Column, Farming, Gardening

Column | On the Farm: Seeds, Okra, Seed Swaps

Photo by Max LaMonte. Picture is taken from the tallest tree on our hillside.

It’s time to order seeds again

 I am going to repeat some of the material from last year’s column about seeds, because I want my neighbors in Gales Creek and Banks to have seed buying information at their fingertips.

Steve Solomon, the founder of Territorial Seeds, quotes a salesman from a large seed company; “the home gardener gets the sweeping from the seed room floor.” This is probably an exaggeration, but it put me on notice to be very selective in choosing which companies to buy seeds from.

Luckily, there are a number of Northwest seed companies who cater to home gardeners and small farmers, whose growing and sourcing practices are ethical and transparent, and whose varieties are well suited to our growing conditions. These are our favorites:

Adaptive Seeds (near Sweet Home, Oregon) Organic, all open pollinated, grown on their own farm and nearby farms clearly identified, excellent varieties not available elsewhere.

Nichols Garden Nursery (Albany, Oregon) Open pollinated and hybrid, some organic. Third generation company, great varieties for our region: they work with small local seed producers.

Victory Seeds (Molalla, Oregon) Not certified organic, all open pollinated. Devoted to the preservation of heirloom varieties, especially good selection of traditional tomato varieties and new Open Source Seed Initiative varieties

Wild Garden Seeds (Philomath, Oregon) Organic, all open pollinated, grown on their own farm. Frank Morton, the founder and principle plant breeder of Wild Garden Seeds is a national treasure. All of the seed is grown by Frank and his crew at Gathering Together Farm. The best source for lettuce, many greens, and other vegetables that will thrive in our region. We start with Wild Garden Seeds and Adaptive Seeds, and fill in from the others.

Uprising Organics (Bellingham, Washington) All organic; seed grown by family farms. Excellent descriptions in the catalog and some unique and wonderful varieties.

Many home gardeners assume that if the seeds they buy don’t germinate, it must be their fault. But if most of your seeds perform beautifully and a few do not, it is probably the seeds that are the problem and not you. If you believe you planted properly and got poor results, contact the seed company and let it know about your problem. And get a refund, since a replacement seed package is likely to have the same problem. Last year, I got two kinds of seed from Gourmet Seeds International, a California company that deals mostly in imported European seeds. None of the onion seeds I got from them germinated, and only one of about 40 eggplant seeds. I have had good luck with seeds from this company in the past; and unlike the companies listed above, they are not selling seed they know intimately. I was ready to give them another chance. But when they did not respond – to a voice message I left and an email I sent – with a big apology and a refund or even a return call, I wrote them off.

New this year

For a few years, Andrew Still from Adaptive Seeds has been promising me that he would have an Okra variety that would be successful in the Northwest. This year, it is in the catalog and we are sure going to try it. I lived in the DC area for more than ten years and in North Carolina for two years, and I love Southern food. I have tried growing okra here in the past and each time, got one okra pod (or none) from each plant. Although the okra from Adaptive is native to Burma, it apparently can stand our cool nights and long days. Okra is a member of the same family as hibiscus (and cotton! and cocoa!), so it has beautiful flowers. I am looking forward to gumbo.

Another typical Southern vegetable that I love and have missed is Lima Beans. I want some real succotash, which is limas and sweet corn, with a little fresh sweet onion and a lot of butter. Uprising Organics has a variety, Jackson, which I have seen in several catalogs in the past. But this time the description in Uprising Organics says that this variety is adapted to cool nights. I hope!

Seed Swap

The Dairy Creek Community Food Web is holding its annual Spring Seed Swap at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Forest Grove on February 16 at 10:00 am. We will not be able to attend, but some of our seeds will be there, including some of our farm-bred and rare varieties that are not available commercially.

There will be local experts to answer your questions, lots of resource materials, tool sharpening, and many, many kinds of seeds.

What we are eating now.

 So many choices.

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