Happy New Year, seed savers!

A Seed Packing Party and Potluck for Seedy Saturday is being held at this month’s Kale Force meeting, Wednesday, January 12th at the Community Resource Center, 4752 Joyce Avenue, Powell River.

Come to the Potluck supper, starting at 5 p.m.

Bring your extra seeds, recent seed catalogues, gently-used gardening magazines and books to the Center by 6 p.m. for donation to Seedy Saturday.

Every year, the Seed Saving Committee for Seedy Saturday, organizes one or more seed packing bees to ‘seed’ the community seed exchange. This way, when gardeners arrive on March 12, 2011 at 10 am, there always a large diversity of seed contributed by local growers. The money received from sale of these seeds, 50 cents per package up to 10 packages helps fund the event itself.

Last growing season on the Upper Sunshine Coast B.C. was a poor one for saving the usual amount of local seed available for Seedy Saturday. So bring your extra seeds to the packing party. They’ll be appreciated more than ever!

Also at the meeting, seed sharing will be discussed. Some commercial seed sources grow more expensive or less available over the years. Why not go together on purchasing packages or bulk orders of seeds?

Lots of new ideas and local initiatives contributing to local sustainability. Recession proofing for seed savers and gardeners.

It’s a New Year!

Keep an eye on this blog!

The past three seasons since last March’s Seedy Saturday, kept this seed-saver, more than a little occupied with sowing, growing, a long, lovely harvest of the foregoing efforts. Plus seed-saving.

However as a general seed-saving season for vegetables, conditions weren’t entirely optional. (Possibly the worst in my memory?)

Never the less, collectively, hopefully, gardeners everywhere will share their seeds in their committment to local sustainability.

Seedy Saturday in us in Powell River, is on March 12, 2011 at the Recreation Complex.

Might be a good idea to peruse and order from quality seed catalogs, on-line resources, etc. earlier than later…just in case.

Perhaps cooperate with other folks on joint orders and swaps. And if you participate in the 2009 pilot project, let the blog, know, how your dedicated seed saving efforts went this year.

There will be a seed packing bee at the Kale Force in January,

Overcoming the seed-saving challenge regarding beets and their close relative, Chard, was a motivating factor in creating Powell River’s local Seed Saving Project.

I love beets, many varieties. However in my garden, found it impossible to have the kind of distances between different varieties of beets to prevent cross-pollination between the different varieties. And I wanted to keep open-pollinated Detroit Red beets the size and taste they are, and keep Lutz beets, for their ability to successfully overwinter while growing to their huge(but still tender) size. Ditto for all the other beets and chards, with their specific characteristics.

The cross-pollination between varieties allowed me, only, to save one beet variety for seed each year. Although I could grow as many other beets as desired, for eating. Beet seeds keep a number of years, in properly stored in dry, cool conditions but this still meant I had to keep buying other beet seeds to grow most years.

In our Seed Saving Project we have the potential for some members to grow one variety of beets or chard for seeds each year. After harvesting the seeds, which is a lot even from just one plant, members could then swap their beet/chard variety for everyone elses’. Solution achieved!

In 2010, several members will be saving seeds from the beets/chard they grew last year from Lutz Winterkeeper, Bull’s Blood, Detroit Red, Rainbow and Bietini Chard.

I’m growing out Bull’s Blood this year, both for its deep purple-red leaves that look (to my eyes) beautiful in a flower border, the tasty beets themselves and for the fact, that it is a heritage variety that deserves preserving for the future.

So that’s my variety to save seeds from. However in my garden, this spring, there’s still Ruby Chard, and loads of Perpetual Spinach(another chard grown for its many leaves, reliability and hardiness).

I could dig up and give to someone who will grow the plants this year and save seed in the fall. There’s also at least one Chiogga(heritage Italian variety that has concentric circles of white and pink when you cut it open) Any takers?

Let me know at Seedy Saturday if you want any of these plants, on March 13th. See you there.

Seedy Saturday is coming up this weekend!

March 13th,  10am to 3 pm

at the Recreation Complex

This year’s seed exchange and garden fair will be bigger and better. We have two rooms for workshops.

Gardening Workshops

  • Plan for your best garden yet!
  • Getting seeds off to a good start
  • Growing berries in Powell River
  • Seed-Saving 101

Community Project Panels

  • Food Security: The 3rd Annual Report
  • Transition Initiatives: Rebuilding Community Resilience
  • Powell River’s Seed Saving Project
  • Time to SALSA (Society for the Achievement of Local Sustainable Agriculture)

Bring your seeds to swap. Bring your gardening magazines and books to swap. Learn about what’s happening in our community. Area groups promoting regional sustainability and economic resilience will have information tables. Learn to sow seeds, learn how to make a seed ball, talk to a worm composter, a beekeeper, a master gardener and others.

If you are new to seed swapping, here’s some tips on how Seedy Saturday works.

How to package seeds

  • Use the packing table near the food area. Envelopes provided!
  • Place ¼ – ½ tsp of small seeds, 12-20 large seeds in an envelope, and seal
  • Label with plant name, year collected, history if known, & any other info.

How to swap seeds

  • Bring seeds to the Check-In table. You’ll get a paper slip with a number of “credits” according to how many seed packets you brought.
  • Choose seed packets (1 credit each),  books and/or magazines from the exchange tables, up to the number of credits you have.
  • Return throughout the day to find new seeds!

How to buy seeds

  • Choose the seeds you want from the exchange tables (max 10 packets)
  • Take them to the Check-In table
  • Pay 50c per packet
  • You can buy books & magazines too.

Last year, the first year of the Seed Saving Project, I chose Ireland Creek Annie beans.  I mainly picked it for the name. I’ve only tried growing beans once in the past and I harvested one bean pod per plant and only five seeds had germinated – not even enough for a meal. It was time to try again.

In 2009, I had much better luck. I harvested enough beans to supply a number of packages for Seedy Saturday as well as a couple of cups to try in recipes. I have to say I am not a dry bean expert and my Ireland Creek Annie creations were not that successful.

Ireland Creek Annie beans are an early and reliable producer. They are supposed to make their own thick sauce when cooked. They are disease resistant and non-staking. All this sounds wonderful but I obviously don’t have the right ideas for cooking them.

I will probably grow some more to see what other recipes I can experiment with but because the idea of Seedy Saturday is to swap seeds, I am planning on swapping them for one of the other dry beans in the Seed Saving Project. I think I’ll try Neabel, a Ukrainian dry bean that grows six feet tall (an advantage in my small garden).

That’s the wonderful thing about Seedy Saturday. If you don’t find the type of bean or pea or whatever that you grew to be suitable for your cooking methods and taste, you can trade it in for another type that also grows well in Powell River.

Beans are easy for seed saving. You leave them on the plant until the pods are dry and brown, then harvest them. The pods are easy to break open for the seeds. The seeds should be dry and hard.

At the Kale Force seed packing party a couple of weeks ago, Ed brought in some Purple Peacock Pole Beans. I couldn’t resist that name and scooped up a few seeds. I discovered that they grow six feet tall, have light purple flowers and dark leaves. The pods are dark purple and turn green when cooked. They should be fun to try. And they will be available at Seedy Saturday if you are intrigued by the name too.

You can see, I’m still stuck on the letter ‘A’!

The Seed Saving Project is having another seed packing bee with members of Kale Force Wednesday, January 13, at the Community Resource Centre (4752 Joyce). Pot-luck dinner at 5 pm and seed packing to follow.

Come out and bring your seeds.
This gives you an opportunity to get help to package your seeds for
Seedy Saturday. Even if you haven’t got any vegetable seeds, come out anyway to share with other gardeners and seed saving enthusiasts. If you saved tomato seeds and peppers, please bring them, as many people are looking for these local seeds.

If you can’t make to the packing party on January 13th, there will be a seed-packing table at Seedy Saturday.

Besides the usual seed exchange, a gardening/farming/local sustainability book and magazine has been added to Seedy Saturday. There’s room for double the amount of community information and demonstration tables and workshops at the Powell River Recreation Complex.

And.
Mark your calender for the Sunday February 21st talk with Robin Wheeler,
author of 2008 book, ‘Food Security for the Faint-hearted’.

(Robin’s earlier book was, ‘Gardening for the Faint-hearted’ so bring along your gardening questions, too!)

Grain amaranth is an attractive plant with tender, edible leaves when young. It grows between 4 and 8 feet with red/maroon leaves with seed heads yielding many tiny seeds.

Amaranth seed is high in protein (15-16%) and contains essential amino acids that are not frequently found in grains. Amaranth contains three times as much fiber and five times as much iron as wheat, as well as twice the calcium of milk. Using amaranth in combination with wheat, corn or brown rice results in a high quality complete protein. Amaranth also contains a form of vitamin E, which lowers cholesterol. Cooked amaranth is easily digested, and has traditionally been given to those recovering from an illness or ending a fasting period.

The seeds of amaranth produce seedlings that are tiny and somewhat fragile in comparison to crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans. Amaranth seedlings can easily be blocked from emergence by a thin crust on the soil formed after a rain. Select soils that are lower in clay, and manage the seedbed to minimize chance of crusting. The optimum time for planting, is early June, but it can be planted with little yield difference from the second week in May until mid-June. After mid-June, yields start to drop off.

Wait to harvest until about a week after the first hard frost, letting the frost completely kill the plant and make the crop drier for harvesting. Amaranth seeds may start to shatter and fall to the ground if the crop is left standing too long, after a frost has occurred.

Real Seeds has a detailed photo essay on how to process amaranth.

http://www.realseeds.co.uk/amaranthprocessing.html

Hope gardeners consider growing a few plants when they get some seeds at Seedy Saturday.

Cindy D from NIHM Farm, south of Powell River brought a big bag of ungleaned Amaranth to the recent 2009 pilot project meeting.

I have never grown Amaranth.
Will need to research how to grow and harvest the plant and save the seed. This has inspired me to make a series of posts in 2010, describing a little about saving vegetable/grain seeds from A(maranth………to Z(ucchini).

Invite you to share both your experiences and questions about the same vegetables, as the blog posts roll along.

Another source of seed-saving inspiration was the 15 gardeners who showed up at the meeting to process approximately 500 envelopes of locally grown seed.

Most of these envelopes have been stamped, with Seed Saving Project. That way, when you show up at Seedy Saturday on March 13th, you’ll be able to identify seeds grown for the Project by dedicated growers. That isn’t to say, that all these seed will necessarily grow well but it’s a start in that direction. Everyone involved, is committed to local sustainability and making personal efforts towards that end.

The Powell River Farmers’ Insitute has 1000 more envelopes but chances are: another 500 envelopes might get saved at the upcoming Kale Force seed packing bee on January 13th. Off to order more envelopes!

and so much more tonight, Wednesday Dec. 2 at VIU. 7:00 p.m.

The 2009 pilot project coordinators are willing to add more vegetables and varieties within those vegetable families to the Seed Saving Project in 2010. Are you jumping, up and down?

The Project will still keep track of the original beans/peas, beet/chard and squash varieties but new vegetable varieties will be added, for the food security enthusiast, horticultural therapist, market gardeners or for those, who just want to plant a pot of fresh herbs near the back door.

All in the name of the increasingly loud buzz word, local sustainability.
Can you hear this sound?
BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Now that the seed saving Project is being expanded, I’ll bring more beet, cucumber, parship, pepper and tomato seeds tonight. A bunch of cilantro and dill. Plus in the flower department(got to attract those beneficial insects) calendula, cosmos, marigolds, poppies and ornamental sunflowers. And that’s just a fraction of the flowers, herbs, vegetable seeds I have to trade/donate.

Then there’s a Kale Force seed-saving party, in January, food security author, Robin Wheeler in February and Seedy Saturday in March. Plus a permaculture, organic vegetable/seed saving gardening course in the spring. Oops!

Did I let three cats out of the bag?

Watch this space!

I’ve finally become a bean-counter!
For the Seed-Saving Project, at least.

One of the reasons, to grow local seed, is to produce varieties suited to our wet, mild climate. Dan Jason at Saltspring Seeds, and his team of dedicated growers have been doing just that for twenty-five years. Although you can grow out seeds obtained from health food stores or other seed companies that source their seeds from other parts of Canada or the world, I like to start with seeds, suitable to grow here.

From the heritage dry bean varieties purchased for 2009 pilot project, and sourced from Saltspring seeds, I saved the following:

Beka Brown
Red Kidney
Ireland Creek Annie
Montezuma Red
Plus Andy’s Broad Beans. These were a Windsor-type and the largest pods that I’ve grown in thirty years of vegetable gardening. Also grew a small green and a large purple seeded Broad Bean, obtained in past years from the Comox Valley Seedy Saturday. I had little success growing out the Orca(bicolored black and white)beans but then I had few seeds to start with. Although who knows, what beans are still lurking in the big tangles of yet, unshucked bean pods.

From my own supply of heritage dry bean varieties, there are Jacob’s Cattle(or Trout), Cherokee Black(like Turtle) Dragon-tongue and Ukrainian. For Snap Beans, I’ve collected my favorite Blue Lake Pole Beans. Plus an super-straight, prolific Scarlet Runner variety called, “Aintree’ sourced from William Dam Seeds in Ontario. And a pretty, flowering, bicolored (white and scarlet)runner bean, called, ‘Painted Lady’.

In the pea department, there’s Sapporo,(Japanese climbing shelling pea) and some Purple-podded Snow Peas.

Will be bringing several packages of the above heritage varieties to pass on to gardeners in the Seed-Saving Project. Hope that other people grew different varieties from these, so I can add to my bean collection. Besides being easy to grow and so nutritious, bean seeds are beautiful to look at!

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