A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Seed Exchange

We are back to January weather. A crisp, cold morning spent shivering in the unheated lobby of my local post office waiting for it to open. Whoever heard of a post office that doesn't open until 9 AM? I belong to an online heirloom gardening list that sponsors an annual seed exchange. The seeds are light, but the padded envelope is bulky so I can't just slap a stamp on it and dump it in the nearest mailbox. The seed exchange works like this: everyone sends seeds they have saved from their gardens to the list owner. She, in turn, emails a list of the seeds to each person in the order in which she received their seeds and they can choose an equivalent number of varieties from the list. The idea being that you can try out different plants for only the cost of postage.

I don't know why I still participate in this list. The other members grow veggies. I grow flowers. And they are "scientific" gardeners. They do stuff like start seeds in soilless growing medium, then transplant each seedling into progressively larger pots as they grow. Then, when the seedlings are the right size and the weather is right and the soil temperature is right and the moon is aligned with Mars and, well you get the idea, they actually plant them in their gardens. And don't get me started on compost. These people worry about every single thing they put into their composters and in what proportions and what actually constitutes "brown" matter and how often it should be turned and the correct temperature inside the composters. Come on, folks. It's rotting garbage, not nuclear physics. They take a hobby that should be fun and rewarding and turn it into unbearable drudgery. I belong to the "Plant it, water it and hope for the best" school of gardening.

Last year was the first year for the seed exchange. Initially, I wasn't going to participate, but the list owner (who is a very nice lady) nagged me into it. Since I was new to seed saving, I very carefully chose seeds from plants that had been reseeding themselves in my gardens for years so I knew they would germinate. When my turn came to choose from the list, I picked out some herbs intending to start an herb garden. Good thing I also bought herb seeds because not a single seed from the exchange germinated. I was shocked. These people save seeds like they do everything else. By the numbers. Hand pollinate each flower, gather seeds at the correct time of day, using the correct tool, dry in the correct humidity and darkness and no breeze on special screens, store in darkness at the correct temperature in the correct containers, etc etc.

Here's how I save seeds. Every morning when I get home from work and every evening when I get up, I go around the yard and pick off the dead flowers that are setting seeds, carefully placing them into whatever container I happen to be carrying such as a used envelope, a teacup, a small bowl or the palm of my hand if I forget to bring something. All seeds are dried in my climate-controlled kitchen, the climate being controlled by Mother Nature (I don't have air conditioning), in specialized drying containers such as teacups and paper plates. When they look "done", I place each type of seed in its own tiny (labeled) Gladware container and then put it in the veggie drawer in my fridge that I have given over to seeds.

The germination rate using my method? 90% to 100%


At 9:03 PM, Blogger crazygramma said...

Well that seems like a lot of trouble. My composting consists of using the dirt any pre-grown I may buy comes in and in the fall dumping the soil from my flowers pots plants and all into to the garden and mix it up a bit.

My seed sowing is very similar to yours and this spring when I went into my shed lo & behold there were seeds in the pots I empty into the garden. I was doing the thing most woman are good at....Multi-tasking.

At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Gran In Oregon said...

How do I join the seed exchange? I would love a variety other than the norm.
Thanks! A grandma in Oregon....



Post a Comment

<< Home