The 5th Annual National Heirloom Expo

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September 6th-8th Santa Rosa, CA –  The 5th annual National Heirloom Expo is coming up in less than three weeks! This is the place to be if you want to learn everything there is to know about heirloom produce. Over 75 knowledgeable speakers from across the globe will be discussing heirlooms for three full days, with topics ranging from Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening to the Future of Heirloom Seeds.

Don’t miss these other opportunities at the Expo –

•Colossal Pumpkin Contest and Show

•Kid’s Heirloom Fetival

•Fruit Tastings

•Heritage Poultry Show

•Vendors

•Local Food Fair

•Folk Music Festival & National Fiddlers Contest

 

Successful Seed Swap

The 8th annual Santa Barbara Seed Swap went off without a hitch yesterday, despite the crazy weather. Young and old gathered in the Faulkner Gallery at the Santa Barbara Public Library for another wonderful community event.

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Seed companies such as Renee’s Garden Seeds and Botanical Interests, as well as local favorite Island Seed and Feed, donated a large amount of seed packets to add to the already plentiful amount provided by the attendees.

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Not only were incredible seed varieties available, there was also an abundance of information to be shared. Knowledgeable people from the community such as Cerena Childress, Oscar Carmona, Wesley Roe, and many others, were available to answer questions and give short talks on what they are passionate about.

Children’s activities were running all day in one of the wings of the gallery. Sponsored by Trinity Gardens, kids were able to explore the world of seeds and participate in making seed packets, matching seeds to plants, reading books about seeds, and learning how to save seeds from their own gardens.

It was a wonderful day, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t attended this event to do so next year.

For more information, check out the Facebook group –  Santa Barbara Seed Swap

 

My Top 5 Heirloom Seed Companies

seedcataloguevintageYes, I admit it! I have a seed addiction.  People often ask me where I like to purchase my seeds. Here are five of my favorite places to procure seeds.

1. Seed Savers Exchange

Seed Savers Exchange is a popular place to purchase seeds. Founded in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange is a registered non-profit and the reason why heirlooms are so popular today. Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa is the headquarters of this organization. Here you’ll find their seed collection, display gardens and walking trails. They carry seeds for herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers.

2. Seeds of Change

Seeds of Change offers 100 percent certified organic seeds and plants. They grow all their own seeds on their research farm or within their network of organic farmers. All of their offerings are open-pollinated, and they specialize in traditional and heirloom varieties.

3. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Baker Creek Seeds offers unique heirloom, non-genetically modified seeds. Baker Creek’s store in Petaluma’s historic Sonoma County National Bank building is a beacon for gardeners, foodies and tourists. If you’re ever in that part of California, have a look at the Baker Creek Seed Bank.

4. Territorial Seed

Territorial Seed was founded in 1979 by Steve Solomon. The company was later sold to Tom and Julie Johns in 1985. Since then, their main focus has been on making it possible for gardeners to improve their self-sufficiency and independence by enabling them to produce an abundance of good tasting, fresh from the garden food. Territorial Seed carries vegetable seeds and plants, along with garden supplies.

5. High Mowing Organic Seeds

Celebrating their 20th anniversary, High Mowing Organic Seeds started as a one-man operation, and  is now a thriving business. Over 600 heirloom, open-pollinated and hybrid varieties of vegetable, fruit, herb and flower seed are made available to home gardeners and commercial growers.

 

Seeds of Progress: Seed Savers Exchange Celebrates 40th Anniversary, Plans to Keep it Growing

The Seed Savers Exchange, known to many of you as the leader in the heirloom seed movement, is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015! The SSE was founded in 1975, and is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and sharing heirloom and open-pollinated plant varieties. SSE is looking ahead to a year full of progress and celebration, while continuing to grow and maintain a collection of more than 20,000 seed and plant varieties at their Iowa headquarters.

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More information about the Seed Savers Exchange can be found here – http://www.seedsavers.org/

Hybrids? Yes or No?

Many people approach me with questions about my vegetable seedlings. Many want to know if they are GMO free, if they are Heirloom, if they are Organic. I can always guarantee my plants are fed all natural organic fertilizer and planted in organic soil. I can also guarantee I plant only GMO free seed. What I cannot say, is that I plant only heirloom seeds.

I have many requests for hybrid vegetable seedlings, especially tomatoes. If you’ve ever grown tomatoes, you know what I mean! They can be quite fussy depending on the variety. With our many micro-climates here in Santa Barbara, it may be difficult for some growers to achieve the results they hope for. If you plan on feeding your family, and you depend on those vegetables and tomatoes, you might find it easier to do so with certain hybrids that have been found to be disease resistant.

There are some great hybrid varieties such as Big Beef and Sweet 100 Cherry. These varieties are good producers and appeal to people who enjoy large slicing tomatoes, or the small sweet-like-candy cherry tomatoes. They seem to do well in all climates and are less susceptible to diseases such as mold, blight, and wilt. Hybrids also tend to produce more uniform fruit, whereas an heirloom could quite possibly have different looking fruits on the same vine.

One of the downsides of hybrid seeds, and it is especially noticeable with squash, is that the seeds do not grow true to the parent plant if saved and replanted. Second generation hybrid squash plants tend to produce strange, light green, odd-looking fruits that don’t look very appetizing. Tomatoes on the other hand, could produce something similar in looks to the parent plant, although inferior in taste and texture.

You could conduct your own Mendelian experiment, and create a hybrid of your own. Cross-pollinate two varieties you enjoy, and save the seeds from those fruits. From the seed you would grow many plants, 64 or 128! You would then evaluate those plants and select the ones most like the original hybrid that you produced. From those plants you would collect the seed and repeat the process until you end up with the stabilized hybrid. It may take five or six generations of plants to get back to where you started. You can then save those seeds, give them a special name, pass them down in your family for 50 years and create your own heirloom variety!

I am not going to get much into the Seminis/Monsanto discussion.There are lists online containing the names of hybrid seeds designed by this company, and some lists are more accurate than others. I personally choose not to support this particular company. Under the Monsanto umbrella is a very small home-garden division called Seminis Gardens that produces and sells some well-known, non-GMO varieties. Some tomato seeds that I use which are on “the list” such as Lemon Boy, were developed and introduced long before Monsanto owned Seminis, and were originally sold under an entirely different brand. These varieties are now available from a number of reputable seed producers. Make your own informed decisions on what seeds to buy.

Hybrids or Heirlooms, it is really a matter of personal preference!

Vernal Equinox, New Moon, Supermoon! It is planting time!

This weekend is a great time to plant some food for you and your family. If you are familiar with the power of the moon, you know Saturday and Sunday are the perfect days to get some tomatoes in the ground.

We have some wonderful new plants available at the farm today, and throughout the weekend. Come on by, there’s a table in the driveway. Cash goes in the box. This is a self serve operation. Perhaps you’ll see me out there while I work on my newest Hydroponics project. Let’s talk tomatoes! I’m always willing to talk about growing vegetables. If you can’t make it out this weekend, send me an email, or feel free to comment below.

Happy Planting!

-Farmer Chris

New tomato varieties available Friday, March 20th

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Veggie Plant Sale on Another Beautiful Saturday in Santa Barbara!

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Come get your vegetable starts for this warm weather weekend. It’s the perfect time to put some vegetables in the ground to get a healthy start on the season!

We have a few tomato varieties available again this weekend, as well as some squash plants.

Tomato Plants 4″ pots $2 each – Yellow Pear, Roma, Sweet 100’s

Squash Plants $2 for a 4-pack – Black Beauty Zucchini and Early Yellow Crookneck

squashyellowcrookneckEarly Yellow Crookneck Squash-
50 days. An old favorite heirloom, this is one of the oldest types of squash dating back to pre-Columbus times and has been popular ever since. Easy to grow and good tasting.


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Black Beauty Zucchini-
50 days. The classic dark-green summer squash that has made modern zucchini of this type popular. Introduced in the US markets in the 1920’s, and seed companies started listing it in the 1930’s. Delicious fried or baked; best picked young.


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Yellow Pear Tomato-
78 days. Very sweet, 1 1/2″ yellow, pear-shaped fruit have a mild flavor, and are great for fresh eating or for making tomato preserves. Very productive plants are easy to grow.


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Roma Tomato-
70-75 days. Determinate. A quality paste variety with very thick flesh. A popular old favorite with good yields.


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Sweet 100 Tomato –
Bursting with sugary flavor, Sweet 100s produce scarlet, cherry-sized fruits in long clusters right up to frost. You’ll definitely want to stake or cage these vigorous climbers to keep the fruit off the ground and avoid pests and diseases.