Every time you eat you are partnering with nature to shape the direction of evolution for the next 12,000 years. That almost seems hard to believe, but it is just as true today as it was 12,000 years ago when seeds began to be saved around the beginning of agriculture
Importance of Heirloom Seed Preservation
Today we are so fortunate because we have available to us the heritage of countless hours of hard work and patience contained in thousands of varieties of seeds. Seeds are the way that plants have developed to move around to find the best places to live.
Seeds are alive
Similar to dogs being bred over time from a wolf to have a large range of sizes and shapes and unique specialties, most agricultural plants have hundreds of varieties or in the case of some ,like rice, tens of thousands of different kinds. Where some dogs were bred to chase sheep some to chase rats, and some to chase bulls; with crop plants, some are great for hot areas, some for cold, some for wet area and some dry, some are great if it is very windy, some can deal with pests or the intrusion of saltwater, as well as plants which have been selected for a full range of color,, aroma and nutritional benefits.
Because seeds are alive they have to be grown or they lose their vigor and are unable germinate or to be grown. Over about the past 90 years we have lost around 90% of the varieties gardeners and farmers have spent thousands of years to develop.
We can each help out however, by planting out and growing heirloom or open pollinated seeds you can both help preserve these seeds, and the unique aspect of sustainability hidden within those seeds. As the global climate continues to change, things are becoming less predictable, so as to ensure security we need to improve diversity to enable the greatest degree of stability.
So what can we do, grow some heirloom seeds, join a seed saving organization, start a local seed library, or think of it like adopting a dog at a shelter but one which is being saved for the benefit of your grandchildren and your grandchildren’s grandchildren, for that is what our grandparents and our grandparent’s grandparents did lovingly for us.
When growing a plant one of the main considerations is its growing medium. In certain specialized settings various mediums are used like plug trays, or a nutrient solution as in hydroponics; however, for nearly all plants the growing medium is going to be soil. Plants do process sunlight into food, but to make that process work the plants need to uptake complementary nutrients, and in that process plants actually mine nutrients from the soil. So for a plant to be healthy it not only needs some light exposure but it also needs soil that helps supply it with its building blocks.
There are many commercially available soils which serve well to support the healthy growth of plants. A bag of soil at the local nursery which is organic and indicated for vegetables will likely have everything needed to get started. Because vegetables often grow quick and take a lot out of the soil, soils specifically recommended for vegetables will often be well fortified for most growing situations. Once the soil is available it can be used for growing plants from seed, for transferring starts into that soil, or for using the soil in a garden or other raised bed. However, if the area is somewhat large it might be more economical to look for nurseries that will sell soil in bulk, instead of just in bags.
These commercially available soils are usually well off in terms of nutrients, but are often very dry, so should be wet slightly prior to transplanting so that any roots do not dry out; and again after any transplanting plants should always be well watered in. The soils should not look or feel dry, but also not be so wet that water can be squeezed out of it.
If you grow a plant in a pot, the pot should be filled with soil no closer than one inch from the rim of the pot, as this will allow room for water as it soaks into the soil. The soil should be well packed down without being too firm, this may sound somewhat vague, but just thinking about how to best use the soil to tuck in a little growing plant with care, often results in just the right touch. If planting seeds this same firming in of the soil is helpful. The pressure ensures that the rots are in contact with the soil which helps prevent unnecessary drying out, and the gentleness helps ensure that the soil is not too compact and unnecessarily difficult for growing root to penetrate.
Now that you have an understanding for how to work with the soil to support the health of plants there is a more in depth explanation around the various aspects of soil; specifically where soil comes from, what are the chemical components of soil, what are the biological components of soil, and how all of these elements come alive and result in inactive dirt becoming dynamically active soil.
‘The Seed Story’ by James Sanner
Look at me, look at me, I’m a little seed
I’ve got my own home right here, but that’s not all I need
Like everybody else I need food to grow
So let me stretch out of my shell and give you a little show
In the springtime the rain comes falling down
Slipping through the soil that surrounds me all around
I drink up some water that is all about
And open up out from my shell as my roots begin to sprout
Eating up the nutrients that is in the soil
Gives me all the strength I need to let my stem uncoil
The summer brings with it the sun that warms me through and through
So I stretch way up to the sky that’s bright and shinny blue
Soaking up the sun’s fun rays helps me grow strong and tall
So I can make my leaves and twigs and fruit shaped like a ball
Eventually the days grow short and summer moves away
But I still have my favorite trick and that’s my fall display
My leaves change their colors to red and orange and gold
Such a lovely sight it is for anyone to behold
Leaves dancing on their finger tips are always waving in the breeze
But like the waves out in the sea, eventually they leave
I let go of all my leaves, and they pile up more and more
And eventually I drop my fruit on top of this soft floor
I’m always sad to see them go but I never cry
Because inside each of them I left a little surprise
My fruits are like small houses for my little seeds
To keep them through the winter so that they don’t freeze
And when the winter starts to go the spring does come again
To let my seeds grow nice and tall so we can all be friends