Letter Re: Stocking Heirloom Seeds, In Quantity

Hi Capt. Rawles,
With spring gardening underway, I want to share something with your readers. If you are buying some heirloom seed packets, with the idea of being prepared, I want to warn you that most of these “packets” do not contain enough quantity to be a food source.  Most of the packets I have purchased contain only enough seed to get what I call a “start”. For example, some of the Golden Bantam Sweet Corn I purchased had only 8 ounces in a pack. I planted 2 packs to get two rows 150 feet long. This would provide several meals for a family of four and some to can. However, this would be the end of your seed supply.  I plan to eat a small quantity of this to see if I like it. If I do, I will let the rest fully mature and dry on the stalk.  I will then shell it and store in packages with diatomaceous earth to protect it from bugs as seed for my next crop. Living in the deep south, I may plant two rows to eat this fall. I picked ripe corn on December 15 of last year.  We had a mild winter with few frosts and light freezes until about December 12, when the temperature dropped down to 24 degrees F. which killed the corn. We started having 4 inch rains every few days which would rot the kernels so we picked it and let it air dry a few days and then ran it in our dehydrator for two days and then stored as above.

The point I want to make is this: You must plant heirloom seed not hybrid because it won’t reproduce properly.  To have seed security, you should have 5 times the seed you would use for one crop. If you want to plant 10 rows, you should have enough reserves to plant 50 rows.  Here’s why.  Suppose with corn, you plant as early as possible to avoid summer heat and drought.  We have unusual record late cold coupled with a 5 inch rain like this year.   Your corn doesn’t come up a good stand, then you have to replant.  You have now used up enough of your seed  to plant 20 rows, but it still hasn’t come up yet. Now suppose it comes up well, but a drought comes along and you can’t irrigate.  You make a marginal crop.  You have some to eat, but you can’t save any seed.
Now the next year comes along and you have enough to plant 3 times.  Consider the possibilities.  I did.  I’m saving 10 times what I need.

I’ve been farming for 50 years. You have helped me tremendously with things I didn’t know.  If I can give back to you with some of my knowledge to help you and others please let me know.- Michael

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