You thought the blog was done for, didn’t you? Well, it was just in hibernation. I started writing this post in the spring & am just now finally getting around to posting it.
This time of year provides more inspiration to write (even if there’s less time to do it). This spring I started some seeds in trays to plant in my home garden. I’ve had a box of seeds in my fridge for years. The last time I had a vegetable garden was at least 4 or 5 years ago, and most of the seeds I have were acquired around that time. It amazed me how much was in that box when I opened it again this year. I’d bought seed packets at conferences, traded them with friends, picked them up at Seedy Saturday events, etc. Anyway, now that I have garden space again, I thought it was about time to pull that box out of the back of the fridge and get growing! (Incidentally, even though I grow vegetables for a living, having a home garden is too great to pass up. Yes, I know this means basically coming home from work and doing the same job at home. I suppose that’s a sign of passion for the work.) Anyway, I didn’t sit down to write about the garden, but about seeds.
Seeds are freaking powerhouses. Think about it. Everything needed to make a plant is contained inside this neat little package. Some seeds can survive for decades before germination. Some seeds can be burned or crushed or digested by animals before growing – and some even need those conditions in order to germinate! Seeds are a reminder of how resilient nature is. If you started reading this blog a couple years ago when my farm adventures began, you may remember a post in which I described with awe how plants really want to grow and that farming just helps them along. Well, when I planted my stash of seeds into trays in April this year, I was once again reminded of that. Some of the seed I had was from as far back as 2008. Some of it wasn’t labelled other than the name of the plant or variety and I had no idea how old it was. Most vegetable seed (depending on what it is, how it’s stored, and the size of the seed) is viable for a couple of years after it’s collected, and beyond that, doesn’t germinate well. In the farming world, keeping seed for more than 2 or 3 years is rare (in my experience) because germination rates decline too much after that. Well, I threw those old seeds into trays because I just couldn’t throw them away, and lo & behold, they grew.
Burgess Buttercup winter squash (seed from 2010)
Since these photos were taken (about a month ago), all the beans have been planted and some types are heavy with pods, and the squash, basil, and a bunch of other things have all been put in as well. There are already tiny winter squashes forming on the plant!
Planting my seed stash this year has reminded me of how crucial it is for people to continue to be able to save their own seed. Some of the seed I have was saved by people who grew the plants themselves a previous year, instead of buying from a seed company. The ability to save seed is so essential to human life, for reasons of food security and sovereignty. Saving seed allows us to develop plant varieties that thrive in the local climate and soil. It allows us to be more self-sufficient instead of relying on companies to provide our food. It also means we can choose to grow food we know has not been treated with chemicals that may harm us or the ecosystems we are a part of.
Navdanya has made a short documentary on saving seed and its importance to people in India, where the organization is located.
I suppose those trays full of seedlings were a testament to the resilience of the humble seed. If you have old seed at home that’s been kept in relatively good storage conditions (ie. cool, dry and dark, such as in a box in your fridge), don’t give up on it yet. You might get some beautiful produce from it! And here are some seed saving resources: