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Seedy Saturday provides seed of hope spring will soon arrive

The seed swap table was a popular spot all day long – even as seed supplies dwindled.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Despite the winter storms that followed, spring was definitely in the air Saturday and it wasn’t just the obvious clues of icy puddles underfoot and the warmth of the sun in the sky above.

Seedy Saturday has become the unofficial launch to spring in Prince Edward County as hundreds gathered at Prince Edward Collegiate Institute gymnasium in Picton for the popular free event.

Celebrating 10 years in the County, the event is not only a chance to think spring and dream spring, but it’s also about planning and getting ready for the upcoming growing season.

The large seed swap table is always a big draw where seeds can be swapped, donated or simply taken home — all at no charge. The idea is people usually have far more seeds than they can use, so it is suggested they are saved then shared on Seedy Saturday. In theory, other people will do the same thereby providing a diverse selection of seeds to pick up and try. This year’s table also had plenty of reading materials to give away in the form gardening magazines and books.

Crochet veggies made by Kate Joslin of Bear Root Gardens.

For those on the lookout for specific seed varieties or something a little unusual, rare or heirloom, there were many seed vendors including Bear Root Gardens from Verona, Kitchen Table Seed House of Wolfe Island, Garden Gate Seeds and Mountain Grove Seeds of Frontenac.

Participating in Picton’s Seedy Saturday for a fifth year, Pat Joslin of Bear Root Gardens had a good range of organic seeds on hand, noting it is wife Kate Joslin who crochets the tiny and fun lookalike vegetables on display at the booth which were also for available for purchase.

Three presentations held in the school library covered tree grafting with Derick Greenly of Summergreen Farm, seed saving with Vicki Emlaw of Vicki’s Veggies and vermi-composting with Blair Richards-Koeslag.

About 20 people attended Greenly’s presentation where he spoke about and demonstrated different types and techniques of tree grafting, such as bench grafting, cleft grafting, saddle grafting, root grafting and nurse-root grafting.

Vicki Emlaw

Emlaw’s interactive talk attracted about 35 people where she spoke about Seeds of Diversity and also how she got back into gardening and began saving seeds.

“I have gardened for about 25 or 30 years and grew up on a farm here in the County,” said Emlaw, noting how she was made to work in the garden as a kid and didn’t like it.

“When I finally got to the place where I decided I loved gardening, I was 30 when I first started Vicki’s Veggies,” she said. “When I started to love gardening, that’s when I started to sell vegetables.”

She explained that Seeds of Diversity are home gardeners from across Canada and the United States and a few in Europe who save seeds. She was introduced to it in about 2001 or 2002.

“They trade them to anyone who is a member of Seeds of Diversity, so you are trading them for postage.”

When she asked audience members why they choose to save seeds or grow plants from seed, the reasons varied from economics to simply knowing the origin of a seed. One person said it was about sharing the warmth, and others said it was the thrill of having seeds that were no longer available in the marketplace as well as knowing the history of seeds, rather than buying them from a store where the seeds could come from anywhere, or be anything.

A welcome sight of green with house plants for sale.

One gentleman said he simply sprinkles his spare seeds in random places just for the fun of it and for others to enjoy.

It’s about the intangibles said one participant, the wonder of growing something yourself.

“You know how much effort and energy goes into growing food, so when you have the whole cycle of saving the seed and growing the plants and tending to the them and harvesting them and saving them and keeping them over the wintertime, just the whole cycle gives much greater appreciation of food and you are less likely to waste it,” said Emlaw.

“It nice to have the whole history of seeds, its energy and the whole cycle, it’s part of the magic of life.“

For beginners, or those who have never grown seeds before, Emlaw recommended self-seeders that pollinate themselves, such as tomatoes, beans, peas, lettuce and ground cherries, which for those unfamiliar, are very, very sweet she said.

Emlaw emphasized the importance of starting seed sowing early, noting that she begins sowing tomatoes at the beginning of April, so they reach a good size by the May long weekend when they can be transplanted outdoors.

Ruth Gangbar served up delicious eats.

The school’s back room gymnasium was designated a quiet space this year with tables and chairs provided for enjoying a break and refreshments. It also featured a small children’s area with colouring books and crayons.

Ruth’s Canteen served up beet borcht with sour cream and dill garnish, Vicki’s golden tomato jammies, buckwheat knish and Queen Mother bread.

About 30 seed and related local and area vendors provided information, sharing knowledge about their wares and included Jubilee Forest Farm, Hawthorn Herbals, County Bounty, Pyramid Ferments and Edible Antiques.

PEC Master Gardeners Steve Storms and Kim Beaugrand.

Information booths at this year’s event were hosted by PEC Master Gardeners, PEC Horticultural Society, PEC Community Gardens, Tree the County, Seeds of Diversity and Trees Ontario.

Pat Joslin of Bear Root Gardens has sold his organic seeds at the County’s Seedy Saturday event for the past five years.

Cynara Lewis assisted children interested in colouring up some spring time drawings.


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