Here we are at the start of a new year. The weather is cold, snow is on the ground and other than rotating and replenishing our food storage, we can't do much more this month to produce food for the new year.
Of course that isn't true. Now is the time to be pouring through seed catalogs, planning our garden layout, sharpening and oiling garden tools and stocking up on non-hybrid seeds.
Non-hybrid? Absolutely. It is ok to grow today’s genetically modified and hybrid seeds if you are absolutely sure that there will be seeds available for purchase in 2011, but the risk of that not being true is always a possibility.
Don't take the chance.
Genetically altered and hybrid seeds typically can't be harvested from your crop for use in next year’s crop. They aren't designed to produce multiple generations of harvests.
This year, be sure to include heirloom seed varieties in your planning. If you decide to use a mix of heirloom and hybrid seeds, plant them far apart so the heirlooms aren't polluted through cross pollination.
This year, learn how to harvest and store seeds from your crops to plant your garden next year. Eventually, we will all probably need to know this skill and have the correct variety of seeds in our garden storage cache.
Seeds have a limited life. By year three, you'll probably only have 60% successful germination. Year four and five germination will drop off even more dramatically. Seeds need to be stored in cool, dry locations in containers that allow them to breathe. They are alive. Storing them in airtight contains will kill them in a few years or less based on the amount of free oxygen in the container.
We read stories of grains that were found in Egyptian pyramids that were successfully germinated millennia later. What the stories don't tell is that only one out of a thousand or ten thousand actually grew. We certainly don't want that type of a response in our own plantings, especially in a time of need.
Don't forget to include herbs in your gardens and seed storage.
Food always tastes better when fresh herbs are used and if you are growing your own supplies, you are independent of the expensive and possibly non-existent supplies at the store. Herb gardens don't take a large foot print of soil. The space required is small. In fact, you can grow a very good herb garden in pots on your patio.
2010 is the year to have a garden if you haven't had one in the past. It is the year to carefully consider the varieties, fertilization and annual rotation plans for continued successful gardens. It is the year to plant vegetables among your flowers and harness the natural protection, pollination and shade that these mixed gardens create in complementary plantings.
Among other places, heirloom seeds can be found in the following catalogs:
Johnny's Selected Seeds http://www.johnnyseeds.com
Heirloom Seeds http://www.heirloomseeds.com
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds http://rareseeds.com
Amishland Heirloom Seeds http://www.amishlandseeds.com
Territorial Seed Company http://www.territorialseed.com
Consider participating swapping or donating some of your 2010 seeds with other family
members or organizations like Seed Savers Exchange: http://www.seedsavers.org
Order your seed catalogs this week. Even though the ground is covered in white, you'll quickly find
yourself imagining the warmth of the summer as you peruse the catalog pages and make your selections.