Sunday, January 20, 2013
Updated and corrected 1-21-2013 9:16pm
|Seed Packets from a Local Seed Farms|
Photo by Jennifer Rotermund
By Jennifer Rotermund
The world did not end in 2012, but our frosty, dreary January gardens look like they didn’t get that memo. How does a gardener survive until Spring?! Answer: by taking advantage of indoor plant sales at local nurseries and drooling over seed catalogs! Any seasoned gardener knows that there is always something to look forward to after all of the holiday hubbub passes - oh, the joy of Seed Catalogs! What possibilities! So much inspiration placed in front of our eyes, captured in small sunny brightly-colored photographs of every flower and vegetable you can image. Who knew that Winter’s grey skies had already dulled our memory of Summer’s vibrant colors. This is the beauty of the seed catalog.
But there are so many. “Ugh, the seed catalogs have begun to arrive,” a friend recently sighed. As if these catalogs arrived and sorted themselves neatly into two boxes, one sitting on each of her shoulders, weighing her down. Don’t let that happen to you! Gardening is not a burden - it’s a joy! - and therefore garden planning is best enjoyed as a Winter indulgence, a time to let your imagination run wild and bring inspiration back into your life! If it’s anything less than that, I question whether gardening is for you. Save yourself from overwhelm by being picky about which catalogs you receive and from which farms or nurseries you purchase.
|Lettuce Seed I Grew and Harvested|
Photo courtesy Jennifer Rotermund
My first criterion is that the company grows organic, non-GMO (genetically modified) seed or plants. Monsanto and its subsidiaries are the source of most GMO (genetically modified organisms) or GE (genetically engineered) seeds and plants. These companies maintain that their products provide for a more sustainable planet, but there is an increasing body of evidence to the contrary. The Institute for Responsible Technology provides a thorough explanation. You can even take it a step further and look for companies that offer “open-pollinated” and “heirloom” seeds. Monsanto is steadily buying up the legal rights to many of our favorite garden-variety seeds (like Burpee’s Big Boy tomato) and selling them through their seed-selling company, Seminis, These seeds are either modified to be sterile (i.e. they won’t produce viable seeds you can save) or if you do save the seeds, Monsanto can slap you with a lawsuit - and they are actively doing this. Buying open-pollinated, heirloom seeds will ensure not only high quality, healthy seed, but seeds you have the freedom to save and grow year after year.
|Nigella (Love In A Mist) Wildflower Seed I Grew and Harvested|
Photo courtesy Jennifer Rotermund
My other criterion involves what I call the “small-local factor.” I don’t like the idea that the seeds I buy were grown on a industrial mega-farm, mass-processed through a giant seed packaging factory, and then sold in a big box store that pays our friends and neighbors who work there something barely over minimum wage. Our gardens are intimate spaces and our food directly correlates to our health - neither of which can be qualitatively sustained by a big corporation. And, in a world increasingly driven by gadgets supplying us with instant access to the world, I find great comfort in being on a first name basis with the person who grows my food - or at least knowing the name of their family farm. I can see the passion in their eyes when they tell me about the product they grew, and that’s where I wish to put my money. Whenever possible, I seek out a small seed-producing farm or seed-selling business. Likewise, when the seeds or plants you buy are grown in your region, they’re much more likely to succeed in your garden. Like any local, they understand the culture and know what to expect!
The following are a few of my favorite companies
From the Northwest:
Some Great Non-Local Companies and Organizations to know about are:
Happy Garden Planning!
Jennifer Rotermund is the owner of Gaiaceous Gardens (an urban farming and wildlife gardening business with a teaching garden/urban farm and certified wildlife habitat / sanctuary located in Shoreline). She is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Habitat Steward and is a Docent at the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden.