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Identify what you need to put aside – pt 4 – Seeds

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;

  • Adzuki
  • Alfalfa
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Aubergine
  • Barley
  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Buckwheat
  • Borage
  • Butternut
  • Beet
  • Beetroot
  • Beans
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cannabis
  • Cape Gooseberry
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chickpea
  • Chives
  • Clover (red)
  • Comfrey
  • Coriander
  • Courgette
  • Cress
  • Cucumber
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Hops
  • Kale
  • Kamut
  • Leek
  • Lemon Grass
  • Lentil
  • Lettuce
  • Marrow
  • Melon
  • Mint
  • Mung
  • Mustard
  • Nasturtium
  • Oats
  • Oregano
  • Pak Choi
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip
  • Pea
  • Pepper
  • Pumpkin
  • Quinoa
  • Radish
  • Rocket
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Sorrel
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sunflower
  • Swede
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Tobacco
  • Tomato
  • Turnip
  • Wheat
  • Wheatgrass

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.

Management
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.

13 comments to Identify what you need to put aside – pt 4 – Seeds

  • Skvez

    If you plant GM crops beside heirloom crops the plants will cross polinate, this was one of the major objections to GM crops when they came out. Non-GM farmers complained that their crops were being contaminated.

  • Skean Dhude

    Skvez,

    You are right about the cross pollination. That is what I meant about having room but reading it now I should have been much more specific. I’ll add that warning in to the text just to be clear.

    Thanks.

  • Skvez

    Cross-polination can occurr if the plants are downwind of each other. Depending on the pollen that can be within many miles of each other. Basically there is no practical way to ensure you don’t cross-polinate if you have GM and non-GM crops planted at the same time.

  • Skean Dhude

    Skvez,

    Agreed.

    There is little you can do about cross pollination in reality. After all someone else can be planting the same crops, and probably is, just a few hundred yards away today. The bees could be cross pollinating this. Somethings you just have to accept. It’s not perfect but what can you do?

  • Dragonfly

    Skean,
    That article is too simplistic and there are things that I really don’t agree with. Other than the cross-pollination already tackled by Skvez
    – there are more types of seeds than just Heirloom and GM (GM are just for farmers and laws restrict their use in the UK compared to the USA where they are more widely used). Are you confusing GM with F1 Hybrids?
    – GM seeds have been shown in numerous studies to not increase yields over time vs non-GM foods
    – GM seeds also need far more in the way of fertiliser than non-GM to get close to the increased yields promised
    – GM seeds are far different from what farmers and plant breeders have been doing for centuries (selecting the best plants to breed from/save seed)
    – ‘heirloom’ seeds can have disease resistance and some have been selected over many many years to be resistant to certain pests and diseases

    I could go on, but I won’t!! 😉

  • Skean Dhude

    Dragonfly,

    Welcome. Thanks for the input. I went with what I know and I’m happy to take suggestions. Between all of us we can work out an ideal base list.

    I’ve had my basic understanding of F1 seeds modified during the course of this. I thought they were seeds bred for certain traits and like animals bred for traits would be weaker. My GM seeds stance for survival remains the same.

    Let us now what you suggest for a seed vault.

  • Dragonfly

    Hi,
    I don’t really know much about the current status of GM seed as we only use open-pollinated varieties so that we can save the seed. There is so much kit we need to save up for we just can’t afford to be buying an entire vege garden each year. It is more work but its saved us a ton of money if you include what we don’t then spend in the supermarket buying produce.

    I was under the impression that there are GM farm scale seed trials going on in the UK but that GM planting for ordinary folk was illegal (I could be a few years out of date though! 🙂 ). Isn’t it mainly for corn, sugar beet and potatoes anyway and not all the different varieties you would need for a good veggie patch?

    I just googled it and found http://www.gmwatch.org but will need to look through it. Can’t instantly find the info I was looking for.

    For an understanding of F1 seeds try this http://www.realseeds.co.uk/why.html These were the people we originally got our seeds from and we occasionally go back to them if we have an absolute disaster on something. We select the best plants we grow each year to save seed from and in some cases are selecting certain traits, for example, really early salad tomatoes etc.

    Hope you don’t mind all the links. I’m terrible at explaining things so it’s generally better if I find the info elsewhere!

  • Skean Dhude

    I’ve seen both those sites before. Not bought anything from the seed one though.

    I’m fine with the links. The only issue is the system holds comments with links to check for spammers. So I have to approve them. Not a problem for me but it is why your posts don’t appear straight away. I’m not censoring you.

  • Lightspeed

    I traveled here form a discussion on the forum.

    I’m not much of a gardener, but have started growing vegetables over the last few years to see how viable it would be to feed myself and also to develope skills and toold necessary to do so.

    So far, I’ve learned that veg growing is going to be a very hard-work way to stay alive.

    I need plants taht will grow quickly and with minimum of help from me.

    My staple crops are Potatoes, beans, carrots, marrows and spinach. Tomatoes are bit of a luxury to me in terms of return on investment.

    I’ve also realised that fruit trees are excellent low maintenance food sources.

    Habe we any UK keen gardeners who can suggest crops and in particular varieties that fall into the fast cropping, high-yield, low maintenance category that I’m looking for?

    I like the idea of growing buck wheat, but I have ko idea how much space or effort this will entail.

  • Skean Dhude

    Lighspeed,

    We are pretty much the same. I’m just getting practise in and need to live off weeds. The only plants I can keep alive.

  • Lightspeed

    Ha ha SD! But seriously, we have to acquire the knowledge of what to grow and how to grow it in our bug-out regions. Failure due to our incompetence is not an option, especially in the first growing season after resurfacing.

    I researched buckwheat last night and it appears to be an ideal crop to trial.

    See http://www.food-from-the-garden.com/buckwheat.html

    It seems that its very fast growing,it out-grows weeds, seeds mature quickly,all parts of the plant can be eaten, and its flowers are a good nectar scource for bees.

    Its nutritional value seems excellent too.

    Is this too good to be true? Has anyone on here ever tried to grow it? Any tips?

    I have eaten buckwheat in various forms and it can be both tasty and very filling. So another tick in my book for it.

  • Skean Dhude

    Plants tend to look after themselves especially the home grown ones.

    Buckwheat like many grains is underused here. I have some and I would look at growing some.

    Your plan is good. A good crop and growing it when it is less critical. I’m sorry, I have no tips though.

  • Undertaker

    Lightspeed, i too have read the piece on Buckwheat, but whwere can you buy the seeds to plant? All the sites i have looked at seem to have only tiny salad plants as ‘Buckwheat’ or only mention it in the ‘green manure’ section.

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