Sunday, February 20, 2011

Food for Thought

Warning: personal reflections ahead. My mood as I type this is "confused."

This will be the third year that I plant vegetables for my edible backyard garden. I have A LOT of leftover seeds from last year. I don't like waste--whether it's resources, time, energy, food, seeds, whatever. That's why I'm going to see if my year-old seeds will live past the expiration date on the package. I'm going to start some of them indoors this week and see what happens.

My garden is small, my crops mainly grow in containers, and I still feel a little clumsy and unsure of myself sometimes. When I moved to a place that had room for a container garden, I was so excited to go out and buy seeds to plant. I got some for free at a nursery. It was so late in the season that the cashier gave me some for free after I purchased a couple of potted plants! I stocked up on supplies at Home Depot, and bought some seeds there. They carry burpee brand. I also bought supplies and seeds at Target and from smaller nurseries around the area. Because I felt very much like I was experimenting, I did not want to invest a lot of money in a project that could be a total failure, so I mainly purchased pots, soil, and other supplies from the big stores that carry a lot of stuff at lower prices than a nursery. I'll buy seed packets from anywhere, even the grocery store, since the cost doesn't seem that different--not enough to make me drive out of my way to avoid a nursery just to buy a cheaper pack of seeds from a hardware store. I even bought soil and vegetable plant seedlings from a high school that was selling garden stuff as a fundraiser (note to self: all those plants died, and the soil seemed contaminated with something, so I won't be doing that again. Sorry high school! I'll still buy your flowers!)

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was surfing the web and read about a seed exchange day on Feb 5 (I had no idea this occurred! I'll be so prepared next year). Those stories somehow led me to this article about burpee seeds. In the weeks that have followed I have also come across other garden blogs that mention where they buy seeds from--mostly from local nurseries, it seems, but not really from stores or brands that I recognize. The thought of buying and sowing seeds and potting plants used to make me happy. It was exciting! Now it seems a little overwhelming. Am I buying bad seeds? Or bad plants? Am I supporting local businesses enough? I thought I was trying to do a good thing--plant my own vegetables. It's economical, "green," and much healthier than buying veggies from the store, right? I don't even use pesticides--last summer I fed more bugs than people! But now this adds another dimension of worry, kind of like worrying about processed foods and chemicals on your grapes and greenhouses gases and making sure there are no nuts in the food you make for the little kids in your family. I guess having your own simple edible garden isn't really that simple, is it?


  1. hey! interesting post. first of all, about the old seeds--i bet they'll work great. the other day i did a germination test on some seeds that were packaged in 1990 (!) and nearly all of them sprouted. i regularly use seeds from 3-5 years ago, no problem. generally any seeds from within the last few years (assuming they've been stored properly) should be perfectly fine.

    i'm pretty creeped out by monsanto and genetic modification and all that, and i personally try to grow mostly open pollinates rather than hybrids and purchase seeds from companies i trust...but when it really comes down to it, you're doing a great thing by growing your own food no matter what kind of seed you use or where it originated.

    i believe it's important to take action with positivity, awareness and good intentions, and just do what you can the best you can. if learning more about the larger seed corporations causes you to start looking into other sources with more environmentally and socially responsible business practices then it's a good thing--but if it overwhelms or discourages you into inaction, it's bad.

    you might want to check out baker creek heirloom seeds, they're my favorite. and if you're interested i can share some seeds with you from my stash.

  2. Hey Emily! Thanks--for the encouragement and the seed co. tip! I'm not discouraged, just more aware, I guess. It's like I've graduated from "I've never grown a tomato before, can I even do it?" to realizing that I need/want to research the origin of my seeds and become more aware of other sources.

    Right now I want to use all the seeds that didn't get used last year. I'm so glad you think they'll be fine. And wow--1990! What fruit will they make?
    I'd love to chat more about different seed companies and what you use too. Would you send me an email with your address? My email is


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