Understanding Garden Seeds for Self-sufficiency

Prepper's Will - Understanding Garden SeedsThe garden season is here and many of us will start a garden to have additional supplies for our pantry. If a prepper wants to start a survival garden, knowing about all the different types of garden seeds is a must.

This topic is under a lot of debate and when you search online for reliable information, there is always the “GMO seeds versus all other seeds” topic. The aim of this article is not to decide which side is right and which one is wrong; and we will just look at what garden seeds are available on the market. It remains for you to balance the options and decide what to choose for your garden.

There are four types of garden seeds:

  • Open-pollinated seeds
  • Heirloom seeds
  • Hybrid seeds
  • GMO seeds

Here are the characteristics for each type.

Open-pollinated seeds

These are used by beginner gardens, by those who want something organic. These seeds are obtained naturally, without human intervention. Pollination occurs either due to insects or due to the wind. In this category fall most seeds for amateurs. All plant foods found in the wild are universally open-pollinated and can keep the characteristics of the plant for a few generations although there is a lot of crossbreeding between plants. Foragers who have a good knowledge about edible plants have learned how to harvest the seeds of wild plants and use them for their own garden. In fact, many of them advocate that some of the plants grown from wild open-pollinated seeds taste much better compared to the ones grown from heirloom or hybrid seeds. A good example here would be wild onion and if you had the opportunity to taste wild onion you probably know what I’m talking about.

Heirloom seeds

These garden seeds are a special classification of open-pollinated seeds that come from a controlled environment. As a main characteristic, these seeds need to have a track record of 50 years of ancestry. In simple words, this means that each year for the past 50 years, seeds were harvested in the fall and sown in the spring, to maintain the characteristics of the plants. Although there is no human interference in the seed creation process and the plants are allowed to grow wild, there will still be plant care works done by humans until harvest. The pollination occurs naturally, but the environment is controlled and there is no crossbreeding between plants. In the wild, only the strongest plants survive and a similar concept is applied when gathering heirloom seeds. Before science stepped in, our grandparents used to select their best plants and save their seeds for the next years crop. By doing so, they would make sure the crop improves year by year and the plants retain the best qualities.

Today, most of the gardeners prefer heirlooms seeds for several reasons: the taste is better, the texture is different and the appeal and color are much better compared to other seeds. Heirloom seeds used to be hard to find locally, but nowadays you can find many online garden catalogs that offer heirloom seeds. For example, Amazon is a good place to start if you are looking for these types of seeds.

Suggested article: Repel garden pests with Companion Planting

Hybrid seeds

Hybrid seeds are seeds that have been crossbred by humans to express certain traits in the plants. They are extracted from the fruit of plants obtained by crossing 2 plants.

Suppose we have two tomato plants: A and B. Tomato plant A produces very large tomatoes and the plant B grows tomatoes that are very sweet. We take pollen from one plant and place it on the female flower of the other plant, to get a bigger and sweeter tomato (AB). In the new tomatoes we will find more seeds. They are #1 generation hybrid seeds, also called F1 hybrid. If you sow the seeds and continue to grow tomatoes from this new generation, we will not only get the AB type tomatoes, but there will be fewer seeds of type A or B.

Next, we select the type of seeds only from the AB plant, which next year will become the F2 hybrid with much more AB tomatoes, and a few of class A and B. This usually continues for a few generations (I remember my grandparents used to this for six or seven generations) until the hybrid is stable, which means it grows AB type tomatoes in a proportion of 96-98%. Gardeners are crossing plants in order to obtain features such as: cold hardiness, less seeds, pest resistance, increased yield, etc.

Hybrids may also be obtained from BIO crops and there is a trend of developing crosses between two compatible plant species. You’ve probably seen this in the supermarket: oranges that taste like lemons, apples that taste like grapes and what not.

However, things are not easy with hybrid seeds and although you can obtain interesting variations using them, these seeds lack stability. This means that you will not always get viable seeds for the next season and you will sometimes end up with sterile seeds or some that will revert to the characteristics of the single parent plant.

These are garden seeds that are used by commercial farmers because are generally stronger and they deliver a higher yield. Seed companies are pushing these seeds and every experienced farmer will tell you that they are somehow dependent of them. They are easy to buy and you can find them in every store. Hybrid seeds are easier to care for and the crop has a longer shelf life. Even more, some of these seeds may be less cold sensitive, allowing you to plant them earlier in the season.

GMO seeds

Although there is a big debate about GMO seeds and you will find a lot of controversy regarding these garden seeds and the safety of produce grown by using them, they are still one of the choices available. They might seem a terrible source of seeds for preppers, but we still need to discuss about their details for the completeness of this article.

GMO seeds are the seeds that have been genetically altered and their DNA has been modified to include specific traits. They are the next level of hybrid seeds and they have many generations of genetic modification compressed in one. They are the work of scientists that are certainly not gardeners and they aim to create seeds that are pest resistant, that offer high yields, that are drought resistant, have an increased life and everything you could think of. Every new batch of seeds has a new set of modifications based on what was observed on the previous crop. Because these seeds have DNA material inserted in them, the long term effects of ingesting food made with GMO seeds is still largely unknown, although there are studies suggesting that your health can be affected in drastic ways. These garden seeds are the product of greedy corporations because they can get a patent on them and prevent farmers from saving the seeds. Every farmer that thinks he can save seeds for a future crop will be threaten with a lawsuit. These seeds are preferred by some farmers because they provide higher yields and they have lower care costs. It is a gamble for most of them because consumers are starting to wake up and realize the potential negative health effects of produce grown from these seeds.

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What garden seeds to choose as a prepper?

Most preppers decide to go with open pollinated seeds and heirloom seeds and it seems the most logical choice. Open pollinated seeds come from plants that managed to survive without human intervention and these plants will still be here, long after we are gone. These seeds are obtained from “wild plants” and although they are hard to find, they can be a good option for your home garden. Heirloom seeds are the most used garden seeds by preppers because they offer stability and good yields. You can’t go wrong with these seeds if you get them from farmers that know what they are doing. The other two types of seeds are not worth taking into consideration, although they will become your only alternative if nothing else is available.

Related reading: Organic pest control for your garden

As a prepper, the choice is still yours and you need to pick the right type of garden seeds for you and your family. If you are worried for the next garden season, you can go with hybrid seeds because they are easier to work with and will generate a good yield for that season. However, if you are preparing for a long-term disaster scenario or just want to become truly self-sufficient, your only choice is heirloom seeds.

Stay safe and God Bless!

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One thought on “Understanding Garden Seeds for Self-sufficiency

  1. Please note that your GMO description is more opinion than fact. For some people reading they may not understand the full function and benefit of GMOs. Thank you for a great article.

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