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A Seed Exchange is Pure Joy

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Taos Seed Exchange, SeedBroadcastSeedBroadcast asked me to write something for their Spring 2015 issue. This is a copy of the article, in case you have not picked up an issue at one of the seed exchange stations or the seed swap in March.

Many thanks to Chrissie Orr, who I met at a seed swap in Peñasco in April, and the SeedBroadcast crew for their work in the farm field and in the seed field! Read about them on their website, and follow their Facebook page to hear their broadcasts of interviews with farmers and seed savers.

The Taos (NM) Seed Exchange sprouted in January 2013. As I wondered what to do with my ever-expanding seed stash, I came across two organizations that inspired me. I took ideas from Eating in Public in Hawaii and the Richmond CA seed library, Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library to create a hybrid for my quirky agricultural community.

I embraced the ideas of sharing and recycling. The Taos Seed Exchange became a perpetual seed swap for home gardeners. Seed exchange stations were made of recycled boxes and furniture, and they were set up in progressive businesses around the region. They provided places for gardeners to share their seed stashes and trade for something new throughout the growing season.

Magic and sharing

This project has been built with magic and the goodness of gardeners. Whatever I’ve needed has come graciously and easily, be it seeds, supplies, stamina, brainstorming, venues or problem solving. If I ever had a question, it was answered quickly. I felt like a catalyst for the universe to get seed to local gardeners. It was that effortless.

Along with seed, I also disseminated gardening information. As people caught on to the dangers of GMOs and pesticides, they wanted to learn how to grow their own food. They felt it was safer.

I fielded a lot of Gardening 101 type questions and helped many new gardeners get started. They grew and bloomed throughout the season. They were fearless and excited about experimenting. They learned how to sow seed in spring, put up food for winter, and everything in between. I was honored to be a part of their joy!

The Taos Seed Exchange was built on donations. Seed companies and local gardeners donated hundreds of pounds of seed the first year. The second year was bigger, and this year, I have a small storeroom full of donated seed!

Now people around the country are contacting me for seed to start their own exchanges and libraries. I have been happy to pay it forward and donate to get them on their way. Sharing is key.

Inspired

The Taos Seed Exchange is in its 3rd season and continues to expand. If it sprouted two years ago, I’d say its first true leaves are now showing. There is much to look forward to, and I will coax it along with good nutrients, light and warmth.

I held a small seed swap to celebrate National Seed Swap Day on January 31st. Now I am energized about the coming year! I met gardeners new to the area eager to take on the challenges of our harsh growing conditions. I connected with colleagues to create more events, and I shared a lot of seed and gardening advice.

Gardeners are a good lot. I am grateful for and warmed by everyone I have met. I feel blessed by the generous offerings of organizations such as Eating in Public, the Richmond Seed Lending Library, the Cleveland Seed Bank, Native Seeds/SEARCH, SEEeD (Semillas Españolas Ecologicas en Deposito), and every seed company and seed farmer that has made a donation or that I have had a conversation with.

The businesses hosting the seed exchange stations are as passionate and excited about this venture as I am. Gardeners everywhere inspire me to keep learning and growing. This has truly been a community effort!

The Taos Seed Exchange is the most gratifying project I have ever been involved in. It’s heartwarming, fun and full of love. It is pure joy.

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I have written about hemp several times. Now that it may become legal to grow in New Mexico, I am seriously thinking about getting some acreage to become a hemp farmer.

About 25 years ago, I discovered lots of cheap land in Canada, and I spent a couple of years looking for a piece I liked so I could grow it. It’s been legal there for decades. We are so slow in this country, but that’s not a topic for this website!

Anyway, being a hemp farmer has been on my radar for years! I might finally get my chance….

Have Hemp Will Travel is my latest blog post at BuildDirect, where I am a home and garden writer. Hemp to the rescue for farmers, producers, consumers, and the environment! Let’s start building planes, trains and automobiles out of hemp! Again!

hemp vehicles, model T, henry ford

Henry Ford in his hemp Model T
photo Creative Commons from PBS

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That is the question.

Garden planning includes planting schedules, and that means knowing what to start ahead indoors, and what to seed directly into the ground outdoors. It depends on your climate.

A friend of mine in Alabama plants tomato seeds right in the ground. The season is long, and there’s plenty of moisture. But that is unheard of in our Zone 5! Tomatoes need to be started inside to get a jump on the short season.

Start indoors

Any plant that needs a long growing season to produce fruit or flowers needs to be started indoors. Short season plants that you want a multiple harvest from should also be started ahead.

nursery starts, taos new mexico

Tomatoes (photo)
Peppers (photo)
Eggplant
Brussel Sprouts
Melons
Pumpkins
Winter Squash
Zucchini
Cucumbers
Parsley
Most annual flowers – Sweet Peas and Nasturtiums, for instance, do not handle transplanting very well. (photo)

Direct seed

direct seeded in spring, taos new mexicoMost root crops do better seeded right into a prepared bed outside, but there are a few others, too.

Carrots
Beets
Radishes
Peas (photo)
Beans
Parsnips
Corn
Sweet Peas
Nasturtiums

Either/or

Some crops can be planted both ways successfully. Like I said, if you want multiple harvests, do succession plantings. Start seed indoors for early planting and harvest, and direct seed for harvest later in the season. Anything that can be harvested in 50 or 60 days can be seeded either way.

Spinach
Kale
Lettuce
Swiss Chard (photo)
Broccoli
Cabbage
Basil

swiss chard starts, taos new mexico

Experiment!

Of course, nothing in the gardening world is exempt from experimentation. I worked on a 350 acre farm. In spring, Bob, the owner, was starting corn in flats. I’d never seen this before. Bob’s family had run this farm for generations. It wasn’t like he had no experience!

‘Bob? (pause) What are you doing?’

‘Starting corn!’ Like that was totally normal.

‘Why?’

‘I want to see if I can have the earliest corn this year at the County Fair.’

‘Ok…’

‘It’s all an experiment,’ he said with a mostly straight face.

It didn’t make a difference, because of the way corn grows, but he had to find out. We all found out!

‘It’s all an experiment.’ I have taken those words with me the last 34 years. Don’t be afraid to experiment in your garden! Keep good notes on what works and what doesn’t, and try a different experiment next year.

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The Taos Seed Exchange and the Taos Seed Swap are free community services. They do incur expenses, though, especially the seed swap on March 28th.

This year’s event will cost almost $1000. Here is a partial breakdown:

150 – The Fireplace Room at the Quality Inn
435 – Taos News 1/2 page ad
200 – Santa Fe Reporter ad
100 – Supplies (paper, ink, pens, tape, envelopes, signs, scissors, etc)
28 – Postage for seed donations received

913 – Total so far

UPDATE: As of April 15, we raised $920! We’ve got it covered! Thank you so much! You guys are great.

UPDATE: As of March 24, we have raised $520. The donations have been generous, even at the seed exchange stations! You all are wonderful! You can still donate through PayPal below, or at any of the seed exchange stations (Taos Herb, Pieces, More Pieces, Habitat Restore, and ReThreads). There will be a donation jar at the Seed Swap on Saturday, too. Thank you!!!

I’m reaching out to my community and everyone who has supported the Taos Seed Exchange since its beginning two years ago. This project has been built by all of Taos, northern New Mexico, and gardeners and seed savers around the world. I never could have pulled this off by myself. That sounds like a speech at the Academy Awards, but I am truly grateful!

Your donations will go to a worthwhile cause that Taos needs. Your names will be listed as Seed Swap Fairies, unless you prefer to remain anonymous. If you have a website I can link to, please let me know!

Locally, there are donation jars at the Habitat ReStore, Pieces, More Pieces, ReThreads and Taos Herb. You can also use the PayPal button below, or contact me for other payment methods. This is not tax deductible, as I do not have non-profit status. Thank you so much! Let’s make this the best seed swap ever!




Many, many, many deep and heartfelt thanks!

Taos Seed Exchange, Taos, New Mexico

2nd Annual Taos Seed Swap

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How to Start Seeds

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I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here to explain how to start seeds. There is a lot of great information already written!

The basics are:

Get fresh seed.
Use containers with drainage holes.
Use or make a potting mix that holds water and lets it drain (a paradox, I know).
Plant your seeds, and water them in.
Put the container in a warm place, which can be dark.
Move the container to sunlight once the seeds have germinated.
Watch them grow!

Here are a few detailed articles from a couple of my favorite magazines, Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening.

Best Tips for Starting Seeds Indoors

Starting Seeds Indoors

14 Tips for Starting Your Own Seeds

If you want to be really self-sufficient and make your own potting soil, check out these articles

How to Make Your Own Potting Soil

Potting Soil Recipes

Let the season begin!

spinach seedlings

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