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Summer Dreams

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When winter keeps me out of the garden, I seek refuge inside, perusing the latest gardening books and dreaming of the upcoming gardening season.

When winter keeps me out of the garden, I seek refuge inside, perusing the latest gardening books and dreaming of the upcoming gardening season. The planning process, which includes references to seed catalogues and now the Internet, is one of the real pleasures of gardening.

Although new and fancy varieties are always being developed, what really excites me is the growing number of seed companies that offer organic seed for home gardeners.

Why the Excitement?

Organic seed is great because it's grown by farmers who do not use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers to produce their seed plants, conditions similar to those in my home garden. By purchasing organic seed, I'm also supporting organic farmers, many of them small-scale family operations.

One such operation is Stellar Seeds (stellarseeds.com), run by Patrick Steiner, who grows seed on a 10-acre farm outside Salmon Arm, BC. Patrick has developed a wonderful collection of vegetable, flower, and herb seeds. In the works for 2005 is a new carrot variety called Nutri-Red, which has a deep red colour from skin to core. Many restaurant chefs rave about it, as well as the Persimmon tomato, an heirloom golden-yellow variety that, according to Patrick, is one of the most beautiful tomatoes he's ever grown.

The Lure of Heirloom Varieties

It's the heirloom varieties that make organic seed so appealing. Many organic farmers prefer to grow heirloom varieties, which means that they are over 50 years old. To have such staying power, heirloom varieties have outstanding qualities distinct flavour, unusual colour, beautiful scent, or excellent yield. Anyone who has tasted a Brandywine tomato or smelled a Matucana sweet pea can attest that these heirlooms are indeed exceptional.

Dan Jason, owner of Salt Spring Seeds (saltspringseeds.com), is an expert on heirloom varieties. He maintains over 200 varieties of tomatoes as well as over 20 varieties of garlic and has been providing seed to home gardeners for over 18 years. Because heirlooms are open-pollinated, anyone can save seed in their home gardens and he encourages all his customers to do so. Seeds of Diversity Canada can help you with this. (seeds.ca).

Many health food stores now supply organic seed for their customers in the springtime. Until then, you can while away your winter afternoons dreaming of your garden and browsing the Internet for all the possibilities.

Seeds Online

Many seed companies specialize in organic seed. Here are just a few of my favourites:

Full Circle Seed in Sooke, BC (fullcircleseeds.com)
Terra Edibles in Foxboro, Ontario (terraedibles.ca)
Vesey's Seed in Charlottetown, PEI (veseys.com)

Seedy Saturday

Starting in February, communities across Canada begin holding what is known as Seedy Saturday, where local growers supply their seed directly to home gardeners. To find out when Seedy Saturday is happening in your community (or to start one), contact seedysaturday.ca.

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