How to Make a Survival Seed Bank

How to Make a Survival Seed Bank

How to Make A Survival Seed Bank

A survival seed bank is a collection of seeds stored in a protective container as a survival aid in the event of a long term emergency. It’s a great way to prepare for an event that makes home food production necessary for the survival of your family. Whether you are a prepper or you just want to keep enough seeds on hand to plant your garden in spring, it’s a great idea to store your seeds properly to prevent a decline in germination rate.

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Survival seed banks, or collections, are readily available through a number of companies. Purchasing a survival seed bank is a nice option if your time is limited and you just want the peace of mind that comes with a quick order. They quite often have a well-rounded selection of vegetables, herbs, melons, and other annual fruits.

survival seed bank...start with some seeds

Survival Seed Bank Basics

You can start your own survival seed bank to save money, customize it, and save the varieties that do well with your growing conditions.

The basic instructions are: place a selection of heirloom seeds in an airtight container and store it in a cool, dry place. But there are some extras that will make this process go a lot more smoothly!


Choose Your Seeds Wisely And Store Them Properly

Order heirloom seed varieties from a reliable company, such as Mary’s Heirloom Seeds. They sell only open-pollinated varieties that may be saved from seed each year (or in the second year from sowing, for biennials) and still produce the same variety.

Hybrid varieties are the result of two or more varieties bred for certain characteristics. The seeds collected from hybrids at the end of the season may produce an edible crop, but results will vary. Stick with heirlooms for your survival seed bank. Be sure that your seeds are not genetically modified or genetically engineered because they won’t produce the same quality of plant when saved from seed at the end of the season.

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Carrot seeds don’t keep well long term.

Best and Worst Seeds for Long-Term Storage

Seeds that don’t store well for long periods and are best used within a year or two of purchase or saving:

  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Leeks
  • Onions
pumpkins and squash
Pumpkins and winter squash seeds remain viable for several years.

Seeds that keep well for several years and may be stored with good germination rates:

  • Winter squash
  • Pumpkins
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Wheat
  • Oats
Saving corn seed for next year.

Store Seeds in an Airtight Container

The container you use for your survival seed bank depends somewhat on your budget and needs. If you will use the seeds each year in your garden, a mason jar with an airtight lid will work just fine.

If you are planning a ‘bug out bag’ and won’t be planting the seeds each year use a plastic freezer bag, a vacuum sealer bag (vacuum seal for best results), or a mylar bag. The mylar bag is the best option for long-term storage. There are also a variety of convenient seed storage boxes that work well for shorter storage solutions.

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Add Oxygen Absorbers & Silica Gel Packets

Using oxygen absorbers and silica gel packets in your storage containers increases the storage life of seeds. Seeds store best in low oxygen, low humidity, and low-temperature environments.

Oxygen absorbers help remove oxygen from the container for a year, possibly longer. Once you open the container, it is a good idea to replace them with new oxygen absorbers.

Silica gel packets absorb moisture, preventing humidity from building up inside your storage container.

Used together with refrigeration or freezing, these products help increase the storage life of your survival seed bank.

Start by ordering, storing, and using your survival seed bank properly:

  • Order heirloom seeds for vegetables, herbs, and fruits that you enjoy
  • Keep seeds dry and out of sunlight
  • Place packets of seeds in an airtight container
  • Add an oxygen-absorbing packet and/or silica gel packet to increase storage life
  • Close the container tightly to prevent moisture from seeping in
  • Place the survival seed bank in a cool, dark place (refrigerator or freezer is best)
  • Do not remove the container from cold storage and open it right away, see the instructions below

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arugula seedlings

When you are ready to use your survival seed bank, follow these instructions:

  • Remove the survival seed bank from the refrigerator or freezer
  • Set the container on a counter out of direct sunlight, until the contents of the jar have reached room temperature
  • Open the container and remove only the seeds that you will be using
  • Place a new oxygen-absorbing packet and/or silica gel packet in the container if possible
  • Close the container tightly and return it to cold storage

If you remove the container from cold storage and open it right away, condensation may form on the seeds. The moisture can initiate germination, which is bad. So allow the entire container and contents to warm up to room temperature, then remove only the seeds you will be using.

sowing seeds

Using Your Survival Seed Bank

Even under ideal storage conditions, seeds will deteriorate in quality over time. The best solution is to store seeds for shorter periods and use some each year. Growing a garden on a regular basis provides healthy food, substantial savings, and valuable practice for emergency preparedness and long-term survival.

Hopefully, we will never need these skills, but having them is great for everyday self-reliance. And if you use half of the seeds from your survival seed bank (saving half in case of crop failure), replenish them as needed, and keep your gardening skills honed, you will get the best results when it really matters.

Testing Germination Rates

It is a good idea to test your germination rates each year before you place a new seed order. Here’s how:

  • Place 10 seeds on a damp (not soaking wet) paper towel
  • Fold the damp paper towel over and place it in a plastic baggie
  • Mark the date, variety, time to germination, and age of the seed on the baggie
  • Place in a warm spot, a germinating mat works well
  • Open the baggie each day and check for germination and replenish moisture if needed
  • If seeds do not sprout within their required germination time, give them a few more days
  • Seeds that do not germinate are most likely not viable
  • Check temperature, moisture, and other conditions for problems with germination
  • If 10 out of 10 seeds germinate, you have a 100% germination rate
  • Varieties that have less than a 50% germination rate should be replaced
Pepper Plant - The New Homesteader's Almanac
Try growing in pots to practice gardening skills

Do You Need an Emergency Seed Bank?

But what if you don’t have anywhere to plant a garden? You may want to check for a community garden in your area, plant in pots, or read up on gardening skills if you really can’t put in a small garden now.

If you are putting together a survival seed bank for your emergency preparedness plans, but can’t use it right away, follow the directions for storage above, using the mylar bag option with a silica gel packet and an oxygen absorber.

If possible, put together a new survival seed bank every three to five years to ensure better germination rates. Donate the old seeds to someone who can use them.

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Are You Already A Gardener?

For those who have mad gardening skills, the survival seed bank tips we’ve shared might seem pretty basic. To increase your gardening and survival skills try saving heirloom seeds from your crops each year. Remember that some fruits and vegetables (such as pumpkins and squash) cross-pollinate readily, creating hybrid seeds.

To keep your seed supply pure, you will need to hand pollinate and prevent insects and wind from introducing unwanted pollen to the flower. Read up on how to save heirloom seeds for the best results. A good manual on saving heirloom seeds is indispensable as you learn this skill.

It is also advisable to try growing new crops and saving the seed each year. This increases the variety of vitamins and minerals available from your homegrown produce. You’ll have more flavors to choose from and more crops to fall back on if one fails.

Try growing a small plot of grain for grinding to make bread or for feeding to chickens.

Learn to identify wild edibles and even save their seeds for your survival garden.

Start a nursery plot for overwintering biennial crops such as carrots, parsnip, beets, and salsify to save seeds in their second year.

Increasing your self-reliance skills is always a good idea!

Are you interested in reading other articles about self-reliance? Check out 10 Best Broody Hen Breeds For A Self-Reliant Chicken Flock

Make Your Own Seed Bank

Using Your Survival Seed Bank

Here are the basic tips for making the most of your survival seed bank by collecting, saving, and using the best seeds for your needs…

  • Grow and save heirloom seeds
  • Keep a ‘nursery plot’ for growing biennial crops to collect seeds in the second year
  • Save the best seeds from your garden each year
  • Grow a variety of different crops to provide a safety net
  • Learn to forage for wild food and collect seeds of wild edibles
  • Test saved seeds for germination rates each year
  • Swap out old seeds for new seeds when germination rates are poor
  • Use half of the saved seeds and store the other half as a safety measure
  • Provide ideal conditions for seed storage according to your needs

Before you know it, you’ll be an old pro at growing a garden and saving your own heirloom seeds each year. Remember that knowledge is important, but practice makes perfect!

What is the most interesting or helpful tip you read in this article? Do you save heirloom seeds for your garden? Share your tips in the comments!

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How to Make a Survival Seed Bank by The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

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