Monday, March 29, 2010

Blogs on Veganic Gardening

During the past couple of weeks I have found a few more blogs on veganic gardening while searching, browsing, and being generally nosy on the Internet. I usually do a search on the keyword “veganic” (or variations of such, like “veganic gardening”) each week in the hope of finding more information on the subject. Here are some blogs that I have encountered:

Austin Vegan Gardener

grow peace and dance in the garden

We Don’t Dig It, Man

2010 Gardening
Table Scraps

Note: I don’t know what’s up with the comments function on this blog, but it’s not working (I'm not able to receive comments). I doubt anyone has left a comment, since this blog is relatively new and unknown. But if anyone out there did attempt to submit a comment, I sincerely apologize that it did not get posted. I’m working on this problem (which is probably caused by my own deficient blog skills), and I should have it sorted out soon. In the meantime, feel free to email me if you want at, which I usually check every day or so.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Storing Seeds

The most important thing to remember when storing your seeds is to place them in a location that is cold and dry. The colder and dryer, the better.

Do not subject your seeds to fluctuations in temperature (and humidity), otherwise they will lose their ability to germinate. In other words, do not frequently shuffle your seeds around from room to room, from indoors to outdoors, from near the fireplace to the cold garage, etc.

An underground root cellar is a great example of an excellent storage location. If you are keeping seeds in your home, find a place that is cool, dark, and dry (and where the temperature does not fluctuate much). Do not put them in a greenhouse or a damp woodshed.

Placing your seeds nearer to the floor is better than placing them close to the ceiling where it is warmer.

Even though it might be the coldest spot in your home, do not put your seeds in the refrigerator or freezer unless you have already taken the proper steps to protect them from moisture, like placing them in an airtight container with recharged desiccant.

For now, I am placing my seed packets in airtight opaque canisters with locking clamps and gasket seals (like this) on the floor of my pantry, where the temperature is consistently cool year round. The canisters are ceramic, and I think airtight glass or metal jars would be better, but the ones I already have on hand will do for now. I have been saving small bags of silica gel* desiccant from products that I buy (shoes, electronics, etc.), and have learned that they can be dried out for reuse by placing them in the oven or a dehydrator. The desiccant absorbs moisture and lowers the humidity in the container in which the seeds are stored. I have read that rice can also serve as a desiccant to absorb moisture. I am not too overly concerned about using desiccant since there is relatively low humidity in my home, but if I decide not to bother dehydrating the desiccant, I may throw some rice in the bottom of the canisters that I am using (I figure it can’t hurt). When saving seeds from the garden, I think drying them out becomes a much more complex and necessary process. I may attempt to save my own seeds this year, but at this point I know very little about that particular process from beginning to end. In any case, there are many ideas floating around on the Internet as to ways in which to store seeds (e.g., there are some interesting ideas in this forum thread at Seed Savers Exchange). I’ll be creating a list of ideas that I gather as the season progresses, and will blog about them later on down the road. In the meantime, the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth has a great section called Seed Storage Techniques (starting on page 28) for those who save seeds and are serious about storing them (she also covers the steps needed when storing seeds in the refrigerator or freezer).

In his book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, master gardener Steve Solomon writes that it is very easy to make your seeds last four times longer than normal. “For the purposes of this book, I define normal storage as being in a cardboard box on a shelf in a closet away from the woodstove, where humidity isn’t excessively high and air temperature tends to be stable. […] More precisely let’s call normal storage 70 degrees F and 70 percent relative humidity (RH). The rule of thumb used in the seed trade is that for every 10 degrees F drop in temperature from normal, combined with a corresponding reduction in humidity that lowers the seed’s moisture content by 1 percent, the life of the seed doubles. It takes roughly a 10 percent drop in relative humidity to lower seed moisture by about 1 percent. So at 60 degrees F/RH60%, the seed life is more or less double the normal span. At 50 degrees F/RH50%, it doubles again to four times normal.” To achieve 50 degreeF/RH50%, he suggests getting a large recharged silica gel packet and placing it in with your seeds in a tightly lidded gallon jar or other airtight container and then keeping it in a cool place such as under the house, in the cellar, or even in cool closet located along a north wall.

* Edit: Silica gel is vegan. And according to Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (page 123) it is an acceptable form of desiccant. In any case, I might go with the more natural form of rice instead for now. The book Growing Green does not mention anything about silica gel, and simply suggests storing your seeds in a sealed packet in a cool dry place.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Seed Companies

Last winter I purchased my vegetable and herb seeds from the organic seed company Seeds of Change. I have no complaints about their seeds or service, but this year I decided to order herbs from a company located a little closer to home here in the Pacific Northwest. In my search, I discovered an awesome organic seed company located in Williams, Oregon. Horizon Herbs offers an incredible selection, including all standard herbs as well as interesting and rare varieties that were gathered from around the world by the owner Richo Cech. Check out the rave reviews that Horizon Herbs received on Dave’s Garden Watchdog (74 positive reviews opposed to two negative ones). Note that Mr. Cech himself personally responds to some of the reviews. I hope the company is as good as the reviews say, because I ordered a crazy amount of seeds from them! Including some really cool seed sets (my cat is going to go nuts for the catnip set, which consists of three different types! He's a catnip junkie!).

After much deliberation, I decided to order the bulk of my vegetable seeds from High Mowing. Located in Vermont, High Mowing offers a wonderful selection of open pollinated seeds and heirlooms. The company received excellent reviews on Dave’s Garden Watchdog, as well. And I admit, High Mowing gets extra points in my book for taking Monsanto to court last year over the premature deregulation of Monsanto’s GMO sugar beets (High Mowing won!).

A number of Pacific Northwest organic seed companies have either direct or unclear relationships with Seminis/Monsanto, so I scratched them off my list. Some of these include Osborne and Territorial, who still sell a number of seeds from Seminis. I was originally going to purchase my veggie seeds from Irish Eyes located here in Washington State, but I couldn’t find much information online about the company and the reviews they received were a bit spotty. A blurb on the inside cover of the Irish Eyes catalog claims that they oppose GMO in all forms, so I haven’t totally ruled them out yet. The blog Sustainable Eats gives a nod to Uprising Seeds, a company located in Bellingham, WA that states on their homepage that they have signed the Safe Seed Pledge (though I take that with a grain of salt, since Territorial Seed also signed the pledge, and they still carry seeds from Seminis). Wild Garden Seed, located in Oregon, is an organic seed company that may be another possible choice that I am looking into.

Finding a Seed Company in Your Region

Choosing a seed company located in your region can be a wise decision (particularly if they themselves grow many of the seeds they sell), since the seeds are most likely adapted and suited to the particular climate and environment in which you live.

If you are looking for an organic seed company that is right for you, here are some helpful links that might help you to get started:

List of organic seed companies by state and country

Seed Alliance’s list of seed companies

Search by type of seed