My greatest homesteading sin is that I don’t save seeds. Regardless of how you get into the homesteading lifestyle, whether it’s through keeping chickens or growing your own tomatoes or baking your own bread there is always a drive towards self sufficiency or need to survive and thrive on your own with no outside help.
It’s an admirable goal for sure but it’s not one I’m particularly interested in. Most of my reasons can be wrapped up in the simple explanation of why I don’t save seeds.
I like Variety
This is the most practical reason I don’t save seeds. My garden is a jumbled mess of vegetable, herbs, tender fruits and edible flowers. I have the ‘too-much gene’ and it comes out strongest in the garden.
This year I’m planting 6 varieties of tomato, Cherokee Purple, Principe Borghese, Rosso, Red Cherry, Pink Vernissage & Black Vernissage. And that’s just one crop, if we got into all the varieties I plant we’d be here all day.
I keep most of my seeds in 4 black index card boxes, big bags full of peas for growing pea shoots and cover crops are in a different basket. Those boxes are stuffed with seeds I’ve bought over the years.
What does that have to do with saving seeds?
Saving seeds that are true to type requires isolation. There are several ways to get that isolation, Seed Savers is a great resource if you are interested in saving seeds by the way.
The easiest is to only grow one of each thing. We already know I’m not going to that.
There are other ways too, like using netting to keep pollinators away and pollinating by hand instead. I’m way too busy (and lazy) for that.
I barely weed my garden, there is no way I’m sitting out there with a paintbrush pollinating tomatoes.
In the end my garden isn’t there to eliminate my need for Aldi’s. Of course it’s there to feed me and my family but more than that.
My garden is my happy place, it’s where I get to grow things and lose myself in the soil. It’s as much for my mental health as it is for my pantry.
If my vegetable garden was really about being self sufficient I’d be growing one variety of high yield tomato for canning and wheat or something shelf stable.
Instead I’m going to grow yellow beans and purple beans and green beans with purple stripes and… you get the idea. I want it all and I’m not willing to give it up to save seeds.
Winters suck in New York, they’re long and dark and sometimes you forget there’s even dirt under all the snow. The one spot of sunshine in a blizzard is the arrival of seed catalogs.
I get at least 10, probably closer to 20, every year. They become my evening reading, I flip through pages making plans for the next year.
It’s a tangible reminder that spring is coming and I’ll be able to get back in the dirt soon. Even though I have enough seeds for 5 gardens I place at least one order every year.
Usually for parsnips & other short lived seeds and whatever odd ball I decide on for that year. I try to plant at least one thing new every year, to keep things interesting and just because I like to grow things I’ve never grown before.
This is the least selfish reason, and probably the least obvious.
I buy seeds for the same reasons I buy chickens even though I’m happy with my barnyard mutts. I like supporting the people doing the work to preserve the heirloom varieties & heritage breeds.
My garden, or flock, is a genetic dead end for the seeds I’m planting and the chickens I’m raising. The Tondo Scuro di Piacenza zucchini seeds I buy will be planted, enjoyed for their adorably round shape and eaten.
But the $3 I spent on the seeds goes back to farmers and they get to put that money towards preserving the heirloom varieties. And also you know, feeding their families.
Should I Stop Buying Seeds?
In the end my goal isn’t self-sufficiency, instead I want to be part of a sustainable system. I want to financially support people that grow the seeds and preserve the breeds.
I want to help ensure those farmers and families are around in 2 years, or 20 years when someone else decides to start growing food. Or trying and losing most of it to a Royal Palm Turkey and his friends…
Obviously I believe that saving seeds is important, and it’s a great skill to have. I have the practical knowledge and I have done it on a small scale in the past, I can do it.
It’s just not something I’ve decided to focus on. Everyone has limited time and money and energy. No matter how much we try we can’t do it all.
I talked a lot about that in my post about planning for a successful garden. Right now buying seeds is a better use of my time and energy than saving them.
Even if that makes me a bad homesteader 😉
Don’t forget to PIN this for later when you need a reminder that you aren’t The Worst Homesteader In The World
Check out my gardening page for more ideas or start here: