Friday, April 14, 2017

Seed Swapping Basics

After last week's seed saving post, you might come to the realisation that saving seeds often results in a plethora of seeds of the same varietal. This is where the joys of seed swapping enter the equation!

I attended a local seed swap and while packaging seeds for the exchange, discovered that I was having trouble actually selecting seeds to swap. First off, I need back-ups! And then I need back-ups for my back-ups! But more than that I enjoy knowing where my little plant babies are going! I did manage to send a few seeds out into the world (and got a few back!)

One of the biggest things to know when attending a local seed swap is... Don't be afraid to take seeds! The folks that offered them up for swap want them to go to good gardens - where they will be used!

While I have been attending local seed swaps for many years, this is the first year that I have experimented with online seed swapping. It is fun to negotiate for the specific types of seeds you want but the postage is an added expense. Free Seed Swap is the facebook group I most frequently use.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Seed Saving Basics

Seed saving is the process of reserving and/or collecting plant seeds from the current year's crop to plant as next season's crops. Before the advent of corporate control and the widespread practice of purchasing seeds, seed saving was a vital and necessary part of the agricultural process.

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There are many reasons why seed saving remains an important practice. Seed saving reduces dependency on large corporations and creates agricultural systems which are low input. This is important for cultural independence and to create sustainable agricultural practices. The concept of saving seeds is firmly entrenched in the ideas surrounding food sovereignty, which is the right of people to define their own food systems. Seed saving promotes agricultural biodiversity because seed saving eventually creates strains of plants that are well-suited to your land's individual climate. Seed saving practices can help farmers find varieties of crops that grow better in different regions which becomes especially important when combating the effects of climate change. Seed saving is also an easy, fun, educational and experimental way of being personally connected to the larger seasonal growing cycles.

I managed to save seeds from Nasturtium flowers as well as plenty of bean seeds. These plants are easy as all you have to do is wait! When plants are dried and dead pick off the viable seeds and save in a cool dry place for the next season.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Garbage Garden

I have become obsessed with planting literal garbage.

Sprouting garlic? Planted.
Sprouting onions? Planted!
Carrot tops? Hand me the soil!

While the seeds planted for the garden, get the benefit of grow lights this 'garbage garden' has to make due with the little natural sunlight that Yellowknife in March affords but, all things considered, they are doing pretty well.

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The end of my coffee table - the closest flat surface to the window - quickly became full of recycled milk containers and DIY newspaper pots filled with plants. I decided to double down on the 'garbage' in the 'garbage garden' and made a quick drip tray of reclaimed pallet wood lined with dog food bags!

While not the most beautiful thing I've ever constructed, looking at my 'garbage garden' makes me very happy!

Why plant garbage?
I planted the garlic to eat garlic scapes.
I dream of collecting seeds from the onion bulbs.
The carrot tops make for a beautiful natural dye.

Almanac 84 Mini Zine

It's been about a year since we closed on our 84 acres of land in Manitoba. I have spent a lot of time over the last year developing skill-sets and researching with specific land projects in mind. I managed to put together a mini zine round-up of those skills along with a few short essays.

This small zine is available as freebie if you order Plot 13

Or contact me ( if you would like to trade! 

Friday, March 17, 2017

DIY Flower Press

I have been kind of obsessed with flowers lately (Exhibit A) so I decided to spend the afternoon making a flower press. I had one as a kid and always loved the idea behind them - preserving a bit of summer's beauty into the white winter.

Flower presses are nothing more than a bit of wood, a few bolts, and few pieces of cardboard so it did not take me long to finish this project. I enjoy every second of using my manual hand drill so a small project that required me to use boring drill bits was a bit of extra pleasure. I did use my electric sander to do the bulk of the sanding but found the noise distracting so I finished the project by hand sanding it. A project this small would not take very long to sand entirely by hand anyways so in the future I will forgo the use of the electric sander for small projects.  

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The completion of this project reminds me how quickly farm related skills develop. Just a few months ago the construction of a bench was arduous and overwhelming but now I can complete a simple project in a few short hours and be relatively stress free while doing it!

And now to we wait until flowers bloom.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Growing and Using Nasturtiums

I've been reading gardening books for as long as I can remember (the fact that 2016 was my first actual garden is irrelevant) and whenever I came across  a profile of Nasturtiums and the often stated "Nasturtium seeds can be pickled and used as caper substitute." I would make a mental note... make sure you experience that someday Sarah!

This winter, researching for my second ever garden, whenever I come across a profile of Nasturtiums I think... those sure are tasty. Make sure to do that again this summer!

I enjoy knowing plants in this way - this way that is specific to growing them. I watched those Nasturtiums grow from the very first day. I watched them bloom. I watched how the seed pods formed. I watched how the ones I did not pickle dry into the seeds for next year's garden. That visceral sense of knowing  - that comes with a sense of ownership - is unique to gardening.

Nasturtium Capers
(This recipe works well but I'll be playing with seasonings in the upcoming season!) 

2 tablespoons salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup green Nasturtium seedpods
several cloves of garlic

Boil salt and water. Pour over seedpods and garlic cloves. Let sit at room temperature for three days. Drain. 

3/4 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 cloves garlic

Combine ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour boiling vinegar over the seeds and let cool. Refrigerate. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Review: Garden Design by Alice Recknagel Ireys

This is not something I would normally have picked up as I do not intend to have detailed, manicured garden beds that would include something as high-fluting as a 'garden design' but I found this slim book for 50 cents at my local thrift store and you simply can't bet a price like that!

I enjoyed reading through this book and several of the garden designs caught my eye. For example, "A Garden of Annual Everlastings" offered some inspiration as far as seasonal cut flowers as well as dried flower for winter bouquets. I also enjoyed "A Salad Garden by the Kitchen Door" for its practical inspiration. Several of the solid-colour bed designs intrigued me as well.

Overall this book offered a very approachable viewpoint toward garden design. The information presented in the book is enough for a beginner gardener to make a passable attempt at any of the designs but I would do fair amount of additional research on each plant mentioned before I felt ready to actually put together one of the designs. I like the information presented for each design as a graphed layout is included as well as a chart showing details of the plants included. I think this book is best used by beginners by following a design accurately. There are several general design principles included in the book but they are not detailed enough to allow a beginner to deviate much from the proscribed plan.

Overall, I'm glad I took the risk and spent the 50 cents on this book!