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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.

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!

A number of people have inquired about the Seed Saving Project and I thought it would be a good idea to provide everyone with what we feel is the basic goals of the Project. We hope that seed savers will venture beyond the Project scope but we are going to keep the Seed Saving Project focused on the basics to try to encourage more seed saving in Powell River.

The Project is focused on raising the quality as well as the quantity of local vegetable seed.

Objectives:

  • Develop a list of vegetables for seed saving that are suitable to this region.
  • Educate local growers on seed saving techniques.
  • Encourage seed saving locally.
  • Encourage new and experienced gardeners to save seeds.
  • Increase the number of contributors to Seedy Saturday.
  • Provide a stable supply of locally produced seeds.
  • Raise the quality of locally produced seeds.
  • Be open to suggestions about additions to or deletions from the basic list.
  • Become self-supporting in providing seeds to new Project members.
  • Provide a forum for seed savers to ask questions and offer advice.

Seed list considerations:

  • Main groups are:  squashes, beans, peas, beets/chard.
  • Vegetables that are relatively simple to save seeds from.
  • Have a variety of vegetables in each group.

Seed Savers of Powell River invite both previous participants in Seed Saving Project 2009 and new seed savers to a Networking event.

Wednesday Dec. 2, 2009 7:00 p.m.
Vancouver Island University, Powell River Campus, Room 150.

This networking event gives the seed-saving community, the chance to obtain each others’ seeds and to plan what to grow for 2010. Please bring your extra seeds
to swap with other members of the project. Members saved vegetable varieties in the beet, chard, pea, bush and pole snap and dry bean and squash families. Also bring along your suggestions and seeds of other vegetables you saved, to share with others. Herbs, tomatoes and peppers are especially welcome. If you know other people keen to join a network of dedicated seed savers, please pass this invitation along to them too.

The Powell River Farmers’ Institute(sponsor of Seedy Saturday) provides free envelopes to help keep track of the seeds grown in the Seed Saving Project 09. Envelopes will be available at the meeting.

A stamp is available to mark your envelopes with “Seed Saving Project”. Near the bottom of the envelope, write the first initial of your first, middle and last name as a CODE, identifying you as the grower of the seeds. For example: If your name is Mary Lou Smith, your CODE will be MLS. These grower codes will be entered into the Project database. These codes will help keep track of information about the seeds like: who is trying to save what seeds plus how well the seeds do from year to year. This information will help us to become better seed savers and build our network.

After the Dec. 2 meeting, your extra seed envelopes can be used for
swapping or donation at Seedy Saturday. See you on Dec. 2!

Welcome new members to our seed saving community who committed saving pea seeds at our recent Seedy Saturday!

A number of people have chosen to save pea varieties for the Seed Saving Project 2009. Sapporo*Japanese shelling peas, Carlin(dry soup pea), China Snow, Oregon Sugar Pod, from Saltspring Seeds. And Green Arrow(mainsteam variety) and Sugar Pea from William Dam Seeds.

Here’s a little tip, have used the last few years for an early start to a small but successful row for early peas.

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First. Get your minds. In the gutter!

Gutter peas that is.

Today it’s snowing again. On coastal B.C. fairly unusual for mid March. The soil outside is so cold. Most weeds aren’t even sprouting yet.

If gardeners plant peas outside,(even presprouted) chances are they’ll rot. And that’s if the slugs, insects, birds etc. don’t have at them first.

So off to the scrap metal pile at the back of the farm, to haul out several 8′ sections of old guttering.(scored last summer, while garage-sailing, when noticing an adjacent neighbour having their roof, redone)
And that nice pile of rusty old guttering piled on the driveway. Although have used other metal guttering in the past)

Fold and layer, several thicknesses of newspaper and overlap them, the entire length of the gutter.

Fill with soil. As these gutters have been moved into my 8′ x 16′ unheated greenhouse, I use greenhouse soil.

Plan presprouted peas. Cover with soil up to the top of gutter. Water.

Cover for extra frost protection and evaporation with anything handy. I use old feed sacks or potting soil bags.

Peek under the gutter wrap, periodically, to see when the peas emerge and need daylight.

When the pea-lings get six or so inches high and have several leaves(and hopefully the nights are becoming frost-free)

Transport your gutters to the space, where you want the peas to grow. Then gently…slide. The sections of newspaper with soil/peas into the pre-dug pea trench.

The pea-lings will get a little disturbed but if you’re careful, they will recover nicely. Cover as per the ‘code’ of transplanting:)

Chances increase of getting a small but delicious crop of peas, some weeks before the outdoor planting.

Save some seeds from these early peas. Or plant other rows and save seed from them.