Garden Club: Saving seeds for ourselves and the world

Sooke Garden Club hosts agrarian who talks about seed saving

Earlier this spring I sowed more than 50 tomato seeds and (yikes!) every single one germinated. I’ll probably hold onto fewer than a dozen because of limited space in my wee greenhouse and less than stellar out-in-the-open success rates. No matter. Opportunities abound for divesting oneself of seedling overflow – family, friends, community gardens, organizations’ plant sales, etc. Besides, when seeds are saved (and therefore free and plentiful), it’s genuinely satisfying watching them sprout and grow into healthy seedlings.

I don’t know much about collecting seeds, other than that they need to be from open-pollinated plants rather than hybrids if you want a true offspring of the parent plant. To me, reproducing something that you really like (and does well in your conditions) seems the whole point of saving seeds, especially for the vegetable garden.

Many (if not most) of the flowers and vegetables available at garden stores today are hybrids, i.e. plants produced through careful and deliberate (and often multiple) cross-pollination to showcase selected characteristics in their first year. Granted, hybridization offers many benefits (e.g., improvements in yield, beauty, disease resistance, nutritional value, ability to withstand unfavourable environmental conditions), but it also has significant shortcomings (e.g., sterility or unpredictable reproducibility, genetic erosion, higher cost).

The loss of genetic diversity in food over the past 50 years has been huge. Large-scale commercial growers continue to plant fewer and fewer varieties of crops. The major seed producers from which they buy rely on hybridization and genetic modification for economic success. This increasing dependence on a narrowing range of specialized seeds has increased international concern about potentially devastating consequences of massive crop failures due to disease, pests or climate change. Locally, however, we can help preserve plant diversity simply by saving and planting heirloom seeds.

Robin Sturley, owner/operator of Edible Earth Seeds in Duncan, insists that “saving your own vegetable and flower seed is rewarding and easy to do.” Robin is a young agrarian passionate about preserving food biodiversity. She is also this month’s speaker at the Sooke Garden Club. Please join us Wed. May 22, 7:30 p.m., at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church on Townsend Road. Also on the agenda: parlour show and spring plant sale. New members are always welcome. Membership is $15 and can be purchased at the door. For more information, email: sookegardenclub@yahoo.ca or phone Rose at 250-642-5509.

Submitted by Loretta Fritz