Growing Food After The Collapse

April 06, 2023

How to Build a Survival Seed Bank

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.” –Indian Proverb.

There’s only one solution to a prolonged grid-down situation.  You have to grow your food.  Hunting resources will be reduced because of higher competition for those food sources.  The problems with growing your food are numerous.  Seeds require good soil that could be toxic after some disasters.  Seeds require water which may be in short supply.  They need sunlight that could be at a minimum due to smoke or ash.  The plants require protection because both animals and humans will seek to harvest your food even while you sleep.  To say that there are challenges would be an understatement.  In this blog, we will examine the critical seed bank you need to build into your prepping seed bank, discuss how to maximize plant resources in your environment, and the pros and cons of certain plants– some you might think would be excellent but they aren’t.  Some you haven’t considered but will save your life.

Download the Start Preparing Survival Guide To Help You Prepare For Any Disaster.  We’ll post a link below or visit for a free guide to help you get started on your journey of preparedness. 


Planting seeds after a disasterPutting together or purchasing a seed bank is step one in your rebuilding program.  Seed banks are for the long-term storage of seeds.  They come packed in mylar, usually with an oxygen absorber too.  The idea is to slow the natural deterioration of the seed’s germination viability.  All seeds become less viable with time.  Several curated seed banks are available for purchase online, but these will always include things you will likely never grow or might not grow well in your climate.  All of that custom seed collection and packaging can also cost you quite a bit.  Still, if you want everything done now in a small bag, you can simply grab and go if you have to. There are several options available that we will link to in the comments section.

What these kits have in common is that the seeds are non-GMO.  That is to say, they are not genetically modified seeds.  The seeds are usually open-pollinated.  Generally speaking, this means the plants are pollinated naturally by birds, insects, wind, or human hands. Some hybrids and specialty cultivars are not made to produce identical successive generations.  Germination rates decrease over time, but if these seeds are stored in an oxygen and moisture-free environment, they can go dormant and last for more than a year.  If you store 12 seeds carefully, you can figure only 11 of those will be viable, simply because that is the way nature works.  After a year or two of proper storage, maybe only nine would be viable.  After three years, perhaps only six seeds would grow.  After ten years, adequately stored, perhaps you could get one plant out of that original 12.  Some of it isn’t entirely in the storage method but in the type of seed.  A bean or artichoke seed is easily viable for four years or more.  A parsnip or leek seed you will be lucky to get to sprout in the second year.  Nature is a crapshoot. An adequately stored seed bank of plants you know how to grow, and that grow well in your area puts the odds in your favor.

Our suggestion is to build your seed bank.  You are not trying to build the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in your backpack or backyard.  Way up north, in the permafrost, 1300 kilometers beyond the Arctic Circle, this is the world’s most extensive secure seed storage, opened by the Norwegian Government in February 2008.  From across the globe, crates of seeds are sent there for safe and secure long-term storage in cold and dry rock vaults.  Conditions for each seed are customized to create the longest possible length of viability for the seeds.  That’s a little beyond our scope for your seed bank.  We can’t possibly compete with the tens of thousands of varieties housed there, nor can we keep the perfect, almost freeze-dried climate.

You want to begin to harvest and store your own seeds for later use.  This teaches you about seed harvesting, butPicture of lots of seeds this is also a seed storage method you will want to learn and pass on.  Just recognizing the seed stage of various plants you grow can be helpful.  We always let at least one plant of every food we grow go to seed in our garden.  Here we have some heirloom tomatoes that we picked up at the local farmer’s market.  There are a few different ways we can harvest the seeds out of these, but this is the easiest method we have found that has given us the best results.  We simply squeeze the seeds out onto a non-bleached paper towel.  We then put these in a location where they will dry quickly, as we don’t want them to mold, but we do want the pulp around the seeds to dry out.  Another method we have read about is to dissolve this outer pulp in water for a few days then spread them out to dry, but we don’t suggest that for long-term storage of seeds.  The reason is that this outer pulp reabsorbs water and is specially designed to support the germinating seed.  Simply drying it out thoroughly will allow it to later re-uptake water.

Once the seeds and paper towel are dry, we will fold them up in another paper towel.  We will put it in a small mylar baggy to store it for several years out.  We then add about a teaspoon of rice to absorb any moisture, an oxygen absorber, and another label in case the outside label is damaged.  These seeds will be usable several years from now, stored in this manner.  To plant them, I simply need to tear out one-inch pieces of the paper towel and plant them about a quarter-inch down in good soil.  With a little consistent watering and warm sunlight, they will sprout easily.  When they are a few inches tall, we can transplant them and bury all but the upper set of leaves.  Any leaves of a tomato plant buried below the surface will transform into roots.  This will give your plant stability and greater nutrient uptake from the soil.

You can repackage store-bought seeds or seeds you harvest from your garden or the wild in a similar manner.  When you have 10 to 20 of these smaller bags, seal them in a larger mylar bag with an oxygen absorber.  That’s all there is to it.  You can build your own seed bank quickly for the cost of a few mylar bags.  

A final note here, if you harvest seeds from produce you buy at your grocer, understand that many fruits and vegetables are genetically modified or sprayed with chemicals to prevent successive generations.  Whatever seeds we bank from whatever source, we also make sure they can be grown by setting some aside for test planting.  Even if we don’t grow them in my garden that year, we know the seeds we banked will be viable when we need them.


VegetablesWhen we refer to plants, understand there are many different kinds.  For instance, there are more than 4,000 varieties of native potatoes.  Only 200 varieties are grown in the United States.  Few gardeners plant their own, and most people wouldn’t recognize the plant growing.  Beyond the numerous varieties far outnumbering the paltry few you are used to seeing polished and cleaned in your produce section, most plants have varieties ranging from the familiar to varieties you may not have seen before.  There are crop plants, which you probably have seen.  These are selected because they favor mass production, early harvesting, and are hearty by nature.  There are heirloom garden varieties that are specific to small home gardens.  These aren’t as hearty and often require tending.  Heirlooms are usually just a step or two out of nature.  There are thousands of plants in nature that we wouldn’t recognize as food sources that we can cultivate, and they often aren’t pulled into a single crop area, though they can be.

If you see amaranth growing in nature and recognize it, you might be able to harvest enough for a single meal and plant your own plants in a safe area.  Most people would admire its beauty but walk by it.  If you plant a crop of it, though, most would put the pieces together and realize that it might be a food source, even if they don’t know the nutritional powerhouse that it truly is.  When it comes to seeds, you need three types.  You need recognizable crop seeds.  For this, imagine a flourishing garden.  These are your recognizable above-ground food crops similar to what you will find in your grocer’s produce aisle.  You will need to make sure the varieties you choose are suitable for your area and climate zone.

Second, you need some foods most people won’t recognize as food but are easily grown underground in yourGermination Station climate zone.  Here we are only referring to plants you would grow yourself, intentionally plant, tend to as you can, and harvest before wild animals can get your crop.  We focus on just the potato and the sunflower in this video as examples. Still, there are at least a dozen other crops that people would not recognize as food, mainly because the recognizable part is underground.  Most people would not recognize the top part of any potato variety, carrots, onions, garlic, cassava, taro, turnip, radish, or daikon, to name but a few.  The surrounding asparagus grass somewhat conceals even asparagus, but the harvest is perpetual.  The other reason these less recognizable plants are a plus is that they grow underground.  If you can’t get to them, they could weather over into next year, even while the top plant dies off for the season.  This root will still be underground if the sun is blotted out from the sky from whatever disaster you are facing.  If you have to bug out, you can quickly grab a couple of bags and take them to your new location for planting.

The third type of plant you have to know is the plants that grow wild in your area. Learn how to forage and think of relocating those plants in your area or around your home.  We have lemongrass growing in my backyard.  Most Unknown Plantpeople would never know it.  We have pomegranates, apples, and lemons that people would recognize as edible, but they probably wouldn’t know how to make our olives edible.  They might not realize our pear cactus, Taro, sunchokes, or edible Canna.  They might not realize the 40 plus edible flowers you could be growing.  They might not recognize or know to eat the nuts from your walnut, chestnut, pine, cedar, acorn, hickory, butternut, or pecan tree.  They may not know that you can dry and grind the inner bark of a beech tree for a flour substitute, but you can.  California Buckwheat grows on every trail we have ever hiked out here, but most don’t know the flour you can produce from this Southwestern plant.  Know what rosehip, wintergreen berries, and Hawthorne berries look like and how to prepare them if these grow in your area.  Know what garlic mustard, broadleaf plantain, wild leeks, and other green leafy plants look like growing in the wild.  Further, if the plant grows in your area, know where it grows or plant it in your yard.  There are thousands of plants you could be harvesting, preparing, and eating.

While traditional garden seeds are great, know the difference between crop seeds and heirloom seeds. Learn how to grow and utilize plants others wouldn’t understand how to use.  Cultivate a wild cornucopia in your own backyard.  Know the wild edible plants in your own backyard.  You may one day be in competition with squirrels for a handful of pinenuts, or you may need to know how to leech the tannins out of acorns to make edible flour.  If you want to stick to primary crops for your seed bank, you want to focus on calorie density and nutrition.  Store these seeds: bean, squash, kale or cabbage, lentil, peppers, tomato, corn, onions, and a mix of herbs.  Many of those will grow fast and with little attention.  Though potatoes produce seeds, the more common method is to plant seedlings.  You should have access to potatoes to grow, as it is a survival staple food.

You need to know what plant varieties will serve you best after a disaster.  You won’t survive if you have to learn by trial and error after a disaster.


Growing your food is a combination of seeds, sprouting, gentle care, good soil, water, sunlight, time, and harvesting just at the right time.  Humans have to get all of those elements working at the right time in concert with each other.  Mother Nature’s approach is a bit different.  Take the Sunflower as an example.  The head of a sunflower contains between 1,000 and 2,000 seeds.  If a plant matures to that point, birds, mice, squirrels, and a host of other animals will ravage the plant and eat many of the seeds.  Some will fall into the soil for a chance of rain and maybe grow next year.  Some of the seeds will be carried off and might have a chance of sprouting somewhere else if they find good soil.  Mother Nature’s approach is to throw as many seeds out there as possible to hope that just one of those seeds takes root and can spawn a new generation of plants.

We don’t have the luxury of this scattered seed approach.  If we are lucky, we can get some seeds stored up, andTomato Horn Worm maybe we can cultivate some from our harvests or from the wild.  We then need to try and sprout and plant the seeds into the soil we hope is close to or better than the soil from which we originally obtained the seeds.  We have to make sure that the seeds get water, even when there is no rain.  We have to protect it from harsh weather extremes.  We have to know if the plant is getting sick.  We have to protect it from insects, animals, and people.  We have to harvest whatever we can produce for food and save some seeds for warm weather when the conditions are right again.  If we miscalculate or neglect any one of these steps, our plant will likely perish, and maybe we will perish along with it.

This is where you have to learn to grow your own food.  You have to have a strategy to grow your own food built into your prepping plans.  If you have no experience growing a plant, you are not likely to be successful in doing so in the aftermath of a disaster or in a prolonged grid-down situation.  If you don’t know to plant tomato plants, leaves, and all with just the top leaves out, so the other leaves will build a robust root system and result in a higher yield, your wild plant will produce very little.  If you don’t know how to recognize a sucker and prune your plant, even when to prune it to maximize the fruit phase, you will be lucky to get just a few tomatoes from it.  The same is true for most plants.  If you don’t know that you have to plant corn seeds, three at a time, 7 to 15 inches apart, in rows, you will end up with a few plants but probably no corn.  The pollination of corn relies upon the wind.   Pollen from the tassels needs to land on the silks of another plant to create a good crop.  If you don’t plan these things, plant these things according to a specific strategy, your yield of plants will be small, and you will be lucky to get even a few ears of poorly developed corn.

Here we are taking some organic store-bought potatoes and encouraging them to chit.  We are using organic because non-organic store-bought potatoes are often sprayed with an anti-sprouting chemical.  If you have a potato with eyes already growing on it, you can’t just plant them.  You still need to chit those potatoes.  To do this, we’re going to bury them halfway, eyes side up, in warm, wet soil, and let them sit out in the sun.  There are ways to do this if you live in colder climates, but we find this method works great for me here in a warmer climate.  Once eyes, or chits, begin to appear, we will plant these in a larger potato tower we make out of some wire fencing with alternating layers of dirt and hay.  We will do a future blog on that.  Each potato here will give me a couple of different eyes and plants.  We will be able to cut them up and plant them throughout the layers of my tower.  Harvesting is just a matter of removing the tower and sifting through the dirt.  Each of these potatoes will give me dozens more in the next generation.  The one potato we plant now could have a successive generation a decade later that will still be feeding us.  We can grow them in towers, in the wild, even in trash bags with a few slits in them.  So, if you have a potato in hand, you could either consume it and have one meal or learn to grow it and feed hundreds of people thousands of meals.  The choice is yours.

Nutrient dense DIY survival foodWhen it comes to learning to grow, learn to sprout first.  Here you can see several of the black sunflower seeds we sprouted from an earlier blog we will link to just on sprouting and microgreens.  We can eat the seeds, sprouts, or microgreens.  These will grow into a much larger harvest of plants.  We could buy a twenty-pound bag of these at our local store for under twenty dollars, but we don’t have that much land.  Still, we might do that and plant them in the wild or on other people’s land, which we will cover in a minute.

If you don’t learn to grow, you aren’t going to be successful doing it when you have to.  Focus on a few plants.  Read-up on how to plant them.  Understand the right conditions for the plant.  If you have no grow space, find some.  Consider joining a community garden.  Offer to set up a small garden on a friend’s land, which we will discuss in a moment.  Build a grow space in your window sill, garage, even a closet.  Most of all, learning how to grow before harvesting food to survive is your only option.


Many of us are land-challenged because we do not have land to cultivate a small farm or garden.  You still have options.  Scientists have recently discovered that indigenous peoples of Pacific Northwest America would take plants and seeds from all around them and replant them around their settlements.  This was agriculture occurring thousands of years before many historians had previously accepted such activities were occurring.  If you are land-challenged, you still have options to build the horticulture skills you need.  As we mentioned, you can find someone with land and offer to make them a garden.  In return, you will give them a share of your total harvest.  This is called sharecropping.  It has been a practice for thousands of years.  Many elementary schools have gardens where the food is either used in the cafeterias or, if laws forbid that, the food is tossed or freely given away.  Whatever your state or school’s policy is, it’s land that can be planted where you may learn critical skills.

My favorite method of planting the land, though, is more hands-off.  It begins with recognizing the plants and their optimal conditions.  For instance, we guarantee you that ninety-nine percent of all people would not recognize a potato plant if they saw one growing right by their foot.  If you live in an area where, along your bugout or hiking trail, a perfect soil, water, and light exist for a potato plant, why not plant one there?  If you never use that resource, but the conditions are good, the plant will continue to grow, year after year, after year.  If it’s along your bugout route, how thankful are you going to be to harvest a few pounds of potatoes to keep you moving on your journey?  These potatoes are volunteers.  They come from potatoes we tossed in my composter because they were green orPotato Tower chitted, soft, or beyond their prime.  They survived the composter and sprouted up in my garden.  We would get much better production from a controlled harvest in a potato tower than these volunteers, but we want you to see the plant here and how easily it has produced food for me with no direct attention of mine given to it.

The same is true for anything in the Helianthus family– the sunflower.  From black seed sunflowers that you can buy a 20-lb bag of for under $20 to the Sunchoke, which I have done a deep dive on in the past on this channel, most would walk right by these in nature.  The seeds, stalks, leaves, and tuber are all edible, and the wildlife will be thrilled to have it growing as a food source for them.  If you play Johnny Apple Seed, but from a Johnny Sunflower Seed angle, you could have thousands of edible plants growing in the wild in locations only you truly know.  When you pass by that shriveled Sunchoke stalk, you will know the thousands of calories, starches, and carbohydrates just below the Earth’s surface.  

Potatoes and sunflowers are just two examples.  There are hundreds of wild plants you can intentionally plant in your environment.  Plant other lands.  Plant your area, your community’s areas, and the wild.  If you see an undeveloped piece of land or you’re near a creek in the wild, secretly put a plant there and smile to yourself as you go by it year after year.  Help nature out by intentionally planting non-traditional crop food sources to serve you later.

What’s your essential emergency plant?  What seeds are you saving?  Let us know in the comments below. We try to read the comments and respond to them when we can, typically within the first hour of releasing a blog. Please consider subscribing to the channel if you’d like to be notified when we release a video and give this blog a thumb-up to help the channel grow.


As always, stay safe out there.


Sprouts & Microgreens: 

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Oxygen Absorbers – 

13400 Seed 33 – Emergency Survival Kit Food –

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Variety Survival Gear Food Seeds – 15,000 Non-GMO Organic –

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