Monday, April 7, 2014

Seed Saving … Libraries, Banks or Exchanges?

Glorious Seeds - photo by Hannah Walters
Let’s clear up the confusion for first time seed savers or returning gardeners who aren't quite sure the exact and best approach to seed saving and expanding resources for this popular garden trend. It starts with the basic question – why save seed and how hard will it be?  The short answer to successful seed saving as well as access is we all desire clean, healthy foods from our garden that preserve biodiversity and provide for the continuation of pure heirloom vegetables that have been popular for ages but not necessarily viable for commercial farming.

Like many things, the difficulty lies in specific details. Seeds from hybrid plants are most likely not to reproduce exactly year to year due to their mixed genetic nature, so they are not desirable for saving. Heirloom varieties require needed attention to growing, cross pollination, collecting and storing of the viable seed.  Do your homework and start with knowing your growing zone and what specifics (cleaning winter refuse, soils, exposures, etc.) need attention in your beds before you plant anything for your vegetable garden.  Then plan your garden considering these added resources of seed, beyond your garden center or mail order catalog.

A Seed Library lends seeds or may even share seeds from an existing collection.  The primary element is the recipient grows out the seeds, saves from the plants then returns the seeds to further the library collection.  Many public libraries are starting seed collections for this purpose.  Be cautious to make sure they’re testing their seeds for viability and can provide standards on how seeds were stored.
National Center for Genetic Preservation, Fort Collins, CO
A Seed Bank is just that, a bank of seed reserves that have been housed to protect against destruction and also preserves biodiversity in case of disasters or other calamity. One exists at CSU in Ft. Collins in partnership with the Nat’l. Center for Genetic Research Preservation. In addition to the Bank, CSU also operates their own seed lab where vegetable, flower and native seed is tested for purity & germination.  You can visit their website at for further information.

Seed Swap/Exchange at Organic Seed Alliance Conference 2014
A Seed Exchange is a group of interested parties coming together to offer seeds for exchange or trade while still having the ability to find specific seed varietals for their own needs.  This can happen in a neighborhood, or community group or even a garden club in a simple seed swap.

Soon through your local Master Gardeners with the Extension program in Jefferson County will have their own exchange and will be open to accept seed at the end of the 2014 growing season.  You can join the High Altitude Seed Exchange for a small fee, thus allowing access to seed grown and viable in altitudes of 5,000’ and above. 

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