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Why it is worth going the extra mile to get heirloom seeds for your garden

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Sowing heritage seeds can result in better flavour, a true connection with nature and hope for the future, expert Ellen Ecker Ogden explains. Hannah Stephenson reports.

By Hannah Stephenson
Tuesday, 9th February 2021, 4:45 pm
Source: Yorkshire Post
Feature Photo Source: Unsplash, Markus Spiske

When we can buy so many vegetable and flower seeds designed to give us great harvests, why would we want to search harder, and possibly spend more, for heirloom varieties?

Conservation of edibles that may have been grown by your grandparents, feeling more connected to nature and being aware that the seed you are sowing hasn’t been tampered with, is all part of it, says garden lecturer Ellen Ecker Ogden, author of The New Heirloom Garden, a guide to having a beautiful and self-sufficient garden, in which she shares the secrets of heritage vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

“Many of the best tasting fruits and vegetables are heirloom varieties because often the breeding companies have been breeding for a bigger, better, taller, stronger, disease-resistant plant, and have not been paying attention to what cooks really want in terms of flavour,” says Ecker Ogden, who is a keen cook herself.

As the need for responsible, ethical growing continues to nip at the consciences of gardeners, some are moving towards a more organic approach by selecting seeds that haven’t been genetically modified to make the harvest more uniform and disease-resistant.

F1 hybrid seeds, the ones so many of us buy, are produced through the manual cross-pollination of two related parent plants that offer particular growing traits. For instance, one parent may taste great while the other might produce large fruits and from that, breeders can produce a seed which, when grown, will possess both traits. However, in future years, saved seeds from hybrid plants may produce different results in either taste or appearance, so it may not be worth saving the seed.

“It may be inconsistent,” says Ecker Ogden. “It may not germinate at all and it can cross pollinate so easily.”

Heirloom seeds are open pollinated, meaning they’ve been pollinated naturally by insects, birds and the wind. They cross pollinate randomly, so you may have a different result in subsequent years, but you are letting nature take its course. Also, they may develop a natural tolerance for regional conditions, she notes.

The work that goes into hybridisation to cross-match beneficial traits of two parent plants is time-consuming and costly. So unless the heritage seed is extremely rare, you shouldn’t be paying more for it, notes Ecker Ogden. And you can cut your seed bill year on year by saving seeds from your heritage plants, she observes.Ecker Ogden says they generally taste better.

“Carrots, for example, used to be sweeter than they are now. Today, they are bred to have really strong tops so they can be mechanically harvested, and a lot of the flavour from the roots has been taken away in order to increase the productivity,” says Ecker Ogden. “Tomatoes are the biggest example. Most people who grow tomatoes in my region will grow some heirlooms which aren’t necessarily as disease-resistant as some of the hybrids, but better flavour comes from ‘Brandywine’, ‘Big Rainbow’ and ‘Green Zebra’.”

Keeping history alive is all part of it as we grow vegetables enjoyed by previous generations, Ecker Ogden adds.

“A lot of these heirloom seeds have been handed down and they get stories around them and you can research the heritage. It creates a curiosity of wanting to know the story behind the seed, creating a sense of longevity,” she says.

“It’s about the cycle of life. When you have a seed you’ve put in the ground, seen it grow and then save the seed for the following year, you are creating that connection with your garden that takes it to a higher level.”

What will you be planting this season? Why are heirloom seeds so important? What would you like to know about the types of seeds available?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Looking toward spring: how to start seeds

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
  • BY Alena Steen
  • Feb 12, 2021 Updated Feb 12, 2021
  •  Source: Coastal View

Starting seeds directly in garden soil is the simplest way to get a spring garden started. Make sure to label what and where you’ve planted to avoid surprises.

  • Joel Patterson

These large purple and black podded scarlet runner beans are delicious both fresh and dry, and one of the most beautiful seeds around. Beans are very easy to start from seed once the weather warms: Wait until mid to late May to plant out on the coast. Beans are also very easy to save for seed for next year’s crop. Simply allow beans to dry in their pods in the fall until they rattle, then remove the beans and store in a sealed glass jar or paper bag for next spring.

  • Alena Steen

Seeds come in all shapes, sizes and colors, from the tiniest specks of white sand which are chamomile and lettuce seeds to thick and robust pumpkin seeds and corn kernels. All seeds, no matter how tiny, contain a combination of genetic material from two parent plants. For as long as plants and humans have co-existed, humans have worked with the variability and diversity of plants’ genetic inheritances to create different varieties (or cultivars) of a plant, such as a more vibrant or fragrant flower, tastier pepper or cold-tolerant tomato.

Seeds contain genetic memory in the form of a plant embryo encased in a tough seed coat. Many seed coats are designed to facilitate one of several methods of mechanical dispersal away from the parent plant to reduce competition and increase the plant’s range. Depending on their structure, seeds can be wind-borne, snagged and carried along in an animal’s fur coat, dispersed and buried by foraging birds, awakened by wildfire or carried along in river or ocean currents to distant shores. Many of our tastiest fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, tomatoes, melons, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants evolved to tempt passing birds and mammals to eat their sweet fruit and deposit seeds in the ground as scat. 

Starting plants from seed is the simplest way to garden. You don’t need any special equipment other than a packet of seeds and some loose dirt rich in organic material. My method for direct seeding is to loosen compacted soil with a spading fork or shovel before layering about an inch and a half of homemade compost on top of the soil. I plant directly into the compost, which creates a weed-free seed bed full of fertility where seeds are quick to germinate. 

If you are planting a larger area, it’s easiest to dig a shallow furrow to plants seeds and then gently cover them with soil to the appropriate depth. In a smaller space, you can also simply tuck each individual seed into the soil. The general rule of thumb is to plant seeds twice as deep as they are large, though seed packets typically have a more precise suggestion. There are also several types of seed which should not be buried, since they rely on direct sunlight for germination. This is true mostly of certain types of cut flowers, and those directions should be clear on the seed packet.

Once you’ve dug your furrows or tucked seeds into the ground, it’s important to press the ground firmly to slightly compact the surface. Firm seed to soil contact is an important trigger for germination. As you wait for seeds to germinate, ensure the soil remains moist so that a thick crust does not form to inhibit germination. I gently water the soil surface every two to three days depending on temperature and cloud coverage. 

Once seeds have germinated (most veggies should take no more than a week, while certain cut flowers may take up to three weeks), it’s important to reduce watering to prevent soil-borne diseases and moisture-loving insect pests. Veggies and herbs that do well sown directly into garden soil this time of year include kale, lettuce, spinach, arugula, cilantro, dill, parsley, radishes, carrots, beets and turnips.

Many of our annual native flowers, as well as several cut flowers, germinate easily when broadcast on bare dirt just before rain for an effortless pollinator garden come spring. Flowers such as California poppy, phacelia, ornamental breadseed poppies, Queen Anne’s lace, love-in-a-mist and larkspur are all tough plants which grow quickly in cooler temperatures with some rainfall or supplemental hand watering. 

Another option is to start seeds indoors. This is a good choice if you have a lot of bird or insect pressure in your garden or are eager to increase the speed of veggie production, since seedlings often grow faster in a more controlled climate. The same techniques of seed depth, soil compaction and moisture retention apply. Make sure to choose a high-quality potting soil with enough fertility to ensure your seedlings a healthy life. My top choice is E.B. Stone Recipe 420 potting soil, which is certified organic and readily available at garden stores.

Some of my favorite sources for vegetable seeds with excellent germination rates and detailed growing instructions are Johnny’s Seeds, Siskiyou Seeds, Uprising Organics, Wild Garden Seeds and Plant Good Seed (based in Ojai). These are small to medium-scale growers saving and selecting seed on their farms and working toward a more diverse, sustainable and food-secure future. If you are curious to learn more about spring garden tasks such as building soil, preparing seeds beds and planting seeds or transplants, be sure to tune into the Garden’s upcoming Spring Gardening 101 Zoom class on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 10 a.m.

Alena Steen is coordinator of the Carpinteria Garden Park, an organic community garden located at 4855 5th St., developed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Community members rent a plot to grow their own fresh produce. For more information, visit carpinteriaca.gov/parks-and-recreation.

How will you start your seeds: in or outdoors? Last year the majority of our seeds began indoors. Select your space whether in or outdoors carefully. Where will your space be that you begin planting your seeds? Why did you choose that space?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Kitchen Garden Made Easy

How to create a kitchen garden

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Kitchen Garden Made Easy
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Have you considered starting a kitchen Garden with a partner? Children can make wonderful kitchen garden partners. What would you grow in your kitchen garden? Would a kitchen garden be ideal for an urban space? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Soul Fire Farm

About Soul Fire Farm with Leah Penniman

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Soul Fire Farm
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Who are the Organic Growers in your community? How are you apart of the Organic Farms and Gardens in your community? If you are not a farmer or gardener, are you an organic consumer? How can you get to know the farmers who grow your food? Don’t know, Ask. Share your comments with the community by positing them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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African Americans & Organic Farming

Do you think that organic foods are for only the rich and famous? Is what we call organic farming today just the way people farmed before scientists begin selling farming products and chemicals? Is organic farming not just not industrial farming? Share your comments with the community by positing them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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The Organic Movement

Real Organic Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

My Agricultural Grandparents by Eliot Coleman | Real Organic Project

Eliot Coleman believes that food is more of a function of biology than science. He also believes that the USDA could go further in regulating and understanding what true Organic growing means. Do you think the USDA goes far enough? Do you think the USDA is transparent enough? What questions do you have about Organic food? Do you think non Organic food can give your body the nutrients it needs to be healthy and to function properly? Share your comments below with the community by posting it below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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MiMi’s Flower

MiMi’s Cynoglossum Amabile (Chinese Forget Me Not) flowers have finally bloomed. These short and thick sprouts are sure to grow into a beautiful addition around the house. For only a dollar this is a great way to introduce your children to gardening. The growing medium discourages over watering because it is a little lose, runny and slow to absorb. Similar growing mediums are available for growing other seeds / plants. These blocks are sold individually from kits and come in blocks of different sizes. They also come in packs with a tray. These packs also have growing medium sold in different sizes.

Kits are great because they take some of the guess work out of beginning to grow plants that many newbies face. The Soil Blocks and Growing Mediums offer the gardener a way to save in many forms. If you would like to learn more about Soil Blocks read our article titled “Soil Blocks” dated May 4, 2020. So far, we favor well drained clay pots. Many kits will not come with a clay pot but you can find one at your local garden center for a little more than $1 depending on the size you want. Metal pots can be lined and if you are remaining true to the Organic Journey you probably do not want to use plastic pots.

Among the Cynoglossum Amabile flowers we also found our Korean Radishes sprouting all over the place now that, fingers crossed, our vole problem is under control and we do not have underground munching going on. Our Pumpkin, Sugar Baby Watermelon and Beans (Green, Pinto & Lentil) are all doing very well. The plants have been getting plenty of water from Mother Nature over the last several days and are slotted to get a lot more over the next several days. We love and we think the plants do too. As soon as the rain lets up and we get a few sunny and calm days, we will set some plants out for transplanting and hopefully get the rest of the plants out into the garden. We halted transplanting until we could figure out our pest problem and then came the rain. So, hopefully we will get back on track in about a week.

We have a few squash and melon lovers out there, we are sure they are happy to see them sprouting and doing well. What pest problems have you encountered? How can you use these Organic Pest Remedies around the house as well as in the garden? What do you think the benefits would be? Do you think it would help save money and improve your health? Share your comments with the community by positing them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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MiMi’s Flowers

Matthew 18:3-4 and said, “Truly , I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”.

It has been a beautiful day in the garden today. The rain is falling perfectly for the plants and the birds are out sining their songs. As I stand in the mini greenhouse sowing the seeds that were recently attacked by what we believe was a vole, I could not help thinking this must be similar to what a rain forest sounds like. Starting this garden has made us more aware of our environment even in our urban and residential areas. Barbra and many others have been inspired to begin their own gardens. We will keep you updated on the inspiration that is sprouting up.

When we get our children involved in productive things and things that involve the environment as well as the cycle of life, my hope is that wonderful things ensue. So, I want to thank MiMi & Mom for the inspiration. This bible verse immediately came to mind. It is a wonderful thing to get children involved and a wonderful thing when they remind us of those things that are of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Since MiMi & Mom gave me a growing kit, they have went out and got their own really cool growing kit. This growing kit has metal pots. An important thing to remember when using metal pots is to line them so the roots of the plants do not get scorched by the pots and the sun when the metal heats up. We got on the topic of lining and paper. Because of the issues we had with mold, I recommended wax or parchment paper as a lining. They will be keeping an eye on things and letting us know how this works out. As always we will keep you updated on what we learn.

MiMi & Mom’s kit includes Lavender and Chamomile. Because they are both edible flowers, this kit is a very interesting combination. Lavender can be used for almost anything: cooking, sachets, balm, oils and decoration. Lavender can grow into a fairly tall and beautiful plant. Some people use them almost like shrubs. Chamomile is often used in teas but can also be used for decoration. Both make beautiful teas. Lavender can be placed on chicken breasts and baked as well.

During harvest season we look forward to seeing how MiMi & Mom use these beautiful flowers. MiMi & Mom are like me. They love a good deal and found this gorgeous kit at 5 below, which is a store where everything is $5 or lower. If my knowledge serves me correctly. What are some of your favorite flowers? Are they edible? How can you inspire someone else? Thank you for sharing with us MiMi & Mom. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Crowded

MiMi’s Flower started it all. MiMi & Mom brought us a Cynoglossum Amabile (Chiense Forget-Me-Not) Flower Growing Kit. We spotted the same brand in the gardening section of our local dollar store. When we saw the Growing Kit we were pretty excited. So we got the Echinacea Purpurea Flower Growing Kit also. Echinacea Purpurea is known for its ability to boost and build up the immune system, which is a perfect way to stay healthy in this Corona climate. You guessed it. It is an edible flower and can also be put on salads. When we bought Echinacea Purpurea home we decided to do an experiment on crowding. Just a note, the Echinacea Purpurea seeds from this Growing Kit are 100% Natural and come from Czech Republic. MiMi’s Flower (Cynoglossum Amabile) is also a 100% Natural Seed coming from the Netherlands.

We sowed all of MiMi’s Flowers in the one pot provided in the Growing Kit. While the Echinacea Purpurea we sowed in 2 pots (because we had already moisten our growing medium and had enough for 2 pots); we also sowed it in a Soil Block and directly in the ground. We sowed 3 – 4 seeds in each location and saved the remaining seeds. As all flowers grow we can observer how these plants handle crowding (since the packet did not provide spacing instructions) and how they react to the different sowing environments (pot, Soil Block and directly into the ground).

You will also find videos in this article showing how the growing medium in the kit absorbs water as well as how the Soil Blocks absorb water from the bottom up going from a dry medium disc into moistened growing medium. What did you learn from the videos? Would you like to see more videos? We have a You Tube channel now. Be sure to check it out and see what is new. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.


Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Soil Blocks
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
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Roots

When transplanting a plant, one of the first things we do is give its roots a lot of water. And when we water our plants daily, we water the roots not the leaves. If you water the leaves, you can encourage disease. So, this is the one time you can aim low and its ok. The first thing we want our plants to do is grow a healthy and well developed root system. This is typically underground so we tend to forget it. But, it is very important to the plant. The roots go out and seek the nutrients the plant needs to survive and thrive. We want to encourage a well developed and deep root system with access to all the nutrients it needs to cause our plants to thrive. So when applying fertilizer or just watering your plants, always aim for the roots of the plant. This practice will encourage and promote good plant health.

Regardless if you are growing a simple indoor herb or an outdoor onion nourishing the roots is key. Thank you for taking this journey with us. What have you learned so far along the way? What has been most helpful to you? How are your plants responding? Send us a picture and leave a comment so we can share your success and trail and error with everyone. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.