Tips From A Survivalist On Saving Seeds

Guest post by – Jerry Greenfield

There are no guarantees in this world we live in today. We can’t rest assured that the grocery store will always be there or that its shelves will always be stocked full of food. We can’t count on our local home supply store having rows and rows of different seed packets to choose from if we were to ever need to grow our own food. We need to face the reality that things may “go south”, and if they do, we’ll only be able to count on ourselves, and the skills and knowledge we have acquired, in order to survive.

In this, my first guest blog for, I’d like to share with you a few tips on how to store your own seeds. These are tricks I’ve picked up from my mother and grandmother, other survivalist and organic gardeners I know or have known in my lifetime, or just simply by me learning the hard way and adapting my methods.

Well, to start with, I just need to say it, don’t use genetically modified seeds in your garden; use heirloom seeds. Humans have survived and flourished for thousands of years planting heirloom seeds, and why we decided to start messing with seeds 40 or 50 years ago is beyond me. If we are ever thrown into a world where we need to grow our own food to survive, trust me, you want plants that are grown naturally and contain the most nutrients. Hybrid seeds, and the plants they produce, have been shown to contain much less nutrition than organically grown plants, and often, they require much more maintenance to grow successfully.

In addition, hybrid seeds can’t be saved. The majority of them turn out to be duds, and when new plant life should be growing in your garden, you’ll be faced with a less than 20% growth rate. Yeah, you may survive that first year, but when year 2 comes along, you’ll be starving.

Now, after your harvest, be sure to save as many seeds as you can—it’s much better to have too many than not enough. Bring your seeds inside and lay them on paper bags in a cool, dry place to draw-out the moisture in the seeds. Okay, done. But here’s where people get stuck: What do you DO with all those seeds? How and where should you store them? How long will they keep?

How should you store them? The best way I’ve come up with is to store them in mason jars. I also have some old baby food jars I use, but those are difficult to find anymore. Either way, a water-tight jar with a secure lid will do the trick. You may even want to purchase some silica packets to throw in with the seeds to draw-out any extra moisture.

My best suggestion as the where to store them is a cool, dry place. Some people will store seeds in the refrigerator or freezer, some people have dry basements or cellars to store them in, and some people have sheds/garages they can store their seeds in. Regardless of where, cool and dry is key. If you choose to store them in your refrigerator or freezer, definitely use the silica packets.

And how long can you keep the seeds? How long will they be viable? It really just depends on the type of seed. What I do is date my seeds so that I know how long they’ve been in the jar. Then, each Spring I plant a handful of each kind from the oldest jars to see if they grow. What I’ve found is that most seeds will last 4-5 years but not much longer.

If you are not already saving seeds, I suggest you start. It does not take much time or energy, and these little seeds could save your life in the future, so it’s completely worth it. I would recommend researching your area to find out what kinds of plants grow best where you live and if the seeds of these plants require any special treatment. Knowledge is the best tool you can have when it comes to survival. Thanks for reading!


  1. In addition to saving heirloom gardening seeds, I suggest adding wild seeds to the mix for two reason: 1) having wild fruiting trees and shrubs and plants that are not recognized as food is a good way to survive; and 2) if you use wild seed native to your area you will not have to water them, which may be critical. I am adding natives like wild cherry, wild
    plums, filberts, oaks, western salsify,
    Jerusalem artichokes, sunflowers, etc. I have
    room for these, but even in my suburban
    garden I had wild roses for hips, Oregon
    Grape, Bearberry, all of which are being
    added on the edges of this property. 3) for larger properties… all these bring game to your doorstep. For small properties… most American birds are edible Iin a pinch. Feed them now and increase their generations.

  2. mom of three says:

    I have to get better on saving seeds too, I have a few but they won’t last long and I need more than just pumpkins, and squash. I heard the name heirloom seed, came from families giving seeds to their newly married children, to use and pass on to the new generations.

  3. Having been born & raised in Chgo, I find the time to work on my seeds during pro football season. Infinitely more rewarding.

    Regarding Windy city & Illinois politics, one name I’ve forgotten to mention of late is Denny Hastert. Another repugnicrat spkr of hse, along the lines of boehner, gingrich & lyin ryan….

    Btw, our governors here cut from same (prison) cloth, of late…..

  4. Goatlover says:

    Seed saving is as important as learning how to preserve the harvest! It’s a relatively easy chore, and provides a much better return on investment than any other asset class you can invest in.
    I try to save seeds from everything I grow—herbs, fruits, and vegetables. It’s my new retirement program!

  5. PrepperDoc says:

    Thank you for this article. I tried hard to save some corn seeds this year….and they seemed to get moldy…??? Should I dry them in the sun (heat) ?? Any suggestions on this from the pack? This is an important topic for me. I did save some heirloom corn seeds (Stowell’s Evergreen) and got a good sprouting rate, but this corn has just not done well for me. I’m thinking about switching to Bantam.

    • The way I dry my corn is I leave it on the cob and peel the husks back then hang it in a warm “dry” location until the next spring.

      • PrepperDoc says:

        Thanks for the hint.

      • Rebecca- fruit trees from seed? Pure awesomeness! If you use fertilizer spikes, Gemplers gas the cheapest I’ve found…… They often offer a ‘freebie’ w/a big order. I have 5 yrs left! Freebie sometimes a ‘prepper’ thingy. Just saying.

      • WXNW- tip on over wintering onions….1- choose a long storing type; & 2- place in nylon or pantyhose, w/a rubber band separating lower bulb from next one up. Snip off lower(s) as needed. Hang from nail in joist in cool dry place…

        Good idea on corn kernel storing! TY!

    • Country Vet says:

      Prepper Doc
      I also did not have superb luck with the Stowell’s
      Evergreen. This year we tried the Golden Bantam Improved. While the plants looked great and did stand a major windstorm, I was not overly happy with the corn. Corn worm pressure was equal in both as well so the Stowell’s did not perform better in that respect either. There is a hybrid called Miracle that can be used like an open pollinated variety (most likely is in reality one). I have grown and saved it in the past and will go back to it. I am done with messing around with the others.
      To save corn for seed, be sure to let it fully mature on the stalk. Once the stalk has turned completely brown, harvest the whole stalk and take it to a dry area indoors, hang it and allow it to completely finish drying. Once dead dry, rub kernels off between your palms and store.

  6. I remember when my mother threw out seeds from my grandfather, thinking that they were ‘old’ and would not grow. My father was fuming. He knew that my grandfather had saved seeds every year and put them in small envelopes for use the following year. However, he got sick and died near the end of the growing season and did not date the seeds that year. Out to the burn barrel they went.

    My dad started over with a couple of heirloom tomato seeds, cucumber seeds and, in a very smart move, asked us girls to save our watermelon seeds. Every year that I can remember, my grandpa would take my younger sisters and me out to the watermelon patch and we got to pick one watermelon each. He would carve our initials into them and we would spend the summer watching our watermelons grow. Because he died before the harvesting of them, my dad asked for the seeds from our melons. We got watch them grow every year until we moved away.

    We no longer have my father or the seeds anymore. I knew that my dad had saved tomato seeds every year (his favorite) and I knew where they were usually stored. However, my sisters got to everything first and threw away most of his stuff including the seeds.

    I do love the different colors of the hybrid tomatoes and use them for canning. But I also understand the need to save the heirlooms and have been doing that for many years. Not a lot, but enough to plant a little each year.

    • TY CGB…. a couple of my potted ‘choreopses’ died on deck from frost… I thought…..this year I noticed ‘cute little vibrantly colored shoots/leaves’ popping up in a couple catch all containers on deck….. potted, put into hanging baskets & ‘bada boom bada bing’ provided nice colored foliage w/the other ‘hangers’!!!!

      So neat!

      1 of 2 plants moved to East faced picture window has withered, but I’m inclined to re hang come mid late Spring….

  7. Nice. Thanks for sharing.

  8. First of all thanks for all the survival tips in the past, but I have a few comments to make about this one. (from a professional farmer)
    First of all great point about staying away from hybrids, unless you only need them for one season. The Hybrid vigour can boost your yeild by up to 50%, but only for one season. I guess it could pay off if space was an issue, or if it was a short term survival situation.
    The only GMO seed that any gardener would have access to or even want would be GMO papaya. This is a must have for anyone living in an area that is susceptible to Ring Spot virus and can grow papaya. This virus WILL wipe out any papaya with out this trait in a survival situation (no effective insecticides or fumigants) .
    You said”Humans have survived and flourished for thousands of years planting heirloom seeds, and why we decided to start messing with seeds 40 or 50 years ago is beyond me.”
    Well Humans also survived for thousands of years with just bows and arrows and swords as well, but you wouldn’t limit your self to just those tools would ya? There is nothing wrong with Organic Heirloom seed, but there are modern seeds that are far better without being hybrids. There are virus resistant squashes, mildew resistant melons, blight resistant tomatoes, broccoli that grows bigger and is far easier to harvest, rust resistant wheat, blackleg resistant mustards, tons of great non GMO traits, that make gardening easier, less stressful and has a bigger harvest. Like I said, I have nothing against Organic, but why limit your technology.

    Anyway if you really want to store seed for a long time and maintain the germination rate, just triple seal the seed in cardstock envelopes once they are totally dry, put them in a tupperware or similar plastic container. Place them in the darkest part of the freezer and you are good to go for a great germination rate for at least 100 years.

    • Anonamo Also says:

      Hyper, I appreciate your input since you have been professionally farming, My own grandparents were farmers, from both parents and my parents farmed in additions to regualr jobs. I learned a tremendous amount from them and will continue to learn, from several avenues.
      I am not in an area where I could grow papaya’s, but IF I were and could obtain a plant or so, I would research every anti-viral and antifungal that occurs naturally. and I would make a home made spray and invest in spraying my trees with a home made solution that will kill both virals and fungus effectively in a non toxic way, Two come to mind and at least one would not change the flavor of the fruit.(..I am thinking., nothing ventured, nothing gained!).. since I am not in an area to grow papaya or other tropicals I don’t and wont have this trouble for now….maybe with a greenhouse inthe future..
      I approach it as, that we have what we need here,naturally and do not need GMO’s, but can benefit from the selectiveness that producers practice to develop properties in plants by cross polination and other Natural practices.

  9. One other thing about seed saving. Every generation of seeds will be better adapted to your own garden. Even poorly adapted crops… if you get one or two… save the seeds for next year. Each iteration gets seed that is better adapted. As for diseases, I rarely have trouble but never plant in rows and mix flowers, shrubs, and food. Polycultural is healthier.

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