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Replanting: Free Survival Food

If you’re like me, you’ve started poring over the spring seed catalogs long before spring is officially here, choosing new varieties of garden produce to plant. Maybe you’ll be adding a fruit tree or two, or even just sticking to tried-and-true winners for this year’s garden. What if I told you that you could have part of your garden inside all the year through … without buying seeds? It’s called replanting, and it is way easier than you ever thought.

What is Replanting?

With replanting, you’re literally regrowing what’s left of produce you’ve purchased or already harvested. You’d be surprised at how little work it requires to get started or keep going. What’s more, it’s good for the environment as well since you can use compostable items like eggshells as starters.

Not everything can be grown this way, but a lot of things can. I’m currently growing quite the garden in my kitchen bay window, and have already harvested several things, only to have them keep right on growing. The best part is it’s all growing from scraps of fruits and vegetables I either bought at the store or got from neighbors. Let’s take a closer look at how to do it. Chances are you can start today with things already in your fridge.

Green Onions

This might be the easiest of all, and it’s the one I started with. Simply take the white bulb part, going up about 2″, and snip it off. Use the green part as usual, and then take the bulb end and place it in about an inch of water. The onions will start growing right out of the cut off stem, and you’ll see visible growth in only three days or so. It takes about two weeks to be able to harvest them again, and after that time you put them in a container to keep growing.

Celery

The same principle applies to getting fresh celery. Just take the bunch you bought at the store, cut off the bottom three inches (the “butt”) and put it in water about 1.5″ deep. You’ll see growth in only a few days. After two weeks, I planted mine in an empty coffee container with some holes in the bottom to let excess water drain out.

Potatoes

I cannot count the number of times I’ve snagged those old, forgotten potatoes from the back of the pantry, cut them into pieces that have an eye or two each, and planted them in a container only to get a nice little trove of fresh new potatoes. These go right into a large container filled about only 4″ deep. Once the plants are about 8″ high, I add six more inches of soil, and when they reach 8″ again, I add six more inches of soil. Then I let them grow until they’re done. Instead of only a few potatoes at the end, I have layers and layers of them. This is best done in a 5-gallon bucket but can be done in anything really, as long as it’s deep enough.

Peppers

Peppers are full of seeds, and you can simply use half of the pepper as a kind of built-in planter. Fill it with soil, spray with water, and put the pepper half in a sunny windowsill. After about two weeks, just put the pepper and all in a pot and cover with soil.

The Downsides

There are a few things to know when replanting. If you’re set on having heirloom varieties, this probably isn’t the right way to go for you.  You’re essentially just regrowing whatever you bought at the grocery store.

It also won’t be a good replacement for a full garden during your zone’s growing season. Unless you have a lot of sunny windows, you may be limited in how much you can grow.

The good news is that both of these downsides can be mitigated. If you’re already growing a garden outside every year, you can use replanting to extend the growing season and keep some fresh veggies and herbs long after your outdoor garden is covered in snow. If your garden is made up of heirloom plants, then that’s what you’ll get back in replanting.

If you have room in your home to hang or stand a few grow lights, then sunlit windows become much less of an issue as well. You can expand to however many lights you have.

Instead of throwing your vegetable scraps away, composting them all, or even throwing them to your chickens, try replanting. You might be surprised at how easy — and effective — it is.

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Seeds for Your Homestead

One of the biggest parts — if not the most important part — of survival is food. After all, if you can’t eat good, healthy food, you won’t be able to do much else. While having a deep pantry and well-stored goods is an excellent start, to really round out your diet you’ll need to grow your own food as well. If you don’t have the greenest thumb, then now is a good time to start learning. That means you’ll need some seeds.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with seed buying. There are thousands of different varieties, and just as many questions. What’s the difference between heirloom and hybrid? How do you know what grows well in your area? And what if you’re not the world’s most accomplished gardener? How do you know how much to grow for your family?

Thankfully, the internet is a great place to find answers to all of these questions and many more you haven’t even thought to ask yet. The time to get started on a sustainability and homesteading path is now — long before you need to start planting.

Types of Seeds

There are three main types of seeds: open-pollinated, heirloom, and hybrid. Understanding the differences can set you up for success.

Open-Pollinated Seeds

If you have open-pollinated seeds, it means that insects, birds and even wind did the work to create those seeds by spreading their pollen. All heirlooms are also open-pollinated, and they’re also called “true to type.” In other words, they’re the original real deal. Heirlooms are all open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated are heirlooms.

Heirloom Seeds

Heirloom seeds are often more expensive than their hybrid cousins, but they also have a nifty little benefit. You can collect the seeds from your own plants, use them the next year, and get exactly the same plant and produce from them. To maximize this benefit, always take the seeds from the strongest, highest producing plants.

Hybrid Seeds

Many of the seeds you’ll see in big box stores are hybrids (also called F1), which means they’re man-made varieties resulting from intentional cross-breeding of plants. This is done to increase yield, size, flavor, or even to make the plants more resistant to frost or disease. While all that can be very beneficial, especially to new gardeners, if you save the seeds from these plants you might not get the same results next year due to the genetics in play.

When deciding which seeds to start with, keep in mind your climate, gardening skills and goal. If you’re looking to maximize your yield and don’t mind buying seeds again next year, a hybrid might be perfect. If you’d rather jump into the survival aspect and want to get used to saving seeds and working toward sustainability, heirlooms are a better bet.

Choose Your Seed Varieties

When you think of garden veggies, the standard colors and types probably jump into your mind. Red tomatoes, green lettuce, orange carrots.

There are actually hundreds of varieties of every kind of vegetable, and some of those varieties come with amazing colors, textures and flavors. You can have purple carrots, black tomatoes and even Swiss chard that comes in bright rainbow colors, or corn with kernels that resemble stained glass. Your lettuce can be leafy, sweet, or spicy — or even all of the above. Half the fun of planning your garden is deciding what kinds of vegetables you want. Your garden can focus on basic things like yield and hardiness, but you can also put in some color, making it both beautiful and fun to take care of.

Choose a Seed Company

Before you run to your big box store and grab a handful of the basic varieties, consider ordering online. There are a number of reputable seed companies who not only sell online but offer extensive education and tips on how to best maximize your purchase. You can sit in your recliner, perusing a catalog or website with all the information you need — including how much you’ll need to feed your family.

Some companies cater specifically to those looking to get into survival gardening. Their seeds are packaged for long-term storage, so you can buy more than one year at a time if you like and stash them for future gardening ventures.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is my favorite site. They specialize in rare and exciting varieties at reasonable prices. Johnny’s Selected Seeds is another great site for survival gardeners. Another option is Legacy Food Storage, which offers bulk kits of survival seeds meant to be stored long-term.

Check out those companies first, and then get to buying! Don’t forget to check out ways to put up all that garden goodness!