Would a can of seeds save your life?

You may be familiar with the cans of seeds you can buy through emergency supply catalogs.  Anyone that’s planning for a SHTF scenario probably has one or two of these cans sitting on a shelf somewhere.  It seems like a great idea, but what if the day comes when you actually need to open up one of these cans and plant what’s inside?  Could the contents of this small can really save your life?  Will these seeds produce enough produce to feed your family, and for how long?

I purchased some canned garden seeds from Augason Farms in May of 2011 (the label gives a shelf life of up to 5 years if sealed.)  The can contains 13 varieties of non-hybrid, non-GMO garden seeds including: beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melon, onion peas, peppers, romaine lettuce, spinach, squash, tomatoes and zucchini.  Also included is a planting guide and the following information about the seeds.

“The 13 vegetables in the “Forever Garden” are specially chosen from the highest quality non-hybrid or Open Pollinated garden seeds available.  This means you can harvest the vegetables you grow this year and then replant the seeds year after year….”Forever”.

“These seeds have been chosen for great flavor, and high yields, and have proven to adapt to almost any region, they are quality “short season” vegetables, and if cared for correctly the seeds may be stored in these containers for many years.”

One day, as I was checking expiration dates I realized that I’m putting my blind faith in this can, and I have no idea if these seeds will even sprout!At that moment I decided to give them a test run, so this summer I’ll be planting the seeds in my garden.  I’ve already come across one problem with my plan…I don’t have enough space to plant the estimated 8000 seeds that are in the can.  In a “real world” situation, I wouldn’t have the means to create more raised beds, or have time to amend my soil, so I’ll be using what I already have in place, and plant the remaining seeds in the clay-like soil around the backyard.  I’ll be lucky if any of those seeds sprout!

The first step was to create a timeline of when to plant each seed variety.  Below is the calendar I created using the suggested dates on the guide included. (These dates are based on the average last frost date for Flagstaff, which is June 13th.)

May 18th

Onion, Red Creole (Indoors)

Bell Pepper, California Wonder (Indoors)

Tomatoes, Floradade (Indoors)

May 23rd

Carrot, Scarlet Nantes

Peas, Lincoln

Romaine Lettuce, Paris Island Coos

Spinach, Bloomsdale Long Standing

June 13th

Green Beans, Top Crop

Corn, Golden Bantam 8

Squash, Waltham Butternut

Zucchini, Black Beauty

July 4th

Cucumber, Boston Pickler

Cantaloupe, Imperial



After planting as many seeds as my garden could hold (which was about 1/4 of the seeds in the can), life got busy and I was unable to find the time to post regular updates. Here is an overview of the experiment:

We had a pretty good growing season, and I expected to have a bountiful garden and have too many zucchini and beans to handle, which are always prolific in my garden.  Unfortunately what the can of seeds produced was far less than I typically get from my space.  I harvested only 5 butternut squash, a few zucchini, a couple ears of corn (that were 2 inches in length), about 20 beans, and enough lettuce for a few salads.  Definitely not enough to save my life in a catastrophe.  Even if I had enough space to have planted 100% of what was in the can, I don’t think it would sustain my family for a very long period of time.

It’s possible that in a more temperate climate with a longer growing season, you would get a better yield from the can of seeds.  However, in our mountainous climate many of the seeds failed and didn’t even sprout.  Instead of a can of seeds in your emergency supply, I recommend starting your own heirloom garden now.  Figure out what grows well in your micro-climate, and save the seeds of what you grow.  If there is an emergency situation where you have to grow your own food you will not only have the seeds, but the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a quick set of garden seeds, a product like this may work for you, but I wouldn’t recommend storing it away for a rainy day and expecting it to save your life if the food production in your area is shut down for any reason.

Thanks for reading!




  1. Awesome! Can’t wait for the updates! We ended up having to sprout everything indoors this year as a mouse keeps eating my seeds!

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