open-pollinated seeds

Apache Seeds

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Apache Seeds Ltd., 10136 - 149 Street, Edmonton, AB

Seeds for food-bearing plants are one of our most precious assets. Bred and tested over the ten thousand years that humanity has been farming, the seeds that we propagate today produce miraculous amounts and varieties of foods. There are entities and organizations in Canada that research and protect these treasures, but we could be doing much more. Specifically, I would like to see Alberta fund a university research centre to further research and preserve knowledge in the area of cold-climate agriculture and gardening. I think that they have a strong program like I’ve described at the University of Saskatchewan (to be honest, we could have something like that in Alberta that I’ve never heard of. Please comment if you can enlighten me).

We do have a burgeoning culture emerging around the issue of seeds. Edmonton’s annual Seedy Sunday event (for those “interested in plant biodiversity, heritage gardening, organic gardening, and seeds”) is happening this year at Alberta Avenue Community Hall (9210 118 Ave NW) on Sunday March 20, 2011 from 11-4.

And we have a local institution, Apache Seeds, Ltd. I went there today since it’s time to plant onions indoors. There’s no other place that I know of that carries garden seeds at this time of year (especially not unusual ones like onion seeds) .

As the old-timey sign implies, Apache Seeds is a long-time Edmonton company. I don’t know much about its history, but its reputation suggests that it is THE place to go if you need anything beyond your run-of-the-mill tomato and corn seeds.

I wasn’t disappointed. Apache has hundreds of different kinds of seed packets from at least seven or eight different companies. They have heirloom and organic seeds. Bulk seeds. Even grass seed (including drought-tolerant grass seed, which I have had problems finding I the past).

I had four or five kinds of onion and leek seeds to choose from, plus I picked up some eggplant and pepper seeds.

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seeds  read more... »

Starting Tomatoes From Seed

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Growing your own food is right up there with riding your bike when it comes to green acts. It doesn’t get more earth-friendly than the hundred foot diet.

With our short growing season, the tomatoes that we put in the ground in late May can’t be in seed form. Traditionally, Edmontonians head to their local nurseries when the time comes to buy tomato seedlings. With a bit of foresight, though, you can save yourself a bunch of money and reduce the impact of your tomatoes even further.

Seeds

A couple of weeks ago I bought some open-pollinated tomato seeds from the good people of A’bunadh Seeds (from Cherhill Alberta – they had a booth at Seedy Sunday this year). I’m no seed expert, but I believe that open-pollinated means that I can harvest my own seeds from the resulting tomatoes (as opposed to hybrid seeds).  Earth’s General Store sells some great seeds too.

Any old tomato seeds will do in a pinch though. I chose a yellow, cherry, paste and beefsteak varieties.

Soil

The way to start your own tomatoes from seed is to get a bunch of small containers, they could be anything from actual seedling containers to Tim Horton’s cups, and fill them with soil. The soil should come from your backyard. Conventional sources will always tell you to buy potting soil from your local Home Depot or nursery, but I’ve never done so.

Potting soil ranks up there with bottled water on the list of useless items that companies have manufactured demand for. One website claims “garden soil is not a good choice, as it compacts too easily and can harbour organisms that cause diseases.” So how exactly will your tomatoes grow in this disease-infested soil once you plant them in said garden? For large greenhouses that have disease problems, sterilized potting soil makes sense. For the backyard gardener, it’s just another example of diminishing returns on investment.

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(fill some containers with backyard soil)

Once you have soil in containers, plant the tomato seeds about 1/8” deep. I labelled the containers with strips from an old Venetian blind that I found in the alley.

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(pieces cut from old blinds make great signs to label plants with)  read more... »