The ground is still frozen solid. Chilly Arctic winds have whipped the plastic covers off my garden cold-frames, where my overwintering greens are (were, since about three weeks ago) still providing colour, flavour and nourishment to our meals. I have temporarily placed the covers on the ground, laying them over the frozen Swiss chard and the baby lettuces like a quilt, weighted down with a variety of boards and bean poles.
Snow was late arriving to our island. Short-lived, it has come and gone again. The cold, outflow winds continue to blow across the land and the sea. Oh, but it has been bitter!
C.’s built the compost with scrapings (seaweed and decaying fallen leaves) from the beach and cleanings from the chicken coop, plus a year’s worth of kitchen detritus. All layered up nicely in the series of purpose-built boxes over yonder, just waiting to be lugged up to the garden.
Gradually I’ve been pruning the shrubs and the fruit trees. Thanks to Mother Nature’s assistance in the form of bears, high winds and large falling trees, a lot of the heavy lifting in the pruning department has already been done. Mostly I am just tidying up the yard and the orchard in brief stints to avoid the biting wind and chilly temperatures.
Indoors I have been pointedly ignoring the sagging, dust-laden cobwebs and the storm-spattered windows in favour of organizing the income-tax stuff. I hate this job only marginally more than cleaning the house. Finished with that, I have now turned to my seed stash. No point cleaning the house until I have finished sorting out the dusty garden seeds.
In spite of the on-going winter weather, spring is coming, and it is time to start germinating the seeds that will become our mixed cottage garden this summer. I have made a list of the existing seeds in my collection as well as the ones we still need to purchase for this coming summer’s garden.
Out of the 96 varieties of vegetable and flower seeds in my collection, 60 of them were grown and saved here at home. Most of the original parent seed was purchased. The remaining 39 packets are store bought. If I don’t go crazy trying out new and different varieties of veggies or flowers, I will need to purchase 18 packets of fresh seed for the coming season. I store my saved seeds in small paper envelopes and tightly sealed, glass or plastic bottles and jars. These are tucked away in an old biscuit tin or two, safe from mice and insects, on a cool, dark and dry pantry shelf. Depending on the variety, the seeds can remain viable for up to three years.
When I need to buy seed to replenish or add to my collection, I look for locally grown veggie and flower seeds whenever possible, purchasing by mail order or from one of the nearby retail garden supply stores. I like West Coast Seeds, a regional company that offers untreated, non-GMO seeds for organic growing.
I also enjoy sharing the seeds of plants I have grown. It’s fun to exchange seeds with friends and family; a bit like sharing a favourite recipe with a fellow foodie. Veggies, fruit and flowers, food, cooking and dining with family and friends, growing a garden; these are all basic human survival skills, learned, developed, and handed down by generations of gardening and food-preparing elders. I especially enjoy the notion of sharing involved in this particular, nourishing, human activity.
I am excited at the possibility of a little outing this Saturday with my youngest daughter. We are planning a day trip to attend one of the local seed swapping events in town. In all the years I have been growing a garden, collecting and saving my own garden seed, I have never actually attended a Seedy Saturday. I am really looking forward to the experience! (For everything you ever wanted to know about saving seed and Seedy Saturdays please go to the Seeds of Diversity website at: https //seeds.ca
One must arrive early on Saturday if one wants to participate in the annual seed exchange. I have it on good authority that once the doors open at 10 a.m., a frantic mob of gardening enthusiasts of all shapes and sizes, will rush in like a flock of hungry birds eagerly grabbing up all the seeds in their path. Very soon there will be nothing left.
Speaking of there being nothing left, and at the opposite end of the bean pole in the world of seeds, are the stories of the really big seed companies, owned by the even bigger mega-corporate players in the game, and the patents they hold on certain varieties of plant (read: food) life. Interested? Go to:
As a gardening human being, I object to the entitled sense of ownership that these entities appear to have over plants of all sorts. Part of the wonderful thing about gardening is the joy of growing a plant from start to finish; from seed, cutting, or slip to maturity and fruition. Harvesting the seed of that plant to propagate is a natural progression as one gains gardening knowledge, experience and skill. This is something that gardeners do and have always done.
Preparing a gift for my green-thumbed daughter, I spoon an assortment of homegrown flower and vegetable seeds into small paper packets. I enjoy a sense of comfort and security, not to mention a little chuckle, knowing that if all else fails there will still be a delicious and nutritious patch of kale (or chard, lettuce, sprouts and more) growing in the garden.