Saving and sharing seeds: ideas

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PeasIntheRain
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Just a bit of encouragement and self-reminder: now's the time to save seeds!
When I first moved to the PNW, I had trouble because I wanted to wait until the plants were fully and completely dry, as one does when gardening elsewhere... but it's easy for fall rains to start in again and seeds will sprout or spoil if left on the plants in the field. I've had better luck watching and taking pods or seeds as they dry and as soon as the seeds inside are actually ripe. For example, kale and mustard seeds are often dark and ready even when the pod itself might have some remaining green colour. (I've actually still struggled a bit this year with snap peas, which should be some of the easiest seeds to save but I find slugs are eating the pods as they mature and it's a bit tricky to get everything to dry out without spoiling. What's helping is lifting the plants up onto twigs or trellis, even bush peas, and keeping the area around them clear.)

But the other part of this post is about ideas to share seeds!

Local library: our local provided seed kits first-come, first-serve to library card holders in the spring. Letting them know in advance that you want to be involved is best, and they might let you create a version of it if they don't already do a garden kit! Mine appreciated knowing some basic info about my gardening practices and then appreciated a written description (printable to accompany each kit) of the plants and basic growing and/or use instructions.
[Could get more complex; this project is dreamy as: https://lifecyclesproject.ca/our-projects/seed-library/ ]

Food bank: it really depends on the clientele, but especially if your local food bank has an option for people to select their own items, people may be keen to receive seeds. It is ideal if you can clearly label the seed container/envelope with the plant name, basic growing instructions including time of year to plant, and ideas for using the crop. Extra points for drawings / illustrations instead of just written instructions! Remember that not all food bank users have ready access to the Internet. Translations in the dominant languages of local food bank users are fantastic (Google Translate can get you started and often your local library or food bank can connect you with someone who could check over your attempt).

Local gleaning group: here across the border, we have the Clallam Gleaners which is coordinated through a university extension programme, but you may find a similar thing even just as a Facebook group or other. On social media, try keywords like 'buy nothing', 'farm exchange', 'barter', 'seed swap', 'gardeners group' and your town name. Sharing seedlings and starts (like strawberry plants from the runners you missed when the summer got busy...) is especially good through such a group.

Roadside or at a local stop: for instance, my local post office allows a certain amount of give-aways so long as the container is clean, labeled with 'free' and the item name, tidy/self-contained, and removed promptly after a defined period.

Where else? What have you had luck with, to help get seeds out to the people who need them?


Best sharing practices involves single packages, these days. I save all the envelopes from charity mailers and so on but also save scrap paper and glue simple envelopes using a template like this: https://templatelab.com/envelope-templates/. This year, I'm enlisting a friend's children to fold, glue, label and fill seed envelopes with me with the goal of making 50 seed kits for the local library with at least 5 types of seed.

Best practice means also avoiding the spread of invasive species. For instance, I don't share fennel seed because even with a warning, I don't trust people to watch their plants like a hawk and prevent unintended seed spread.

In the interests of sharing to illustrate what is possible: my year-3 home garden will provide saved seeds this year from parsnip, peas, beans, 2 varieties of kale, 2 varieties of mustard, pak choy, several herbs because insufficient trimming means flowers (parsley, dill, marjoram, sage, fennel, lovage...), 2 kinds of lettuce, many flowers (borage, bachelor button, calendula, violets, cosmos, etc.), and 2 kinds of radish (with plenty of harvests of the abundant radish pods for fresh eating and pickling along the way). No extra work was involved given that seed saving really boils down to letting the plants be as they bolt and bloom...
jack oostenbrink
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thanks for this very inspiring post! I recently heard of a refugee family from Ukraine that has moved to Chilliwack. They had, in there very limited luggage, a significant seed collection. Her comment to someone questioning her choice of luggage was...you've never gone hungry!
Good point on not spreading invasive species to unknowing hands!
PeasIntheRain
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jack oostenbrink wrote: Fri 09-Sep-2022, 13:48 thanks for this very inspiring post! I recently heard of a refugee family from Ukraine that has moved to Chilliwack. They had, in there very limited luggage, a significant seed collection. Her comment to someone questioning her choice of luggage was...you've never gone hungry!
Good point on not spreading invasive species to unknowing hands!
Yes! Oh, so much to say about this throughout history and it's powerful to hear of a recent example.

You might be interested in the book Black Rice by Judith Charney. Described here: https://face2faceafrica.com/article/how ... can-slaves The practice of braiding seeds into hair to save them has captured the public mind.

Bringing seeds along on forced relocation has saved some traditional crops throughout Turtle Island / North America, with activists now creating bright futures from a dark history. A couple options for reading: https://modernfarmer.com/2019/05/how-se ... americans/ (saving a corn variety from the last two ears left in the world!) and https://matadornetwork.com/read/indigen ... s-mission/

The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson is a fictional book about a woman recovering her traditional seed-saving history, available at most libraries. An article in which she describes some of the real history: https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/diane ... -they-tell
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