Time to do seed inventory in pantry. (Mary Lowther photo)

Time to do seed inventory in pantry. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column; Marking the seasons with seed catalogues

I am getting my spring seed catalogues before winter has become official!

By Mary Lowther

Is it just me, or has time become meaningless? There used to be definable seasons, but now they all seem to run together, beginning and ending (if at all) not on specific dates as much as market share. It’s bad enough when cable stations spend “Christmas in July” and Santa starts pitching soft drinks before Halloween, but now I am getting my spring seed catalogues before winter has become official!

One came from Johnny’s Seeds, and I have never ordered from them, although I might have contacted them last year while looking for witloof chicory. They sent a terrific catalogue, but they’re in Maine and have a $10 delivery charge and when I need seed I haven’t grown myself I like to buy local. I prefer local producers as their seed has been developed in and for my climate, and needn’t travel as far. I also like to support local businesses because when the supply chain becomes an issue we will be glad to have them nearby.

Despite its early arrival, seed catalogue season is upon us, our annual reminder that it is time to inventory our seed and see what is still viable and what needs to be obtained. I start by checking Salt Spring Seeds online to see what they’ve got this year. I don’t wait for Seedy Saturday in February, because I like to know what seeds I have before then. That way, when I go to Seedy Saturday the pressure is off and I can enjoy myself looking for things I didn’t know I wanted.

Prior to that, however, I have my own seed. On every packet, saved or bought, I write the sowing date and the year up to which they’re still viable. Before sowing each crop I test the seed for viability by sprinkling a few on a damp paper towel to see how many sprout and how long it takes; if only half sprout I’ll sow twice as many and won’t use that seed again.

I store sorted seed packets in air tight plastic tubs that once held chocolate ice cream. Just for the record, it wasn’t me that bought it. I have more self-discipline than David and besides, I prefer vanilla. The stuff is very bad for David, though, so I eat it to save him from succumbing to temptation. Also, I need the containers.

I toss whatever packets of desiccant I’ve acquired from supplement bottles and Taiwanese tea bags into each tub, but I suspect dried bread crusts would work just as well. Seeds last longest when kept dry and cool, so I save space in my lovely cold pantry. Did I ever mention how much I love my pantry? Every home should have one, especially when gardeners live there, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. Pantries are something we traditionally discuss later in the year, and Ecclesiastes has a point.

Last year we started growing garlic in a big way, using seed from a number of local growers. Since local seed is adapted to our climate it is always preferable to find a local source. This column welcomes any local producer with a catalogue to send it to mary_lowther@yahoo.ca. I’m always looking for new ideas.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.