Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Looking for Seeds

By: Gwen Miner, Supervisor of Domestic Arts
Like many of you who garden, I can’t wait for the new seed catalogs to arrive. I love looking through them and finding the old familiar and favorite varieties, but also looking for new varieties. I especially like the colorful pictures and the old graphics that some of the catalogs use. It is a good day when I can locate the seeds for a variety that I once grew, but have been unable to get the seed of for some time. Such was the case yesterday when I located sources for seed for two vegetable varieties that I have not been able to find for several years. Thank you to the powers of the internet. Today I find out if they actually have the seed in stock.

You might wonder why I have not been able to locate certain seed stock. Well, that is because for our gardens here at the museum and for the Heirloom Seed Project I need heirloom varieties of seed that were grown preferably prior to 1850 in this area of New York. Weather, pests and disease affect the availability of seed stock from year to year, especially heirloom varieties.

We (museum staff) first started growing heirloom varieties back in the early 1980s when The Heirloom Vegetable Garden, a Cornell Cooperative Extension Information Bulletin, was published. We began growing, harvesting and cooking the vegetables that folks would have in the 19th century.

At the same time I put together the 4-H Heirloom Seed Project in conjunction with our Otsego County 4-H office. The goals were simple: to get kids growing heirloom varieties and gaining some knowledge regarding their importance and to have a vegetable exhibition component for our annual Harvest Festival held in September. That program has grown to include The Three Sisters Garden, Cloverbud Pumpkin and Sunflower, Heirloom Herb Garden and the Heirloom Flower Garden. This year we are planning to open an adult component.

For the last couple of weeks I have been perusing the seed catalogs, making out orders and sourcing out seeds. Patrick MacGregor, Meg Preston and I have also been revising and refreshing the exhibition catalog, a major project as it will have a new format, new graphics to go along with the offering of new varieties.

Check back to see how I make out actually acquiring those elusive seeds and on plans for the gardens here at the museum

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