Save Your Own “Survival Seeds” [Part 1]

This article is the firies about seed saving. I’ll show you how to do it, and why to do it… because many modern seeds don’t grow well year after year. This means that if you value your independence or self-sufficiency, you have to buy new seed to plant every year.

This is good for seed companies’ bottom line, but it’s bad for both your independence and your pocketbook. If you needed seed and the seed company wasn’t around to supply you, where would you go? Where would you get seed for the next growing season? What if the seed company didn’t have a variety suited to your climate or region?

What if the seed companies ceased to exist?While some people feel comfortable buying seed year after year, many others have begun to save and share seed. Learning how to save your own seeds, especially from heirloom and locally adapted crops, frees you from dependence on seed companies. This gives you power over the future of your garden, the food you consume, and your ability to feed your family.

Seed saving is a very ancient tradition

In fact, saving seed is the very thing that made agriculture possible. Today, producing seed and saving seed is done by big business. In the past it was done by primitive people, who noticed which crop plants grew the best, and shook some of that plants seed into a bag.

They would save this seed to plant the next season. Because many modern crops are very complicated, it’s easy to forget that the practice is just as simple and powerful as it was for our primitive forefathers.

Seed saving is an important skill both for the survival of people and the survival of the many crops that were bred over the centuries- “heirloom” varieties uniquely adapted to the conditions and stresses of the environment in which they originated.

These crops typically breed true and offer unique solutions to nature’s problems; problems like drought, blight, insects, frosts, soil alkalinity, etc. Many of these crops represent thousands of years of careful observation and cultivation, and the primary way they have been, and will be preserved is through seed saving.

An accomplished seed saver will consistently have his own seed, uniquely adapted to his garden to plant year after year. If seed is selected and saved carefully, many gardeners can develop their own unique gene pools that are resilient, appropriate and productive.

Almost all crops can be cultivated from seed. Some are easy to select, harvest and save, while others are more difficult. To begin saving seed, a gardener must understand a few things:

Different crops live and reproduce on different timelines.

Annuals have short life-spans, germinating from seed, growing and reproducing in the course of a single summer. These crops are usually much easier to collect seed from year after year. There are many annual garden crops, including tomatoes, squash, corn, beans and lettuce.

Biennial crops germinate from seed one year, growing over the course of a growing season (this is called vegetative growth), overwintering, and then flowering and going to seed the following year. Good examples of biennials are beets and chard.

Perennial crops often survive for many years, and may flower and produce seeds every year once the crop is sexually mature. Many garden herbs, berries and fruits fall into this category.

This is important to understand what type of crop you are growing, because if you are waiting for a beet to flower the first year you will be very disappointed!

Seeds are produced by sexual reproduction. 

This means that the offspring that result from seeds from a parent plant don’t always resemble the parent plant! Pollen from another type of plant may have fertilized the flowers on the parent plant, leading to strange looking crops. This is especially important to remember with crops like melons, cucumbers and squash as well as the many different varieties of peppers.

Different varieties in these groups of plants cross readily. So, in order to control what kind of a plant the seed will grow, the pollination of some crops must be controlled by planting them far apart, or putting a screen around them to keep insects out.

Hybrid crops will typically not breed true. 

Many modern crops are hybrids. Hybrids are stronger and bigger in the first generation because they have lots of genes. But, if two hybrids cross, then all of those genes cause the offspring to be very different from the parents. This means that the seed from hybrids is pretty useless, because you don’t know what you will get if you grow it.

Seeds are alive!

This means that seeds can be killed if they are not cared for properly. You must be careful with how you collect, dry and store your seeds or you will kill them.

Hope you enjoyed this primer – stay tuned for more specific info on seed saving techniques!


This article has been written by Nate Storey, PhD for Survivopedia.


Written by

Nate Storey is the Co-Founder, Inventor and CEO at Bright Agrotech - a innovative vertical farming systems startup seeking to empower commercial growers and home gardeners alike grow more with less space with their vertical farming towers and products. Dr. Storey continues to research the use of tower production techniques to increase productivity and reduce costs for hydroponic and aquaponic growers. Dr. Nate lives in Laramie with his wife and baby daughter.

Latest comments
  • This information was very compelling for me to learn. Do you plan to have any illustrated example of how to care for and dry the seeds we might desire to save. Also if we start form good crop seed purchased from a commercial source maybe Northrup King NK is the only seed company I have ever seen, I have never bought anything but flowers supposed to be regionally tolerant for our Pacific Northwest and eventually some followers did bloom. but not as many as I had hoped for. How do we know know how much seed to plant?
    How close are we to plant them? And how do we know what is missing from the soil, and what should we to the soil to ensure perfect medium to generate the optimal growth? I ask these questions because I have heard every soil is deficient in some manner and needs help? Please if you have a website that answers these questions, can you send an email link so I may connect to your web site of general knowledge for a beginner that I am. I am looking forward to your reply many people would like to know starter seed recommendation. Seeds.

    • We live on the Oregon coast and order seed from Territorial Seed Company always with good results. Website is Hope that helps.

  • Any advice on saving carrot seed? I have several times and the result is always white branching roots.

    Any secrets to long term storage?

  • I have already purchased your aquaponics info, a while back. In 1999 CNN name my store Y2K Super Store, the number one survival store in the nation. You have a great concept. I also have now have a new all natural organinic plant growth enhancer, I can’t call it a fertilizer it grow in a different than conventional way. It has beat the so called worlds biggest fertilizer companies best in head to head in growth tests in a university study. It also beat in production GMO seeds with heirloom seeds. Let me know if your interested in a free sample to try and test medical tomatoes. If you will register at my web site, I will contact you then, or cll me at (406) 360-5543.
    Thank You,

    • Brian,
      I cannot find your website. Can you give me info on how we can buy your fertilizer? I am a little confused on the proper seeds I need to be storing and have the ability of reproducing seeds from the crop. Can you provide some insight?

    • yes i would like a free sample. and how to grow it.
      e-mail : [email protected]

  • Where can you buy seeds that will last if stored correctly? Please explain how to store seeds and how long they typically last.

    • Howdy, just search for Heirloom seeds, and you’ll find many sources, some of which will be packaged for long term storage.

  • No offense but , exactly how do you prepare the seeds and store them so that they will continue being useful. It’s great to state the obvious but can we get some details here. Thanks

    • Just a guess, but that will probably be covered in upcoming article
      As the author states in the first and last sentences, “This article is the first in a series about seed saving.”, and “Hope you enjoyed this primer – stay tuned for more specific info on seed saving techniques.”

  • Please do an article about the evils of companies like Monsanto that produce “mule” seeds – seeds that produce crops whose seeds are sterile…..

    See also:

  • Seed saving is a very ancient “tradition”

    Saving seed is Imperative for survival in a long term crisis. Even in acient times, saving seed, from year to year, was a necessity rather than a tradition. Ancient peoples saved seed because of drought, flood and war. These factors often led to the inability to collect seed each year for crops. Saving seed became the only way to guarantee an ample supply of viable seed to stave off famine. Otherwise, great article

  • If you don’t have a garden already, to collect your seeds from, you can buy them by the bag at your grocery store in the ‘dry beans’ section. Beans are, after all, seeds. One caveat here, there’s no guarantee these aren’t GMO / hybrid beans which may fail for use as crop seed, but more than likely they will sprout.

    • Tis true. Last year I tried planting store bought great northerns and navy beans. 90% or more sprouted.

  • i would like to know how to saveing seeds and how to start a garding on my owen.?

  • a general observation to many postings. at least here in the South,every county has an extension agent dealing with most “plant” matters. if you have someone similar,you should be able to take in a small dirt sample from your garden area and they will tell you what you need and then you can do mfg’d chemical enhancement or natural(like wood ash, baking soda, manure, etc) to balance. partly depends on what you want to grow. the old mother earth news and related pubs from 70’s have dozens of articles on organic/natural farming. pest control.weed control.irrigation ,proximity to bee colonies are all a few of the things to consider. as for dry beans,buy a few and see if the grow.

  • real good advise but useless to the average joe who knows nothing about crops and growing.
    without a walk through of how to dry store and plant seeds this is just advice allthough good advice it will help no one that doesnt know about gardening.

    • The book, SEED-TO-SEED, was recommended to me. I’ve recently purchased it, but I haven’t begun my garden yet. (BTW, I’m new at gardening, too!). The author is Susan (Susanne?) Ashcraft. I’m not at home as I write this, so I’m not sure I recall the spelling of her name properly. Go to Amazon and key in the name of the book. I’m sure about the title. — Good luck!!!!

  • Patriot Supply has much there to learn about how to harvest seeds. I have created a cross reference folder with the information from that site.

  • This website is loaded with instructions for saving seeds and what cross pollinates.

  • If you pick up a Mother Earth News magazine, you can order all their back issues on DVD’s for very cheap! Well worth it because you will have a variety of topics, not just seed saving, planting/cultivating your garden but also storage, bee keeping, building sustainable farms (large and small), hunting and so much more! One of the best sources for a comprehensive, in depth library. Buy only Heirloom seeds while they are still available. Monsanto has been buying up seed companies as fast as they can and have successfully sued farmers who signed contracts to purchase seeds from them before the farmers realized that the seeds has to be purchased year after year because they would only produce for 1 year. They are resistant to many things but they only last 1 YEAR. GMO products are banned in Europe for that reason and others. Did you know that Canola Oil is a GMO product? It is good for oil lamps, however, because it burns clean, without scent and lasts a long time so don’t throw out your Canola oil. Just don’t eat it. Oh for the good ole days!

  • Thanks for opp.

  • Instead of parts of 5 or 6 articles please post the complete article. i have limited access to internet . so need all info at once

  • I really appreciate all the wonderful advice and suggestions on the page..Quick question…. how much seed should be saved from year to year to produce a new crop the next year? I want to think the more the better but wonder if seeds themselves deteriorate with time. Thank you.