BUSINESS: Astrid and Matthew Hoffman began growing and selling heirloom seeds through their business, the Living Seed Company, in 2011. The former interior designer and puppeteer met at the Solstice Grove Institute in Nicasio, where they butted heads before teaming up.
Husband-and-wife team Matthew and Astrid Hoffman are seed farmers and distributors who live in a large house with bright blue siding that sits across the street from Marin Sun Farms in Point Reyes Station. Their home—which they rent from a longtime Point Reyes resident who helps them package seeds—is the base of operations for the Living Seed Company, the couple’s nascent seed-saving business, and during the busy packaging season the whole house transforms into an office space strewn with seed packets and boxes filled with produce they’ve grown from the seeds they’ve saved, such as peppers and (surprisingly) watermelons.
“It’s pretty much just Matthew and myself,” said Astrid, who ran an ecological interior design company in Santa Monica prior to launching the Living Seed Company. “We hired a designer to do our website and we bring on seasonal volunteers, but we’re the two more-than full-time people in the company.”
The Living Seed Company is a local seed growing and vending business and online retailer that the Hoffmans created in 2011 to support themselves as a family and to promote sustainable seed-saving practices. The company also runs seed-saving education workshops and donates seeds to schools, farmers markets, libraries, correctional facilities and community gardens.
At the operational level, Astrid is in charge of the company’s in-house responsibilities: day-to-day administration, accounting, marketing, public and vendor relations. Matthew oversees the entire seed production, which encompasses the half-acre backyard load and two larger sites at Black Mountain Ranch.
“We’re trying to find a way to live and farm here in West Marin,” said Matthew, who grew up farming with his family in rural Wisconsin and worked as a giant puppeteer for Puppet Farm Arts. “We’re a young company focused on the greater good for the Bay Area. It’s definitely a dream to be in Point Reyes. Farmers are heroes here.”
Aside from saving seeds from their local stock, the Hoffmans coordinate with other growers along the West Coast and with some in the Midwest. The couple selects sources from a cream-of-the-crop vendor list that was given to them by a mentor whom they met while attending a weeklong seed school.
“There is a very delicate dance between knowing what to stock and how to prepare for the growing season,” Matthew said. “We’re fortunate to know we have high-quality seeds. Not all seeds are grown in climates similar to ours. It’s like the food movement: know your seed farmer.”
Living Seed is one of many regional seed growing organizations that have signed the Council for Responsible Genetics’ Safe Seed Pledge, by which buyers and sellers agree they will not knowingly trade in genetically modified or engineered seeds. Founded in 1983, the nonprofit council conducts research on genetics issues and provides a network for the non-G.M.O. seed market.
“Too often the conversation is limited to whether G.M.O. products are safe or not,” said Jeremy Gruber, the president of the Cambridge-based council. “The truth is that we just don’t know. There have been a number of studies, but there have been no long-term studies done that look at the effects of G.M.O.s over many years. Unfortunately, we live in a country that allows G.M.O. proliferation while studies are still being done.”
High-profile G.M.O. corporations like Monsanto have attracted media attention by their fierce lobbying to control product labeling rights and make it harder for the general public to know whether or not their food has been genetically modified. Meanwhile, since the 80s and 90s, these companies have slowly swallowed up small bioregional seed companies and, in doing so, have greatly reduced seed varieties.
“After thousands of years of seed-saving practices, there has been a huge shrinkage of available seed stores,” said Matthew, who believes fewer seed varieties put communities at risk by the possibility of climate change wiping out one or two predominant strains. “The future is moving back to smaller food systems. Seed saving allows people to adapt their seeds to their environment, so that the seeds become more resilient. It’s a process that takes years, but it’s important for regional food security.”
Unlike companies that produce hybrid G.M.O. seeds, Living Seed only sells what are known as “heirloom” seeds. All heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, which means they grow to produce offspring similar to their parent plants. This practice plays a key role in seed-saving techniques that, according to the Hoffmans, could over time restore seed variety, resilience and security.
“The miracle of a seed is pretty wonderful,” Astrid said. “Even though we’ve lost a lot over the past century, the opportunity is still there to create new heirlooms. Seeds are such intelligent beings, aware of where they are and adapting constantly.”
Like the seeds they grow, the Hoffmans have also had to adapt to changing conditions. The two met at the Solstice Grove Institute Program, a long-term environmental residency in Nicasio, where the couple butted heads at first but eventually found themselves talking about marriage and raising a family. The couple hopes to one day teach their children how to grow seeds, keeping the cycle of seed farming alive in West Marin.
To date, the Hoffmans have financed Living Seed through a variety of their own funds and loans from family and friends. Now, the company is in the midst of a two-week Kickstarter campaign (which was chosen as staff pick by Kickstarter within five minutes after launching). The Hoffmans have until Dec. 17 to raise $15,000.
Funds raised will go toward updating the seed packet image and revamping the website’s shopping cart feature, as well as streamlining office functions so that both Hoffmans can spend more time growing and breeding local seeds.
To pledge to the Living Seed Company’s kickstarter campaign please visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/livingseed/growing-a-delicious-beau…
Denver Urban Gardens
The Living Seed Company believes everyone should have access to vital, pure, open-pollinated seed varieties and through their The Giving Seed Program, seed donations have been sent to Haiti, India, Africa, Europe, South America and throughout the United States.
Over the past three years, The Giving Seed Program has given away over 4,000 packets of fresh heirloom seeds to school garden programs, inner city youth programs, community gardens, seed libraries, food banks, correctional facilities, veteran programs and others. The Living Seed Company also covers the cost of shipping.
We take recommendations for seed donations, feel free to email us at info@LivingSeedCompany.com. Interested in donating to our program?
Donations can also be made by calling us at 415.663.8002 or by sending a check to:
The Living Seed Company
P.O. Box 177
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Women’s Earth Alliance Seed Donation India
The Giving Seed Program began with a vision to give back to our local, national and global community. We kicked it off with donating a collection for every ten collections sold.
Today, aside from giving away collections, we are also giving away individual packets suited to particular growing regions and community needs.
The Living Seed Company also gives out Basic Saving Booklets to encourage and support communities saving seeds and adapting them to their bio-regions.
A Few of our Donation Recipients
Inner City Coalition
- Seed Lending Library | Steamboat Springs, CO
- N.W. Regional Correctional Facility | McChord, WA
- Denver Urban Gardens | Denver, CO
- Mill Valley Seed Library | Mill Valley, CA
- Hunters Point Family Girls Program | San Francisco, CA
- The 4-H Auerfarm | Bloomfield, CT
- Youth Over the Rhine | Cincinnati, OH
- AgriCorps | San Jose, CA
- Opportunities Over the Rhine | Cincinnati, OH
- Capital District Community Gardens | Troy, NY
- Comida del Bosque | 4 Corners
- The Institue of Ag | Steamboat Springs, CO
- Huichol People | Mexico
- Idaho Plant a Row | Coeur d’Alene, ID
- Church Living Stone Baptist | Chesterfield, VA
- Alfred Community Garden | Alfred, NY
- San Quentin Correctional Facility | San Rafael, CA
- Alder Ave School | Egg Harbor Township, NJ
- The Neighborhood Farm Initiative | Washington DC
Thank you so much for your seed donation and for what your company is doing to save these valuable seeds. M. Fay
We are so appreciative of your generosity in choosing DUG as the recipient of a seed donation. Your donation means so much to the gardening community in Denver. Thank you! J. Romer
We are greatly appreciate your effort and helping us with the seeds program for Haiti. Again many thanks May God richly bless you. Pastor J. M. Etienne
With the amazing response we have received from highlighting our favorite seeds, we have decided to do a seed of the week!
Every week we are going to introduce a Seed of the Week, where we are going to select one seed to highlight. We will share the historical attributes, the story that makes this variety an heirloom and why we love it so much!
The Vermont Cranberry Bean is an extremely versatile heirloom, able to be enjoyed as a snap, shell or dry bean. Originally dating back to the 1800’s from Northern New England, this bean is truly timeless in its taste, texture and appearance! Known as mild bean, that can easily absorb the flavors it is cooked with.
This is an excellent bean for West Coast climates that has a tendency towards cooler nights.
Interested in trying your hand at seed saving? Beans are one of the easiest crops to start with! Let the plant dry completely down, harvest pods, remove beans and store in an air tight (not vacuum sealed) jar. If rain is approaching and you have not harvested your beans yet, pull the entire plant, roots and all and place in a dry and rodent-free place, until the pods are completely dry.
Please meet … Vermont Cranberry Pole Bean
What a wonderful heirloom pole bean from Vermont! Multipurpose, maroon with cranberry stripes, bean can be used as a dry bean with a rich flavor for soups and makes an outstanding baked bean. Also an incredibly beautiful pink-striped snap bean and great as a shelly.
This bean will do great in cool-weather, short season climates. Dry bean keeps great in storage.
With California experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record and Governor Brown having declared a state of emergency, it is no wonder many gardeners have decided to let their gardens go fallow this year. The only problem with that philosophy is that by planting a garden this year, could be one of the wisest thing gardeners can do, to actually save water. There is a misunderstanding that growing a garden takes a lot of water. On the contrary, gardens when done properly, do not require much water at all.
The irony, in this misnomer, is that factory farms and large farming operations, intensely and often improperly use water to not only irrigate crops, but also to wash and prepare veggies for market. A backyard garden would use a dramatically less amount of water to grow and wash the same vegetables.
In the shadows on this drought, it is also estimated that food prices are on the rise. With California being one of the largest global producers of vegetables, fruits and nuts, it is only natural that prices will reflect the effects of this drought. It is also speculated that it will have a two-year impact on tree crops, such as fruit and nuts, since its takes these crops longer to recover from the drought.
Quoted from the USDA website:
Despite the surge in the fresh fruit … and ongoing concerns regarding the effect of the California drought, farm-level fruit prices fell 6.8 percent in March, and farm vegetable prices rose 1 percent. The timing of the effects of the drought on prices … depends heavily on the harvest period for each
commodity; such effects may not occur until the Summer or Fall of 2014.
This forecast is based on an assumption of normal weather conditions; however, severe weather events could potentially drive up food prices beyond the current forecasts. In particular, the ongoing drought in California could potentially have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy, and egg prices …
We have come a long way in water technology to design and create systems that inherently are water efficient and more effective in their purpose, for example to water plants and not sidewalks.
By integrating a drip system in your own garden, you are not only effectively watering your plants, by targeting their roots, but you are also using a system that conserves water. Not all gardens will have the ability to have drip installed, but there are further alternatives in water technology to be water wise. Not all nozzles are created equal. Using nozzles that properly aerate and distribute water can be a simple solution for those who enjoy hand watering their gardens.
Consider collecting the water, that is wasted, when you are waiting for the water to heat up to water your garden. Do you have aerators on your kitchen and bathroom faucets? Another simple water saving solution under $2.
Think of your stormwater and greywater, are you properly managing the water on your property? These days, installing rain barrels to a downspout is a simple and cost-effective solution to re-purpose our rainwater. Creating burms and swales helps navigate our storm water from ever even leaving our property and allowing it to properly be retained in the soil and replenish our water tables. Rerouting the waste water from your washing machine is another effective solution to water your trees. Best to use biodegradable detergents and naturally based detergents, if you are considering this option or are already implementing it.
Building soil in your garden is the key to healthier crops, better water retention and drainage, better soil structure and less susceptibility to pests and disease. Healthy soil is the foundation of every garden and farm.
There are many simple cost-effective ways to add organic matter into your garden, such as planting a cover crop in the fall and using it as green manure. Other simple ways are sheet mulching, adding compost and integrating well-rotted manure. Mulching is another excellent way of building organic matter, suppressing weeds, preventing rain compaction, but most of all, it will retail moisture in the soil. There are many types of mulch, anything from grass clippings to leaves (oak leaves in particular make an excellent mulch). If you choose to buy your mulch and wanting to buy straw, make sure that you are buying straw and not hay. Hay will have seedheads that eventually will sprout in your garden. Maintain the 5% – 6% organic matter rule, as too much of it can over stimulate the microorganisms in the soil which can cause soil fertility to decline.
Soil that is properly tended, without chemicals and with the microbiology of the underground flora in mind will support and replenish water tables.
Saving seed this year is going to be another simple step in adapting, your vegetables to be being able to thrive on less water, if you replant them year after year. The more you save and adapt your seeds, the more resistant the seeds will be to pests and disease and adapted to your specific local climate and soil. In turn, if there is inclement weather, your crops are more likely to be resilient and able to properly respond to changes, such as drought.
Another way to save water in your garden or farm is to start exploring dry farming. With a long history, Mediterranean countries have been dry farming olives and grapes for thousands of years, producing some of the finest wines and olive oils. It is the process of establishing your crop, on the onset with irrigation and then removing it. This stress causes the plant to reach deep into the water table to find its water and re-hydrate itself. What happens in the process is that by restricting the water intake, the fruits have less water content, this naturally raises their sugar content as well as other enhancing flavor compounds, creating scrumptious fruits and vegetables.
If dry farming interests you, there things to keep in mind. You should know your water table levels, be assured that the plants you plan on dry farming are more drought resistant and lastly dry farm from the beginning. Varieties that thrive in this method are grapes, olives, pumpkins, melons, tomatoes, garbanzos, apricots, apples, grains, potatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes and winter squash.
This may be the beginning of seeing the possibilities of growing food in a year of drought, while also empowering you to take a deeper look at where water conservation techniques can be integrated in your home, whether you own or not.
Ever thought about planting a winter garden, but not sure what to plant? Fret not, here in coastal Northern California, we are blessed to have a mild winter that allows us to keep our garden going year round. By integrating some simple DIY strategies, you will no longer feel like you are missing a single growing season.
Discovering all the amazing cold tolerate winter crops is an excellent way to begin planning your garden. Think of what you and your family love to eat and plant from there. Amongst some of the amazing veggies that thrive in our mild winters (and year round for that matter) are broccoli, cabbage, radish, spinach, collards, Brussels sprouts, kale, carrots, parsnips, chives, potatoes, leeks, mustard, broccoli, turnips, beets, chard, lettuce, peas, fava beans, carrots, celery and parsley.
Understanding your plant’s hardiness is an excellent step in growing a successful winter garden. The hardiness will indicate to you, how much extra care your plant(s) will need, if frost is expected. Some simple solutions, that work, are using old sheets to cover citrus and other tender plants and trees. Note the sheet should reach the ground, in order for it to be effective, as the soil gives off heat and you want to be able to capture as much of it as possible. Use clamps and bricks to keep the sheet in place. Other, more time-consuming, solutions could be creating a tunnel over your garden bed using stakes, old PVC pipes and a row cover to place over your new structure. Firm wire can also be used instead of PVC pipes, but offers less stability. The tunnel solution can also be easily adjusted if the temperature gets unexpectedly warm, you can simply slide off the row cover. Row covers not only raise the temperature but also protects your plants from pests, a solution used year round by some farmers. If kept dry and properly stored, row covers can last year after year. Another simple solution, for raising the temperature in your garden, is by using cloches on individual plants. Cloches are coverings for plants during cold temperatures. This solution can be difficult if you have a large garden or farm, but could be used if you have a handful of plants that you’d like to protect. Have some large plastic water bottles hanging around? Cut the bottoms and voila, you have your cloches! Place bottle over plants during freezing weather.
Using cold frames is an efficient solution if you find yourself without a greenhouse. Cold frames are small enclosures with a glass top that can easily be opened or closed and used to protect plants during cold weather. Cold frames can be fancy or rudimentary – depending on your budget. Either way, cold frames are indispensable in Northern California gardens, as they help extend the seasons in the winter and in the fall and are essential in protecting your seedlings as they harden off. The idea of a cold frame can be mimicked by using an old window and leaning it against some thermal mass ie: concrete wall and placing your plants inside. It is a simple and cost-effective solution to protect some of your plants against frost.
Keep in mind that although we received some refreshing rain, we are still in a drought. It’s a good time to begin gardening with unpredictable weather in mind, as climate change is proving to us that we really don’t know what to expect year after year.
Saving seeds is one of the easiest and most practical ways to innately adapt your seeds, to your soil, climate and region while also making them less susceptible to pest and disease. When you save your seeds in a drought year, those seeds that are saved, will be inherently more apt to growing with the need for less water. This is not only opportunity for more regionally adapted seeds, in a time when water is uncertain and food prices are on the rise. The USDA states that drought in key agricultural areas or other severe weather events could potentially drive up food prices beyond the current forecasts.
This is a fabulous time to start thinking of the delicious ripe tomatoes you will be enjoying this summer, you may want to consider dry-farming them for optimal taste! And don’t forget to start your tomato and pepper seeds indoors
Want a spring garden abundant with flowers? This is an ideal time to plant wildflowers, as they need to vernalize before they can germinate. Wildflowers provide forage for our pollinators and butterflies while offering us their beauty!
Written by: Kirsten Hudson for Organic Authority
Handed down through generations, heirloom seeds offer a taste of the past. Often described as “open pollinated” seeds that have a long history, heirloom seeds can make for a diverse and downright gorgeous, organic garden. Like a family keepsake, these seeds offer something precious. Once planted, they’ll bloom into a one-of-a-kind fruit, vegetable, herb or flower that hasn’t been tainted by genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or pesticides.
Modern hybrids, which are created by crossing two selected varieties, often produce infertile plants. But heirlooms will yield the same plant year after year, which means you can always save the seeds for next year’s crop. Heirlooms also offer a connection with history. Essentially, you’ll be eating the same plump tomatoes that your ancestors enjoyed.
So, what else makes these vintage seeds inherently superior?
Many hybrid fruits and vegetables have been bred to produce more crop, or to resist certain diseases and insects. Unfortunately, these “features” often sacrifice taste in the process.
Plants from heirloom seeds weren’t designed to be carted across the country or hoarded in cold storage for weeks, like many commercially grown fruits and vegetables. Instead, heirlooms were carefully selected for their flavor. After all, who wants to go out to their backyard garden and pick a bunch of carrots that taste like cardboard?
And once you’ve tasted a juicy heirloom tomato, it’s unlikely you’ll ever think the same about a supermarket tomato again.
Amped up nutrition
With heirlooms, taste and nutrition go together. You can’t get much fresher than just picked-off-the-vine or pulled-from-the-dirt fruits and veggies—and that means maximum nutrition.
Hybrids, however, have been bred for certain traits—such as producing higher yields—that sacrifice nutritional content in the process. The traits that make carrots, potatoes and other produce uniform in size and faster growing can also mean a lower quality food.
Heirloom fruits and veggies come in an all-out medley of kooky shapes, colors and textures. From deep red carrots to wonky-shaped tomatoes to bright pink bananas, you just can’t get the same fun variety from hybrid fruits and vegetables.
Contribute to the cause
By choosing to plant heirloom seeds, you’re participating in a mission to diversify our food supply and preserve cultural history. As commercial growers increasingly opt to only plant a small variety of species, we’re losing genetic diversity in our seeds, and therefore our food. This can potentially compromise the nutritional value of our food, lead to issues with soil in farming and potential food blights. Couple that with the increasing GMOs introduced into our produce and it’s a potential recipe for disaster… convinced yet?
Want to take part in the tradition?
Several organizations offer GMO- and pesticide-free heirloom seeds. Browse their catalogs and get excited for this year’s garden!
Follow Kirsten on Twitter @kirsten_hudson
This article was originally published on Organic Authority, an organic living online magazine. View the original article.
Brigid Gaffikin as written for The San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Paul Chinn / The Chronicle
Matthew Hoffman and Astrid Lindo, owners of the Living Seed Co., grow several varieties of produce and plants in their garden in Nicasio.
From their home in a quiet stretch of Marin County near San Geronimo, two entrepreneurs are hoping to take gardening back to a time when an abundance of plant diversity was the norm.
Matthew Hoffman and Astrid Lindo grow, source and sell seeds of rare and heirloom edibles. Their young business, the Living Seed Co., hung up its virtual shingle just last year.
“What’s amazing is 100 years ago, everybody saved their own seed and in just a short period of time, just a couple of generations, all that changed,” Lindo said.
The numbers behind this shift are remarkable, according to a study of crop diversity in the United States by the Rural Advancement Foundation International, a family farm policy and advocacy group. By 1983, the 408 varieties of peas cultivated on American farms some 80 years earlier had dwindled to 25. Sweet corn saw a drop from 307 to 12 varieties.
Lindo and Hoffman are new to farming but have embraced their venture with a quiet energy and intensity that one suspects drove their lives well before they founded the company.
Hoffman, 36, traveled the world for a decade as a puppeteer with Jane Goodall’s Giant Peace Dove Campaign. Lindo, 35, was born in Colombia but moved to Miami as a toddler. As an adult, she studied in Europe and New York before opening an interior design firm in Southern California. They met in 2009 and decided to make a life together.
A new career
Hoffman began thinking about a new career – one that would support the couple’s commitment to helping others live healthy lives and that would support a family, too.
Starting a seed company seemed a natural fit. Hoffman grew up in rural Wisconsin in a family of gardeners and as a young child lived 2 miles off the grid in a two-room cabin.
“Really it just kind of clicked,” he said. “To be able to grow your own seeds for your own garden … seems a really beautiful way to raise a family.”
Hoffman undertook intensive training in New Mexico at the first-ever seed school taught by Bill McDorman, one of the veterans of the contemporary North American seed-saving movement.
His enthusiasm was infectious; within a few months, Lindo decided to set aside her interior design business and immerse herself in the fledgling business. The couple talked with experienced seed growers and farmers, researched catalogs, and scanned gardening forums and blogs online. And then they dug in and began growing their own seed. At the outset, they largely bootstrapped the company. When they decided to expand, they secured loans from friends.
“It was so beautiful,” Lindo said. “To look back, you know, and a year later we’d farmed a third of an acre of painted mountain corn and some squash and tomatoes and lettuce.”
McDorman, director of Native Seeds/Search, a Tucson organization focused on conserving the genetic diversity of crops grown in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, is effusive in his praise of the couple.
“These young kids are way smarter than we were,” he remarked, reflecting on his generation of seed savers in the 1970s. “Matthew and Astrid are indicative of what’s coming, a whole new wave.”
Seed trading among farmers a century ago has its modern counterpart in businesses like the Living Seed Co., he said.
“That’s where the real revolution is happening, in urban agriculture.”
For Lindo and Hoffman, revolution goes hand in hand with education.
“I think part of our responsibility is to re-inspire people to grow out some of these unique varieties and keep them going and keep them fresh,” Lindo said. “A lot of seed companies are taking them off the racks, and so they may just disappear.”
Adapting to location
“You can watch, over the season, which of your lettuce plants or tomato plants did really well, save the seeds from those, plant them again the next year,” Hoffman said. “That’s one of the beauties of seed saving … every time you save your own seeds, you’re adapting it to your location, so that plant’s going to do better each succession.”
Four of the company’s five seed collections include a seed-saving booklet that groups seeds by how easy or difficult they are to save.
The couple have embraced the educational potential in the Internet, too. They have a lively Twitter feed, a blog and a Facebook page as well as a YouTube channel with instructional videos on seed-saving techniques.
The company also donates seeds to school garden programs, urban garden programs and correctional facilities.
“Most people aren’t going to grow all of their own food, but growing some of their own food – it’s fulfilling in a way that’s beyond, you know, explaining to somebody unless you’ve done it,” Hoffman said. “But it’s worth the experiment, even if you’re just growing a little bit of lettuce.”
Seeds with a story
The Living Seed Co. grows its own seeds in Dixon and Nicasio and sources other seeds from seed banks that farm only in North America. A look at some of the offerings:
‘Amish Paste’ tomato: An heirloom tomato with origins in Philadelphia, the ‘Amish Paste’ disappeared for decades before being rediscovered in Wisconsin. Delicious fresh but also ideal for canning and sauces.
‘Mammoth Grey Stripe’ sunflower: This drought-tolerant, long-blooming, fast-growing native sunflower reaches heights of up to 12 feet, and its flowering head can reach a width of 2 feet. The seeds can be eaten or used for butter or oil.
‘Painted Mountain’ corn: A highly productive flour corn developed by cross-breeding 70 corn varieties for high-altitude growing, a short season and extreme conditions in countries experiencing famine.
‘Stars and Moon’ watermelon: Introduced in North America around 1900 and a staple of seed catalogs in the early decades of the 1900s, this deeply hued, pink-fleshed melon is dappled with yellow blotches that resemble stars in a night sky. It was rediscovered in Missouri in 1980.
‘Merveille des Quatre Saisons’ lettuce: A vigorous French butter-head with a long growing season and tolerant of a wide range of climates, this heirloom lettuce was grown in France at least as early as the late 19th century.
Brigid Gaffikin is a freelance writer in Piedmont. email@example.com
This article appeared on page F – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
So you got your seeds in the mail, you’re so excited … but not quite sure where to start? Still pondering what seeds to buy?Wondering what the difference between hybrid and heirlooms?Well first think of the space you are working with and plan accordingly. Since you are ready to plant, hopefully your soil has been amended properly with organic matter or you are starting your garden with an organic soil mix (we would recommend anything that is OMRI certified). Remember, healthy soil = healthy plants, everything begins in the soil. If you have not had your soil tested and are not sure what may be in your soil, we recommend raised beds and/or containers. More info on container gardens coming soon, so stay tuned to my next post Following the Sun – Container Gardening 101.
Some of your varieties will grow horizontally, think squash, while others grow vertically, think peas. Taking this into consideration is key to a successful garden. I would recommend finding an unused journal or notebook that you can designate as your garden journal. This is key to help you remember where you planted things in past seasons. To keep your soil healthy it is important to rotate your crops, if you are planting heavy feeders. Rotating can also prevent diseases from being transferred from one plant to another. Our seed packets are a wealth of information and will inform you if varieties are heavy feeders or not.
Now its time to plant! If you are direct seeding, planting in the soil, you will want to make sure there is ample space between everything (each variety needs an allotted amount of space). Don’t be too paranoid and use a ruler in the garden; gardening is more organic than that, no pun intended. If you over-seed, you can eat your mistakes, but crowding your vegetables can also compromise their nutrient intake and can ultimately stunt your crops. There is a fine balance so just have fun! There are some seeds that can be broadcasted, instead of being planted individually. As those seedlings start coming up and growing their first “seed leaves,” start to rogue (pluck out) the weaker ones. As the leaves of the seedlings begin to start touching, rogue those out as well, over-crowding is a disadvantage when the roots and the growth of the plant become compromised.
Make sure that you have followed the directions on each seed packet, about how deep each variety should be planted. Each seed packet is choke-full of great info that will help guide you to yielding a great harvest!
After all your seeds are tucked away in the earth, remember to sprinkle them generously with water. This is what will awaken your seeds, this is where magic happens! The soil must continue to stay moist for germination to occur, this means watering every day. Should the soil dry up, you may risk having lost those seeds. Remember you are nurturing this tiny seedling to emerge into the world, it needs your love and care … and even your song, so don’t be shy! If you are starting some of your seeds indoors, don’t forget to harden-off your seeds before planting them in the soil or moving them outside, that means exposing your seedlings to colder air little by little. Some folks use a cold frame, which is also great solution.
Continue to nurture your plants until the completion of your harvest. Plan accordingly if you plan on saving your seeds. You may want to grow extra plants, so you can enjoy some of the harvest and save the seeds. Use your Basic Seed Saving book that we provided for you for the best information on how to properly save your seeds.
Storing your Seeds
Remember seeds, are living embryos, they should not be left in a hot place, ie: your car or a hot garage. As long as the seeds are being stored in a cool and dry place, they will be fine. We recommend keeping them stored in the Mylar envelop the come in.
Try to keep them out of direct sun and moisture when you are in the garden planting. If you choose to store them in the refrigerator, they can last from 4 – 10 years (depending on each seed’s viability).
If you do choose to use the fridge as your seed storage facility, make sure that the zip lock part of the envelope is sealed. When you do use the seeds, just let the Mylar bag sit out at room temperature until for a couple of hours, to let the seeds get to room temperature, to avoid moisture condensation forming in the seeds inside.