Saving Seeds – Food and gardening biodiversity

Everyone can save seeds!

Beginners and experienced gardeners can easily learn how.

I’d like to offer a few reasons on why we should save our seeds.

1) Saving seeds appeals to my motto of “waste not want not”.

I hate to see anything good go unused, and the economical reasons alone, especially in today’s financial climate, makes a ton of sense.
Seed savers knows that by gathering up seeds and storing them carefully away for next year’s garden is preservation for next year’s crop, and less money to fork out.

2) Personal selection.

I like the thought of developing my own vigorous strains over several seasons of selective seed saving. By saving seeds from the plants with the qualities you most prize, you will soon have varieties that are ideally adapted to your garden and growing conditions.

3) Maintain biodiversity.

This is likely the most important reason.

Fewer and fewer old varieties of food crops are available, so seed saving keeps the vegetable world’s food choices diversified.
Today many of the world’s food plants are disappearing, including vegetables, grains and fruit varieties.

Approx. 70 % of the world’s major food plants have already been lost. This is because modern agriculture practices require high yield, uniform plants, so the genetic base of the world’s food plants has been greatly reduced. This has left the world dependent on a few, closely related varieties of each crop.

4) Historical value.
Many plant varieties we save or trade are living links to the past.
Seed saving is a way to link with our ancestors. As gardeners, this is a responsibility and opportunity to pass these wonderful heirlooms to future generations.

5) Sustainability.

Many big companies sell varieties that are tasteless, but travel well. That’s not a good enough reason for me. Self reliance is very satisfying. It is our right to save seeds and make sure that there is enough variety on the planet which makes for biodiversity. It’s the cycle of life.

The thing is, we don’t need gigantic corporate conglomerates holding all the cards, or whittling down our choice of food or flowers.

These big companies, (I don’t have to mention names here), make most of their money, (their sole goal), selling toxic chemicals to spray produce with, on food that we ingest.

I’ll never be convinced this aim of theirs benefits us or any other form of life on earth, including the smallest microbes in soil.

Consider shopping locally if you can! Farmers’ markets & local festivals are a great place to start. Many locally based businesses carry organically sourced goods from small producers in their region, and of course almost anything can be acquired online.


For more information visit:

Seeds Of Diversity

Canada’s Heritage Seed Program – A non-profit group of gardeners who save seeds from rare and unusual garden plants for the purpose of preserving varieties – Purchase the manual – “How to Save Seeds” from their website!

Navdanya

Vandana Shiva on Seed Saving – “The desire to save seeds comes from an ethical urge to defend life’s evolution” says Vandana Shiva, activist, author and scholar.

150,000 farmers in India have committed suicide in areas where seed has been destroyed…where they have to buy the seed every year from Monsanto at a very high cost.

Saving seeds is crucial now for our farmers, for the plant varieties and species that will otherwise be extinct, for the health of the land and ourselves.

Seed Savers (U.S.A.)

“Since 1975, we have grown, saved, and shared heirloom seeds and led a movement to protect biodiversity and preserve heirloom varieties. At the heart of our organization is a seed bank that houses a collection of 20,000+ rare, open-pollinated varieties.”


Feathered friends and winter wildlife

Somewhere online I read an article on feeding birds throughout winter, and the ornithologist suggested it’s more beneficial to us (humans) than it is for the birds.

That’s likely true!

Like many people, I don’t offer food to wildlife spring through fall, (well, except for hummingbirds & the local fox kits), but it does feel wonderful to witness a few feathered friends during the dark depths of winter, when most others have migrated to warmer climes.

Perhaps it just feels good to think we’re nurturing wildlife in some small way. 🙂

Along with birdseed, seed heads from perennial plants left uncut in the fall will provide food and shelter for all kinds of birds and small creatures during winter.

A few examples of these plants include echinacea, asters, rudbeckia, and ornamental grasses.

Not only is this uncut fodder great for wildlife, it’s nice to have some structure in the garden over the winter when everything else is hiding out until spring. Ornamental grasses look especially lovely covered in fresh fallen snow.

The temperature has now dipped well below zero, (currently -14 Celsius).

Combine that with a blanket of snow, (not quite as much in that photo below -> last winter), I do think it’s time to make some suet for the hardy wee birds who choose to stick around all year, so I can enjoy watching them gather outside my window.

 

 

How to best grow Basil, and some Folklore, too

Basil – Arguably one of the most popular kitchen herbs today, it adds just the right flavour to so many recipes. But, did you know there is folklore surrounding this tasty plant?!

Inspired by #FolkloreThursday on Twitter for some time now, I began researching my favourite plants and flowers to learn their history, and what connections if any, they may have to ancient lore, superstitions, or stories.

In parts of Italy to this day, Basil is considered an herb that inspires love. Its scent is thought to bring about sympathy, and Medieval Italian maidens gave their chosen love a sprig of Basil to ensure their love would be returned in full.

With antibacterial properties, basil is considered to be good insect repellent. Along those lines, it’s good for hornets and wasp stings too, according to Culpeper, “Being applied to the place bitten by the venomous beast, or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it“.

To carry a sprig of Basil in your purse or wallet is supposed to be a way to draw money and abundance to you and your bank account.  <-  I’ve tried with limited success. 😉

In dispute of what I’ve shared above, the Dierbach’s Flora Mythologica der Griechen und Römer, claims Basil represents poverty. In addition, the approved modern English ‘Dictionary of Flowers,’ states that offering Basil is a way to show hate to one’s enemy.

Who are we supposed to believe? Better not chance it, I’ve just removed the sprig of Basil from my wallet. Perhaps that’s why there was limited success.

According to ‘The Expert Gardener’ (1640), a work “faithfully collected from Dutch and French authors”, and a whole chapter devoted to the times and seasons which one should “sow and replant all manner of seeds”, this book offers special reference to the phases of the Moon. Specific to Basil and when to sow, reads: “must be sowne in March, when the Moone is old.”

As it’s still February, we’re not quite there. Another month to go before sowing those seeds. But when you do, here is some practical information on how best to grow it.

Basil will reach a height of 24″and spreads from 12-15″
Germination takes 7-10 days, and they should be sown at a shallow depth of 1/8″

Planting Season, other than the folklore above, I suggest outdoors in containers, 1-2 weeks after the last Spring frost has gone. Basil requires full sun for best success, and well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter.

In any case, with more than 150 varieties of Basil available, my personal favorites include Lemon Basil (Ocimum citrodorium), Purple Basil, less common than its traditional green counterpart, but with an uplifting, punchy flavour and a rich, show stopping colour, and last but not least, the ever popular Italian Large Leaf Basil, that some call Genovese.

All three are perfect for pesto, pasta sauces, and herbal vinegar.

Basil is best used fresh, picked from containers close to your kitchen! Mine are by our dining room door where we have sun all day long.

Thankfully, Basil has very few pests, and you can also use it as a companion plant to repel mites and tomato worms. As the saying goes, ‘Tomatoes loves Basil’.

Basil loves its tips pinched, which will encourage fuller plants, delay flowers, and keep it from going to seed.

I suggest letting one plant go to seed so that you can save them to grow again next year, or share with friends.

Personally, I grow Basil indoors on our sunny windowsill all year long. The seeds can be planted anytime!

Pest Recipe – Wall Flower Studio – Feel free to print and share.

Enjoy!