Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why We Should Save Seeds from our Gardens by Ed Powers

I have lived in many climates across the country over the last 40 years and I have tried to save seeds in most of those climates.  A key for me in saving seeds was to research seed saving through universities such as Colorado State University.  What I found was heirloom type seeds produced the same crops year after year whereas hybrid seeds would not produce exactly the same crops the following years.  Heirloom seeds are true to form that comes from open-pollinated plants and some cases have been grown year after year for over 50 years.  These heirloom seeds will adapt too many local areas after being grown in that area for 3 to 5 years.  However Hybrid seeds are across between 2 different plant varieties to get the valued attributes of both. That is done to make stronger plants.  But it holds true only in one year.

Collecting and saving these heirloom seeds are critical to our future health and wellbeing at our altitude.  Research shows that the more vegetables available, the fewer children die at a young age.  In fact they will grow to be very healthy.  It is important for each one of us that enjoy gardening to assist in the development of heirloom plants and seeds that succeed at our altitude.  Roughly 100,000 global planet global planet varieties are endangered today. We need to stop this trend and develop more high altitude tolerant seeds and plants.
During the 1900's we experienced a startling drop in the number of heirloom varieties—this was due to extreme weather events, over-exploitation of ecosystems, habitat loss, lack of public awareness and just important gardeners stopped saving and trading their own seeds. When we rely on commercial seed companies, any seeds that sell slowly simply get dropped from production and disappear. 
This loss of varieties translates into lower genetic variability in our food plants. Lower variability means lower adaptability to stresses such as disease or climate change. Each time a seed variety is lost, we lose another chance to feed ourselves in a world of changing climate and shrinking resources. 
Another reason to save seeds is seed prices have risen steadily in recent years, at the same time as the number of seeds in a packet has fallen—often there are as few as 25 seeds in a packet of commercial seeds. 
You can save your own seeds for free, usually, and you can save as many seeds as you like. You can easily save enough seeds to have plenty for sharing with friends and other gardeners in local or online seed exchanges. Trading with friends can greatly increase the number of different varieties you can enjoy—without spending a cent! 

Other reasons to save seeds and adapt them to your climate include:

Create new varieties adapted to your growing conditions, your individual tastes! 

Preserve the genetic diversity of our heirloom food plants. As well as the ones that you developed for our area.  Help retain plants' pest resistance

Empower your own personal breeding goals instead of the commercial goals of agribusiness seed breeders.  Assist in the development of heirloom seeds adapted to our many ecosystem and microclimates. 

Feel satisfied, empowered and connected to the earth and nature.

Last but not least assist in the development of a seed library that can develop a seed exchange and training program (I will discuss this in more detail in a later blog).