Have you started planting yet? This was my seed table about two weeks ago. The seeds have been popping up throughout this week. I don’t have artificial light heat in my greenhouse, so seeds are a little slower to come up. But my theory is natural selection: I am saving my own seeds, so am most interested in the plants that thrive without too much attention. I will save seeds from the plants that thrive in the conditions I have to offer, and over time my system will become more and more successful.
Here in Oregon, it is already time to plant some seeds out in your garden such as peas, radishes, beets, and other early spring crops. And it is time to plant some slower, heat-loving things such as tomatoes and peppers in your greenhouse if you have one.
If you haven’t already purchased and planted all of your seeds for this season, here is some beta on how to get free seeds, and plant them in free stuff (as promised in the title):
Save Your Own Seeds:
The best way to get free seeds is to collect them yourself. I got these melon and tomato seeds from produce I purchased at New Seasons (and got to eat the melon and tomato too!). I’ll let you know how they do. The tomato was beautiful green and red striped, and advertised as “heirloom”. Anything truly heirloom should grow true to type of what the parent looked like. The melon was organic, but not heirloom, so there is no guarantee it will look exactly like the one I ate, but it was so beautiful that I’m going to try planting them and see what happens anyway. (To learn the difference between heirloom, open pollinated, and hybrid, watch this Seed Savers Exchance webinar. And the very next webinar on the list is seed saving for beginners. Both great resources.) So I guess it wasn’t totally free because I purchased the produce, but since I would have purchased it anyway and eaten it, I consider the collected seeds a bonus.
Free Seeds Online:
If you like heirloom tomatoes, my friend Katy Larkins turned me on to a website called Winter Sown that will send you free heirloom tomato seeds. I filled out the form and sent in my self addressed stamped envelope, and I really got an envelope full of heirloom tomato seeds. Here they are:
“Grow Portland” Seed Club
I have yet to participate, but I know that a local non-profit called Grow Portland has a Seed Club. They order organic, open-pollinated seeds in bulk. Local gardens come help re-package them into smaller packages, and take home a certain amount. I don’t think it’s totally free, but the price is much reduced from purchasing the same seeds anywhere else. I plan to try this next year.
Start Your Own Seed Club!
I am really interested in doing this. Anyone else? Post a comment or contact me somehow if you are interested. How this would work would be some group of people get together and pledge to all save seeds, and all give each other a portion of the seeds they save. So maybe I have some really cool tomatoes and cucumbers, and someone else has interesting beans. If there are 5 of us, at the end of the growing season once I have saved my seeds, I divide them up into 5 packets, and we all exchange. So we all get a bunch of stuff we didn’t have before. We could even do this long distance and mail them to each other.
If You Must Buy, Buy Seeds to Save:
I cannot resist buying new varieties of seeds every year. Even though I am trying to be good about saving my own seeds, I love looking through the seed catalogs that come in the mail, and always find new things to buy. However, from now on, I am only buying heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. That means I can save the seeds and they will grow true to type. A package of these good seeds is more expensive; it can be $3.00 or $4.00 dollars. But if you buy a cheap package of Ed Hume seeds, the math would be “How many pounds of produce will I get this year from the investment of these seeds?” And the math for buying heirloom seeds would be “How many pounds of produce will I get for the rest of my life (and the lives of my children if I pass on the saved seed to them) for the investment of these seeds?” If you really do save the seeds, it plays out.
Seed Savers Exchange also has a great guide to seed saving techniques for many individual varieties of veggies.
If you live in Portland and want to buy some good seeds, my favorite place is Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply located at 2615 SE Schiller St Portland, OR 97202.
If you are ordering online, here are some places to check:
Territorial Seeds (these are not all open pollinated and heirloom, so you have to read the description. But they specialize in varieties that will thrive in the Pacific Northwest)
(I was also going to blog about free/recycled things to plant seeds in–which ones work and which ones don’t–and free dirt to plant them in. But this is already long. That will be the next blog post!)