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Spring gardening sprouts at Seedy Saturday

Cynara Lewis shows nine-year-old Seamus McFaul how to transplant a plant.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Gardeners, growers, green thumbs and seed enthusiasts gravitated to the ninth annual Seedy Saturday this weekend. After a long and snowy winter season, the upcoming gardening season was on the minds of hundreds of attendees filing through the doors.

Seeds in all shapes, sizes and colours were available to take, leave or exchange. A  miscellany of packets, envelopes and little bags of locally-saved seeds greeted visitors at the free swap table as people left with handfuls – even armfuls – of the offerings.

A full house at this year’s Seedy Saturday

This is the second year for the event at the larger location of Prince Edward Collegiate Institute (PECI) in Picton which more easily accommodates the many vendors and attendees the event now produces.

Organizer Christine Renaud has been involved in the event since its inception. Tamara Segal, of Hawthorn Herbals, has also been on board as an organizer for many of those years.

“The heart and the essence of Seedy Saturday is the seed exchange,” said Renaud. “It is a community-based seed exchange and seed swap and a time to celebrate and think about gardening.”

Vegetable, herb, tree and flower seeds free for the taking included black quinoa, peppers, sunflowers, pole beans, wild carrot, yellow pear tomatoes, statice sunset and mung beans. A small selection of free gardening books and magazines was also available to take away, along with plastic pots. Any seeds left over at the end of the day go to the seed bank to either be used in the County’s community gardens or to be brought back for next year’s event.

Visitors to Seedy Saturday could also purchase heritage, native and rare seeds from seed producers and vendors. Garden and nature-related exhibitors, farmers and local food producers also filled the space offering everything from rain barrels to microgreens to pussy willow branches.

Derick Greenly of Summergreen demonstrates how mushroom spawn works.

Derick Greenly, of Summergreen based in Warkworth, provided log inoculation demonstrations of drilling a small log with holes and filled with sawdust spawn. His business is growing mushrooms, but he also offers spawn for people to grow their own mushrooms.

“It’s about tuning into the idea of people managing their woodlots and constructively, regeneratively managing their woodlots and forests and growing mushrooms on that wood is a perfect match,” said Greenly.

The gymnasium was a discovery of all that is new in the world of gardening and was abuzz with activity and the sharing of information and knowledge. Twenty-seven local area vendors participated this year, many of those familiar County businesses.

A number of local organizations and garden clubs were represented with eight information booths including Prince Edward County Horticultural Society, Prince Edward County Master Gardeners and Prince Edward County Community Gardens.

Natalie Piper of Cloven Farms with her microgreens.

Nigel Piper, of Cloven Farm, has been growing a variety of microgreens, including mustard, buckwheat and speckled pea, year-round at his Picton farm in a controlled environment. They also grow garlic and “other weird niche crops”.

“We have a nice, colourful display. Things like buckwheat which is related to rhubarb is really electric colour and attracts people’s eye and all the greens we grow have a really powerful flavour,” said Piper.

The family-friendly event included a small children’s area and mini-planting section where the little ones could get their hands dirty with garden helper Cynara Lewis. She helped children learn how to pot a plant and they were thrilled to learn they could take it home.

Three guest speakers formed part of the day’s itinerary with presentations in the library. Bay Woodyard, of Honey Pie Hives and Herbals, talked about transforming a lawn into a colourful meadow of bee-friendly flowers.

Stacey Hubbs, of Edible Antiques based in Wellington, followed with a talk on seed saving and why everyone should save their seeds.

“You soon begin to realize that seeds are just like humans as they have the same life cycle and you really develop a special relationship with your plants when you take care of them for their entire life,” said Hubbs.

“Think of it as a really lovely, fun experience you can repeat year after year and something that is really going to benefit your family. Think of it as something lovely and not intimidating,” said Hubbs.

Tim Bakker of Jubilee Forest Farm discusses forest gardening.

Tim Bakker, of Jubilee Forest Farm in Picton, spoke in detail about forest farming describing how the process is “a lot of learning and a lot of watching what nature does.”

“Forest farming is about long-term planning,” said Bakker.

His presentation covered topics such as alley cropping, silvopasture, forest buffers and wind breaks. He also addressed the best way to find and purchase unique plants and trees at reasonable prices.

Bakker describes his family farm operation as both agroforestry and forest gardening, but stressed they are not experts and are learning all the time on the best way of doing things. “‘We don’t profess to know everything,” said Bakker. “We believe nature is the best teacher.”

Seedy Saturday is a volunteer-driven event founded by Seeds of Diversity, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the proliferation and sharing of organic, open-pollinated heritage seeds.

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