My kids love the time of year when our seed orders arrive–the surprise of the doorbell being rung by the UPS person, the challenge of opening packages with children’s safety scissors (their tool of choice, honest!), the thrill of unpacking each box and imagining what will grow from these paper envelopes. Some seeds are familiar–beans, peas, corn look like the things we’re used to eating. Pepper, tomato, cucumber, and watermelon seeds are commonly found in the fruits we eat. But who knows what carrot or lettuce seeds look like? And then there are flower seeds–calendula being my current favorite oddity.
Seeds are amazing. It’s easy to forget that these shriveled little bundles are actually alive, just waiting for the right time to sprout. I tell students that seeds are like eggs, and while biologists might disagree, I think it’s a good comparison. In case you’re curious, we have plans for 195 separate plantings of seeds (and that doesn’t include lettuce, flowers, or herbs, since I haven’t had time to develop the schedule for those!). Some varieties get planted more than once, such as succession plantings of green onions, spinach, broccoli, and radishes; other crops are planted only once but include multiple varieties, such as winter squash (7 kinds) and peppers (19 kinds). It’s a lot to keep track of, which is why I spend the winter developing spreadsheets and schedules to follow.
When people ask if Joshua Farm is certified organic, my standard answer is, “No, but we follow all the rules (with some exceptions).” One of those exceptions is in the area of seeds. Technically, certified organic growers must use (or at least document that they’ve tried to find) organically grown seed. I’m not opposed to this regulation, but the reality is that organic seed is still more expensive and not available in all the varieties I’d like to grow. I am careful, however, to purchase the majority of my seed from suppliers who have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, which is a voluntary agreement by seed companies to not sell genetically engineered seeds.
Well, off to the greenhouse to see if our new germination station is working yet!