Farm, Garden and The Land > Gardening and Agriculture

Banking on an Emergency Seed Bank?

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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 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.


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: If you have another, please share!

I also keep biofungicide ( 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:

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.


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


--- Quote from: MissAnthrope Plant Nerd on May 19, 2013, 02:32:52 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.

--- End quote ---

Yup.. unless they get lucky.


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 :)



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