Starting a new gardening tradition

This Saturday, gardeners and local food enthusiasts will meet at the Golden and District Museum from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the first Golden Seed Swap.

It will be an opportunity for seed savers to swap and share and for curious folks to learn and pick up gardening tips from local experts.

Bring your seeds in a container (jar, envelopes, plastic box, etc.) with clear information on it including your name, the year of harvest if known, name and variety of vegetable or flower, and other information that will be helpful for other swappers. Take envelopes if you want to bring seeds home with you. We will also have envelopes available at the Swap. Seeds should be dry and clean. Leave the chaff behind.

Remember, we are looking for open-pollinated/non-hybridized seeds. These are seeds that will grow “true to type,” like the parent plant. Hybridization produces “designer” plants which have specific characteristics created through careful breeding. Buying hybrid seeds will get you the vegetable you want, often with disease resistance built in, helping to guarantee you growing success. However, these characteristics might not be carried into the seed from that plant so they are unreliable for sharing. Many hybrid seeds will grow plants and it might be fun and see what comes up, but be prepared for something unusual at best and useless at worst.

We swap open-pollinated plants and those which are also known as “heirloom.” Their seeds will grow into vegetables and flowers that are the same as plants our great grandparents grew. Many early settlers in this valley brought seeds from their countries of origin. If they grew well here in the soils and weather of the Columbia Valley, the seeds were carefully saved and passed down through generations. These can be precious links to both our history and our geography.

Some seeds remain viable for a very long time and will germinate and grow even if stored for many seasons. Seeds have been found in ancient desert tombs which have been successfully grown into plants. However, some seeds are not reliably viable and don’t last much more than a year. These are the seeds of onions/leeks, nasturtiums, and lettuce. Of course, there are seeds from perennial and biennial plants, but that’s for another time.

To know if your seeds are viable and will grow, you can do a very easy germination test. Depending on the size, put 10 or 20 seeds on a damp (not soaking wet) paper towel lying flat in a plastic bag. Put it in a warm place and check often to see if they sprout. If many of the seeds sprout, you’ve got a good batch. You can even plant test sprouts like peas if you want (although, wait until the snow has gone).

If you want to learn how to plan your garden to save seeds, come to the Seed Swap on Saturday and ask one of the local experts. As well, look for upcoming presentations on seed saving near the other side of the growing season.

Many local businesses are providing materials and draw prizes for the Golden Seed Swap, and will be listed at the event. Several related organizations will have materials for you to take home or learn from. This is the first organized Seed Swap and we will learn from this experience. Bring your coffee cup, your patience and some loonies to buy refreshments or seeds.

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