A Year in My Garden: Selecting Seeds
Welcome to the newest series on the Planting Justice blog: A Gardener’s Revolution! This year, I’ll be following one Planting Justice-installed garden (mine!) throughout the entire, bounteous California year — fall to winter to spring to summer, and back to fall.
— Nicole Wires, PJ Permaculture Designer
This year, I decided to grow all of my seedlings from seed. Starting seeds is a truly magical process — it never ceases to amaze me that the smallest, most fragile and unassuming seed can produce a bountiful, nourishing plant.
Choosing seeds to grow for the season is one of my favorite late-winter rituals. Take a visit to your local seed lending library and see what your neighbors and community have been growing and saving — in the Bay Area check out the BASIL Seed Library at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, the Seedfolks Seed Lending Library at the Cesar Chavez Branch of the Oakland Public Library, the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library at the Main Branch of the Richmond Public Library, or the SF Seed Library at the Potrero Hill branch of the San Francisco Public Library. If you decide to purchase seeds, a few of my favorite seed companies are Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit dedicated to preserving culturally diverse and genetically endangered food crop varieties, Native Seeds/SEARCH, a Tucson-based non-profit that preserves heirloom arid land seed varieties and works closely with indigenous communities in the desert Southwest to preserve seeds grown by generations of indigenous peoples. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds also has an amazing and fun variety or rare, heirloom seeds to explore. And of course, you can always save your own seeds — creating a truly self-sustaining landscape of vegetables well adapted to your own local micro-climate. When the time is right, I’ll write about all sorts of seed saving endeavors you can undertake from your own garden!
If you are going to be growing your own seeds at home, it helps to have a greenhouse. While a greenhouse isn’t necessary, it enables you to extend your growing season by nearly a month — seeds that you would normally need to wait until April to plant outside can be planted in a greenhouse in early to mid February. They will grow 6–8” tall by April, when they are ready to be transplanted out to your garden. At this rate, you’ll have fruits by mid-May, nearly a month early! If you don’t have a greenhouse, a south facing window with good solar exposure will do the trick! You can also try one of many products made to start seeds indoors, although I can’t recommend any as I’m not familiar with them. My guiding philosophy in my garden is to use reclaimed and recycled locally available products whenever possible, so I tend to steer clear of these pre-fabricated products.
I had already built a small greenhouse using a reclaimed single-pane window that I purchased from Urban Ore for only $10 (in a later post I will describe how I built my greenhouse, for anyone who wants to build one at home!), so once I made my selection my seeds were ready to plant! This year, I’ll be growing Ukrainian Purple Tomato, Isis Candy Tomato, Gold Medal Tomato, Black Cherry Tomato, Purple de Milpa Tomatillo, Sweet Fall Squash, Golden Zucchini, Garden Sunshine Pepper, Joe’s Long Cayenne, Seed Savers Lettuce Mixture, Pingtung Long Eggplant, Early Fortune Cucumber, Crystal Apple Cucumber, True Lemon, Oaxacan Green Dent Corn, Albino Beet and Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans. I also have cilantro, kale and arugula seeds that I saved from my garden last year, and I’ll be growing lots of new medicinal plants this spring! I’ll write a separate post entirely about my medicinal growing adventures, so stay tuned!