Seed Saving

by Michelle Pridgen

Why Save Seed?

Saving your own seed allows you to select plants that meet your needs. You can choose for size, color, taste or growth patterns.

Save money! Seed prices seem to rise every year. While you will probably not save everything that you need, or want, you can save a few varieties every year to ensure that you’ll always have seed. Some cultivars seem to disappear from the catalogs every year, to be replaced by hybrids or patented plants. As long as someone is growing a variety, and saving the seed, the genetics are somewhat safe. Continue reading “Seed Saving”

It’s planting time!


Rick and Jen loaned me their broad fork so I could get a few garden beds ready for early spring crops.  It’s time to start planting peas, spinach, kale, carrots and cabbage outside.  The row cover is handy in case we get another cold snap.

The large bed rake is great for both forming and preparing beds as well marking rows for transplants or seeds.

The lettuce transplant has a nice root system and is ready to be planted. I use a marking stick to give the in row spacing on the rows created by the marking rake.  The holes are a great size for the transplants.  To speed things along, I go ahead and remove all the plants from the cell packs and drop them in the holes and then go back and firm them into the soil and water them in with a transplant solution.  I like Maxicrop, it’s a seaweed based soluble fertilizer.

Happy gardening!

Some Information from the SSAWG Conference

The Organic Vegetable Farm tour went to Elmwood Stock Farm. A 550 acre certified organic farm that features both livestock and crops. Most of the acreage is in pasture with crops on about 75 acres.  They produce feed for their animals which include 80 cows, sheep, laying hens and broilers and turkeys.  The key to their success is integrating the crops and livestock in an 8 year rotation.  After 5 years in perennial forage they plow and plant both feed grains and food crops. Raising their own feed ensures quality and reduces out off farm expenses.

The 1st year planting features high nutrient demanding, long season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, summer squash, cucumbers and melons.  Plastic and drip are used. The second year crops are early, cool season crops with slightly lower nutrient needs including beets, radishes, carrots, lettuce, brassicas, chard and turnips.  Overwintering spinach, onions and garlic are planted in fall and any spare ground is put in covercrops.  Year three features nitrogen fixing legumes like peas, cowpeas, endame, green and dried beans.  Following harvest the field is sown back to perennial forage for 5 years.  Working with the University of Kentucky, they have shown that levels of organic matter and soil life are nearly the same at the end of the 5 years in pasture as undisturbed pasture.

Next we toured their seed sowing area.  They make use of homemade tools to speed production and help maintain uniformity.  A germination chamber minimizes heated space and speeds germination. On a smaller scale, take away lessons include using vermiculite in a thin layer to cover seeds. It helps retain moisture and can reduce seedling diseases. A small cabinet can be converted to a germination area.  They also use a technique developed by tobacco growers for leafy crops.  Speedling flats (a stiff Styrofoam tray) are floated in a dilute nutrient solution until ready for transplanting.  This minimizes watering and fertilizing time but requires quite a bit of space.

 

GRAND OPENING AND SEED SWAP MAY 8th

Friday, May 8 is the Grand Opening of the 2015 Independence Farmers Market, beginning the regular market season every Friday from 9am to 2pm until the second Friday in October.  The Market is held in the Independence Town Park at the corner of Highways 21 and 58 across from the Historic Court House in downtown Independence, Virginia.

It’s been a long cold winter, with local farmers working hard to have fresh greens, meats, baked goods, jams, crafts, potted plants of herbs and flowers and vegetables, and other agricultural products available for purchase.  2015 will be an exciting year at the Market, showcasing the diversity of agricultural products and talents in our area.

To celebrate spring at the May 8th opening, a special seed display, staffed by Cynthia Taylor of Grayson LandCare, will have free milkweed seeds, Asclepias syriaca, for you to take home and plant.  Milkweed is the favored food of the Monarch butterfly, and LandCare is highlighting pollinator plants this year.

Additionally, that day, the Market will have seed displays, a demonstration on how to save your own tomato seeds, and free seeds of flowers and vegetables for kids to plant at the Market.  If you have free seeds to share, you are welcome to bring them along for others to use.

Special Fiber Days are usually the third Friday of the month, except for the very first Fiber Day, May 22.  Libby Kahn will offer a  mini-class on how to skirt raw wool.  Bring a fleece or two for skirting and cleaning. There will be wools and yarns and handmade items of lambs wool, mohair, and other natural fibers from local sheep, goats, rabbits, and alpacas.

Free cooking demonstrations with recipes are scheduled on the first Friday of each month, beginning  June 5.  These are co-sponsored by the Virginia Tech Family Nutrition Program.

And the youngsters are not forgotten!  Free Kids Activities are planned each Friday from 10 to 11 am, with a special Kids’ Day on June 26.  Among other festivities that day, Don Call will be back to demonstrate roping and give free lessons.

More special programs are held monthly, with the first event on June 12, Herb Day, led by Ellen Reynolds of Beagle Ridge Herb Farm.

July 17 is the Annual Berry Festival, with berries on sale, and a chance for you to enter your favorite berry pie in the contest.

August 7 is the Annual Tomato Day.  Taste the variety of tomatoes to see what to grow or buy at the Market, and even enter the salsa contest!

September 4 is Pepper Day, featuring a chance to taste multiple types of peppers available at the Market.

October 9 is the final day of the Market, and it is Apple Day, featuring not only apples from local orchards, but you can bring along your apples and press them!  And of course, you can bring an apple pie for the apple pie contest!

The Market accepts SNAP benefits and offers a $10 match thanks to a grant from Appalachian Sustainable Development and Wholesome Wave.  For more information, please contact Michelle Pridgen, Market Manager at independencefarmersmarket@gmail.com or 276-768-0597.  Follow us on Facebook.