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Archive for May, 2014

SeedLibraries coverI have been hard at work researching seed libraries for my upcoming book Seed Libraries and other means of keeping seeds in the hands of the people. Look for it to be published by New Society Publishers in early 2015. In my April 2, 2013 post I wrote about the background of seed libraries. You can find the ins and outs of setting one up at www.seedlibraries.weebly.com. Until now, all the information has been made available through http://www.richmondgrowsseeds.org/, but that will be changing. The same person is behind it–Rebecca Newburn–no matter what web address it is. Newburn has done a wonderful job of establishing a seed library in Richmond, California with the idea of creating a model for others to follow. The post I’m writing now will take you beyond the mechanics of starting a seed library. Here are my suggestions:

  • Find partners to work with you. A seed library is too big of a project to tackle alone. Besides, it is an endeavor to benefit the community, so get the community involved. Look for both seed savers and planners for your team.
  • With your partners, decide your mission. A mission statement will help clarify your goals for yourself and for those who will be participating with you. My book will have a list of phrases others have used in their mission statements to give you some ideas for yours.
  • Find a space for your seed library. Public libraries are great because they already have people coming in and out and can provide back-up resources of books and DVDs, not to mention lighted parking, restrooms, and meeting rooms.
  • seed cabinet at Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, VA

    seed cabinet at Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, VA

    Gather seeds to share. Seed companies often have seeds to give away that were left from the previous year. You may need to pay postage to get the free seeds. If you want certain varieties and the freshest seeds, you will have to buy them. Begin early finding local seed savers to donate seeds to your project.

  • Preserve the stories that come with the seeds. If someone has grown the seeds, there will be a story. Seeds and the stories that come with them connect us to one another and to our culture.
  • Learn all you can. Learning to save seeds is a holistic approach to gardening and ensures having seeds that are attuned to your region in this time of climate change.
  • Get the word out. How will people know you are there if you don’t tell them? Call the radio and TV stations and use social media. Set up a website and a Facebook page.
  • The best way to learn something is to teach others. Since seed saving is a part of gardening that many often don’t know about, a seed library needs to have an educational component to it in order to teach others about seed saving. If you can’t be the teacher, find someone who can.
  • kale going to seed

    kale going to seed

    Promote seed gardens. Rather than only thinking of the flower or vegetable harvest, plan gardens around having seeds as a crop. Some crops are harvested when the seeds are mature, such as tomatoes. Other crops need to be left on the plants for much longer– maybe until the next year– before a seed crop can be harvested. The learning is in the doing. Find a place to plant something and watch for the seeds.

  • Celebrate all aspects of the cycle of life. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Make sure a well-meaning volunteer doesn’t deadhead the flowers when the blooms fade. You know, the ones you were going to be saving seeds from. Make sure everyone involved knows what to look for. Post signs if you have to. Have both learning and social events to keep your seed savers engaged and celebrate with all your senses.

These ideas will give you something to think about besides the details of distributing the seeds, which will be in the book, also. I’ll be speaking at the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington on Saturday, May 31. My presentation is Grow a Sustainable Diet, the title to my first book. In order to make the most of this trip across the country, I will take some extra days for travel and take a break from this blog. You’ll next hear from me on June 17. There are three years worth of blog posts you can read if you are missing my posts, but I suggest you step away from the computer and get out to your garden. Homeplace EarthHave fun!

 

 

 

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coldframe 4 lids onI have known for the past two weeks that the subject of my blog would be coldframes—I don’t always know what I’ll write about that far ahead. However, I thought the title would be Coldframe Transplants. Before I began writing the new post I reviewed my previous posts about coldframes and realized that I had written much of what I would say this time in Use Your Coldframe All Year last May. So, I encourage you to read that post. I had taken some good photos of my coldframe in April and realized that I could focus this post on coldframe lids.

The coldframe in the photo is 4’x 8’ and has four 2’x4’ lids made from twinwall polycarbonate panels. They were made from one 4’x 8’ twinwall panel that friends gave me when they were replacing the glazing on their solarium. I have considered putting wood frames around the twin wall panels to protect the edges, but haven’t gotten around to it. With a coldframe this big, using one panel for a lid would be awkward to use and to store. My previous coldframe was 3’x 6’ because I was given a piece of glass that size that I framed in wood. One advantage of that lid was that it was heavy enough not to blow off in the wind when I had it lifted on one side for venting. A disadvantage of that lid was the weight and size when I stored it in the barn for the summer.

coldframe-4 lids openI have never liked using hinges on coldframe lids because hinges would limit their use. I want to be able to move the lids around or take them off completely. When I taught at the community college one of the projects I assigned was to plan a season extension structure for a 4’x 25’ bed—complete with a drawing of the design, list of materials, and how it would be used. If the students chose to use a series of coldframes I always warned them I would take off points if there were hinges on the coldframe lids. Sometimes you need to take them all the way off. If you tilt them back, as in this photo, there needs to be room for them behind the coldframe.

coldframe vented at the topThese panels are relatively light. If I had them lifted on one side to vent, the wind may blow them off. It can get pretty windy in the spring. I was gone for five days the second week of April. Things were just coming up in there, so I wanted to keep the lids on while I was gone. However, looking ahead to the weather, it looked like some days would be quite warm. I decided to turn the panels parallel to the long sides of the coldframe and lower them a bit, leaving a vent space at the top. That would keep everything warm enough, but not too hot. It was nice that the day before we left for the trip we had an inch of rain—with the panels off.

coldframe lids stacked - BLOGSometimes I stack the panels on the coldframe if I want to vent it a little more than I did when I went on the trip recently, but still keep some protection there. If I was going to vent that way more than a day or two, I would not stack the panels, but take two away so as not to prevent light transmission. The extra panels can lean against the side or back of the coldframe, ready to put back on when needed. When I store the panels for the summer they only take the footprint of one panel.

Your coldframe lids might be old windows or wooden frames covered with plastic. Consider all the different ways you might use them before building your coldframe, so as not to limit your possibilities.  By this time of the year, you may be frost free and can store your lids for the summer, but your coldframe will still be of service as a space to grow transplants all through the growing season.Homeplace Earth

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