Saving Seeds for a DIY Seed Bank

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I am not one to “prep” for an apocalyptic future, but I do feel the need to be prepared for natural disasters and a very possible economic downturn or any other potential emergency situation. Learn how to create your own personal DIY seed bank!

Food preservation is at the top of my list when it comes to preparing for the future, no matter what that future might look like. The first thing that comes to my mind when I say “food preservation” is canning and freezing garden produce. 

What happens, though, if you have no access to seeds to plant in your garden? What if other farmers near you are struggling to feed their own families so they can’t sell their produce at the farmer’s market? This is where the need to start a personal seed bank comes in.

What is a Personal DIY Seed Bank?

A seed bank is simply a collection of seeds saved for use in future years. These seeds can be saved and stored for use each season or they can be stored long-term as survival seeds.

A survival seed bank contains seeds for use over a much longer time period just in case food or money become scarce which, if you think about it, isn’t that unlikely to happen at some point in our lives.

Why Should You Save Seeds for a DIY Seed Bank?

Gardening in itself is a great way to achieve food freedom, BUT what happens if you have no access to seeds to plant in your garden?

What if other farmers near you are struggling to feed their own families so they can’t sell their produce at the farmer’s market? This is where the need to start a DIY seed bank comes in.

Seed Saving provides:

  • Food Security→ If you have seeds and soil, you have food.
  • Financial Savings→ Saving seeds from your garden prevents you from needing to purchase seeds each year which saves you money.
  • Sustainability→ Saving seeds ensures that you have plant varieties that you enjoy year after year regardless of commercial crop failure and variety losses.

Steps for Savings Seeds

1. Plan

Before you start your own seed bank you need to decide what seeds you want to save. I suggest saving seeds of fruits and veggies that are favorites in your family and following those up with lesser-liked varieties for use “just-in-case”. 

It is a good idea to save seeds for grains as well after you have started building your fruit and veggie seed stash.

The easiest seeds to save are ones that are open-pollinated heirloom seeds or self-pollinated varieties. It is not recommended to save hybrid varieties because the seeds are often sterile or produce traits that are different from the parent plant.

Choose your seed varieties wisely based on a few different criteria…

Choose types of seeds that are:

  • Likely to be used: Save varieties of seeds that produce foods you and your family enjoy eating.
  • Open or Self-Pollinated: Hybrid seeds don’t breed true or don’t produce seed at all.
  • Zone Appropriate: Only save seeds of plants that grow well in your climate.

2. Source Seeds

Now that you have an idea of what seeds you want to save, you need to decide where the seeds will come from. There are three main methods of seed saving:

  • Save seeds directly from the plants in your own garden.
  • Talk to local gardeners about saving seeds from their plants.
  • Purchase seed packs or a survival seed kit.

Let’s dive into each of these seed saving methods!

 –> Start a seed bank with seeds from your own garden.

You can start a seed collection from your own garden now. This is a great way to save money on next year’s garden and to save for the long-term future!

There are some great videos and articles that can walk you through the steps to save seeds from each of your plants. Make sure that you are choosing seeds from healthy plants and harvest these seeds near the end of the growing season when they are mature.

You must be sure to preserve the seeds properly or they will not even last until the next growing season. You can scroll down a bit to see preservation techniques. 

Typically, seeds saved from a family garden can last up to about 3 years. Check this seed life chart for the life-span of specific seed varieties.

**Be sure to place a blossom bag over the flower of the plants that you want to save seeds from. This will prevent cross-pollination so you seeds will breed true.

Image and blossom bag from Nativeseeds.com

These articles share great seed saving techniques from specific vegetables and herbs:

Onions | Tomatoes | Carrots | Beans | Lettuce | Dill | Basil

–> Start a seed bank from locally grown fruits & veggies.

If you don’t have your own garden, then you can visit your local farmer’s market. Seeds can be saved from fruits and veggies grown by other farmers just like they would be saved from your own garden. 

You can get seeds directly from local farmers, from seed exchanges, or collected from produce purchased at the farmers’ market.

However, you should be aware of how the veggies were grown and the specific variety of each so that you are only saving seeds that match your preference.

The issue with this method of seed saving for your DIY seed bank is that the fruits and vegetables were probably not picked as mature plants at the end of the growing season. 

You will have to be discerning when choosing this way so you don’t end up with a seed bank full of unviable seeds.

 –> Start a seed bank with purchased seeds.

My favorite seed companies by far are Hoss Tools and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. When you purchase seeds from them, just place the paper envelope seed packets in a photo box or other container for season-to-season storage OR put them into mylar bags and a sealed bucket for long-term storage.

If you would like to have a survival seed kit ready before your next harvest season just in case, then you should consider purchasing a pre-made seed bank kit. I have the Emergency Heirloom Vegetable Seed Bucket from Heaven’s Harvest.

Get FREE seeds from Heaven’s Harvest with code “mamaseed” at checkout!

This bucket has 39 heirloom varieties of vegetable seeds …that is enough to plant 10 acres of veggies! 

Large White seed bucket with Heaven's Harvest Sticker on the front | Mama on the Homestead

You can then save seeds out of these veggies for future personal use. A never-ending supply of food sounds like great security to me! 

These survival seeds are packed in mylar bags. If they are stored properly, then they have a shelf life of ten years. This kit from Heaven’s Harvest is packed with over 4,500 non-hybrid, open pollinated, and non-GMO seeds. 

They offer several different sized kits with high-quality seeds as well as survival food packs and water filtration systems.

Don’t forget to use code “mamaseed” for your free seed pack!

3. Collect and Prepare Seeds for Storage

Seeds need to be prepared properly before they are stored or they can grow mold and lose their quality. So how can you make sure your seeds are ready for storage??

Prepping Wet Seeds

Wet seeds are seeds that are found inside fleshy fruits and vegetables (like tomato seeds). When “wet” plants fall to the ground in nature, they ferment as they rot. Since we are essentially removing these plants from that natural fermentation, it is vital to mimic it if we want the seeds to be viable in the future.

We can mimic natural fermentation process by removing as many seeds from the fleshy material as possible and placing them into a bucket or bowl of water for 2-4 days. 

Tomato slices | Mama on the Homestead

During this time, the seeds will go through fermentation which will separate good seeds from bad seeds as well as removing germination-inhibiting substances such as viruses and mold.

You should find that the good seeds sink while the bad seeds, mold, and pulp float to the top. Remove the good seeds after fermentation and dry them thoroughly. 

You can now place them in the freezer to be sure that any pests still hanging around are killed. Then they can be added to your personal DIY seed bank.

Prepping Dry Seeds

Dry seeds are found on plants that do not have a fleshy covering (beans, peas, peppers, herbs, etc).  Allow these seeds to dry as much as possible while still on the plant. 

They can finish drying  in a single layer in a dry room or in a solar oven. Now you can remove the pods or other outer coverings/shells/chaff. 

If you have plants that have tiny seeds, such as herbs, place the seed heads of the plant into a paper bag and shake. The bag will catch the seeds as they fall out.

4. Store Seeds

Storage depends on the length of time that you want to keep your seeds.

Let’s go over long-term AND short-term seed storage options…

Short-Term Storage of seeds

Seeds can be stored in their original paper envelopes in any container with a lid. A lid prevents animals and bugs from getting into your seed packs. Light-proof containers are best, but not necessary for short-term storage. I keep my short-term seeds in a plastic photo box like this one.

Long-Term Storage of Seeds

When you start a personal seed bank, you want to be sure that your storage containers will keep moisture, bugs, and rodents out. 

Store your seeds in a cool dry place inside an airtight container like food grade buckets, mason jars, or Mylar Bags

If you use mylar (a great seed storage option), I recommend placing them inside a sealed bucket to keep mice and squirrels from tearing into them.

Add silica gel or powdered milk wrapped in cheesecloth to help absorb any moisture that might get into the container. 

** Oxygen Absorbers work to remove air from the seed packs, but they don’t remove moisture so silica gel is recommended. 

5. Organize and Label Seeds

Organizing the seeds in your seed bank will help you to keep a solid inventory and to find the seeds that you need quickly.

How to Label Seed Packs

Label seed containers clearly so that you know what you are planting and when the seeds were stored. 

Use a label for each seed type. You can place labels on envelopes used to separate seed packs or print labels to put on container lids.

My favorite way to organize seeds for short-term storage is in this photo box with these seed pack labels.

For long term storage, you can alphabetize the seeds in your food grade bucket.

You can even print labels to place between each seed type OR place each seed type in separate labeled bags inside a bucket.

6. Test Seed Viability

Before you plant seeds that you have saved, you need to test their viability. 

To do this, wrap them gently in damp paper towels. Place the seeds and paper towel in a plastic bag with a small opening for air in a warm and well-lit room. 

If they start to sprout, then congrats! You have viable seeds ready to be planted!

If you want to plant more seeds than you can put in this paper towel, just try this method with 10 seeds to determine the germination rate

For example, if only 4 seeds out of ten sprout, then your germination rate is 40%… If 9 sprout, then you have a 90% germination rate. If you have good germination rates, you can start planting!

Seeds germinating on a paper towels | Mama on the Homestead

Make Seed Saving a Community Activity

If you have friends and neighbors who garden, you can plan to grow different varieties to save seeds out of and share them with one another. 

You could also use seeds in a barter system if your neighbor has something that you could use and they will take seeds as a payment.Sharing is caring, y’all 🙂

>>More Gardening Resources<<


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Vegetable seeds spread out on a countertop. Words: How to Start a DIY Seed Bank for Your Family | Mama on the Homestead
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4 Comments

  1. This is the best I’ve seen in seed saving! I learned a few things, and I finally found someone who seems to have the same outlook as I do. Thank you so much, I plan to stalk the rest of your page today and not get my own work done! 😊

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