Lets talk about stockpiling seeds and the value of having the ability to plant a survival garden. Stockpiling food – dried rice, beans, canned goods – is fine and dandy, but that is a none renewable resource. When you eat that can of beans, are you going to plant the can, and maybe it will sprout a canned bean plant, for you to pick more cans off of? I don’t think do.
Stockpiling food provides a family with a limited food source.
Stockpiling seeds and having a garden can provide an unlimited food supply.
2,000+ years ago, did the Romans and Egyptians have canned foods and mylar bags? Nope, they raised what they wanted to eat. What about the Greeks and the Chinese, did they have mylar bags full of rice and beans? Nope, they raised what they ate.
There is nothing wrong with stockpiling food. It appears to me that a lot of survivalist put more focus on stockpiling a limited food source, then on learning how to develop an unlimited food source.
Maybe one of the most versatile crops grown today. The kernels can be ground to make a type of flour, or they can be dried for long term storage. Corn can be ground or fed whole to all kinds of livestock – cows, chickens, pigs,,,,,,.
One of the problems with corn, wildlife love to eat as much as humans to. Deer will eat the young sprouts, and raccoons will bend the stalks over to get to the ears. Corn also has its fair share of pest, like the Corn Earworm, grasshopper, Armyworm and the Wireworm.
Corn requires a lot of nitrogen fertilizer and water to grow properly. Some types of corn may require as much as 20 – 35 inches of rain fall during the growing season.
When buying corn seed, be aware that there are a lot of hybrid corn types on the market. So adjust your seed buying to match the types of corn best suited for your area. A lot of survivalist get on this “you must buy open pollinated / heirloom seeds.” Being able to save the seeds does have its advantages, but having corn that will grow in you area is more important. When it comes to drought, disease or pest, certain types of hybrid corn will grow better then heirloom. The best thing to do is to make a trip to the local feed and fertilizer store and talk to them about what are the best types of corn for your area.
My personal corn stockpile contains about 2 – 3 pounds of different types of corn seed. The seeds are bundled in 1/2 pound bags, and each bag contains a certain type of seed. I have stockpiled both hybrid and heirloom seeds.
Peas and Snap Beans
Since peas and beans are so much alike, lets just group them together. In fact, there are debates saying that peas and beans are the same thing. I personally divide peas and beans into 2 groups – one you eat whole (snap beans) and one you shell to get the bean/pea out of the inside and eat it instead of eating the husk.
Peas and beans return nitrogen into the soil, so that makes them good for crop rotation. Before you plant a high nitrogen requirement crop, such as corn, plant some beans or peas at the same time, or the season before the you plant the corn.
One of the problems with peas and beans – wildlife love it. Deer and rabbits will eat the bean / pea plants down to nothing but a stub sticking out of the ground. To protect the bean and pea plants, plant some squash or zucchini with them. The pea / bean plants will provide the squash plants with nitrogen, and the squash plants will help protect the pea plants from deer. The squash and zucchini plants have little “hairs” on the stalks and the deer do not like that.
Peas and beans are a good long term storage food crop. The old timers used to run a needle and thread through the pod, and hang it up to dry. Thus the name “string beans”. When it comes time to eat the beans, pull them off the string and boil until ready to eat.
Care must be taken when picking the beans and peas. If you pull too hard, part of the plant may break off. Sometimes I like to use scissors to cut the pea / bean pod off, so that the rest of the plant is not damaged.
Snap Beans are a high producing plant, the more you pick it, the more it produces. While you might get just a couple of pickings from purple hull or silver skin crowder peas.
My pea and bean stockpile contains maybe 4 or 5 different types of seeds – mainly purple hull pink eyes and about 3 different types of snap beans.
If you live in a warm region, that gets lots of rain and sunlight, one of the best crops you can grow is okra. Okra can be dried easily – just like string beans -, the seeds can be saved for next years harvest, its jars very well (ever eat pickled okra?), the plants do very well in hot weather that would kill other crops, and the more you pick it the more it produces.
Several years ago some family members and I planted a community garden that included a couple rows of okra. Each row was maybe 75 – 100 feet long. Every 2 – 3 days we picked about a 5 gallon bucket of okra. We picked so much okra, we could not eat it all and wound up giving a lot of it away.
One of the things about okra, its takes a long time to mature so that it starts producing, and it can not be planted until the soil temps gets into the 70s. In the southern part of the USA, okra is not usually planted until around May. If the seeds are planted too early, they will sit in the ground until the soil warms up and they get some water.
Okra must be cooked before its eaten. Popular ways to cook okra include boiling or frying it.
My personal stockpile of okra seed includes 3 different types, and I prefer the smooth skin okra over the rough skin.
Plant okra seeds 12 – 24 inches apart on the row, and space the rows 3 – 4 feet apart.
Use a balanced fertilizer such as 13-13-13, or maybe 16-6-12 for proper stalk and pod production.
Contain very little nutritional content, require lots of nitrogen and are not very drought tolerant. But on the plus side, certain types high producers. There are a lot of hybrid cucumber seeds on the market. So when buying your seed be sure to be aware of what your buying hybrid or heirloom.
Drought tolerant – cucumber roots run just under the ground. When the top of the soil dries out, the cucumber leaves may start to wilt. Allowing the leaves to wilt may stunt the growth of the plant.
Nitrogen – cucumbers LOVE nitrogen. Without it, the cucumber does not form properly and will be pointed on the end.
My personal cucumber seed stockpile includes 2 types – the pickling cucumber and the straight 8.
Pickling cucumber – is a high producing plant and makes a cucumber maybe 3 – 4 inches long. Despite its name, the Pickling cucumber does not have to be “pickled”, it can be eaten just like it is. But its small size makes it an ideal cucumber for Pickling. Pickling cucumber are an heirloom types, meaning the seeds can be saved and used in next years garden. Just 1 or 2 of these cucumbers makes a good side dish for a meal.
Straight 8 – makes a larger cucumber then the Pickling cucumber, and grows to about 8 inches long. Thus the name, Straight 8. The Straight 8 is an heirloom type cucumber so that the seeds can be saved from year to year.
Cucumber should be harvested and eaten before the seeds mature inside the cucumber.
To harvest the seeds from the cucumber, let a couple of the cucumbers over-ripen on the vine, until they turn an orange color and burst open. It might sound a little gross, but my best success with harvesting and replanting cucumber seeds have come from digging through the rotting remains of a cucumbers that got so big that they burst open and started to rot. This ensures that the seeds were given as much time as possible to mature.
No survivalist seed stockpile would be complete with radish seeds – and a bunch of them. Radishes are one of the best seeds a survivalist can stockpile – they grow fast, the whole plant is edible, the plant can be eaten raw (but cook your food to kill bacteria), and the seeds are tiny – allowing more seed to be stored then other seeds.
Under the right conditions, radish sprouts should be able to be pulled up and eaten 15 days from planting. the small sprouts make a nice topping to a regular meal.
30 – 40 days after planting, the radish should be ready to pull up and eaten.
Fertilizer – use a well balanced fertilizer for proper root and leaf production.
The leafy green tops can be fed to man or livestock.
When combined with other foods (like a canned meat), the leafy green tops can provide nutrients not otherwise provided.
Potato “seed” is a little difficult to come by; potatoes reproduce from other potatoes. When the potato is ready to be planted, an “eye” will form on the potato. Take a knife and cut off the eye – leaving a good chunk of the potato under the eye. From the chunk of potato, that is where the roots will sprout.
Some people will take the eye, dip it in lime or fireplace ashes and then plant, or let the eye dry for a week before its planted.
Potatoes can take 4 – 5 months to grow, they need fertilizer with phosphorus for strong root growth. When working the field to get ready to plant potatoes, all of the rocks need to be removed, and the soil needs to be worked as deep as you can get it. This will ensure that the soil is loose and the spuds have room to grow.
When planting potatoes, DO NOT form raised beds. Plant the potatoes in flat soil. As the sprout grows, rake the soil up around the plant, thus forming a raised bed as the plant grows.
After the potatoes have been harvested, its important to store them properly – keep the potatoes dry and keep them out of direct sunlight. Some people will store potatoes between layers of hay to keep them from touching each other.
Spinach is maybe one of the best seeds that a survivalist can stockpile, and maybe one of the best plant choices.
Spinach is a relative easy crop to grow, the only “real” fertilizer requirement is nitrogen. So any kind of slow release organic fertilizer will be good – horse, cow, rabbit or chicken manure. I wont hurt to mix in some nitrogen fertilizer when you have it on hand, such as 21-0-0.
Spinach is a high producing plant – you cut the leaves off with a pair of scissors and the plant will produce more leaves.
Spinach can be eaten raw or cooked. This means you do not have to use precious fuel cooking / boiling the spinach before its eaten. However, its always good to cook your food to kill any bacteria that might be growing on the leaves.
Spinach does not take up a lot of room, its not like the plants grow 3 feet wide. This means that a lot of food can be planted in a small amount of space. This makes it a great choice for patio gardeners and other urban dwellers.
Squash and Zucchini
Squash and Zucchini belong to the same family, and they have the same fertilizer requirements, so lets talk about them at the same time.
One of the benefits of Squash and Zucchini – they can be eaten raw. So you do not have to use precious fuel cooking Squash or Zucchini. But for the sake of hygiene, lets cook your food to kill any bacteria on it.
Fertilizer – use a well balanced fertilizer such as 13-13-13. Your going to need nitrogen for leaf production and pot ash for the Squash or Zucchini to form.
On the plant there is a female and a male pod. Pollination usually occurs early in the morning while its still cool and the honey bees are out. The bee has to go from the flower on the male pod, to the female flower.
If you want to save the seeds from your squash or zucchini plants, do not plant the two species close to each other. The two types of plants will cross pollinate and the resulting seed will be a hybrid.
When squash and zucchini cross pollinate, the squash will have a green color in it and the zucchini will have a yellow color it in.
There are 2 main types of summer squash – cook neck and straight neck. The crook neck has a rough skin, the straight neck has a smooth skin.
Winter squash can be grown anytime, but a lot of people grow winter squash in the fall and then store it over the winter. Certain types of squash store better then others. Summer squash may store for only a couple of weeks, while certain types of winter squash may store well for months.
One of the easiest crops to grow, and its also packed with a lot of nutrients. Onions require a lot of nitrogen , that is converted into sugars to grow tall stalks with.
As the onion nears the end of its growing cycle, the sugars in the tops are used to grow the root ball.
Slow release, nitrogen rich fertilizer is ideal for growing onions.
They go well in mixes, their rich in vitamin C, their easy to grown, most peppers on the market are heirloom, and they can be dried and saved for later uses.
Instead of buying pepper seeds, I will save the seeds from pepper plants that I get from the local feed and fertilizer store. When saving pepper seeds – make sure to wear rubber cloves. If you handle peppers for very long, you will get the capsaicin on your fingers. One time after harvesting some seeds from chili peppers, and my fingers burned for 2 days later.
One of the the topics I love and hate at the same time. If you see some tomato seed at the local store – go ahead and buy some. If nothing else, you can say you have some tomato seed stocked up.
Tomatoes are rich in nutrients, they can be eaten raw, and their easy to preserve in jars.
One of the problems with tomatoes – the bugs love them as much as your do. When the tomatoes start to ripen, if their not picked before they turn red, the bugs will have a field day. So pick the tomato right when you see a little bit of red on it, and then put it on a window seal to finish ripening.
Tomatoes do well in a slow release organic fertilizer, like in rabbit, cow or horse manure. Some of my best results with tomatoes have been from either horse manure or miracle grow organic potting soil, and some 13-13-13 fertilizer. One year I spread a bunch of dried horse manure in a raised bead, mixed in some 13-13-13 and I had more tomatoes then my family and I could eat.
One of my favorite types of tomatoes has to be the Grape Tomato – these are bite sized tomatoes that go well with just about anything, kids like them, their a high producing plant and their supposed to be an open-pollinated / heirloom tomato.
On each branch of the grape tomato plant there might be 8 – 12 grape tomatoes. In other words, when it comes time to pick the grape tomatoes, your going to get hand fulls of them.
Tomatoes are pretty easy to transplant. Meaning they can be sprouted in a green house, and then transplanted outside after the last frost has passed. This lets people get a head start on the growing season.
Maybe the next question should be how many seeds should a survivalist stockpile?
In all honesty, we have barely touched the surface on stockpiling seeds. There are so many excellent types of plants, it would be almost impossible to cover them all in one article. For example, we did not spend very much time on root crops. We touched on radishes, but have not talked about turnips or rutabagas.