Feeling the need for seed? You too can become a seed saver! The basics are easy to learn, and creating a home seed bank is a great way to increase your household’s resilience -while protecting diversity AND strengthening your community.
I think we have all become acutely aware of the importance of seeds, lately. In this unprecedented time of covid-19, seedsavers across the world are being called on to share their knowledge (and their seeds) as more and more folks realise the value of locally adapted, open-pollinated, and locally available seeds, to help all of our gardens, and our communities to thrive.
And there is NO reason why you can’t be a part of this too, and become a seedkeeper! Every home should have a small seed bank.
Seedsaving skills and maintaining a small home seed bank will help you increase your household resilience hugely, and also enable you to use small, slow solutions to create abundance in your garden.
Home seed banks provide us with a powerful symbol of independence, and renewal, but there’s lots of practical advantages to saving your own seeds, too.
Saving your own seeds, and swapping with other local Seedsavers, mean that you can grow plants, flowers, fruit and vegetables that are far better adapted to your local microclimate than packets of seeds from far away.
By saving and stewarding locally adapted varieties into the future, you will become a seedkeeper – and increase the resilience of your entire community, to be called upon when they need you most. A small and slow solution with the largest effects imaginable – good food and nutrition for all, for generations to come.
The video and downloadable guide in this article are taken from our Permaculture Living online course – a 12 week program where we actively support you to learn how to create household and community-scale resilience.
You can join the waitlist for the next class here.
Getting started with Seed Saving
So. Let’s get started. First you need to learn to save seed, or acquire some seed upfront.
We’ve created a how-to video above, to skill you up with the types of seeds you can save or acquire, and, importantly, how to prevent cross-pollination once you. Think about starting with some super easy vegetables – maybe beans, or peas, or pumpkins!
We’d recommend that you begin with just a few varieties, and build up your seedbank from there.
Tomatoes are another great plant to start with – saving their seeds require a little more care than things like beans, but they are still very easy to save – here’s a tomato seed saving guide for you:
Once you have your seeds, good labelling and storage is super important to ensure you have an ongoing, viable seed bank.
Again, this doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated: your seeds just need to be kept cool, dry, and free from pests. There’s lots of links below to our favourite seed saving guides, networks and websites, so go do some research and get seed saving.
And once you have your little seed bank, make sure you share your knowledge, and your seeds, with your community, and beyond. Best of luck!
Where can I get seeds, if I don’t have my own?
If you’re keen to start a little seed bank but you don’t currently have any seeds to work with, there’s a few avenues you can look at…
Your local community garden or community centre – firstly, check with your local crew. Any seeds coming from your local informal networks will likely be more locally adapted to where you live (which is great) and will increase your community connections in the finding and swapping of them.
Your local seed company – wherever possible, support your closest seed keepers! Again, some of their seeds will be locally adapted to near where you live. Ask around or search online in your state or area to find out what’s out there.
Your local supermarket – at a pinch, you can save some seeds to grow that you find in a supermarket – things like coriander seeds, fenugreek, unhulled buckwheat and more. More idea in this article here. ALSO – you might be surprised to find that some fruit and veg shops keep a small seed stand. Also check gift shops near you – as ‘start a garden’ packs become part of the gift market, jump on whatever seeds you can find to get started.
A note that if you’re getting seeds from supermarkets or sources with unclear provenance, that’s fine, just label those seeds clearly. Next year, you’ll want to know which seeds came from your local seed company and which came from the spice-isle, so you can make good decisions about what to plant in the garden space that you have.
This How-To is also part of our Permaculture Living 2020 series – one do-able idea, strategy or habit for you, each week, to build your household resilience – while also engaging in everyday climate action. Make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter to get all the goodness, straight to your inbox, each week.
Got questions? Here’s our live Q&A
This Q&A was held live on our Facebook page, on Friday May 1st. Here’s a few resources from questions that came up…
- Regarding seedsaving networks – Seedsavers.net – such a great resources for all things seed saving, plus local seed networks
- Regarding seedsaving in the tropics – Tropical Permaculture Guidebook – great resources on tropical seedsaving (and tropical everything else)
- Regarding growing peath trees from seed – Growing Fruit trees from seeds
- Regarding winnowing + cleaning seeds – see Seedsavers.net above, the resources below, and here’s a winnowing video for you too
Seed Saving Resources:
- Seedsavers Network – manuals, seeds, blogs, local networks – so good!
- Seed Freaks – for their fabulous Bean poster (and their everything else) – AU
- Green Harvest – organic seed store – AU
- Navdanya – community of over 6 million farmer families, has established 111 Community Seed Banks in 17 States across India, facts about seeds, living soils, foods, poisons on crops, women-led economies
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – gorgeous rare seeds – US
- Pavlovsk Experimental Station – Russian seed bank
- Seed Savers Handbook, Michel and Jude Fanton (Seed Savers’ Network, 2000) – comprehensive guide to seed saving and seed varieties
- Milkwood: Real Skills for Down-to-Earth Living, Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar – Chapter 1: The Tomato
- The Seed Garden : the art and practice of seed saving, Micaela Colley & Jared Zystro
- Manual of Seed Saving, Andrea Heistinger & Ian Miller – saving vegetable, herb and fruit seeds
- Seed Libraries: And Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of the People, Cindy Conner
- What’s the Difference? Open-Pollinated, Heirloom & Hybrid Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange – first thing to be aware of when seed saving
- Castlemaine Seed Library – great example of a public seed library
- Controlling Cross Pollination – How To Stop Cross Pollination, Heather Rhoades, Gardening Know How – learn types of pollination, and how to prevent them crossing
- How to Store Your Seeds, The Seed Collection – fundamentals of storage
- Seed Lending Library: How To Start A Seed Library, Mary H Dyer, Gardening Know How – easy steps to a communal seed library
- The Men who Starved to Death to Save the World’s Seeds, Rakesh Krishnan Simha, Russia Beyond – incredible story