The next article in our series ‘Identify what you need to put aside‘ is Seeds.
Seeds are nice compact and easily transportable sources of food. Unless you are looking at coconuts. Just put in the ground, add water and sun and viola, days, weeks or months later depending on what you have planted you have your crops ready to harvest. What could be easier?
Genetically Modified Seeds
There are two main types of seeds available to the modern gardener. Heirloom Seeds and Genetically Modified Seeds. Each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Genetically modified seeds are artificially engineered by us to be resistant to diseases or produce bigger crops or grow in areas where they would not survive otherwise. As they are produced in a factory the seeds from those plants are also usually engineered to not breed true. Heirloom seeds are natural seeds that have been around for centuries and do not produce the same yield and suffer from diseases but the seeds from these are as good as the originals. The main differences as far as we are concerned.
Choosing your seed types
My default answer to this is to always choose heirloom seeds. I want to be able to augment my seed stores, perhaps for barter or to expand my production, by harvesting the seeds at the appropriate time. However, you should consider that the first few times you are out planting you may want to improve your chances of getting a successful harvest by using genetically modified seeds. My view is if you have room for both then take both and plant half and half whilst you have the genetically modified seeds. Bearing in mind that the genetically modified seeds and the heirloom seeds will cross pollinate if they are too close. You will need a lot of land if you want to do both. If you only have room for one then go for the heirloom seeds.
Choosing your seeds
Basically you should ideally stick to plants that will grow well in the UK climate. Although obviously many people grown foreign plants in greenhouses all year around. You should also stick to plants that you like to eat. No point in growing some strange plant that you have never tried unless you have spare growing capacility and perhaps want to use it for barter.
There are many plants that fit into these catagories as follows;
- Brussel Sprouts
- Cape Gooseberry
- Clover (red)
- Lemon Grass
- Pak Choi
There are several types of each variety here. Mix and match with what you like and don’t be frightened of getting several different varieties and trying them.
Note that I have not put down crops like potatoes, onions, berries or fruit trees here as I will deal with these in the next article, part 5 Plants, as your seed container isn’t going to do it for those crops. This list is in no way complete so if there is anything else you like then now is the time to add it in. Add these to your supplies list.
Planting and Growing
Although most plants that we grow in the UK seem to follow the same basic process. Prepare the soil, either use compost, make your own, or in the worst case just plant straight into the ground then water and wait, water and wait, repeat as required. We will not really have access to the chemical fertilisers that fuel our agriculture industry now. Basic fertilisers from plants and animals will be available and we will need to use these as a valuable resource to grow our crops. How to make your own compost and fertilisers can be found in Gardening Files.
Harvesting the Crop
The best bit. Simply dig up your root vegetables or pick your vegetables and soft fruits from the vine or stalk. Remember that now this is going to have to last you all year until next harvest. Process what you can and enjoy while you can in this time of glut.
Harvesting the Seeds
We need to replentish our seed supply and this is the time to do it. Our seed supply will not last forever.
Seeds will be harvested from each plant differently. Some are actually just the fruits we have picked; potatoes, garlic, onions, etc. others will need to be taken from shootings; strawberries, blackberries, etc. and others will need to be taken from within the fruits; apples, plums, etc. Most plants can also be grafted by splitting the roots as long as there is enough of it; Rhubarb is good this way. Just ensure you have enough seed to grow at least double what you have this year. You don’t have to use it all in one go and should keep some back in case your crop fails don’t put all your.. err.. seeds in one pot. It will also be good for bartering and you should share this way as well as you never know if your entire crop fails you could be needing to have this reciprocated.
When finished you either bury the plants in the ground to help the soil or compost them as required. Leaving the ones that last for years alone of course. Remember that the soil becomes depleted of certain minerals after certain crops plus bugs will survive the winter ready for the next planting. Plant something different there to defeat the bugs and give the soil a chance to recover from that mineral depletion. There is actually a science behind the rotation of crops and you should adhere to it to gain maximum output from your land. Even a year growing a green manure crop will improve your soil for the next cycle of growing. Find out more about crop rotation and green manure here. Plan it out to ensure you get the most from your land and follow that plan.
Next up is part 5 in the series, Plants.