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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA

September in the garden
Seed-saving is a top priority

by Carolyn Singer
September 10, 2011

straw foxgloveIt's always amazing to me when a seed germinates in my garden. Not when I planted it purposefully, knowing where I wanted it to grow, but most often when that single seed germinates with no effort on my behalf.

Straw foxglove (Digitalis lutea, photo, right) seed germinated this summer in the semi-shady and moister crevices next to the rocks that I piled carelessly. I pulled them out of the garden bed where I wanted this delicate foxglove to naturalize several years ago. The first few years that's exactly what this true perennial foxglove did, scattering seed on the compost I spread around the first plants. The area of foxglove is now quite dense, and any seed falling around the plants would have too much competition for light. Only the nearby rock pile provides a safe haven for germination.

Just inside my veggie garden gate, a single arugula seed germinated in June. I'm fascinated with its perfect growth form. Despite some soil compaction from the main path, and no effort on my part to provide even the basics of good soil, this single arugula grows with exemplary form, and refuses to mature into seed stage as the other arugula plants in better soil are doing. Perhaps there is a gardening lesson here.

The deer got into my garden when I was off on a trip with my grandchildren. Focused on harvesting summer squash before I left, I failed to secure the latch on the gate. The young lettuce I expected to begin picking soon, had only a few leaves remaining when I discovered the damage. I thought they might grow to offer a few more edible leaves, but instead the lettuce went into seed development. I will seed-save and scatter the seed next year.

Natl. Heirloom ExpoSeptember is the month when many seeds are ready for harvest, sowing, and storage. This coming week I will be immersed in the National Heirloom Exposition in Sonoma County (September 13-15, 2010), where seeds, healthy food, organic growing, and traditional agriculture are the focus. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and the Petaluma Seed Bank are the show sponsors, gathering speakers from many fields to share their knowledge and enthusiasm. Larner Seeds, known for their native grass seeds, will be educating the public about the true "California cuisine", using native plants.

The National Heirloom Expo, now being called the "World's Fair of the Heirloom Industry" is attracting attention from many corners of the globe. Dr. Vandana Shiva, India's foremost pure food expert, will be the keynote speaker on Thursday. In 1991, she founded Navdanya, a movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seeds. She is an internationally recognized leader in the pure foods movement.

Other inspirational speakers will include Alice Waters, from Chez Panisse in Berkeley on Wednesday evening and on Tuesday, Jeffrey Smith from the Institute of Responsible Technology addressing issues of genetically modified foods.

cosmosNationally-renowned chef, Jeremy Fox, plus a line-up of organic farmers, writers, and seed-savers determined to broaden the understanding of the heirloom, non-GMO and organic "fields" will offer speeches and workshops all three days. A farmers' market, and displays of produce, poultry and small livestock are included, and even a huge display of colorful and unique eggs. Bees will be an essential aspect of this expo too.

The Sonoma County Fairgrounds has hosted agriculture for many years, but never an exposition that is entirely about heritage agriculture and healthy living. I have powerful memories of growing up in this county, and look forward to returning for the first National Heirloom Expo. I'll try to get as much seed collecting done as possible before I leave, and finish the rest before the first fall rain.

©2011 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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