Thursday, August 14, 2008

THURSDAY; Gardening

Last Friday, we got the first real rain in about 6 weeks. Couple the lack of rain with the 100+ deg temps we'd had over the previous two weeks and you can imagine my garden looks rough (I'll get pics up as soon as I can). The rain on Friday and the repeat on Monday have helped start the recovery. We're still getting cukes, a few tomatoes, peppers and my current favorite, purple hull peas. The corn we planted in mid June is silking now as well, so in about 2 months, if it doesn't freeze first, we will have corn from our garden :o)

Gardening has been an interest of mine for a long time, but this is the first home we've lived in where conditions were right for a garden. We've been enjoying both the process of gardening and of course the product of our garden.

Currently, the garden contains mostly hybrid plants but we do have seeds for 2 and 3 plants that are open pollinated or heirloom plants. We have seeds (for next year) from a beautiful purple tomato and seeds for a purple bell pepper (it tastes like a cross between a sweet bell and a purple onion). We also have a watermelon plant, 28 or so purple hull peas and 32 onions that are non-hybrids.

What is the difference between a hybrid and an heirloom plant? Well, basically if you save the seeds from an heirloom, you will get another plant that looks and acts just like the parent. If you save hybrid seeds, you will get a plant that doesn't look much like the parent and that either produces little fruit or none at all. In other words, for hybrids, you must buy your seeds from a seed company every year.

Up until a few years ago, I didn't really care or understand why I would want heirloom plants. I believed that all plants were the same. But then I learned that before the industrialization of farming, we had tens of thousands of varieties of plants that were farmed and now we are down to only a handful of varieties per plant family. When you think of things in terms of eating having only a few varieties doesn't sound that bad, but when you consider the possible impact of a disaster on the existence of our species, the picture changes a little.

Relying on only a few varieties of plants is like putting all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak. Should we be taking that chance with something as important as our food supply? Biodiversity is important. And many heirloom varieties of plants are close to extinction. But if we plant them and incorporate them into our diet, we help ensure that they will be around for many years to come.

If you are interested in gardening with heirloom seeds, here are a few links where you can buy them.

Heirloom Seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom

You can find lots more by typing heirloom seeds into a google search. You can also get seeds by trading with someone who grows them. Mention your interest in heirlooms to other gardeners who may be able to help you. You can also buy heirloom veggies at some farmers markets and save those seeds.

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