Very good reasons for you to save seeds

Photo credit: Idaho Statesman

Seeds, seeds and seeds

Use saved seeds, and learn

Do you save seeds your plantings produce? I used to save large quantities of tomato seeds, and still save some of extraordinary tomatoes. I bought some watchmakers parts cases from Lee Valley years ago, aluminum cases that hold small glass-topped aluminum canisters for storage of seeds.

One very good reason for you to save seeds is to experience what happened to me recently. I found some very old (about 20 years old) tomato seeds stored in one of those canisters, and wanted to re-grow that variety, so I planted several seeds, confident that they had passed their usual prime. Tomato seeds have an estimated viability of about four years.

My old seeds did germinate, even though they had been stored at room temperature. When I reported that to garden friends online, one fellow said he’d found self-saved seeds usually kept viability longer than commercial seeds.

The variety I wanted to re-grow was called Early Large Red. Prior to the Civil War, it was the most-grown tomato in America. One source says it produces ripe tomatoes in 70 days after transplant, and that would make it an “early” tomato. In my experience, it ripened in the middle of the season. I suspect other growers in other parts of the country found it was not an early tomato either, because Southern Exposure Seed Exchange referred to it as “Large Red,” but related the same history of its pre-Civil War popularity.

I bought seeds from Southern Exposure two years ago (forgetting my own seeds), and most of the plants from those seeds produced very small tomatoes, showing they’d crossed with cherry tomatoes or even smaller varieties. There are smaller varieties of tomato, some called “currant,” the tiniest called “spoon” tomatoes. Some of those wilder tomatoes have protruding anthers that emit pollen, cross-pollinating all over the patch. Modern tomatoes take care of pollination inside their own blossoms, but a persistent bee can foil that.

Read the full article: Idaho Statesman

You will love your broad beans

Photo credit: Express

Broad beans are easy to grow from seed

How to sow broad bean seeds


BROAD beans are easy to grow from seed and can be sown straight into the ground or under cover, depending on the season.

You can plant them outside before the soil gets too cold, in October and November, and once it starts warming up again in March or April, but during the winter months you can get ahead by planting seeds in modules and growing them in a greenhouse, coldframe or on a window sill.

It is also worth growing them in modules in March or April too, ready to plant out once they have put on a few leaves, so they don’t instantly fall victim to slugs and snails.

Just fill modules with seed compost, drench them in water using a watering can with a rose nozzle and once they have drained put one of the large seeds into each module, pushing it half way down into the moist compost.

If the drenching has made the compost more compact top it up, but you won’t need to water it for a day or two.

It’s a good idea to sow another lot of seeds about three or four weeks later, then more three or four weeks after that, so that the plants don’t all produce beans at the same time.

Sow up to a dozen seeds each time, depending on how much you like to eat broad beans.

Read the full article: Express

Tips for winter sowing

Photo credit: Recordonline

Winter sowing in mini-greenhouses

Get a jump-start on veggie garden with winter sowing

By Susan M. Dollard
For the Times Herald-Record


Winter sowing is an outdoor method of seed germination that requires just two things: Miniature greenhouses (made from recycled milk jugs and various other containers) and Mother Nature. After planting in January-March, these mini greenhouses are placed outside to wait for winter to end.

Here are some suggestions for what to plant and when, based on zone 5b:

Read the full article: Recordonline

Seed swaps preserve our heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables (The Ecologist)

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Don’t buy seeds; swap them

Jan Goodey

You can’t buy a seed unless its strain has been expensively registered. But you can swap them with fellow gardeners, helping food growing and biodiversity to thrive

The UK’s biggest annual seed swap, Seedy Sunday, takes place in Hove on Feb 7. Seed swaps preserve our heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables and help subvert the domination of the seed industry by the multinationals.

Brighton and Hove’s small-scale growers have been seed-swapping since 2002 when 350 people turned up to the inaugural do, a ramshackle affair held in a Kemp Town church. Since then it’s moved to an art deco theatre and for the last two years the much bigger and more imposing Hove Town Hall.

Other swaps (see list below) tend to be smaller events held at allotments or community centres. Most take place around February in venues scattered from Stonebridge city farm in north west London to east Kilbride.

Seeds of change

Fran Saunders got involved with Seedy Sunday after the success of the first swap. Allotment-less, she has long been interested in growing in small spaces as is evident when you turn up on her doorstep, which is teeming with pots of every size.

‘I’ve completed a Permaculture course and am interested in growing medicinal herbs. I confess to not being the greatest gardener in the world, and I’m learning all the time! Seedy Sunday helps and we’re looking to do more in the community with workshops on seed saving, a possible seed bank and maybe even developing our own varieties.’

And how much does it cost to put the whole thing on?

‘£2,500. We get Lottery money which has helped develop the website. Infinity Foods [organic produce retailer and distributor] sponsor the seed packets. We’re keen to make it as accessible to everyone and not have high admission charges [entry currently costs £1.50]. It’s run entirely by volunteers who give up their time because they believe in it so much.’

Any highlights/funny anecdotes from over the years?

‘I think it was the second or third year a chap turned up with dope seeds and had a stall next to the city council! It’s always an honour when Patrick Mulvaney, chairman of the UK Food Group, agrees to speak. His knowledge is immense.’

A growing movement




Commercial seeds versus “Seeds for Food” (AfricaFiles / allAfrica/ Willem Van Cotthem)

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Title: Uganda embarks on seed improvement
Author: Aidah Nanyonjo, Kampala
Category: Ecology
Date: 12/9/2008
Source: New Vision
Source Website: <>

African Charter Article# 24: All peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favorable to their development.

Summary & Comment: Uganda has embarked on a two year project to develop and adapt seed varieties that grow well in the local environment. The research is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. AB

Uganda embarks on seed improvement

Uganda has embarked on a two year project to develop and adapt seed varieties that grow well in the local environment.

Dr. Peter Seruwagi, the head of Horticulture programme at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCCRI), Namulonge says the multi million project which is called ‘Vegetable breeding and seed systems‘ is funded by the Bill and Merinda Gates Foundation through the World Vegetable Centre. “We want to come up with seed varieties that are of good quality for improved productivity as well as consumption,” he said. Seruwagi says most imported seed varieties especially for horticulture do not do well in the Ugandan environment. The project will cover tomatoes, egg plants, onions and other vegetables. “It is not true that all the imported seeds are of low quality. They may be of high quality in the country of origin, but due to climatic differences they fail to do well here. We have received several cases where these seeds fail to germinate,” he says.

The Institute has organised a seed fair where Ugandan seed companies will exhibit their products. The seed fair, with a theme ‘Vegetables for health and wealth,’ will take place on December 12, 2008. “As part of the project, the seed fair aims at promoting the use of quality seeds and increased vegetable production for income generation,” he says.He said the market for vegetables has grown widely following the benefits they contain. “Eating a wide variety of vegetables means you are more likely to get all the vitamins and minerals that are important to your health,” Seruwagi added.



It is a well known fact that some imported seeds, even of the highest quality, will not germinate and develop into healthy plants, due to climatic or edaphic(soil)  constraints.

For that reason some comments on our “Seeds for Food” action doubt about the positive effect of the seeds we send abroad to development projects.

2008-04 – Tomato production in a family kitchen garden in the Sahara desert

It goes without saying that we are conscious about the right choice of the species sent.  But even if not all the seeds offered for free to projects will germinate or develop into healthy plants, the percentage of them germinating and producing fresh vegetables and fruits is a big step forward for the recipients, because “Eating a wide variety of vegetables means you are more likely to get all the vitamins and minerals that are important to your health“.  And even the non-germinating seeds will always play a positive role, being organic matter that will be decomposed in the soil and thus contribute to the organic content of that soil.

We appreciate very much the efforts of  the “multi million project which is called ‘Vegetable breeding and seed systems‘  funded by the Bill and Merinda Gates Foundation through the World Vegetable Centre.  We expect that the outcome will be : an interesting selection of excellent varieties of seeds, producing bigger plants and better tasting vegetables.

However, the question remains if these selected varieties will be produced in Uganda (and in the other developing countries) at such a large scale that sufficient seeds will be offered for free to the poor rural people.  Or will they be produced by companies, putting commercial varieties of seeds on the market which again will be too expensive to be easily purchased by smallholders.

We remain convinced that offering free seeds of tropical fruits, collected from all the juicy fruits we are eating in developed countries, to small-scale farmers in the developing countries, is a valuable contribution to their sustainable development.  Taking into account the climatic and edaphic conditions at the sites or regions of the developing countries, where we are sending the collected seeds of vegetables to, is also a major step in that direction.  Once those smallholders have these free seeds developing in their kitchen garden, they are in a position to select seeds from the plants they are growing.  They will not be dependent anymore on “donations of seeds”.  They will be able to enhance bit-by-bit their annual income by taking the surplus of vegetables and fruits to the local market.  And at the end of the day they will earn sufficient money to buy the “top quality seeds” selected by their national experts and produced by the commercial seed companies.

In the meanwhile, we continue to collect seeds of vegetables and fruits and we offer them for free to every development project wanting to lay-out kitchen gardens, in particular in the drylands.

Is this working well ?  Ask the people who received already some seeds … or look at the pictures of newly installed kitchen gardens, even those in the Sahara desert.  Seeing is believing, isn’t it ?

2008-04 – Engineer Taleb BRAHIM taking care of the right application of the seeds in the harsh climatic and edaphic conditions of the Algerian Sahara.

Seeds, a favorite collectible connects gardeners (Google / Seattle Times)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Seeds, a favorite collectible connects gardeners

Saving, swapping and propagating seeds spreads the wealth, connecting gardeners to all four seasons. Gardeners offer a list of favorite plants, books and Web sites.

By Ginny Smith

The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — This summer, there must have been a dozen patches around the tiny borough of Narberth, Pa., sporting huge sunflowers.

It was no accident. The supersize sun-lovers were grown from seeds swapped among neighbors earlier in the year at Bob and Dawn Weisbord’s house, as part of the Narberth Greens Flower and Vegetable Exchange.

“A big group of people came with lots of seeds,” says Bob, who founded the exchange in 2008.

It may not be a new idea. But how neat is that?

At one time, collecting and sharing seeds was more about saving money than anything else. Today, it’s likely to be that and more.

You might want to plant that great-tasting squash again next year, or preserve a hard-to-find plant. You might want to stand up for heirloom or older varieties, which are enjoying a resurgence.

Or you might be a gifted horticulturist like Gene Spurgeon, a retired architect, who enjoys the challenge of propagating hundreds of plants from seed (and the occasional cutting) for the Philadelphia area Hardy Plant Society’s annual exchange or the Rock Garden Society’s flower show exhibit. Continue reading Seeds, a favorite collectible connects gardeners (Google / Seattle Times)


Here is a message of Holly HIRSHBERG :

“I run a non-profit called The Dinner Garden <> .

The mission of The Dinner Garden is to provide seeds to all people free of charge so that people can have greater food security. We encourage people to garden for their families and communities. I was recently referred to your blog and was really impressed. Most of our gardeners are very poor and can not afford commercial gardening supplies. We are working on compiling resources for people so that they will be able to garden using supplies they already have.

We would love to have a link to your website on <>  as it seems we share a common vision of a world without hunger.

Thank you for considering!

Holly Hirshberg
Executive Director
The Dinner Garden


Here is the introductory text on Holly’s website :

The Dinner Garden provides seeds, gardening supplies, and gardening advice free of charge to all people in the United States of America. We assist those in need in establishing food security for their families. Our goal is for people to plant home, neighborhood, and container gardens so they can use the vegetables they grow for food and income.

Please read the very interesting welcoming text !

Seeds for Food, an action for sustainable development and poverty alleviation (Willem)

h1 Seeds for Food


Collecting seeds of tropical fruits and vegetables for developing countries

Let us ban hunger and poverty from the world.

In 2005, I was invited by UNICEF ALGERIA as an advisor for the project “Family gardens and school gardens in the Saharawi refugee camps in South-East Algeria”.  A preliminary study gave evidence that we were able to show families and schools of these refugees (most of them are nomads or fishermen), who have lived in those Sahara camps for more than 30 years, how to layout small kitchen gardens.  We also showed them how to grow fruits and vegetables with a minimum of water and fertilizers, using a water stocking soil conditioner.

In this part of the Sahara (the area around the city of Tindouf, S.W. Algeria) there are two seasons:

(1) the autumn-winter season (from September till January) in which various vegetables can be grown: lettuce, beetroots, carrots, onions, parsley …

(2) the spring-summer season (from February till August) in which it is too hot for vegetables, but in which one can grow various tropical fruits such as melons, watermelons, pumpkins, peppers, avocados, papayas and eggplants (aubergines).

The planning and layout of family and school gardens is no major problem, since there is plenty of space. If one uses a soil conditioner that can store irrigation water, a very small amount of water will do to create sufficient moisture in the soil for granting a continuous plant growth. Unfortunately, there is lack of seeds of tropical fruits and vegetables. Commercial seeds are much too expensive. Vitally important to these people is not to grow special high quality varieties, but to have at their disposal some juicy food in the hottest period of the year, when nothing else is growing in the desert.

Therefore we call on you to show your solidarity with those poverty-stricken refugees or with this poor rural population of India.

We don’t ask you any money.

Only send, when it suits you, the seeds you find in the fruits you eat yourself: melons, water melons, pumpkins, sweet pepper, avocado, papaya, zucchini, cherimoya, pawpaw, etc.

Just rinse these seeds in water and dry them on a plate (not on a piece of paper as it would stick to the seeds). As soon as the seeds are thoroughly dried, put them in a paper envelope and put the name of the species on it.  Then send it to one of our members (see addresses).  It will only cost you the stamp.

The more we gather seeds, the more families we can help.

One thing we know for sure: this project can turn out to be a world initiative, since we, citizens of the developed countries, young or old, (grand)parents, children and grandchildren, we can work together. However small your contribution, however small the parcel of grains you send us, we can assure you that it will contribute to improve the standard of living of the poor, since YOUR SEEDS GET TO THE PEOPLE without any go-between.

This way we will contribute together to fight hunger and poverty in the world.

Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM
Beeweg 36
B-9080 ZAFFELARE (Belgique)

You can also group your seeds with friends and send larger packages to the same addresses. Thank you so much!

Harvest seeds for 2009 (Google / The Gazette)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Gardening with Dave: Harvest seeds for 2009

It doesn’t take much effort to produce more than you need

It’s September, or as it should be called, “the month of having more squash than you know what to do with.”


Saving seeds is the basic building block of our society. The practice that started perhaps as long ago as 10,000 years is the foundation of farming, which is the foundation of pretty much everything else. No seed saving and there’s no division of labor, no specializing in art or music or engineering, no technological innovation, no secondary education, no Frappuccinos, no forwarded e-mail clips of the “Daily Show.”


First the catches. If you are gathering seeds from hybrid plants, the offspring may bear little resemblance to their parents. How do you know whether you have hybrids? Most commercial tomatoes and corn, as well as some melons, squash and other vegetables, are hybrids (mixes of two varieties). Gather seeds from only heirloom or open-pollinated versions. With lettuce, herbs and most beans and peas, you’re safe.

Now, how do you get the seeds ready? First, let a few really nice fruit on your healthiest-looking plant fully ripen. For tomatoes, that means too soft to look at. For cucumbers that means turning yellow. For peas, the pods should be fat, lumpy and dry.

For herbs and lettuce, let the flower stalks grow, bloom and dry, then shake the stalks in a bag to remove the seed.

For some fruit, such as tomatoes, you need to let them ferment a bit to remove the slippery goop around the seed. Scoop the seeds into a jar, add water and let sit for a few days. Stir the mixture a few times a day. It will start to ferment and the seeds should drop to the bottom of the jar. Once that happens, pour the goopy liquid off and spread the seeds out on a plate for drying. Don’t dry them in the sun, the heat could kill the seeds.


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