R. Ann Parris on Seeds Aren’t Magic Beans Jack!


Seeds on a Shelf by R. Ann Parris for PrepperGroups.com

A fair number of us have done it: Bought an array of seeds or a kit and stuck it on a shelf. After all, seeds are one of those ubiquitous prepper checkpoints, right there with the bugout bag, tac gear, camping/lumber axes, and rice.

Thing is, in and of themselves, having those items on shelves won’t save us.

We can’t just let them sit on that shelf collecting dust. They require other inputs, and they also require actual practice. Seeds are no different.

Seeds do have a unique factor among our various survival supplies: They’re alive.

With life comes a lifespan. Even in our expensive vaults and kits, seeds have a ticking clock. Some are naturally longer lived and robust (squash) while others are short-lived even in the best of conditions (spinach). Temperature, temperature fluctuation, moisture, and light can all affect the shelf life. The effects are felt differently not only by crop types, but even by varieties within those types and also our suppliers.

If they’re sitting unused on a shelf, we have no idea if those seeds are even viable any longer.

Growing food requires experience.

The U.S. county-university extension office programs exist because growing food is not plug-and-play. Even Big Ag with all its tech and formulas is not down to an actual science (yet). It’s why we see fluctuations in predicted yields even within production styles and relatively small regions, and why actual harvest totals vary from those predictions.

The need for experience affects all aspects of food production cycles, from what crop types and varieties work best for our location and style to what we have to do to produce another generation of seed for another year’s garden.

Growing styles affect yields. Check out the Big Ag organic and inorganic production averages. Even using mostly the same tools and generally the same methods, there are big differences. Make bigger changes in production style, and the results will vary even more.

“Normal” varies by location. The same differences in average production per acre are visible by region. From our base soil to pests and diseases, our rainfall (and rainfall distribution) to temperatures, our specific conditions affect what will grow, how long it takes, what it yields, and how much help it needs.

If we haven’t been growing, we have no idea what those “normal” conditions and results are. Even if we source seeds that are developed specifically for our location and research the yields of a certain growing method for that location…

Year to year, conditions change. If we haven’t been growing, we can’t track when something is abnormal and requires an adjustment.

Those adjustments can take many forms — what we’re growing, amendments and additives, shelter of different types.

“More stuff” is not the be-all answer, though. We can stock whole warehouses of fertilizers, pest control, row covers, smudge pots and fuels, misters, fans, drip lines, mulches, or the aquaponics and hydroponics equivalents. We can even account for hand-pollination methods for both wind and insect crops, and have alternative crop seed to plant.

If we don’t know how to apply them, though, and can’t recognize the difference between a bacterial infection, a pH related nutrient deficiency (or nutrient poisoning), or an herbicide/toxin that’s blown in from somewhere, we don’t know which fix to apply or when to cut losses.

There’s a running theme through there: Experience.

Store-bought dirt in tin cans, patio containers, raised beds, tilled plots, or acres of orchard and alleys, we must learn. No book will hold all the answers. Few books can tell us there’s a problem, identify that problem, and offer a solution fast enough to save “this” planting or harvest. We must learn first-hand, and we must learn now.

We can’t just let seeds sit on a shelf. Wherever we source them, however long they’re supposed to last, we have to break the seals and start growing.