Heirloom varieties have been grown for several generations. They are open-pollinated by wind and insects, allowing us to save the seed to grow for years to come, ensuring our future food supply. Our ancestors have left us a rich agricultural heritage to be treasured. It is Heritage Seed and Produce’s mission to preserve that heritage through the propagation, collection, and sale of heritage seeds for present and future generations to come.
|Cherokee Trail of tears Beans|
|Costanda Romanesco Zuccini|
|Double Standard Corn|
|Fortin’s Family Yellow Beans|
|Giant Russian Sunflower|
|Golden Bantam Sweet Corn|
|Green Zebra Tomato|
|Jack O Lantern Pumkpin|
|King of the North Pepper|
|Long Purple Italian Eggplant|
|Marvel Stripe Tomato|
|Noir Des Carmes Cucumis Melo|
|Piks Yugo Tomato|
|Red Brandy Wine Tomatoes|
|Small Sweet Sugar Pumpkin|
|Tante Alice Cucumber|
|Walthum Butternut Squash|
Late blight is caused by the fungus-like oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans and is the same disease responsible for the Irish Potato Famine.
Originally, from Central Mexico, this disease has been spreading across North America and Europe since the 1840’s, infecting and destroying the leaves, stems, fruits, and tubers of tomato and potato plants.
Prevention starts with not introducing the pathogen to your garden by growing heirloom seed and tubers that have a built in resistance through centuries of adaptation, rather than buying plants that may be infected.
Adequate drainage is crucial to avoid harboring spores in the soil. Planting in mounds will also reduce risk of infestation. After harvest, potato tubers require dry storage with no moisture on tubers.
If your garden is attacked with blight, burn or bury all infected plants and do not grow in that area for at least three years. I do not recommend use of fungicide as this leads to resistant strains of fungus blights.
|GENETIC DIVERSITY… OUR FOOD SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON IT
During the 20th century, farmers abandoned traditional heritage seed and grew F1 hybrids to obtain higher yields and uniformity. These F1 hybrids, obtained by crossing two fixed parent lines cannot be propagated from seed as they are genetically “mixed up”. This resulted in the seed industry becoming a corporately controlled commodity by selling plants which do not breed true when propagated by sexual means.
Wheat, rice, corn, potatoes and barley account for 53% of world food production.
We have learned little from the Irish potato famine in the mid Nineteenth century where an entire country relying largely upon one crop was infected by a potato blight that resulted in the death of over one million people.
Heirlooms are open pollinated varieties that can be grown year after year from selecting healthy plants to harvest seed. Harvesting a diverse crop preserves the genetic pool.
As our climate changes, and pests and disease become immune, the need for genetic diversity is crucial to our human survival.
If you wish to learn more about this topic or to become a member of Seeds of Diversity Canada visit www.seeds.ca
|FEED THE FUTURE… VERMICOMPOST!
Make your own nutrient-rich, natural fertilizer using organic waste, by discovering the art of vermiculture.
Containers can be made using a styrofoam cooler or recycle bin. Start by cutting holes to fit 2 inch diameter plastic juice lid tops in each side, and top of styrofoam cooler, drill several small holes in juice lid tops and insert snugly into holes. Recycle bins with drainholes plugged can be used, with several small holes drilled through the fitted lid.
Bedding should resemble the worms’ natural habitat. Shredded paper, sawdust, straw, peat moss, sand, and dried leaves may all be used.
Two types of earthworms best suited to worm composting are Eisenia foetida (red wigglers), and Lumbricus rubellus, (red earthworms). These are best used in combination as one is a bottom feeder and the other top feeds.
Feed worms on a rotational basis from corner to corner. Cut compost into small pieces and cover with bedding. Coffee grinds and citrus should be limited. Add crushed eggshells or calcium carbonate 1 tbsp every 3 weeks to maintain slightly alkaline pH. Avoid all dairy, bones, and meat products.
Reduction in waste alone is worth the investment, not to mention the rich soil you have to grow beautiful and healthy plants naturally.
|WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING SEED
When purchasing seed, there are key ingredients to finding quality seed.
First, it is important to distinguish between hybrids and heritage varieties. Hybrid varieties were introduced commercially over the past fifty years, due to a demand for uniform crops that could store longer to withstand transport overseas. These hybrid seeds produced in laboratories are closely guarded and trademarked by large seed companies to prevent the strain from being duplicated.
Heritage seed is open-pollinated by wind and insects so the seed from a heritage variety can be re-grown for future generations.
The advantage of buying seed from a local seed company is that it is acclimatized to your growing region. This translates to increased production, disease tolerance, and ability to withstand temperate climates. Our zone region is classified as 5A. Always check to see when the seed was collected as this will affect germination rate. If a seed company is not sure when the seed was collected then the viability is suspect. The cost of seed is so low, it is highly recommended not to try to save a few cents as this will reflect in your harvest.
As our food dwindles, the need to revive our agricultural tradition is crucial. In simple words, “Get back to the Farm’.
|STARTING VEGETABLE SEED INDOORS
What you need:
A 72 cell mini-greenhouse with heated tray-cost- $40.00 Since most starter mixes have a wetting agent that is petroleum based, it is recommended that you mix your own using 1 part perlite, 1 part vermiculite, 1 part sphagnum peat moss, and 1 part worm castings. You can add a small amount of dolomite lime or dried crushed eggshells to adjust PH.
Set up a fluorescent light fixture with gro tubes in your sunniest window. Make sure you can raise light to allow sun in daytime. For multi shelving glass/plexiglass allows more light, otherwise cedar works well. If busy set timer for 18 hours from 6 a.m to midnight.
Start your peppers and eggplant at beginning of April, and tomatoes up until mid April. Cucumbers and melons can be started indoors late April or early May.
Maintain moist environment by misting or sprinkling daily during germination stage.
Hardening off is necessary before transplanting out after night temperatures average above 55 degrees celcius. Mulch to prevent weeds. Use only natural fertilizers, chemical fertilizers are short lasting and only degrade the soil.
|SOW YOUR SEEDS WISELY
The seed can be acquired at a local Seedy Saturday in your area, or from a local seed company. Event locations and dates can be found at www.seeds.ca. Purchasing heritage varieties will allow you to save your seed for the following year.
One of the largest seed events will be held on March 7th at the Roy Kolbus Lakeside Center 10:00-3:00 in Ottawa and Peterborough at the St. James United Church 1-4, as well as a Seedy Saturday in Pembroke at Fellows High school from 10-3.
Start seed in flats with a heating pad underneath or use a heated greenhouse kit which also includes a clear dome. Fill the flat with sterile soil-less mix (see recipe below).
Seed Starting Mix
To prevent damping off, fill spray bottle with water and a small amount of chamomile tea, and mist the top of the soil.
Most seeds need a dark moist environment to germinate, but once your seedlings emerge, add a light source either from a well lit window, or preferably from a 2-4 ft fluorescent fixture hung 2-4” from your seedlings. Place the lights on timers for at least 16 hours per day.
Place an electric fan near the seed-starting tray. The added air circulation will prevent fungus from developing, and promote strong stem growth.
The soil can then be amendmended with peat, lime, vermiculite, compost or other organic material. This method reduces soil compaction providing better aeration and drainage, creating an ideal environment for worms to build beneficial soil fungi. It also saves watering and maintains dormancy of weed seed.
There is no need to add fertilizer due to decaying organic matter providing carbon enriched humus. Use straw instead of hay and intersperse leaves with straw to maintain aeration.
Mulch over winter to protect soil from erosion. Mulches include grass clippings, straw, compost, seaweed, leaves, pine needles, wood shavings and newspaper.
Having said all that, if you need your garden roto-tilled and you live in the Lanark Highlands don’t hesitate to call me.
|PREPARING AND PLANTING YOUR GARDEN
The busiest time of a gardener’s year is upon us, and the most important thing to do is to stay focused, as this will reflect in your harvest.
Remove weeds, and compost any remaining organic matter that has not decomposed, before amending your garden with aged manure, compost, and peat moss.
Roto-till during the hottest part of the day so your worms are deeper in the soil. If you are buying or renting a tiller, make sure, it is a rear tine self-propelled roto-tiller, with a cast iron bore. I recommend a used Troy-built model if you can find it, since they don’t make em like they used to. Avoid tilling deeper than a foot in order to maintain worm population.
Draw up a garden plan in East-West direction to maximize light, and site plants according to height and need for sunlight. Keep in mind companion planting, and crop rotation when preparing your plan. Plant Pepper Squash around border of garden as the prickly vines deter pests, Pumpkin or Acorn Squash works best.
If you are planting on a slope, site thirsty plants, such as tomatoes, lower down.
A windbreak such as hedges or slatted fence may be necessary on exposed site to reduce wind.
When planting Tomatoes, Green Peppers and Eggplant, use Basil and Marigolds between the rows. Basil will improve the flavor of your vegetables and repel aphids, flies, mosquitoes, mites, and has fungicidal properties; planted around Tomatoes it will repel hornworms.
Lettuce can be grown in between the rows to act as a cover crop, reducing erosion of soil and stealing the shade is needs to grow well. Carrots grown with Tomatoes will improve the yield
The scent that Marigolds give off keeps pests away, and the French and African varieties will rid your soil of nematodes. This is one companion plant that you can plant freely throughout your garden to deter unwanted pests.
Chamomile planted in the borders of your cabbage plot will repel the cabbage moth, while onions, radishes, garlic and beets will act as your cover crop, and improve the flavor of your cabbage.
Potatoes and Bush Beans are great companions, the potatoes will repel the Mexican bean beetle and the bean will repel the Potato Beetle. Nasturtiums and onions planted around the borders will improve flavor and attract pests and insects, keeping them away from your crop
This list is endless and the subject could be discussed endlessness, but the bottom line is, by choosing the NATURAL, ORGANIC way of controlling insects in your garden, you can improve your garden nutrients, reduce soil erosion, and yield tasty vegetables for your enjoyment this summer.
|CONTROLLING PESTS THE NATURAL WAY
So how do we protect our plants from insect predators, there are too many organic options to list them all but here are just a few that should help you yield a bountiful harvest this gardening season.
To repel Cabbageworms and Spider Mites mix 2 tablespoons of salt in 1 gallon of water, and use in a sprayer bottle.
Aphids and Whiteflies can be controlled by mixing a few drops of organic dishwashing detergent with water and spraying this on plants leaves.
Hot Pepper Spray works on a whole host of outside bugs and insects, but should only be used outside of the home.
1/4 cup of hot red peppers
Mix spearmint, horseradish, onion tops and peppers together, add water to cover mixture, then strain.. Add a half-gallon of water and the detergent. Be careful not to touch your eyes when making this spray!
Diatomaceous Earth is effective on soft-bodied insects as well as snails and slugs, simply spread in on the surface of the soil around the base of the plant.
Chemical control measures have proven ineffective in the long run, while home made organic pesticides are cheaper and safer.
|GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN
There are many techniques you may use to save space and maximize the total yield of your harvest, by building trellis’s, intercropping and re-planting in mid-summer for a fall harvest of peas, beans and other short season crops.
Many vegetables including leaf lettuce, peas, and beans will provide a continual harvest as long as you continue to pick before complete maturity. Re-plant in new site in mid-July to the beginning of August.
Amend soil to maintain fertility by continuously adding mulch, which will retain the moisture in the soil during drought, and help control weeds.
Remember to feed the soil not the plant, as synthetic fertilizers are short lasting and leave toxins in the soil. Avoid soil mixtures containing wetting agents, as they are petroleum based unless otherwise specified.
Use a rain barrel with a lid or screen, elevated three feet with a tap at the bottom to attach hose for gravity irrigation. Place below eaves trough or end of roof for maximum rainfall.
|PRESERVING THE HARVEST
Here are some tips on canning. Wash all dirt from only healthy, blemish free vegetables. For pickling Dills, soak overnight and puncture several times with fork. Use only coarse salt as table salt contains Iodine, this is very important for health reasons.
If you are making Garlic Dills then use cured Garlic and leave intact only removing outer skin to avoid contamination from soil-borne pathogens.
Don’t forget to add the Mustard seed!
Do not boil lid seals due to rubber seal, instead simmer just below boiling temp. I recommend cold pack over hot pack as it does not cook the preserve.
Place Garlic, Dill, Salt, Mustard seed and cukes(cut to size if needed) in jar sterilized in pressure cooker and use steel ladle sterilized in boiling water/vinegar mix to fill to ¼’ from top. Wipe rim of jar before securing lid using tongs kept always in in simmering pot of lids. Do not over tighten.
For freezing harvest, blanch if needed and use vacuum sealer or straw to suck out air before sealing.
|EXTENDING YOUR GROWING SEASON
Monitor local weather forecasts for frost and spray your leaves with garden hose to remove frosty dew before the sun shines on them. You can also cover plants with a sheet or row covers overnight and remove during the day.
If your growing heirlooms than leave some of your healthy biennials in for seed next summer or dig up and store in cold and damp place, than replant in spring. These include carrots, beets, celery, parsnips, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, chard, onions and leeks.
If you leave in ground over winter than cover with two feet of mulch and remove in spring to use between rows. Cut the leafy parts until one inch above crown before covering with mulch in late fall.
If storing roots than leave out in sun for a day to dry and toughen the skin, before storing in sawdust, peat moss or damp sand.
Allium sativum L., commonly known as garlic is a member of the onion family. There are two types of Garlic, hard-neck and soft-neck. The popular Elephant garlic is actually a wild leek.
The cloves or bulbils can be planted mid to late October, in loamy well-drained fertile soil. Plant in 4×6” beds or in double rows 8’ apart.
Bulbils are planted closer together and take 2-4 years to mature as opposed to cloves, which can be harvested mid to late July after the lower leaves dry down.
After planting, apply a thick layer of mulch to protect garlic from cold temperature. Remove mulch in spring when shoots emerge and use between rows as weed cover or compost.
Remove scapes after they curl 1 ½ times to get larger bulbs, unless you want bulbils to re-plant in the fall or early February indoors.
After digging up garlic with pitchfork, gently brush off dirt leaving skin intact. Do not wash garlic as it invites disease.
Watch for signs of white rot, this will be evident if you observe yellow, wilting leaves. If you find any, remove from the garden and dispose of the affected bulbs in an area situated away from garden. White rot is a disease caused by a fungus affecting onion and garlic crops worldwide.
If you preserve garlic in oil, vinegar or wine then you risk the deadly Clostridium Botulinum, therefore safe food preservation methods are imperative, as there have been botulism outbreaks related to this.
|PUTTING YOUR GARDEN TO BED
Be sure to remove weeds from garden before putting your garden to bed. Remove all vegetative matter from garden and add to your compost pile. Remember ‘high, hot and a hell of a lot’, when it comes to effective composting.
This is the optimal time to amend garden by adding nutrients. Ideally, you want to be able to decompose enough matter each year to provide these nutrients. I recommend adding Mushroom compost, as well as sheep manure to your garden.
If your garden did not produce a bountiful harvest this year than you should do a soil pH test. Fruit and vegetable plants require a slightly acidic soil (pH 5.8-6.5). If pH is too acidic than apply lime or wood ashes to raise pH. If your soil is not acidic enough, apply sulfur or commercial fertilizers containing ammonium-N.
Assess the size and location of your garden, and if you are thinking of expanding your garden, now is a good time to break the ground so it will be workable after a spring til. If you had problems with flooding then consider growing water lovers like Cucumbers and Squash. If you grow Pumpkin plants around perimeter, it will reduce water retention and deter pests. Higher ground for some plants may be required if drainage is not possible.
Remember to thank your garden for working so hard all season, providing healthy food for you and your family!
|HOW TO SAVE YOUR SEED
There are many advantages and rewards to saving seed from plants you have grown and nurtured. From acclimatizing strains to the specific conditions of your growing region, to the conservation and propagation of rare and endangered heirlooms.
F1 hybrid seeds are the result of crossing two parent lines typically inbred. The seed from these varieties cannot be saved as they are genetically “mixed up”. Therefore always grow heritage open-pollinated varieties to deter propagation of plants which do not breed true.
Annuals produce seed in the first year of growth, while biennials produce seed in the second year; these include carrots, beets, broccoli, celery, cabbage, onion, parsley, leek and rutabaga.
To save seed from biennials, mulch only healthy plants in the fall heavily and remove mulch in spring. Seed can be collected mid-summer allowing for re-planting of beans, peas, radish, etc.
Collect seed from over-ripe fruit and vegetables unless it is a wet summer, which risks splitting of seed. If the seed has a jelly coating like tomatoes and cucumbers, you should ferment fruit in pail for about five days, then fill pail with water using garden hose, allow viable seed to sink, and then pour off all floating material into a composter. Since viable seed sinks you will be left with a pail of water containing good seed after several pour offs. Strain off and leave in strainer for a few days, then transfer to glass dish separating seed with your fingers. Place in glass jar after completely dry and store in cool, dry location.
For more info visit www.seeds.ca to order the book How To Save Your Own Seeds, or send cheque for $12.00 to Seeds of Diversity Canada. I highly recommend becoming a member for $30.00 and joining the Seed Exchange Directory.