Growing Edibles and Seed Saving in 2023--News from the Garland Community Garden
This seems is the year for successfully growing things from seed for me and many of us at the Garland Community Garden. My most successful story are butter bean seeds saved from 1997 that germinated. I don’t know if it is a law but seed packets always have an expiration selling date which is usually December of the year you purchase them.
Expiration dates are used on seed packaging as a measure of the likelihood that the seeds will be viable. Depending upon the type of seeds, environmental conditions, and the manner in which the seeds have been stored, the germination rate of older seed packets may be greatly impacted. The best storage conditions for seed packets require a dark, dry, and cool location. For this reason, many growers choose to store plant seeds in airtight jars in places such as refrigerators or in cellars or basements. Many may also add rice grains to the jars to discourage the presence of moisture.
There are three general types of seeds: Open Pollinated (heirloom), Hybrid (F1) and GMO.
Open pollinated (OP) seeds are naturally pollinated by wind and bees. These are seeds of value to be saved from your healthiest plants and replanted. Preserving an heirloom means growing it out, maintaining the variety and sharing its seeds with as many growers as possible.
Hybrid (F1) seeds come from two inbred open pollinated parents bred for specific characteristics. For example, most of the tomatoes you buy in the chain grocery stores have tough skins. This is because they were grown from hybrid seed that was developed to create tougher skins for tomatoes so they could still look good after traveling the average 1,500 miles to the shelf in the grocery store.
GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) are typically hybrid plants whose DNA is artificially altered to tolerate higher levels of pesticides/herbicides. n the final analysis, if gardeners only chose hybrid and GMO seeds, our food source (seeds) would totally be in control of a few people. Some say that we are headed in that direction. I’m sorry to say, but the evidence does seem to be pointing that way. Seed banks have not prevented the loss of 93 percent of heirloom varieties since 1903.
SEED SAVING BUTTER BEANS FROM 1997
The mother of Jane Stroud (board member of Loving Garland Green) saved seeds from some butter bean plants she grew in 1997--26 years ago. Jane gave them to me in the early spring just for the heck of it. I planted about five of them and one germinated. Then a few weeks ago I decided to plant the rest about 10 to 12 in all. The results are stupendous. So far, 8 of them have germinated. I’ll make a special plot for them in the garden along with a sign telling their story and the story of Jane’s mother.
UPCOMING EVENT AT THE CENTRAL LIBRARY EXPRESS
On May 20, Loving Garland Green will be presenting a Container Gardening Class at the Temporary Location for the downtown Nicholson Library. The temporary location is at the little building (former Women's Building) across the parking lot from the Central Library. It's called "Central Library Express." And has a large sign to identify it. You must sign up for the class. Participants will each get a five-gallon bucket filled with amended soil and an okra transplant. You must sign up at the library prior to attending the event as class is limited.
In preparation for the class, I’ve planted Okra seeds saved from plants grown at the Garland Community Garden last year.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT TOMATO SUCKERS ARE?
Tomato suckers are small shoots, or leaves, that sprout out from where the stem and the branch of a tomato plant meet. Although relatively harmless to the plant, suckers don't serve much of a purpose. They can, however, draw energy away from the main stems, decreasing tomato growth so most avid gardeners pinch them off. I just recently learned that you can plant these suckers in potting mix and grow new tomato plants for the fall. I tried it and it looks like they are surviving. I’ll pinch a few more off in mid-June as that is getting closer to the time to start growing tomato seedlings for the fall.
Tomato Suckers grow right in the middle of the "v" formed by two branches. You can break them off
near to the joint and plant them in potting soil to grow more tomato plants.
SPEAKING OF SEEDS. . .
Some kind soul left several hundred seed packets of heirloom seeds at the garden--all with a last date of December 2022. We’ve been sharing them with LGG members and others in the community. One of our members, Margie Rodgers, has planted close to 100 heirloom tomato plants from these seeds, many of which are now growing down at the garden. In addition, she has shared with others in the community. I planted and have growing about 10 snow pea plants at the garden. So far, they have produced over 20 large servings of delicious snow peas.
As transplants become more expensive by the year, seeds and especially locally saved seeds become the best and most economical choice for gardeners.