We'll help you grow.
The following statement by Trudi Davidoff was first posted at the Winter Sowers Group at FaceBook on Winter Solstice, December 21st, 2016. It is intended to be shared and may be used as a template and adapted by the public, by speakers, writers, and educators to use for promoting the combined practices of Winter Sowing and Seed Saving.
Winter Sowing with Saved Seeds
By Trudi Davidoff
Introduction, Reasons to Save Seeds and Winter Sow
Hi, I am Trudi Davidoff, I am a native Long Islander, and I live in East Meadow in Nassau County, NY. At my website WinterSown.Org and especially here at FaceBook Winter Sowers Group, I teach Winter Sowing and Seed Saving, as well as help to cover so many of the extension topics that members enjoy. Thank you to all the members here for being part of this great group of Winter Sowers and gardeners, we may be global but here we are one. I wish you all wonderful winter holidays wherever you are, and always, I wish everyone a Blessed Solstice—may the returning light illuminate you in all your ways.
It's been a while since I have written a long post--an essay; I hope you will read it completely to know that I believe Winter Sowing and Seed Saving should be merged ideologies or practices. I will leave comments open for as long as possible, everyone is allowed to comment and reply. In this post I want to discuss with you about how Winter Sowing and Seed Saving work together to help us create healthy and beautiful gardens for very little cost.
With Winter Sowing we can still garden through winter, smell that wonderful scent of moist soil, touch our seeds and stay connected with Mother Nature—winter doesn't have to shut us down from enjoying the outdoors. We can still do some important gardening outside in the cold air.
With Seed Saving, we can select our best plants to save seeds from; we can create our own backyard blends that thrive for us with minimum care and cost. Admittedly, I'm an aging gardener—I'll be 60 this year, so for economic as well as physical reasons it makes sense to grow plants that remain tidy with little work or aren't going to cost me money at the nursery for disease control products. That's my personal focus for seed saving—taking seeds from the strongest and prettiest plants because I don't want the extra work or expense for their care. When I share or trade these seeds I can do so with confidence knowing that I am passing on the best of my best. I don't want to spread diseases or genetic weakness to other gardens across our region, the nation and the world—taking the time to choose the seeds I save wisely will help more people than just me, I am tending my own garden and using the wisdom of smart seed saving practices to help others keep their gardens safe, productive and healthy too.
Across the world to right here at home, we are all unique people with different ideas on how to grow our gardens, care for our loved ones, or what to cook for a healthy dinner. Despite our differences we are united by our love of the natural world. Seed saving, trading and sharing, assures that our favorite best plants get grown again. Winter Sowing is cheap and an easy means of germination that is practiced now around the world. Someone in Slovenia is showing Winter Sowing to someone in Canada who is growing seeds from Finland that came from her cousin in Utah. We are all connected through the seeds we share and the seeds of knowledge we sow; through plants we are one people of this one Earth.
One thing we all have in common, beyond our love of gardening is the love of keeping money in our wallets. Economy's tight; let's keep the nickels in the piggy bank. This is where seed saving and winter sowing go hand in hand.
If I am saving and trading seeds from my garden for seeds from yours then I don't have to pay catalog prices or shipping fees to get something nice to grow. With seed trading I think I am going to get much fresher seed and often times the seeds I trade for are from rare or unusual plants. I love to grow out the plain-jane common varieties but seed trading gives me an edge up over the most usual catalog listings.
On a personal note, Hubs and I love to visit botanical gardens. I love walking past their borders and thinking to myself, "Got that, got that one, and got that other one over there too." That is what happens when you become an avid seed trader. You rapidly obtain so many types of seed to sow and grow.
Winter Sowing is dirt cheap. You make your own containers out of plastics from your recycle bin, you can use your favorite soil and, if money is very tight, you can sterilize your garden soil or compost with boiling water then after it cools and drains use that for your containers. Sowing seeds you've traded for or bought at the dollar store greatly reduces your expense, if you are sowing seeds saved from your own garden you have no cost there but your own labor.
Saving money, recycling, trading or gifting your saved seeds, connecting with your fellow human being through our natural world, and sharing your gained knowledge are all good practices for doing the right thing. It humanizes and joins us across all cultures. We all understand the economy of saving seeds. Save the best from your garden and grow them yourself, give or trade them for seed from other gardens.
Winter Sowing uses recycled containers like milk jugs, soda and juice bottles, take out containers, whipped topping tubs; there are numerous containers that make it into the recycle bins which can be turned into a mini-greenhouse for sowing seed. We get a strong ecologically satisfying feeling here. You don't have to buy something specific which had to first be manufactured, you don't have to waste gas and time getting to the store to buy that thing because you are easily making a sowing container with what you have already on hand—just dig around in the recycle bin and reuse something that would have otherwise been put to the curb. Winter Sowing containers are no cost, there's little fuss in preparation with just a few snips for drainage and aeration.
These wonderfully free containers are also wonderful at protecting our seeds from the environment. Critters and birds can't get in to eat the seeds which are food to any hungry animal. The vents or bottle spouts let out sun-heated air and let in rain and melting snows to keep the soil moist. Seeds can't be dislodged from the ground by a pelting downpour of rain; they are unlikely to dry out rapidly or desiccate during germination from too much wind. More seeds survive winter, you will have plenty of seedlings sometimes sprouting so close you'll need to plant them in small hunks—try transplanting by Hunk-O-Seedlings which allows Ma Nature to do the thinning for you.
With Winter Sowing and seed saving you can easily and inexpensively sprout enough seed of so many varieties that you will have your own backyard botanical garden in a few short years. If possible, try to add a new bed each autumn to hold your overflow of WinterSown seedlings—you can have so many you don't know where to plant them all. Having an extra bed ready can reduce that stress.
Here at this group we are united to celebrate the joys of winter sowing, seed saving and sharing. We're chatting with folks we've known for years across the forums and catching up on our garden wins and fails, and we are also making new seed friends and helping beginners to get past some of their initial confusion on how or where or what to begin as they create their own first garden. Sharing our experiences and our memories help beginners create their own good memories which they, in their turn, will share with someone new who wants to learn. We are sharing of ourselves when we trade or gift the seed we saved from the plants we grew.
To me, this has always been the hallmark of great and responsible gardeners; they freely and often enthusiastically share their boundless joy and knowledge of care-taking a garden from start to finish. They share what they have learned by doing, they relate their experiences—they tell you all this in hopes that what worked for them will work for you. They want you to win at what they love, they don't want you to fail at gardening, they want you to succeed. Seed saving, I hope you will agree, is a life skill. It is knowledge we all should know, share and pass on to each generation.
Currently, there's been in the news that Seed Libraries need to conform to a high and strict set of standards to assure seed purity. Sadly, these regulations are needed—they will ease up; be less draconian and severe as time goes by and we learn simpler methods to protect the ecology of any region. These laws are needed because, at worst, there are some awful people in our world who would laugh and high-five themselves for sharing noxious weeds that would destroy a local environment or contaminate the soil of a community garden with infected seed. They use the innocent to sow their false or corrupted seeds. Conversely, there are also some beginners with inexperience to match their enthusiasm who innocently share weedy plant seed or seed gathered too early to be mature.
Seed libraries need to step up their due diligence in identifying donated seed, nobody—especially the librarian—would want you to destroy a garden. It is important to have assurance that you are, as an example, checking out aster seeds and not Canadian thistle that have been labeled as aster seed. Seed Libraries and their patrons share a responsibility to keep properly labeled seed in their stock. While some of you may want to boo and hiss at these regulations; none of us want to be innocently duped and we certainly don't want the libraries closed for their unwitting part in damaging an environment because they shared contaminated or invasive seed. Eventually all things balance out, and hopefully this will be sooner than later.
Saving, trading and sharing seeds through public venues such as a regional seed event, by making over-the-fence trades, or by offering and trading our seeds online we remove some of the burden that seed libraries carry. Many public seed libraries may be the only source of seed for community gardens in poverty stricken areas. Please consider sharing your extra seeds with organizations that help these gardens get growing.
Please, I ask that you always only save seeds from the very best plants in your gardens. For casual trading and seed sharing I am fine with the simple description of any marigold, I don't need the variety name to grow a marigold. But I don't want you to trade for plants with only a description like Big Yellow Daisy which could be a daisy or a chrysanthemum or a heliopsis or a rudbeckia or any other big yellow daisy. You don't know what that is, you don't know what it could grow into, and you don't know if it is a weed. I do want you all to enjoy seed saving and trading and sharing responsibly. It is our duty to keep our natural environment safe. We trade seeds of the best plants in our gardens and we do not grow out seeds of plants with only a bloom description on the package.
Almost 20 years ago I bought my house and didn't have two nickels to rub together. If I wanted more plants I had to grow them from seed. I went to the dollar store, spent a dime, and grew out a pack of something named 'Grandma's Flower Garden'. From direct sowing I got a few seedlings, one which grew into a tall plant with pink blooms that look like the hairdo called Deadlocks. I had never seen them before and neither had my neighbors. I went online and found the GardenWeb Annual Forum. I joined GW and asked what this plant could be. I got a quick reply from my description, that it was Amaranthus caudatus ~ Love Lies Bleeding.
Several people asked if I could save seeds and shared their trade lists. What?!?!? Saving and trading seeds—this was new to me, I didn't know people did this. Well, they told me how to save the seeds which I then traded. By end of the season I had enough seeds from very generous traders to fill an empty popcorn tin. My house is a small cottage, I don't have room inside to start all those seeds; I didn't have money for indoor seed-starting equipment and the cat owned the windowsills. I would have to start the seeds outdoors. That is how Winter Sowing was born. I had almost no money; I had recycles to use for containers and for a few bucks I bought a bag of soil.
I had read complaints online about sunshine over-heating the air and killing seeds inside closed containers so I poked some holes in the lids to release the built up heat. Those holes also let in rain and melting snow to keep the containers moist. This ventilation is why the method works. The containers let out heat; they let in moisture and keep out critters, birds and most bugs. In this protective environment more seeds survive winter to sprout hardily at their own right time.
I started a small non-profit and maintain a presence online with WinterSown.Org where you can read the FAQs and look at pictures of Winter Sowing. I also am admin of the public Winter Sowers Group at FaceBook. Either I, or any of our many experienced posters, will help with your questions. It's a monitored, family-friendly group that is very fond of beginners; we take great pride in being encouraging and courteous. At this group we discuss more than Winter Sowing, we'll talk about anything found on an Extension website, we do plant IDs and we love to see your garden and canning photos.
I am affiliated with AgNIC, a global educational and research group dedicated to freely sharing the world's best agricultural information online. Over the years they've taught me much on web communications; their training and guidance helped me get Winter Sowing to the public. They were especially helpful in having Winter Sowing recognized as a genuine germination method and entered as such into the USDA Thesaurus.
Reiteration of Focus
Seed saving is a life skill. It saves money and connects people through trading and sharing. Winter Sowing provides the easy means to cheaply start an exponential amount climate tolerant seedlings. Combine seed saving and winter sowing for a great garden without great cost.
To collect seed do not deadhead the plant, if you remove the flower then it cannot make seed. Look for the petals to fall away, the stem and pod to swell, to then naturally brown, and the seeds readily release otherwise they are not ripened. Be patient.
Seed saving saves you money—trade your seeds for others or sow the seeds you saved from your best plants to create your own healthy and beautiful backyard blend.
Sowing seed you saved from your own garden, trade seeds, and those you can get at the dollar and discount stores help limit your expense.
Winter Sowing can be done for free or at a very low cost. You freely make your own containers; you can sterilize and reuse potting soil or compost for sowing.
With so many seeds you'll acquire as a trader you need the outdoors to sprout them all. Winter Sowing containers do not take up room in your house and they do not need daily tending. No electric heaters or lights are needed so there is no energy expense.
Winter Sowing containers are protective; you will have an abundance of seedlings. If you can, remember to add a new garden bed in the fall for the overflow of seedlings you have the following spring.
Winter Sowers and Seed Savers trade their seeds and experiences in many venues like public gatherings or online in forums where they can look at lists and set up trades. These forums and meetings are a great way to get a free education too; you learn about and are inspired by the successes of others.
As we grow plants from seed we absorb knowledge about them, we learn their habits, their correct names or officially, the binomial nomenclature. A little looking up of information, aka research, enables us to properly identify our plants so we can knowingly and responsibly share our extra seed with community seed libraries. The public can best help seed libraries by providing accurately named, viable seed.
To reiterate, I wrote about the emotional reasons and economic gains of Winter Sowing saved seeds. It is fun to create containers, it is soothing to smell damp soil and feel the earth with your fingers when you sow, and it gets you outside into the fresh air during winter when you are usually feeling shut down from the garden. Sowing self-saved or trade seed keeps your money in your wallet. Catalog seeds can be expensive and the shipping fees are outrageous. Saved seeds are usually much fresher and sprout at high percentages. Seed saving, trading and sharing unites people from all over the world.
I wrote about the importance of sharing extra seeds with community gardens and the extra importance of sharing accurately labeled, viable and reliable seed to public seed libraries. Our responsible attention helps them stay open and available.
We take care to be helpful and inspiring to very beginners—we want to make it easy for them to embrace our love of sowing and growing.
To wrap it up, we take care to sow and grow responsibly so we or others do not unwittingly spoil and harm the environment, we practice smart seed saving, smart seed trading and sharing, and we sow smartly too. Hopefully, you will Winter Sow.
Thank you for reading this long essay.
I am Trudi Davidoff of WinterSown.
This page last modified on Saturday, December 24, 2016
Winter Sowing with Saved Seeds by Trudi Davidoff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.