeds have light and temperature requirements that are very unique. If I’m saving seeds from one of these like the Goji Berry, I make sure to keep the instructions in my garden notebook so I can refer later. Once you see the seedling though, it must be moved to a light area. Germination rate is something that varies per variety and growing conditions.

I use these little tricks to help:

For quicker germination soak seeds in non-chemical water (I use rainwater) for about 8 hours before you plant. While it makes planting a bit more tedious because the seeds are wet, germination tends to happen much quicker.

Using an innoculant for some varieties and specifically legumes is a must. Know what varieties do best without it unless you can make your own. Innoculant expires over time.  I haven't tried making my own yet but it's on my to do list. Here's the only recipe I found that looked promising: http://www.hawaiihealingtree.org/?p=163 If you have another, please share!

I also keep biofungicide (http://www.gardensalive.com/root-guardian-biofungicide-soilborne-diseases/p/2783/) handy to sprinkle on top of the planting medium and reduce the damping off fungus problem. Compost tea works well for that too. It’s very humid here in Florida. You can also use a weak mix of chamomile tea to accomplish the same. Keeping seedlings in an airy place and watering from the bottom helps also. I avoid most damping off problems by direct seeding whenever possible.

Seedling medium is crucial. In my experience, it simply needs to be sterile when starting seeds to transplant later. In a survival situation, I would use a solar oven to sterilize the medium. The medium can be garden soil but the natural bacteria present can pose problems for container seedlings if it’s not “dead”. While it doesn’t make sense to me, I’ve tried over and over to use my own compost, vermi-compost, peat mix, and garden soils and I always experience a lot of problems unless I sterilize first.

PH: You mentioned your seedlings for tomatoes and peppers yellowed and stopped growing. In my experience, the nutrients mentioned by other posts could have been an issue but what I find is most often the cause for this is a PH problem. Soil PH testers at garden centers typically disappoint but I’ve not found a creative way to test soil PH any other way short of sending the soil off to the local extension office for testing. In a survival mode, one might find that problematic so identifying regional soil requirements and making appropriate amendments ahead of time is a must. Most of the time, if the plant has yellow leaves and stops growing, the PH is too high and if the leaves are yellow and look burned, the PH is too low. However, some plants respond differently so if you’ve added nutrients and there is no improvement, try adjusting the soil PH.

First, test the soil if possible. If not possible, test the water. Your water might be a problem as is usually the case here in South Florida.

Dry amendments that will change the soil PH take time. To raise, add lime at the recommended rate and to decrease, sulfur. It’s good to have those amendments on hand in the survival garden supply cabinet. Also, citrus and fruit scraps can lower the soil PH over time as well as oak leaves, pine bark, and pine needles. Dry amendments take time and the plant may die in the process since the dry amendments are not ready for absorption by the roots. With organic but commercial dry amendments, it usually takes a couple weeks to a month before you will see results and you really wouldn’t want to bother with them in a container seedling situation because you are going to move the plants into the garden soil anyhow. One preventative step would be to test the PH of your planting medium ahead of time.

I’ve found some cool home remedies that will work quickly, save the plant, and then over time the dry amendments will take over.

This presumes you are using the cleanest water and by clean, I mean free from salts, chlorines, and other toxic pollutants. I use rainwater whenever possible because the ground water from this region can kill plants if used to liberally. While I realize there’s no perfection here, rainwater seems to produce the best results.

To raise PH, dissolve baking soda in teaspoon intervals in a gallon of chemical free water until you reach the PH you want and then water the soil/roots. Again, you’ll need a liquid PH water test on hand. Pool testing kits usually don’t have the levels we’re looking for which are from 5.0 to 8.0. Test on only one or two plants because salt tolerance can be an issue here. Most garden veggies are ok with this mix.

To lower PH, add vinegar in teaspoon intervals in a gallon of chemical free water and test until the correct PH is achieved, then water the soil/roots. I’ve never had a plant react badly to this mix. In fact, my blueberries and a few other low acid loving plants thrive with this method I routinely use during dry season here.

In my area, I know soil PH is a problem so I have been mulching and composting with pine bark, pine needles and oak leaves for 4 years and my plants, fruit trees, gardens, and herbs love it. Further, the oak leaves detour the snails and slugs that like to munch on the leaves.

For a listing of PH preferences for plants (I recommending printing a copy), see your local county extension office or master gardener program. Here’s a limited list from the Farmer’s Almanac: http://www.almanac.com/content/ph-preferences

NUTRIENTS (Part 1): One writer mentioned using miracle grow. This inspires me to share my experience with my old foolish and short sited practices of chemical nutrients. While I understand our propensity to believe all the garbage out there about how we can’t grow enough food to feed the world without chemicals, I vehemently disagree. In fact, it is chemicals that tend to be the root of so many gardening problems. Of course there are many other causes but in general, I find my property is amazingly balanced and problem free now that we completely avoid all chemicals. Including round up to kill weeds! (Use high concentrate 10% or higher - white vinegar in it’s place). I’ll write more about weeds later but remember, there are many edible weeds and in my view, killing them when they are not impacting your food supply is also very short sighted.

As you can imagine in Florida, growing in sand is interesting to say the least and I assure you, you can grow food using chemicals and do it faster and easier than using organic methods. However, you will be chained to using those chemicals forever and never get the nutritional quality and healthy food we’ll need in a survival situation. The more miracle grow you use, the more you will need and the more pests will be attracted to your nutrient deficient plants.

Just to prove my theory, I conducted an experiment because we have a sizeable property here. In the very front of the property, I planted a tree using commercial and chemical conventional methods. In the middle of our property, I planted the same variety of tree using 100% organic methods. And in the back of our property, I threw some cuttings from that same tree in the compost pile.

Results were as follows:
Conventional tree suffered continuous pest and disease problems and failed to produce fruit. I began organic conversion last year and it’s doing much better and producing fruit.

Organic tree suffered a few pest and disease problems that were minor and beneficial organisms and other insects have completely resolve problems over the last two years. Now, there is an over-moisture problem because of the location, 8 inches of rain in two weeks, and terribly high humidity.

Compost pile tree grows magically with no care whatsoever and thrives, produces fruit like crazy, and grows even in the hottest and driest times of the year!! It’s area is not groomed, hard to access, and really growing out of a compost pile!

Mother Nature does it best and the sooner we start working with it instead of against it, the more fruitful our gardens will be. Chemicals make sure that no beneficial bacteria, microbes, worms, or bugs can survive and create a self sufficient balance. I even believed for a time that combining conventional and organic methods was required while I was building the soil but I quickly learned I was just undoing all my organic work with the chemicals. Once I stopped, I saw amazing results within 6 months and now three years into it, I can’t believe how well everything grows in spite of the climate here! I make almost all my own fertilizer from manure, worm castings, and compost tea. Since I still have access to stores, I do use the organic Espoma fertilizer in some of my specialty plants like miracle fruit that can only be grown successfully in containers.

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of problems and failures but we’re now growing enough that losing some doesn’t matter so much.

I’ll post more later on the other topics from this discussion. I hope you found this useful.

Deana
www.deanasgarden.com


Offline Nicodemus

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #22 on: June 07, 2013, 05:46:18 PM »
I really appreciate the information, Deana, but before you try to answer all of the questions and problems I had consider that the object of the post was to give people without prior experience gardening the suggestion that expecting an emergency seed bank to save their backside in a crisis might be a mistake.  ;D

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #23 on: June 07, 2013, 06:43:38 PM »
I chuckle because I can see lots of folks - after the meltdown - run for their cans of seeds.  I can see the sad, dismal failure of their novice gardening efforts - they will stick all the seeds in the ground and . . . nothing but a few runty little plants.

Yup.. unless they get lucky.

Cedar

Offline janinec

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #24 on: June 24, 2013, 05:10:49 AM »
I think this is a terrific post, it is so easy to think we can instantly master a skill based on what we have seen, heard or read or even on our own opinion. So thank you for posting this. I have been gardening for over a decade and every season I learn something new, like any art it is practice, practice, practice :)

Janine

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #25 on: July 02, 2013, 01:58:18 PM »
I think this is a terrific post, it is so easy to think we can instantly master a skill based on what we have seen, heard or read or even on our own opinion. So thank you for posting this. I have been gardening for over a decade and every season I learn something new, like any art it is practice, practice, practice :)

Janine

I'll just add a big ditto to Janine's post. 

Plus as we are experiencing here in Colorado you just don't know what the weather is going to do - drought/too hot/too cold/hail and so forth so there is always the possibility for crop failure. I say learn now even if it's a tiny sq. ft. garden and preserve your surplus for tomorrow's rainy or not day.

Offline janinec

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Re: Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?
« Reply #26 on: July 04, 2013, 03:26:54 AM »
[quote Plus as we are experiencing here in Colorado you just don't know what the weather is going to do - drought/too hot/too cold/hail and so forth so there is always the possibility for crop failure. I say learn now even if it's a tiny sq. ft. garden and preserve your surplus for tomorrow's rainy or not day.
[/quote]

You are so very right there two blues Mamma, and if you save your seed, plants over five generations very quickly acclimatise to your local climate no matter what it may be. We have similar climate issues here in Melbourne, sometimes four seasons in one day!