Letter: Storing the Right Seeds for Your Climate Zone


I wish that seed storage recommendations touched on what agricultural climate zone they are best used. Seeds that work in Idaho might not do so well in Georgia. – R.V.

HJL’s Reply: SurvivalBlog has long been a proponent of gardening now rather than waiting until TEOTWAWKI. This is a prime example of why this is important. You might live in an area where you can stick any ol’ seed into the ground and not care for it. But my guess is that you don’t. Gardening is difficult and you have to learn what works in your area and what doesn’t. Climate zones can be tricky, and that makes seed selection crucial. I highly recommend that anyone starting out read our extensive collection of gardening articles for more information.


  1. If you store seeds but don’t already garden then it’s best to store seeds that taste good as that’s their only useful contribution to survival.
    A fruitful, sustaining garden is experience and asset based and not something that can be “stored” in case of emergency.
    If you insist on relying on a future garden you will starve but go ahead and store potato and heirloom squash seeds. Both are the most likely to grow and harvest and provide the most bang for the buck.

  2. 1) In addition to climate, the type of soil on a person’s lot –which can vary within a 100 yards — and average degree of moisture also affects plant growth. E.g, the top of a small hill will usually be drier /have different soil than a gentle swale running down the hill.
    2) The type of local insects — and the size of their population — is a factor.
    3) Also, the mix of plants. Because it stores well over winter, I once tried Waltham Butternut squash with corn and beans (Indians’ Three Sisters planting) and was surprised to find the squash plants one day looking out if they had been nuked. Turns out Waltham is a hybrid that is very vulnerable to a fungus that lives on bean plants. Oh, and the Kentucky Pole Bean is vigorous. So much so that it overwhelmed and pulled over the stalks of the Tuscarora flint corn I was tried planting with it.

  3. Waltham butternut squash is an heirloom, not a hybrid. I have saved seeds from them every year and they produce exactly what was harvested the year before. Having said that, I agree (from personal experience) that the “3-sisters” method is overblown, and is typically offered as a feel-good “native-americans-can-do-no-wrong” meme to schoolchildren. My experience was very much like that of Don’s above.

  4. Absolutely agree on the difficulty of gardening. I find myself buying seeds that I cannot plant and care for so I save them. Looking to buy in a package that would give me better shelf life for a little insurance. The stored for the future packs never disclose zone. I have successes like germination of a 4th generation of spinach seeds and canning 50 lbs of early girl tomatoes one year in April. Even got some carrot seeds to germinate in the second generation though is does not rise to the level of the spinach. I would brag about radishes but heck radishes would germinate on wet concrete.I will brag about my wife’s radish top soup. Makes your toes tingle.

    I have also proven to myself that I can produce a crop so most of my work is to improve the soil. Nothing exciting about crowder peas but they are good for the dirt. Tree companies will drop 15 yards of wood chips anywhere you want them.

    Told my farmer uncle of 86 years how impressed I was at the difficulty of growing and how good he was at it. He blushed. He is one with the land.

    My most daunting issue is the planting or avoidance of things that will cross breed. I would hate to peel open the third generation of watermelon and find it looks like zucchini on the inside. I wonder how I am supposed to effectively practice what not to do. I am adept and ineffectively practicing what not do do. Did I mention I need a nap.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  5. Also, any ideas on testing the acidity level of home brewed apple vinegar? I definitely need to cut mine but I do not want to cut too much. My test sip hurt all the way down and out.

  6. If you are not gardening now, all the seed in the world won’t help you. You are not likely going to learn how to well enough before you have to.

  7. Nativeseeds.org in Tucson, Arizona is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of arid lands native food seeds. They have a nice website with a lot of good information and sell a lot of food seeds that have adapted to the arid lands of the southwest. They also sell other heirloom vegetable seeds, but their main focus is seeds native to the region. It’s worth checking out just for the information on the site, but if you plan on living in the southwest, and want to grow food and save seeds that are adapted to living with the heat and scarcity water, check them out.

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