Homestead Junction

Special Order Salt Spring Seeds March 31, 2016 13:07 1 Comment

Special Order Salt Spring Seeds

It's officially spring and we want to help you get ready for gardening season. Here's how it works:
  1. Take a look at the Salt Spring Seeds website and decide what you want
  2. Submit your orders using this Order Form. You have until 8am on Tuesday, April 5th to place an order.
  3. After you order, we'll email you an invoice. Please pay online (credit card or Paypal), by phone, or in person by 10am on Friday, April 8th.
  4. You should be able to pick up your seeds after one week (Friday April 15th) but we will confirm the date once the shipment has arrived. Pleas pick up your seeds within a week of their arrival.

poppy seed flower

Planting Seeds - It's not too late! September 22, 2015 05:30

If you're like me, the first hint of fall leads to a marathon of canning, dehydrating, and pulling winter clothes out of storage while tearfully packing away the summer ones. Generally, the last thing on my mind when the weather turns cold is getting out into the garden. I mean, that's what spring is for, right? Winter is for letting everything turn to mud and waiting for the sun to come back. I'd rather be inside with my cup of tea, thank you very much.

Except, the garden doesn't hibernate over the winter. It's still going strong, and if I want to really make the most of it, there's plenty to do in the garden in the fall. It all depends on what I want out of it!

1. Fall Veggies

With Vancouver's relatively mild falls, there are plenty of veggies you can plant and harvest in this season. Leafy greens like Arugula, Pac Choi, Mescluns, and Corn Salad can still be sown up until frost, and with a little bit of crop cover, root veggies like radishes and turnips can also go in the ground now. You could be eating your own home grown salads for Thanksgiving!

2. Spring Flowers

I always mix flowers in with my veggie garden. I can be logical about it and say that it's to provide a bit of biodiversity, as well as attracting pollinators, but secretly I'd do it anyway just because flowers are pretty. Many flowers, like Calendula, Lavender, Pansies, Sweetpeas and Poppies can be sown right now, ensuring you get flowers as early as possible in the spring. Even Strawberry seeds can be planted now for a spring harvest!

3. Cover Cropping

When in doubt, cover crop it. If you just don't feel like dealing with your garden, the nicest thing you can do for it is give it the equivalent of a blanket and a nice meal. Cover cropping is often thought of as being only for large-scale farming operations, but the benefits - returning nitrogen to the soil, smothering out weeds, and reducing soil erosion - are just as good in a small backyard garden. If you choose this method, make sure to read the directions on your chosen cover crop - some of them need an application of mycorrhizal root inoculant in order to perform the nitrogen fixing that you want.

No matter you choose to do with your garden this season, you'll probably be happy you didn't just ignore it.

Home Avocado Nursery September 08, 2015 08:00

I love avocados, but I love buying local. Knowing how far they travel, I always feel a bit guilty about buying them. They're just so tasty, though, that sometimes I can't resist. And this spring, after a particularly delicious and intemperate avocado bender, I got to wondering whether I could start my own tropical perennial nursery!

Time to put away the youtube and give it a try! I used a method gleaned from watching about 6 videos from the above link:

1. poke three wooden skewers into the pit, each at a slightly upward angle. I used one bbq skewer broken into thirds. The original pointy end went neatly into the pit, but the other two (broken) ends needed some help from a paring knife. Note that the pointier end of the pit is pointing up in this picture.

sprouting an avocado seed

2. Set the pit with its wooden "legs" in a jar or cup of water. Fill the cup so the water comes about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way up the pit. It didn't seem to matter whether the poked holes were moist.

sprouting an avocado seed

3. figure that the success rate will not be 100%, and do this for a few pits. I placed them on my windowsill, one of the warmer spots in my kitchen. Unfortunately, it's also where my cat likes to sit, which is why this is the last photo with four jars in it.

the avocado nursery

4. Wait, and top up the water as needed to keep the level in the aforementioned range. Even in the warm weather we had in Vancouver this spring, it was a few weeks before the root started growing downward. Nearly 8 weeks elapsed between the previous photo (4 pits on a windowsill) and the next picture (pit with about 1.5 cm upward growth).

the avocado is sprouted!

another view from the same day.

great looking roots on this avocado seed

5. Wait some more. Interestingly, once the upward shoot started growing, it went pretty quick. The previous and next photo are only taken two days apart!

avocado seedling

6. keep waiting, and you'll end up with a beautiful seedling! These are the two that survived the ravages of my cat.

avocado seedlings

Not bad for a first effort, eh? These two seedlings are at about 14 weeks.

avocado seedlings

Heidi loves it!

Saving Tomato Seeds September 07, 2013 12:37 2 Comments

A few years ago I was a volunteer with the Vancouver Farmer's Market.  When the market held its annual Tomato Festival, I manned the sampling table where customers could see and taste some of the more unusual tomato varieties sold by market vendors.  The most frequently asked question was whether the farmers growing these heirloom tomatoes also sold seeds; people wanted to be able to grow these unusual tomatoes themselves.  Unfortunately, the answer was 'no' and many people were disappointed.
 Their fleshiness makes the German Red Strawberry a great eating and cooking tomato.
 Their fleshiness makes the German Red Strawberry a great eating and cooking tomato.

I was disappointed, too, because I had found an heirloom tomato variety that I really liked--the German Red Strawberry, which is large, pink and meaty, everything I ever wanted a tomato to be... and the flavor is delicious!   After four hours of slicing tomatoes and clearing my cutting board of gelatinous goo and seeds, it dawned on me that every tomato contains the seeds for growing more tomatoes like itself!  It sounds so obvious, but as a newbie gardener, I was used to buying seeds in a little paper envelope with detailed instructions.  Some seeds, like beans or peas, come out of their pods looking just like they would from a seed packet, but seeds straight out of a tomato are anything but clean and dry. Obviously there was some process required to save tomato seeds.  When I got home from the market that day, I decided to find out what that process was.  It turned out it was quite simple and when I worked the tomato booth at the next market, I shared what I'd learned with anyone who asked.  Then, I took my own advice: before leaving the market that day, I purchased several of the meatiest German Red Strawberry tomatoes I could find and I took them home to save their seeds.  That was five years ago and I have planted this unique variety of tomato every year since then and it is still my favorite tomato.

So, here's how you do it: 1. When choosing tomatoes to save seeds from, consider that you are selecting the genetic traits of your future tomato crop, so select fruits that are a good representation of the variety you've chosen.  Or, select fruits that display traits you are looking for in regards to size, color and disease resistance.

 If you're careful not to mangle your tomatoes when scooping out the seeds, you can still eat them for dinner. 
If you're careful not to mangle your tomatoes when scooping out the seeds, you can still eat them for dinner.

2. Cut each fruit in half across its middle and carefully scoop the seeds and goo into a jar or small dish.  I use the tip of my knife to do this.  If you're saving seeds from more than one variety, be sure to label your jars!

 Tomato seeds with germination-inhibiting goo.
Tomato seeds with germination-inhibiting goo.

3. If you don't have much goo in your jar, add a splash of water so the moisture won't evaporate during the next step, leaving you with a dried-out, stuck-on mess.

4. Cover the jar with a clean cloth and let it sit out at room temperature for 2-3 days, or until it smells like rotten tomatoes.  I know it's gross, so maybe find an out-of-the-way spot where the smell won't be too offensive, but the goo needs to ferment to come cleanly away from the seeds.  (Technically, the "goo" is a growth inhibitor, which keeps the seeds from germinating inside the tomato.)

 This tomato goo is broken down and ready to be rinsed.  Be glad you can't smell this!
This tomato goo is broken down and ready to be rinsed. Be glad you can't smell this!

Do not let your seeds soak in this mixture for more than 4 or 5 days or else they will start to germinate and it will be too late to dry and save them.

5. Once the goo has broken down, it's time to rinse your seeds.  Add some water to the jar and swirl it around gently.

 Viable seeds sink; duds and debris are rinsed away.
 Viable seeds sink; duds and debris are rinsed away.

Viable seeds will quickly settle to the bottom; duds and debris will float and can be poured off with the excess water.  Repeat this step a few times until no debris remains and the water pours off clear.

 These seeds are clean, dry and ready for storage.
These seeds are clean, dry and ready for storage.

6. Lay the seeds out on a paper plate or saucer lined with a paper towel.  After a day or two, separate any clumps of seeds by rubbing them between your fingers and allow to dry for another day or two.

7. Store clean, dry seeds in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place.  Be sure to label the container.  In addition to the variety name, record the year in which the seeds were saved as well as any notes that might be useful in the future (bush vs. vine, early vs. late, etc.).  Tomato seeds are viable for 3-5 years or more, with a declining germination rate after that.