Seeds Stockpile: How to Plan and Start It

seeds in mason jars

Every family has their own goals for prepping, and creating a seed stockpile follows our goals to have a self-sufficient homestead. Seed saving allows you to have a self-sustaining garden each year. You won’t depend on the garden store for your vegetable seeds each year. Saving seeds also give you an opportunity to share with others.

Benefits of Having a Seed Stockpile

Some preppers create a personal seed bank. You might have heard of the large projects around that world, storing seeds in large vaults. It’s quite an interesting thing to read!

On a small scale, you can do the same thing. Having a seed bank is saving seeds but doing so more seriously. You save seeds for the next year’s garden, but you also keep an eye to the future. We just never know what the future holds for us, so being prepared is better than not, right?

There are many benefits to saving your own seeds. A few reasons include:

Creating a Better Garden

Saving seeds from your strongest plants is one way to naturally create a better, healthier garden. You do so by saving seeds from only the strongest, disease-free plants. Think of it like playing with genetics but without any unnatural genetic modification.

For example, let’s say you planted several green bean plants this year. Most of them did well, and a few did excellently. You save the beans from the plant that did the best. It showed no signs of disease or wilting. The crop tasted perfect.

Next year, you plant those seeds. They already are stronger than the year before. These plants adjust to the microbes and fauna in your soil, and they become more resistant to the diseases in your area. Over time, you create a strong, healthier garden just by saving seeds. Awesome, right?

Crop Failures

You might be the best gardener in the world and still have crops fail. Controlling nature is impossible. In those events, you want to have seeds stored back because you might not have enough seeds to store from this harvest.

Let’s take our green bean scenario again, only this time all of the plants did horribly. You can’t afford to take two or three plants and dry all of those pods. They have to go into jars for your family that year. Well, luckily, you have extra bean plant seeds in your seed stockpile, ready and waiting for the next year.

Societal Collapse

If society collapses tomorrow, are you able to feed your family? What about the next year? And the year after that? If (or when) society collapses, you can’t expect grocery stores to stay open. Who knows, they may never reopen again. It’s a scary thought, especially if you have little mouths to feed as I do.

Having a seed stockpile gives me peace of mind for the future. No matter what the future brings, we have seeds stored. We can plant a garden whether we stay in the same location or we have to bug-out. Seeds are small and easy to carry with you, but they are life-saving – literally.

Being Self-Sufficient

Do you have dreams of becoming a self-sufficient homesteader? You can’t do so if you depend on any store or seed company to provide you with the seeds necessary to feed your family. This is one of the main reasons why I store seeds. Each year, I do buy some fun, specialty seeds for our garden, like a new pepper plant my husband wants or a fun-looking bean plant.

The basic plants that I must grow each and every year to provide for my family are saved. If I like that specialty plant, it goes in the stockpile. However, I have no NEED to purchase seeds anymore.

What Types of Seeds Can You Save?

Unfortunately, you can’t run to Walmart, grab a packet of seeds, and plan to save those. Why? Because those seeds are genetically modified and hybridized by large corporations such as Monsanto. Basically, those seeds are the property of other companies, even if you grow them in your garden. Bummer, right?

No! I personally think they’re doing us a favor because some of those hybridized, modified plants don’t produce the best crops anyway. You are allowed to save open-pollinated, non-hybridized, non-GMO seeds. That means you want to look for heirloom seeds.

Those hybridized or GMO seeds typically have sterile first-generation offspring. What that means is you might have a fantastic crop with those pepper plants you purchase at Home Depot, but any seeds you save from the plants will likely be sterile.

There are plenty of trusted, non-GMO, heirloom seed companies that you can purchase from, such as:

Another idea is to go to local farm and fleet stores that are owned by people in your area. These farm stores will have seeds that grow well in your area. Many owners or local farmers sell their seeds at these stores, so you know they’re adjusted to your area and climate.

Black Bean seeds
Black Bean seeds

How to Plan a Seed Stockpile

There are a few steps to take when you decide to keep a seed stockpile. Proper planning results in the best success. Plus, looking at seed catalogs is fun.

Plan the Seeds You Want to Save

Before you can do anything else, you have to decide what seeds you want to save. It’s wise to save seeds from fruits and vegetables that you and your family enjoy eating the most. There is no purpose in saving zucchini seeds if your entire family hates them. It’s a waste of space.

New seed savers should start with seeds that require the lowest skills. Some plants are tricky when it comes to saving their seeds. Start with the simple ones, so that you can learn the skills and have usable seeds prepared for the next season. The easiest seeds to store are self-pollinated.

Examples of self-pollinated seeds include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Okra

Always remember to consider the area in which you live. I live in Ohio, and sweet potatoes don’t grow here as well as they do in other warmer regions. Make sure the varieties that you pick will work for your region.

How Much Space Do You Have for Growing?

When you’re deciding what type of seeds to stockpile, you also have to look at how much space you have for growing and think about how you plan to use these seeds. Are they for your garden at your current location, or are they for your SHTF plans? Do you plan to bug in or bug out?

If you only have a smaller space to work with, you need to pick varieties that are smaller and compact. For example, pick determinate tomatoes rather than indeterminate because their compact size takes up less space in your garden. Look for varieties of pole beans rather than bush beans. Vertical growers save you space.

Your Growing Region

As you plan your seed stockpile, you also need to make sure your desired plants grow well in your particular growing region. What grows well in Alabama may not grow well in New York!

The growing season in each region is different, and you have to make sure each type of plant you grow has enough time to mature. You always can use season extenders to extend the growing season.

First, you have to find your USDA hardiness zone. From there, you look at your last frost date and first frost date to get an idea of the length of your growing season. When you pick your seeds, make sure the days of maturity aren’t longer than your growing season, unless you do plan to use a greenhouse or other season extenders.

peas seeds
peas seeds

Society Collapse – Different Set of Needs

If your reason for having a seed bank is that you want to prepare for a societal collapse, you are going to need to have a wider and more varied seed collection.

Including seeds like wheat and barley are a good idea because you will need them if the SHTF. It’s a good idea to practice growing these plants not just saving the seeds. They won’t do you any good if you have no idea how to grow them.

Pre-Made Seed Bank or Not?

If you feel nervous that you won’t have a seed bank prepared for a year or two, an alternative is to purchase a premade seed bank that is set for storage. It gives you a head start and gives you some insurance until you make your own seed bank.

Many prepping and outdoor companies sell these seed banks. Remember to look for a variety. You want herbs (culinary and medicinal), grains, fruit, and vegetables.

Figure Out How Many Plants You’ll Need

This step also goes back to determining how you’ll use your seed stockpile. Is it to grow food to supplement for your family, or do you want to grow enough food to be self-sufficient? What are your plans for your garden and how you’ll feed your family?

Figuring out how many plants you need can be difficult. Take a look at the recommended amounts of plants by Well Fed Home to give you an idea. Remember you’ll want to start more than this amount of seeds because some seeds will fail!

Think About Livestock

Another thing to consider is if you want to use the seeds to plant food for your livestock. Do you raise livestock?

If you raise chickens, they need calcium in their diet. Some people purchase oyster shells, which works great. You can grow kale instead which is a huge source of calcium, and your chickens will love it! Calcium forms the eggshell.

Greens, like turnip greens and radish greens, are loved by rabbits. Rabbits eat a lot of food! You can grow microgreens for your chickens. If you plan to raise larger livestock, you’ll have to consider grains as well.

Decide How You’ll Store Seeds

You have to decide where and how you want to store your seeds. You need an area that keeps your seeds cool, dry, and dark. Take a look at our section how to store seeds for the long term to determine where you should store your seeds!

Purchasing the Seeds

The last step is to actually purchase the seeds that you want. Make sure you date the seed packets when you buy them or save them. That way you use the oldest seeds you have first and can easily rotate your seed stockpile.

seeds in Mason jar
Seeds in Mason jar

How to Store Seeds for the Long Term

Storing seeds long-term means that you have to avoid three things: heat, oxygen, and moisture. If your seed gets moist, it will start to germinate, just like it would in the garden. Seeds need a consistent supply of moisture and nutrients to grow. You don’t want any moisture at all to come in contact with any of your seeds.

Oxygen may be necessary for our lives, but air can cause issues for seeds. Plants give off oxygen as a waste product, so fruits and seeds deteriorate rapidly when exposed to oxygen. You need to prevent oxygen from coming into contact with any of your seeds.

Next, you want to stick to the normal recommendation – store in a cool, dark place. Large seed banks, such as the ones located in Norway, use refrigerated chambers. Try the basement, refrigerator, or freezer for best results.

Some gardeners like to use a vacuum sealer to store and preserve their seeds. You don’t need a fancy one! The sealer removes moisture and oxygen, and the clear plastic lets you identify the contents easily.
Seeds store best below 40 degrees F with less than 10 percent humidity inside of airtight containers in a dark environment.

Easy, right?

Where to Store Seeds

You have a few options as to where to store seeds in your stockpile. Here are a few choices.

  • Refrigerator: If your refrigerator is between 40 and 50 degrees F, your fridge could be a good choice. However, most people find that their refrigerator isn’t cold enough for long-term storage. Storing food lower than 40 degrees can cause frost damage, unless you want to have a fridge dedicated just to seeds!
  • Freezer: Some people prefer to use the freezer, but you have to be careful with this option. Seeds with a high moisture content will be killed if they’re put in the freezer. Seeds with 10 percent moisture can be frozen for years, but if you put a seed that has 50 percent moisture, it’ll die if frozen.
  • Containers: The best containers to use are glass jars, mylar bags, metal cans, or a vacuum sealed bag. If you use a bag, make sure you put the bag in an insect-proof container. Make sure you add an oxygen absorber to each glass container.

Containers should be stored in a dark place where the temperatures won’t swing. Make sure they’re insect proof! Plastic doesn’t cut it as some insects can chew through plastic.

The Best Seeds to Stockpile

You can stockpile anything that you love. If you grow some strange, hot pepper that grows well in your garden, stockpile it! However, make sure you have the basics stored first before doing specialty items. Here are some of the best seeds to stockpile either for their usefulness or the ease of collecting the seeds.

BeansSpinach
CarrotsSquash – Summer and Winter
OnionsLeeks
GarlicBeets
TomatoesBroccoli
PeppersEggplant
AsparagusRadishes
CornGrains
BasilRosemary
LavenderParsley
SageMint
EchinaceaTurnips
ParsnipsRutabagas
CeleryCabbage
Lettuce

Without a doubt, you can add more to this list. The “ark” projects have added thousands more! You have to decide which seeds make the most sense of your family. This list is far from exhaustive.

Seed Shelf Life

Every seed has a different shelf life, so if you’re storing long-term, you have to consider how long the seeds will last in storage.

Seeds that have higher oil content, such as parsnips and lettuce, tend to have the shortest seed life. That is because higher oil content seeds decline in germination quickly.

One thing you’ll notice as you search for average seed shelf lives is that there seems to be no consensus because you have to take into the environment in which the seeds are stored and the quality of the crop from which the seeds were harvested.

The Best Seeds to Stockpile

You can stockpile anything that you love. If you grow some strange, hot pepper that grows well in your garden, stockpile it! However, make sure you have the basics stored first before doing specialty items.

Here are some of the best seeds to stockpile either for their usefulness or the ease of collecting the seeds:

BeansSpinach
CarrotsSquash – Summer and Winter
OnionsLeeks
GarlicBeets
TomatoesBroccoli
PeppersEggplant
AsparagusRadishes
CornGrains
BasilRosemary
LavenderParsley
SageMint
EchinaceaTurnips
ParsnipsRutabagas
CeleryCabbage
Lettuce

Without a doubt, you can add more to this list. The “ark” projects have added thousands more! You have to decide which seeds make the most sense of your family. This list is far from exhaustive.

Seed Shelf Life

Every seed has a different shelf life, so if you’re storing long-term, you have to consider how long the seeds will last in storage.

Seeds that have higher oil content, such as parsnips and lettuce, tend to have the shortest seed life. That is because higher oil content seeds decline in germination quickly.

One thing you’ll notice as you search for average seed shelf lives is that there seems to be no consensus because you have to take into the environment in which the seeds are stored and the quality of the crop from which the seeds were harvested.

SeedShelf Life
Asparagus3 Years
Basil5 Years
Beans3 Years
Beets3 Years
Broccoli3 Years
Cabbage4 Years
Carrots3 Years
Cauliflower4 Years
Chives2 Years
Cilantro2 Years
Celery3 Years
Corn (Sweet)2 Years
Cucumbers5 Years
Eggplant4 Years
Kale4 Years
Leeks2 Years
Lettuce3 Years
Onions1 Year
Oregano4 Years
Parsnips1 Year
Peas3 Years
Peppers2 Years
Radishes5 Years
Rutabagas4 Years
Spinach3 Years
Squash – Winter and Summer4 Years
Tomatoes5 Years
Turnips4 Years

Final Word

Seed stockpiling can be as complicated or as simple as you desire. Saving seeds for your future guarantees a supply of food, whether it’s next year’s garden or for your post-SHTF garden.

With proper planning and storage, you can be sure that you will have an abundance of food in your garden.

seeds stockpile pinterest

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Bethany Hayes
About Bethany Hayes 2 Articles
Bethany lives on a small suburban homestead, raising her three children. Homeschooling, gardening and preserving her harvest are some of her favorite activities, so suffices to say she's prepared for most disasters and emergencies.

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