The Dirt on Nicky

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Seeds of Community

This is the time of year when ardent gardeners, me included, are tempted to save seeds from every kind of tomato and pepper variety in the garden. Lettuce too. And basil. And leftover beans plus pumpkins if you have them.

Saving those seeds means next year’s plants will already have grown in your microclimate and soil for at least one year. Keep them going year after year and you will have your own heirloom varieties acclimated to your garden space. Excellent.

Regarding seed-saving… a packet of lettuce seeds has hundreds of seeds. I just counted the seeds left over in a packet of tomato seeds from which I had planted a dozen seeds last spring, and there were still more than 50 left. Even more in a packet of bell peppers. If I judiciously use just a dozen or so of the pepper seeds each spring, the seeds might go sterile before I use them all.

One time years ago, I sprinkled what was left of an old packet of parsley seeds in a nifty swath in a garden bed, and, of course, they all sprouted, and because I let a couple of them go to seed, I will never again need to buy parsley seeds. However, I still have seeds in the seed basket, so what to do?

A market gardener might use an entire packet or two (or three) of seeds. Most of us, though, are home gardeners careful not to waste seeds, so there will be leftovers. Add to the mix saving seeds year after year to ensure your own line of heirlooms, and soon enough your seed basket has packets of bell pepper seeds going back six or seven years. Some are yellow, some are purple, all tasty, and you will never plant them all.

Okay, since we want to save the world, let nothing go to waste and create community in an adverse environment, let’s think.

  1. We could do nothing. You’re on your own and so am I. They’re your seeds, so deal with them. Arrrgh!
  2. We can trade. Seed exchanges are a way to spread our seed assets fairly through the garden community.
  3. Or what if you, me and baby makes three planned ahead, six feet apart or on Zoom, and discussed our common garden goals, ordered together and split the seeds evenly. Most of us do not need 60 tomato seeds of one variety, so we share. Sounds a tiny bit socialist, but why not.
  4. Or, since someone must actually start tomato and pepper plants (and others), what if you and me and several babies make three worked a deal with a person with a greenhouse or grow facility to provide that part of the labor component in exchange for those in the newfound cooperative buying the seeds. Divide the outcome according to need. The grower gets a few plants too, and the seed buyers happily get what they bargained for. Totally socialist.
  5. Or, the person with the greenhouse invites friends over for beers and socialist spaghetti and everyone, carefully masked and spread apart, talks about gardens, cool camping spots, the biggest pumpkin they ever saw, Tom Petty songs, and vegetables we can share because our society is yearning for examples of community and cooperation… zucchini for everyone, peppers and peas aplenty plus I have extra carrot seeds so let’s make the most of them because they don’t last forever. Who has tomatillos? Actually, this is the same as Number 4.

Eureka Springs is full of knowledgeable and dedicated gardeners. A seed-ordering cooperative should be easy to organize because 1) we unite for causes and parades; 2) we love fresh organic produce; and 3) every computer has spreadsheet capability. It’s easy.

Gardeners of the county, unite!

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