What could possibly be more radical than a free source of locally viable edible and medicinal seeds, grown lovingly by your neighbors and community?
Just the idea makes me feel our collective freedom on the horizon!
Visiting, borrowing from, and contributing to your local seed lending library is a powerful political act. I make a special ritual out of it every year, being sure to plan ahead to save enough seed not just for myself but also to contribute to the library. If you haven’t yet frequented your local seed lending library, check it out as soon as you can! If you are in the Bay Area visit the BASIL Seed Library at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, the Seedfolks Seed Lending Library at the Cesar Chavez Branch of the Oakland Public Library, the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library at the Main Branch of the Richmond Public Library, or the SF Seed Library at the Potrero Hill branch of the San Francisco Public Library. If your area doesn’t have a seed lending library, consider joining together with neighbors and community to create your own seed lending library.
Before bringing my saved seed into the library, I like to do a germination test to ensure the seed is viable. Unfortunately, this year I discovered I also have three unlabeled seed varieties (a good reminder to diligently label everything you do in your garden — even if you think you’ll remember later, you won’t!). While I can identify the botanical family from the seed shape and size, I’m not totally sure what type of seed it is (although I have a hunch). For these three seed types, I’ll grow them all the way out in order to better identify them before depositing any in the seed library.
To prepare a germination test, lay out a scrap of damp paper towel for each seed variety you are testing. Scatter 10–50 seeds on your paper (the more you test the more accurate your germination rate will be, but if your seed supply is limited you may want to do fewer). Fold the papers over on themselves, and label them well!
Once the test has been prepared, rest it on top of your refrigerator, or somewhere where it will stay relatively moist and warm (don’t leave it in a windowsill to dry out).
Leave your seeds for approximately 10 days or longer, depending on the seeds you have and their germination periods. Then, open up your packets and see the magic unfold!
10-days later: my germination test is complete!
As you can see, most of the winter crops germinated well!
Before completely giving up on the others that didn’t germinate as well, it is worth looking into their specific germination requirements. Arnica, for example, germinates best at 55 degrees and can take up to 1 month to germinate. Stevia requires an even warmer germination temperature (68 degrees!). Without a germination mat, I won’t be able to maintain temperatures that consistently warm until the weather warms up. So I’ll plan to hold on to those seeds and run another germination test with warmer temperatures. In the meantime, I’ve got lots of viable arugula and shiso to donate to the seed lending library. I’ll grow out the brassica to identify the plant first, and then bring some of that into the seed lending library too. See a future post about giving and taking seeds from the library, and get ready to start growing out your spring and summer seedlings as spring rounds the corner, the buds appear, and seeds awaken from their winter slumber, ready to germinate.
If you live in the Bay Area, you can hire Nicole Wires (the author of this blog) as a garden coach!
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Saint Francis and the Sow
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.