Monday, January 31, 2011

Seed Swap

Wanting to get outside to start working in the garden once the new year has started, yet unable to because it's too cold, too wet, too dark, too muddy, you get the idea, around here, tends to make me a little restless, squirrely, almost itchy. I have a pile of all the best, prettiest seed catalogs on my coffee table that I keep pouring through. They tempt me, almost shout at me at times, to place an order for my spring garden. With highlighter in hand, sometimes I draw circles around the new vegetables in the catalogs as they catch my eye. Reading, devouring every word of the descriptions and familiarizing myself with the unique caracteristics of the leaves and their appearance from the corresponding photos, I become an almost-expert on many vegetables, flowers and herbs. It feels near instinctual for me to do something garden related, yet I force myself to refrain from placing an order - at least until after our seed swap.
Besides the obvious benefit of making it easy to lead a healthy, organic lifestyle by raising my own vegetables, another one of the reasons I like to garden is, quite simply, to save dollars on the food bill. I support seed swaps because I like that sense of community that grows when like minds get together to generously swap and share not only seeds and plant starts, but also knowledge. It seems our Bellingham Community Seed Swap gets bigger and better each year. A few donation jars are available, but with the goal of putting "Seeds into the Hands of the People", everything is free. This was our third annual swap, and just look at the crowd gathered around this table. There was plenty of time for note taking, labeling, browsing and swapping followed by a class on seed saving basics and another one on grains and tubers for a complete diet. What an absolute fun way for me to spend an afternoon!
Someone brought in Jerusalem Artichoke (Sun Choke) tubers. I have never grown - for that matter, never even tasted - Jerusalem Artichokes before, but after talking with Brian of Inspiration Farm, am convinced that I want to establish them in my gardens. Two small tubers went in my tote - one for Garden Nbr. 01 and the other for Garden Nbr. 02 at the Happy Valley Community Gardens. Now I can hardly wait until their harvest so I can learn to prepare them and make a place for them in my diet.Seed potatoes were available this year - Dobson potatoes, purple potatoes, red French fingerling potatoes, regular red potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes. Now I count the days until I can plant potatoes in my garden, and I long for that just-dug-potato smell to be enjoyed later in the summer.
The weight of this elephant garlic felt like a real treasure in my hand. A hard neck variety, not only will I have a nice supply of elephant garlic for next winter, but already, I can almost taste the garlic scape pesto I will make in the spring. Regular garlic cloves were available too, also a hard neck variety, so I see even more garlic scape pesto in the future. Garlics often are planted in the fall here, or on into winter if the soil can be worked, so I should plant mine and place mulch over them absolutely as soon as possible. Oh for joy, a genuine excuse to go to my garden, work a bit of soil and actually plant something!
There was a generous assortment of heirloom bean seeds available too. I saw painted lady beans, scarlet runner beans, calypso beans, Ely beans, cranberry beans, Hopi bush black beans, red chili beans, fava beans, rattlesnake beans and Oregon Giant beans. The beans were so tasty from my garden last year, of course, I'm hoping my selections will do just as well this year.
Other vegetable favorites of mine found at the Seed Swap - curly kale, Lacinto Kale (aka, black Tuscan or dinasaur), red and bright lights Swiss chard. In the cucurbit family, acorn squash, buttercup squash, delicata squash and the blue Hokkaido squash.
Horseradish root crowns were available and one found its way into my tote. Horseradish grew like crazy in the heat of my Wenatchee garden, I'm curious how it will do here on the cooler side of the mountains.
I could not resist putting a few purple podded pea seeds into an envelope as they sounded so beautiful, and I have never had them before. They should make a very pretty addition to my pea trellis this summer, and on my dinner plate.
Calendula and two colors of opium poppies - one purple and the other pink - were the last of my selections. Along with a few other herbs, I like to add calendula petals to the soaps and lotions that I make for my personal use, so all that I can grow myself makes a lot of sense to me. I love poppies, and the fact that once established in a garden bed, they will re-seed themselves year after year is very appealing. It's so nice to have a few beds in my garden that only need weeding. Their lacy pink and purple blossoms will surely make a pretty addition to my flower beds and bouquets.
More pics from the Third Annual Bellingham Seed Swap

Happy gardening to all!

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