Last night, nine “hand-picked” members formed a co-operative gardening effort a few miles from the cabin. We each paid a yearly fee of $45 to rent a freshly tilled farmer’s field. The co-op is the brainchild of one member, and I feel grateful for being welcomed into the fold! Her husband crafted two large molds for mounding soil in preparation of planting the sacred Three Sisters (corn, beans and squash).
One member with Native American ancestry and know-how has been heirloom seed-swapping and in six months has amassed an estimated half million seeds! I hope to add a few from my own beginning heirloom seed collection purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds whose website states “All of our seed is non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented”.
The beauty of seed saving is, once you buy the seeds and save a handful from the best plants, potentially you never have to buy again. Preserving organic non-hybrid, non-genetically modified seeds is one of my top priorities towards global sustainability. Here’s how to get started . . . Select the best heirloom plant and dry its seeds indoors on a paper towel for about a week. Store them in large air-tight plastic bags labeled with the year or purchased. The seeds are kept in their original paper packets or small, sealed envelopes. I throw a small packet of silica (the type that comes in vitamin bottles) into each plastic bag. Store the sealed bags in the refrigerator or freezer. Do not thaw and then refreeze – remove the amount you desire and put the rest back into the freezer as soon as possible.
Be aware that seeds have differing shelf-lives. I’ve seen differing time frames around the web, but here is a conservative seed saving chart:
When you’re ready to plant, let the desired amount of seeds sit at room temperature for a few days. If they’re a bit moist, stick them on a piece of paper towel. You can cut the towel into sections and plant along with the seed. This worked great for starting parsnips last year – a seed that is notoriously hard to germinate and has to be started with the previous year’s seed. I just stuck the seeds to a paper towel 1” apart, misted them indoors with a water bottle and set them in a sunny window until they sprouted, then buried the whole sheet under an inch of topsoil in a container filled with loose soil.
Planting in containers is a great technique for small-scale gardeners, or gypsies like me who move around a bit 😉 Drill holes in the bottom of your containers (I use large-size storage totes, or 5 gallon buckets, but you can use whatever’s handy). Add a few rocks to the bottom to promote drainage, and fill with high quality soil (more on composting and vermiculture later). This is fantastic for growing potatoes. When it’s time for harvesting, just tip the container over – no digging required! Tomatoes planted in containers are easy to reposition wherever the sun shines. Don’t forget to save their seeds, if they’re heirlooms. You may be passing something of real value down to the next generation.
Think: Are you giving and receiving nurturing in a balanced way? If not, what’s missing for better balance?
Say: Write down a healthy habit you wish to start. Set a deadline or time frame for achievement. Tell someone about your goal.
Do: Work together towards the creation of a shared goal. Sharing vision, resources, knowledge, energy, and outcomes on the local level can lead to sustainability for all.