With seed swap season in full swing, many of us are swooping up all kinds of seeds with visions of nutritious vegetables dancing in our heads. But what if those seeds don’t yield what we’re expecting? How does one test seeds to make sure they’ll grow into edibles? During Chicago Botanic Garden’s recent seed swap, Lisa Hilgenberg, a horticulturist there, demonstrated a simple seed germination test that anyone can do. Watch the video to see how you can, too.
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This is the time of year for seed swaps around Chicago. Several groups have swaps of all sorts planned this weekend and next. Chicago Botanic Garden Seed Swap Sunday, Feb. 26 2 to 5 p.m. Details: Featuring Diane Ott Whealy co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange and author of “Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver.” Diane will give a lecture and sign books from 2 to 3 p.m. Her presentation will be illustrated with photographs from her cottage–style garden at Seed Savers Exchange’s Heritage Farm.
From 3 to 5 p.m. everyone is invited to bring saved seed or excess seed packets to participate in the two-hour exchange. You don’t need to bring seed to swap (taking seed home works, too) and there will be a variety of demonstrations on starting seeds, saving seeds, seed germination testing and more.
The Eco Collective seed swap Sunday Feb 26 2pm-5pm in Pilsen RSVP for the exact address firstname.lastname@example.org $5 donation (benefits Eco Rooftop garden) Details: Come swap seeds with other gardeners to improve your garden's variety this spring & learn a couple of new things about growing. Bring seeds that you have saved over the growing season, “still viable” seeds that you have left over from last season, or new packs you've purchased for this season. And, bring a dish or drink to share with everyone, because snacks are always good.
The Peterson Garden Project annual seed swap Sunday, March 4 2 to 5 p.m Swedish Covenant Hospital’s Galter Pavilion Second Floor 5140 N. California Free admission Details: Trade your eggplant for zucchini, your cucumber for tomato. In addition to the seed exchange, there will also be opportunities to learn about planting, edible seeds, heirloom vegetables, and more. Peterson Garden Project volunteers will be on hand to discuss their three new community gardens for 2012. Details on sign-up to reserve garden plots will come mid-March; sign up for the Peterson Garden Project newsletter or follow their Facebook page for the latest information on the 2012 growing season.
The Garfield Park Conservatory on Chicago’s West Side is offering another series of workshops for those interested in greener living. We encourage you to check them out. Here’s what coming up next on the Conservatory's “Growing & Green Living” schedule: How to Harvest, Use & Brew Compost Wednesday, Aug. 17, 6-7:30 pm $5 suggested donation
This session will offer up tips on harvesting both yard waste compost and worm compost, how to use it, and how to modify it to meet specific needs of your space. We will also demonstrate how to make compost tea, as well as different types of materials to make homemade compost sieves. Pre-register online. Kitchen Sink Composting: Indoor Worm Bins for Your Kitchen Saturday, Aug. 20, 10 am – Noon $30 per bin (up to 2 participants) Looking for great compost you can make in your own kitchen? Come to this workshop, learn about worm composting, and leave with your very own kitchen composting bin, complete with worms. Pre-register online. Demonstration: Brewing a Batch of Compost Tea Saturday, Aug. 20, 1-3 pm FREE Drop-in anytime during the designated hours to view a demonstration and chat with Master Composters about how to brew and use compost tea. No pre-registration required. Beginning Beekeeping ONLY A FEW SPACES LEFT – REGISTER TODAY! Saturday, Sept. 3, 9 am – 2 pm $70 (or $50 for GPCA members & approved volunteers) Spend the day with us learning the basics of beekeeping equipment, hive design and construction, bee biology and behavior, bee management and bee products. Pre-registration and payment is required. Register online. Harvesting & Storing Seeds Saturday, Sept. 10, 10 am – Noon $5 suggested donation Seed saving is great for anyone interested in increasing the productivity of their garden. In this workshop we will discover the basics of seed saving for annual, biennial and perennial plants. We will go over hands-on techniques for wet and dry seed harvest, threshing, winnowing and storage. Pre-register online.
Would anyone be remotely interested in the garden-variety Burpee seeds I wanted to swap? Would the swappers be tripping over each other to get their hands on a package of exotic, hard-to-find seeds? Would there be anything new to learn about seeds?
Yes. No. Most definitely.
Seeds are fascinating little unborn plants, and gardeners of all levels, I’ve found, love to cradle and fuss over them. And, a seed swap is a great place to cultivate a deeper appreciation of those little babies we want to help grow to maturity. Luckily for many of us, the committee that organized the Forest Park swap thought to make a seed starting demonstration part of the afternoon. They also provided catalogs from some of the country’s top seed retailers for us swappers to take home and swoon over later.
Master gardener trainee Debbie Kong, an avid and resourceful suburban farmer, presented the seed demonstration, assisted by her daughter, Kara, who she calls Little Green Girl. Packing their demonstration with lots of practical information, they explained the characteristics and germination schedules of popular seeds.
We asked Debbie to tell us one of the most important facts we should know about seeds. “Seeds should not be more than two years old (this varies on the type of seed) because their germination rates declines,” she said.
And what kinds of seeds are urban gardeners looking for today? “Gardeners are now buying seeds from smaller companies that specialize in heirloom seeds for their quality and unique varieties,” Debbie explained. As for her own seed source preferences, she said, “I like buying my seeds at Renee’s Garden, Seeds from Italy, Botanical Interests, the Hudson Valley Seed Library, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I also recommend Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange, which is a 35-year-old non profit organization working to preserve heirloom seeds.”
You don’t have to miss out on Debbie’s demonstration. Seeding Chicago recorded it for you. Watch Parts 1 and 2 here:
The snow may keep coming down here in Chicago, but we know the growing season is coming, too. To help gardeners get ready, communities and organizations are hosting seed swaps this month. In the last few years, seed swaps have become popular in the U.S., and they’re growing trend in the U.K., where Seedy Sunday — UK's largest seed swap — took place Feb. 6 (also known as Super Bowl Sunday for many here).
“Seedy Sunday has blazed the trail for UK seed swaps over the past decade: it is the must-be-there event for seed swappers, conservers, developers and newcomers,” the event’s website says. “It exudes innovation, creativity and common sense. It shows up the idiocy of draconian seed laws and the Gene Giants’ restrictive practices: in this warming world we need to exchange more diversity of uncontaminated plants to secure future food. Seedy Sunday builds solidarity among all of us who respect our collective rights to save, sow, swap and sell seeds grown in our gardens and farms: it gives strength to seed law busters.”
If you’re in Chicago, though, and searching for a hard-to-find vegetable or flower seed, check out two upcoming seed swaps. Urban farmers and gardeners can exchange seeds of different varieties to enrich their gardens with more diversity.
Saturday, Feb. 12, from 10 a.m. till 12 p.m., Lurie Garden is hosting a seed swap on the first floor Garland Room of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. Experienced seed savers/swappers and curious newbies are invited. Lurie Garden staff who will be on hand to provide seeds and tips for planting and germination. Representatives from One Seed Chicago also will be on hand for those who want to cast vote for one of this year’s seed choices. NeighorSpace has donated some seeds for the swap. So, even if you don't have seeds to swap you will not leave empty-handed. RSVP by calling the Lurie Garden at 312.742.8497 Space is limited.
Here are some tips for packaging seed saved in your garden to swap: *Package seeds in paper coin envelopes or plastic baggies. *Label seed packs with botanical and common name. *Five seed-per pack minimum for larger and common seeds. *Thirty seed-per pack minimum for smaller seeds. If you don't have small coin envelopes or want to buy little plastic baggies, you can use junk mail envelopes to hold your seeds.
On Sunday, Feb. 27 from 1 to 4 p.m., the Forest Park Community Garden Seed Swap & Seed Starting Demonstration will take place at the Park District of Forest Park, 7501 Harrison St. An RSVP is required because space is limited. Master gardener Debbie Kong will lead the seed starting demonstration. If you know of other seed swaps in the Chicago area, drop us a note and we'll help you spread the seeds, uh, the word.
Thinking about what to plant when the growing season finally returns to Chicago? After a long, cold, snowy winter like the one we’ve had here, many local gardeners are dreaming about seeds and soil and sun — and the crops to come. We are.
In the meantime, we can make real those dreams by choosing a seed that will connect thousands of Chicago gardeners — and at the same time encourage urban farming and healthy eating habits. For the fourth year, the One Seed Chicago project offers Chicago gardeners the chance to vote on their favorite vegetable seed then receive a free packet of the seed that gets the most votes.
“One Seed Chicago is uniting Chicago gardeners,” says Ben Helphand, executive director of NeighborSpace, the nonprofit urban land trust that started One Seed Chicago. “By planting a common seed, backyards, windowsills, community gardens and balconies across the City will be linked together in a season-long celebration of urban gardening and local eating.”
In partnership with GreenNet, Chicago's community greening coalition, One Seed Chicago selected the three vegetable seeds Chicagoans can choose among. Chicago celebrity chefs will provide recipe ideas for each of the three vegetables and voters are encouraged to share their own.
This year’s seed choices are eggplant, radish and swiss chard.
Voting continues until April 1, 2011. The winning seed will be unveiled at GreenNet’s annual Green and Growing Fair, April 30 from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. at the Garfield Park Conservatory. To vote, log onto the OneSeedChicago website.
While you're trying to decide, check out this amusing video:
Since the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake, many Haitians came to see agriculture as the most practical and long-term solution to healing the land and the economy. Then in stepped big agribusiness, as always, with its own solution, designed more to help its bottom line than the Haitian population.
Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agri-chemical company, announced recently that it would donate 60,000 sacks, or 475 tons, of hybrid corn and vegetable (cabbage, carrot, eggplant, melon, onion, tomato, spinach and watermelon) seeds, some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides, according to reports.
Haitian farmers called the donation “a new earthquake” with the potential to rock their island nation as much as the one that destroyed so many lives and structures earlier this year.
Bev Bell of Daily Kos reported: In an e-mailed letter sent May 14, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, executive director of the Peasant Movement of Papay and the spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay, called the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti "a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds, and on what is left our environment in Haiti." Haitian activists have vigorously opposed agribusiness imports of seeds and food, which undermines local production with local seed stocks, and expressed special concern about the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture rejected Monsanto’s offer of Roundup (its popular and bestselling herbicide) Ready GMO seeds. A Monsanto representative, in an e-mail, assured the MoA that the donated seeds are not GMO.
The Director of Seeds at the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture says the seeds are treated with the fungicide Maxim XO, and the calypso tomato seeds are treated with thiram, which belongs to a highly toxic class of chemicals called ethylene bisdithiocarbamates. The EPA has determined that EBDC-treated plants are so dangerous to agricultural workers that they must wear special protective clothing when handling them.
Haitian farmers, who are trying to hold on to the one hope they have for rebuilding their damaged eco-system and economy, will stage a protest and burn seeds from Monsanto in Haiti on June 4, World Environment Day. In solidarity with the Haitian farmers, Chicago food justice activists are holding an evening of action Friday, June 4, 6:30 – 8 p.m., called “From Haiti to Chicago: Speak OUT against Monsanto!” at the 65th and Woodlawn Community Garden (corner of 65th and Woodlawn).
The gathering will feature: *Speak outs, testimonies about the right to quality food and food sovereignty *Performance by hot Chi-city poets and spoken word artists *Haiti Updates *Planting of heirloom seeds, reclaiming the tradition of seed saving, and rejecting the monopolization of genetically modified foods. For more information, contact Rising in Solidarity with Ayiti (R.I.S.A.) at: email@example.com or call: (773) 979-3272
"DIRT! The Movie" explores the wonders of the soil and tells the story of Earth's most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility.
Chicago Community Cinema will present a screening of "Dirt!" 2 p.m. Saturday, March 20 Chicago Cultural Center 78 E. Washington St. In the Claudia Cassidy Theater
We hope you will come out and join us in viewing this enlightening documentary, which brings to life the environmental, economic, social and political impact of soil around the world. Find out how industrial farming, mining and urban development have led us toward cataclysmic droughts, starvation, floods and climate change.
Narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis, "DIRT! The Movie" shares the stories of experts from around the world who study the beauty and power of soil, which is made from the same elements as the stars, plants and animals, and us.
The movie teaches: "When humans arrived 2 million years ago, everything changed for dirt. And from that moment on, the fate of dirt and humans has been intimately linked."
Dirt is part of everything we eat, drink and breathe--and that's why we should stop treating it like, well...dirt. "DIRT!" is more than a movie. It's a call to action.
Following the film, some of Chicago's most innovative ecologists/gardeners/recyclers will share ideas on composting methods and gardening techniques for city dwellers and talk about ways to transform our urban landscape. The Community Cinema guests are: Ken Dunn, Resource Center Orrin Williams,Center For Urban Transformation Pete Leki and Jordan Rivera, Waters Elementary School Nancy Klehm, Spontaneous Vegetation Moderator: Erin Kennedy, SCARCE
See you there!