Want the most delicious and nutritious fresh vegetables and herbs at the lowest price (Heirloom flowers are available as well). Besides shopping at your local farm stand, growing your own is the next best thing. I recommend starting your garden with heirloom seeds (there’s hundreds of varieties available), or you may be able to find some heirloom plants (likely tomato) from your local farmers’ market. Now is the perfect time to start seeds!
If you’re ambitious and want to buy seeds only once in your lifetime, you can even collect seed from your own harvest to sow the following years. Plus, heirloom seeds will typically last for a decade when properly stored! So save those seeds you didn’t have room for! You’ll be rewarded with amazing flavor in the future!
Heirloom seeds are those that are high-quality, easy to grow, may be endangered and need saving, and typically pre-date 1940 or much earlier. The seeds of heirloom varieties reliably produce the same plant as the parent plant, unlike hybridized varieties you might get in big box home & garden centers. Many seeds from hybrids won’t even germinate the next year.
The best places to find heirloom seeds include seed exchanges, societies and conservancies. Visit The Heirloom Vegetable Gardener’s Assistant for a great list of resources for seed exchanges where seeds are shared, not sold (typically), seed companies, as well as public gardens displaying authentic period kitchen gardens from as early as the 1600s!
There are plenty of resources on the web or in the library that explain gardening and how to save seeds. Here are some of my tips:
- Don’t forget to add compost and/or aged manure to amend your soil into a more ideal condition.
- Grow organically! It’s healthier for you, your family and the environment.
- Use the “float” test by placing seeds in a bucket of water: Viable seeds sink to the bottom, while those that won’t typically germinate float to the top so you can easily empty them out and dispose of (or better yet, compost).
- Avoid cross-pollination of plants within the same families and store your gathered seeds properly with help from SelectedPlants.com.
- Share your seeds and your experiences with other gardeners. Learn how to host a “Seed Swap” in your area with help from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
Need more advice? Invaluable resources include other gardeners in your neighborhood and your local extension service.
photo courtesy of ChefsCollaborative.org