Month: April 2021

The moment a researcher holds a bottle not touched for 142 years.

One of the World’s Oldest Scientific Experiments Rises from the Earth

Under cover of darkness in a secret location,  a group of scientists from Michigan State University  embarks on a treasure hunt following a hand-drawn map.

The object of their search: a bottle filled with sand and a bunch of really old seeds.  The researchers are participating in a multi-century attempt to figure out how long seeds can lie dormant in the soil without losing their ability to germinate. Bottles of seeds were buried 142 years ago and  one bottle is dug up every 20 years to measure their persistence.  New technology  has expanded the scope of the project allowing the keepers of the stash the ability to look inside the seeds to discover how they tick.

Read the full story in The New York Times here or in IFLScience here.

If the story fascinates you, join the Great American Seed Up and Urban Farm U for Seed Up Saturday  to learn more about the ancient art of seed saving.  In these uncertain times, Seed Up Saturday is 3 hours of seed education to empower you to increase your food security by learning to save seeds.

Saturday, May 22, 2021 from 9am 12pm AZ/Pacific Time.  Reserve your spot at SeedUpSaturday.com.

Happy Earth Day!

Seed the Change for Earth Day!

The Great American Seed Up and Urban Farm U present Seed Up Saturday, on May 22, 2021, from 9 am – 12 noon Pacific time. Seed Up Saturday will feature a series of short seed saving classes jam packed with seed saving education that will empower you to increase your food security by learning to save seeds.  Topics include urban seed saving, learning about and adapting landrace seeds to your backyard, wildflower cultivation and more. This is a free event and includes plenty of time for questions and answers. More information and registration is available at: SeedUpSaurday.org

As strange as it may sound, seed saving is a logical and accessible strategy to mitigate climate change. With Earth Day right around the corner, April 22, and the current challenges of modern chemical agriculture contributing to global warming, there is no better time to embrace gardening and seed saving. 

Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people annually as a day of to support and celebrate the earth.

Although Earth Day is widely publicized, many of us may not know much about the history of this critical day.  Once you learn a bit more about why there’s a day reserved to honor the planet’s health, you’ll find there are plenty of meaningful ways to support the environment and to share the importance of the day with others.

Over 51 years ago, two concerned citizens launched what would become a global movement to recognize our connection to the environment as well as how our impacts were adversely affecting the earth’s health and our own.  Originally modeled after the “teach ins” of the 1960’s, freshman Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) and activist Denis Hayes organized events throughout this country to bring attention to the issues of the day: air and water pollution, species extinction and dangerous use of pesticides, herbicides and other poisons that threaten public health. 

As a result of this momentous call to action, bipartisan efforts lead to the creation of the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Endangered Species Act. These laws have benefited the environment and human health.  For example, the Clean Air Act is credited with a 40-year track record of cutting dangerous pollution and has prevented more than 400,000 premature deaths and hundreds of millions of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.1

But there is still so much to do. Today we are facing a new series of challenges. Food system activities, including producing food, transporting it, warehousing, packaging and storing wasted food in landfills, produce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. 

Concurrently, rainforests are being decimated in record numbers to make way for cattle grazing, logging, mining and monocrop production of food commodities such as palm oil or soy.  Forests play a huge role in the carbon cycle on our planet. When they are cut down, not only does carbon absorption halt but also the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere as CO2. The increase in CO2 build up is linked to warming oceans, melting icebergs and a surge of catastrophic weather events.2  

What is a caring earth citizen to do in this new reality of resource extraction and extreme environmental devastation? While we may not individually be able to solve climate change, collectively there are small things we can do to help reverse the damage.

Two of the best ways to make a difference are to grow food and save some seeds! 

Did you know that the average distance our food travels to get to our plates is 1,500 miles?  Large corporate farms contribute to global warming in many ways. Dependent upon fossil fuels to run large machinery and our desire to have on-demand cuisine (sourced from around the globe and not seasonal), we force our soil to perform “at any cost.”  And we strip the soil’s nutrients through using chemical applications to allow us to have food on our tables when and where we want it. 

Growing a home garden and saving seeds can help to mitigate these problems.

In order to save seeds, you have to grow the plant from which the seeds are harvested. Researchers at the University of California – Santa Barbara demonstrated that greenhouse gas emissions can be cut by 2 kilograms for every kilo of homegrown vegetables when compared to the store-bought counterpart. 

Grow something delicious that you love. Eat it. The food travels 50 feet from your garden to your table – no fossil fuels needed.  Plus, you will benefit from the nutritional advantages of homegrown foods. 

When planning your garden, select food plants from “land race” seeds that readily adapt to various climates and that thrive without chemical applications or other inputs. When your garden matures, save the seeds from the plants that have grown exceptionally well and taste delicious. These plants have acclimated, and that flavor and resiliency will be conveyed into the following season’s crop!

Plants often seed so prolifically that they almost have to be shared due to the abundance produced by one plant. Community and school gardens, seed libraries, churches and neighborhoods are beginning to understand the importance and value of seed saving. One of the benefits in seed sharing is the connection that seed savers have with each other when enjoying the bounty. Saving seeds is so alluring and empowering many are baffled that they haven’t saved seeds longer!  

 

Unfortunately, seeds have become commodities to be sold where once they belonged to communities or regions and were shared amongst their members.  But Like many of our consumables around the world, China now grows many organic seed crops.  Seeds produced in China have to be shipped thousands of miles to reach western consumers.  This is another good reason to bring this ancient ritual “home.”  

 

There is so much to learn about seeds and how they offer us so many tasty benefits, opportunities and connections. Join the Great American Seed Up on Saturday, May 22nd at 9 am Pacific time and be amazed by this tradition of growing and saving seeds. Register at SeedUpSaturday.org

 

  1. “The Clean Air Act.” Union of Concerned Scientists, 1 Feb. 2012, www.ucsusa.org/resources/clean-air-act.
  2. Media, Web Smart. “Climate Change – Deforestation.” Climate and Weather, 2020, www.climateandweather.net/global-warming/deforestation/#:~:text=Forests%20play%20a%20huge%20role,rot%20after%20the%20deforestation%20process.
  3. University of California – Santa Barbara. “How does your garden grow? Researchers model the effect of household gardens on greenhouse gas emissions. ” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160907125128.htm 
April 14 is National Gardening Day

NATIONAL GARDENING DAY APRIL 14, 2021

If social distancing and staying at home are inspiring your green thumb, you have an extra reason to give it a try on Wednesday.

National Gardening Day on April 14th encourages gardeners and aspiring gardeners to grab a shovel and some seeds and kick-off a beautiful season of homegrown bounty. Everyone is invited from balcony and indoor gardeners to flower fanatics and vegetable growing devotees.

As many gardeners know, the advantages of gardening come from more than the produce. Gardening can also provide a wonderful feeling of satisfaction because of the beauty created where there was none before. Spending time in the garden provides physical activity and an opportunity to join with nature. down-to-earth chores as digging in the dirt, harvesting produce, and planting bulbs relaxes some people and gives others a burst of energy.  And growing food can supply chemical-free vegetables to nourish the family at a fraction of grocery store prices.

The observance is a call to action to get out and grow! What you do on Wednesday, April 14 is completely up to you – the most important thing is to take time to celebrate your garden.

HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalGardeningDay

There are many ways that you can celebrate the day, including:

  • Find the right book, guide or resource for your needs at Cool Springs Press, the sponsor of National Gardening Day.  Consult your county extension service, the local bookstore or library.
  • Sign up for a gardening course in your area, or find a variety of online resources, courses and podcasts at The Urban Farm.
  • Look for a community garden in your area. Some communities allow the use of these plots for free. Others have a small fee to have a personal plot within the garden. Gardening with others can reduce isolation and provide a personal connection through a common interest.
  • Start a container garden. It’s a quick and easy way to grow just about whatever interests you.  Learn how at Container Gardening: Growing Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers in Small Spaces.
  • Organize a seed and perennial plant swap with neighbors and friends.  (Insert link to article here)
  • Join a garden club. There isn’t one nearby? Start one!
  • Visit your local nursery or garden center—you will be amazed and thrilled by all the beautiful options.
  • While you’re gardening, invite family, friends and neighbors to experience the joy! Share your National Gardening Day celebrations on social media using #NationalGardeningDay #diygarden.

Gertrude Jekyll once said, “The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.” Whether you want to grow food, flower beds, houseplants, or anything in between, National Gardening Day celebrates a satisfying pastime that you will enjoy for decades.

Photo depicitng a Seed Swap Plant Share and Gardeners Social

HOW TO HOST A MINI SEED UP

Imagine walking into a room filled with over 100 varieties of seeds ready to literally be scooped up and taken home for planting or saving. This is exactly what the Great American Seed Up is all about.  Although we can’t get together in big groups in person this year, sharing seeds is still possible. We’ve reorganized to create our Seed Up in a Box so that you can host your own Mini Seed Up with social distancing in mind.

 

Here is how to host a Mini Seed Up:

 

  1. Order a Seed Up in a Box.  Invite some friends to go in with you on a bulk seed purchase from The Great American Seed Up.  To get seeds into the hands of growers like you, we’ve packaged our bulk seed into bundles priced at almost 50% off our already amazingly low in-person prices and moved access to our seed education to an online Student Portal.  In addition, the seed varieties in our program are adaptable and resilient – not zone-dependent – so you can share them nationwide. Each variety includes enough seed for TEN generous servings.  Bundles can be reserved at GreatAmericanSeedUp.org.  (Tip:  If you can find 9 other people to split the cost, a smaller number of participants can go in together.  The cost per participant will be higher, but each will get even more seed!)

 

  1. Decide on a location and set a date mid-October 2020 or later to divide up your Seed Bundle(s.) Seed Up in a Box orders will begin shipping on October 5 via USPS Priority Mail.

 

  1. Plan your Mini Seed Up with social distancing in mind. If your group will get together to divvy up the seeds, masks and gloves will help everyone to share seeds, not germs.  Another option is for the host to divide the seeds into packages that each participant can pick up from a secure location outdoors (protected from moisture and the sun.)

 

Tips:

 

Where weather permits, host a Mini Seed Up outdoors.

 

Don’t limit yourself to only local participants.  Seed Bundles are comprised of adaptable and resilient seed varieties that can be grown across the U.S.  So you can go in with growers across the country.  Be sure to include the cost of shipping and handling to the price that each person pays if you will be mailing them.

 

IF you will be gathering as a group, The Great American Seed Up will provide you with table signs for each seed variety that you can download and print as well as instructions for dividing up the seeds (scoop sizes, display tips, etc.)  Have each participant bring a set of measuring cups and spoons for measuring their portions.

 

Take advantage of education included with your Seed Bundle.  Host a watch party with discussion following.  If you prefer a virtual format, use an online meeting platform with screen sharing (such as Zoom) so that your group can watch the videos together from their own homes.

 

Need Christmas gifts for the garden enthusiasts in your life?  Why not buy a bundle and host a Christmas Seed Up to give seeds to your favorite gardeners.

 

Finally, please share the news with friends.  The Great American Seed Up is a project started in Phoenix with the ultimate goal to make a difference in the local food security for communities across the nation. The mission was to empower people through education on seed saving through in-person educational presentations and provide access to bulk seeds with a very unique seed bazaar.   Although Covid-19 prevented our annual large event, we are excited to take this opportunity to expand beyond Phoenix. We are committed to providing adaptable, non-GMO, heirloom seeds to as many people as possible across the nation, for growing and saving even during this challenging time.

An example of planting seeds in a furrow.

HOME GARDENERS FACE SEED SHORTAGES THIS SPRING

How to Have a Great Garden Anyway

With the onset of the pandemic in 2020, resulting in shortages of basic commodities, seed companies saw a sharp and sudden increase in demand. It’s not surprising considering the undeniable benefits of gardening: fresh, nutritious food; physical and mental exercise; and a sense of control and security during a very challenging time. As more people turned to “Victory” gardens to grow at least some of their own food, seeds became treasured assets.

Gardeners, especially those who were new to growing food, were dismayed to discover that the seeds they needed were in short supply. Unexpectedly high demand pushed fulfillment operations past capacity.  As a result, sales had to be suspended by most suppliers as they strove to catch up.

The good news is that growers are still producing plenty of seeds and seed companies are adjusting their projections for the future to ensure that enough seeds are packaged to meet demand. Additionally, gardening businesses are thrilled that people are discovering gardening and are doing everything they can to enable their success. However, it will take some time for seeds to be as readily available as they were pre-pandemic.

 

Backyard gardeners can certainly help the situation. Below are several suggested gardening habits that can help to relieve stress on the seed market.  These habits benefit gardeners, as well, by improving the sustainability of their own gardens.

 

Tips for gardeners:

  • Order early, but don’t buy in a panic. Take inventory of what you already have. Perhaps you have enough to grow your garden this year. If not, stock up only on the particular seeds that are in short supply in your collection.

 

  • Buy from smaller seed companies. When the bigger, high profile seed suppliers are sold out of popular seed varieties, lesser-known vendors may still have some in stock.

 

  • Plan out your garden space. Order the amount of seed that you need to carry out your garden plan, but avoid over-buying.  If you find that you have more seed than you require, consider sharing some with another gardener.

 

  • Want to enhance your sense of personal seed security? Order some open-pollinated varieties, not just hybrids (which may not reproduce true from seed), and save their seed for 2022.

 

  • Seeds readily adapt. Gardeners should be prepared to adapt, too. Seed companies are vigorously working to meet demand, but there is a lot of catching up to do. In the meantime, stay flexible.  If your favorite variety of tomato is unavailable, be willing to try another.  You may discover a new favorite.

 

  • Improve your chances of success with adaptable seeds that are appropriate for your climate. It may be fun to try to grow the occasional specialty item from elsewhere.  But growing varieties that are known to thrive in your area will increase the likelihood of an abundant harvest of food and new seeds. The current lack of availability certainly highlights the importance of saving seeds from your own garden to plant next year.

 

  • Be patient with seed orders. Generally, a seed company will ship your order within a couple of days for arrival at your door shortly after that. Several factors have made that currently impossible. Increased demand is simply too much for their existing staff to handle and it has outpaced the time required to add and train new staff.  Additionally, social distancing limits the number of employees who can work in a space.  Time has to be spent to sanitize surfaces, slowing down normal systems.  And once seeds are shipped, delivery delays are a common occurrence.

 

  • While waiting for your order to arrive, take advantage of educational resources from seed catalogs and companies. The educational support seed companies provide has only deepened with the creation of digital resources.

 

  • Share seeds. Pass on your extra seeds to another gardener. Or make a plan with your buddy to buy seeds together and divide them between you. Or split up the planting tasks — one of you starts tomatoes, one starts cucumbers Then, at planting time, swap a few so you both get what you need. Resilience grows with cooperation, especially in stressful times. – 2021 Fedco Seed Catalog

 

Many of these steps will immediately impact this year’s seed supply. Others will impact future supply. The hope is that so many new home gardeners and growers will stay in the game, despite short term shortages.

 

The mission of the Great American Seed Up is to get seeds into the hands of gardeners and support the resilience of communities across the country.  The heirloom seed varieties that we stock are easy to grow and suitable for seed saving.  We love to hear about our customer’s gardens.  And we are even more thrilled when they save seeds from the harvest to plant the next season. By doing so year after year, these gardeners may never need to buy seeds to those varieties again.  And they will undoubtedly have plenty of extra seeds to share with others.  GreatAmericanSeedUp.org

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