Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Gardening Edition! Guest Post! Build Your Own Seed Bank!

I'm really excited about this post! Our own Spacecase0 kindly agreed to write about his own seed bank and give people an idea about the requirements and needs for anyone interested in starting their own seed bank.
You know, with things the way they are, and the possibility that in the days to come it might become difficult to obtain seeds, it's not a bad idea for us to try and maintain as extensive a seed supply as possible.
here is a link to his blog. Spacecase0 Blog.

setting up your own seed bank

By Spacecase0

there are lots of ways to set up a seed bank,
my goal is to show you how to do it the best way for what you need.

I see a few main parts,
getting seeds,
renewing your collection with fresh seeds,

most people are good with indexing and distribution,
but the storage issue seems to be confusing for many reasons, and lots of major seed banks do it in less than optimal ways.

first if you are storing seeds for only one year almost any storage solution will work as long as your seeds are allowed to dry first,

paper envelopes will let moisture through them to a large amount,
so if you pack your seeds up before they dry the paper will let them finish drying,
but they are not so good for anything else as mice can chew through them and they let moisture in...
they are a perfect solution for most home gardeners.

the issue with a seed bank is that you don't want to have to grow everything you have every year
so the better you store them, the less often you have to grow out normally short lived seeds.

there are a few factors in seed storage,
heat, moisture, oxygen amount are the big ones
the trick is to stop the biological decay,
seed eating bacteria need heat, moisture and oxygen to grow,
getting rid of one component can stop the decay,
but seeds can also go bad form oxidation and other things,
so to add to the confusion, the more you dry out seeds,
the better they will store until you get them to dry,
and then the over drying will hurt them, but they will only get hurt if there is O2 available

most big seed banks just keep the seeds very very cold and don't worry about the other factors,
and it is expensive to do that as well as not being very effective.

so what I am trying to say is the best storage will happen when the seeds are cool and with low moisture and low O2 and if you use all 3 factors you can do it better and lower priced than storing them at liquid nitrogen temps.
moisture cycling seeds tends to hurt them the most, so avoid that.

plastic bags will hold in moisture enough to damage seeds if the seeds are not dry enough,
but will let in moisture enough to hurt seeds, so plastic is usually a bad idea unless you are trying to stop moisture cycling in a low priced way (like when mailing seeds to someone)

glass jars are a great idea, they will not let anything in or out,
so if you add some silica gel and an O2 absorber (or just vacuum the seeds) to your seeds in a glass jar, they will likely over dry and the O2 will be gone, so they will be fine, and will store a long time that way, and if you then put them in the freezer, they will last almost forever. but the disadvantage is that you have to plant the seeds when you open them or the O2 in the air will hurt them.

just getting rid of the air will make carrot seeds that are normally short lived last at least 20 years with no decline in germination rates (tested by others) and that was just stored at room temp.
so O2 is the most critical as I see it,
most bacteria need oxygen to live and all of them need some sort of air,
even packing seeds to the top of whatever container you have will displace the air and help them oxidize less

there are moisture boundary plastic bags out there, but when you get to that point you see that the ziplock part of it leaks to much over the years, you can seal them, but then they are not reusable,

so from a doomer point of view, you should get a hand pump vacuum system
and some silica gel you can reset
and canning jars,
and a freezer to use for how ever long the power holds out for,
after the power is out you can use the freezer to keep the seeds at a stable temp. (so the hot days will not hurt them as much)

the hand pump vacuum system most of you already have,. right ?
pump (at most auto parts stores)
jar sealer,
wide mouth jars,
narrow mouth jars
I really want to thank Spacecase0 for putting that information together for us.
This morning, when getting this ready to post I thought a lot about seed banks. I searched for more info on starting small seed banks, perhaps for your neighborhood or community and found very little.
The following video gives us some indication of how important a seed bank is to TPTB.
It seems to me that if "they" think it's this important, then maybe it's something we all should be thinking about.
Here's something I found on the web.
GrowCookandEat:Great Big Beautiful Day

Navdanya is dedicated to food sovereignty through returning the control of farming to farmers through seeds. Farmers are free to take any seed from the bank, as long as the return what they took with an additional fifty percent more. They are encouraged to save their own seeds and start their own seed banks for exchange amongst themselves. There are 42 such seed banks throughout India and countless more in homes and small villages. Navdanya keeps more than 400 varieties of rice alone, and several hundred varieties of other kinds of crops. In case you don’t know, the Green Revolution in the 1960s brought hybrid seeds to India, which can’t be saved. In a few decades the indigenous varieties of crops had disappeared and farmers were dependent on buying seed from multinational companies. Navdanya returns seeds to farmers as a way to return autonomy to producers and sustainability to agriculture.

The seed bank is managed by a woman named Bija, whose name also happens to be the Hindi word for seed. Bija wasn’t working today, and we stood in the hush of the mud and brick building, in silent wonder at all the ancient wisdom accumulated in this one place. The seed bank does not appear to have a catalog in English, and upon hearing this, I knew what I would be doing for the rest of my time here. Cataloging thousands of different seeds may not be your cup of tea, but I got chills of pleasure and wonder at the thought of intimately knowing all these ancient races of grains and vegetables that came to life long before my own people even existed and which will live on past my little lifetime in the farms and fields of this amazing land.
 The above is one small sample of what people do, small scale, in other parts of the world.
Here in the US we don't do much of this sort of thing, maybe we should.
Here are some links to stories I found about seed banks.

Farmers preserving 500 paddy species 

KANCHANPUR: Farmers in Kanchanpur district have preserved more than 500 species of paddy with the help of Community Seed Development Bank.
Local farmers affiliated with the Seed Development Bank have been encouraging their colleagues to sow endangered paddy species.
Community seed banks to empower rural women 
MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - Women farmers will be welcoming the next rice cropping season in June by putting up a community seed bank exchangea move that will empower women farmers, promote sustainable agriculture and reduce hunger incidence in rural areas.
Sebastapol From garden to garden, seed banks complete the local food cycle
On the last Saturday of each month, a small but devoted group of gardeners meets in a back room of St. Stephen’s Church to swap seeds.
With mounting interest in growing our own food (or at least knowing where it comes from), they see seed-banking as the final link in a healthy local food system.

And this sad story from Russia.
I hope that some who read this, will consider picking up the calling of seed collecting and maybe even decide to try to start something in their neighborhoods.


  1. Spacecase, thanks for the article. I'm going to copy it to my files. I save seed from year to year, but never thought about a long term seed bank.
    Pam, thanks so much for the articles. It's so heartening to see that people all over the developing world are arming themselves against starvation at the hands of the big corps. May it spread far and wide.

  2. Thanks for the post mate you have written it very well.

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