Parker County Master Gardener Association's

ANNUAL PLANT SALE

Saturday, April 8, 2017 8 a.m. - Noon

 

Native Plants and Grasses, Perennials, Vegetables, Herbs, Annuals, Roses, Shrubs...

Educational presentations on various topics.

Bring plant & gardening questions to “Ask a Master Gardener” table.

 

Texas AgriLife Extension Service Office

604 N Main Street   Weatherford, Texas

Proceeds help fund horticultural educational and community projects in Parker Co.

 

Thank you for your support!

 

These are some of our ongoing projects:

 

The Pumpkin Patch

As many of you know I moved almost full-time to La Crosse, Wisconsin in August, 2012. In ever had been to Wisconsin so this was a new adventure for Tom and me.

After moving around the world with Tom as a military spouse for 30-years we considered this just another “PCS” for a few years in the civilian workplace. We moved into our home in late August of 2012, unpacked and immediately realized that fall begins early in Wisconsin. After a long, long winter and a very late spring the Mississippi River finally began to thaw, the trees budded and the birds returned. Our home is only 13 blocks from the river and it was amazing to see the transformation of not only the river but the vast marshes that supply the river. After all, this is the beginning of the Mississippi River and in La Crosse we have three rivers that come together to form this national treasure waterway. The trumpet swans came through on their migration from Canada. Big chunks of ice flow down river with numerous bald eagles taking an easy ride and looking for fish to feed on. The “Bluffs “surrounding our city began blooming again and spring finally arrived. It was a new experience to have tulips blooming in the middle of June and I truly enjoyed gardening and planting during the cool sunny days of June and July.

I saw an ad in the classified section of our La Crosse newspaper that simply read “Plant Sale, my house, La Crosse, my driveway, etc. I always like to explore our historic neighborhood so I ventured out with my garden wagon in tow to see what the sale looked like. I was surprised to find the house was very modest and located closely between two houses. But what really amazed me was the lady had tables of plants set up from the street all the way back to her garage with a sign pointing to her backyard. Not only did she have plants in her driveway but in her neighbors’ drives as well. Her backyard is amazing to see in the summer. It’s a beautiful garden of pathways and outdoor rooms. She said she would be happy to divide many of her plants and share with me after the numerous garden clubs came through from Madison, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. I purchased several perennials, and two tiny pumpkin plants. The thing she said that really caught my attention was her remark about where her seeds come from. She told me she only uses seeds from the Seed Saver Exchange in Dekorah, Iowa. I came home and planted my two tiny pumpkin plants expecting very little results and I didn’t even bother to fertilize them.

I soon left for Texas and did not think of those plants for two weeks. My husband joked with me on the phone about them asking if I was planting Jack and the Beanstalk in the backyard. Little did I know he was serious but when I returned from Texas, the pumpkins had taken over the entire back flowerbed, climbed the fence, gone to the other side and were growing down the alley. I saw an ad in the classified section of our La Crosse newspaper that simply read “Plant Sale, my house, La Crosse, my driveway, etc. I always like to explore our historic neighborhood so I ventured out with my garden wagon in tow to see what the sale looked like. I was surprised to find the house was very modest and located closely between two houses. But what really amazed me was the lady had tables of plants set up from the street all the way back to her garage with a sign pointing to her backyard. Not only did she have plants in her driveway but in her neighbors’ drives as well. Her backyard is amazing to see in the summer. It’s a beautiful garden of pathways and outdoor rooms. She said she would be happy to divide many of her plants and share with me after the numerous garden clubs came through from Madison, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. I purchased several perennials, and two tiny pumpkin plants. The thing she said that really caught my attention was her remark about where her seeds come from. She told me she only uses seeds from the Seed Saver Exchange in Dekorah, Iowa. I came home and planted my two tiny pumpkin plants expecting very little results and I didn’t even bother to fertilize them. I soon left for Texas and did not think of those plants for two weeks. My husband joked with me on the phone about them asking if I was planting Jack and the Beanstalk in the backyard. Little did I know he was serious but when I returned from Texas, the pumpkins had taken over the entire back flowerbed, climbed the fence, gone to the other side and were growing down the alley.

pumpkin2

I got 15 medium to large pumpkins from those two plants. I had to support the ones growing on the fence with “knee highs” to keep them from falling off the vine.

I went online and looked up the Seed Saver Exchange because I was fascinated to find out how it began. The exchange was started by Ken and Diane Ott Whealy as a nonprofit seed Exchange in 1975 at their rural home in Princeton, Missouri. It was started along with 29gardeners from all over the United States and Canada. They sent Diane and Ken 25-centsand a large envelope to the True Seed Exchange and in return, they received a six-page publication listing seeds that other gardeners were willing to share. Many of us remember or still practice swapping seeds with friends, neighbors and relatives. I remember going to visit our family as a child and they would send my mother home with bouquet of “starts” for planting in our yard. Seeds were also swapped and shared in the fall. In Diane’s book “Gathering-of Saving Seed with Like- Minded people” she recounts similar experience of coming home with an envelope of seeds or a water soaked handkerchief rolled around a “slip” from a houseplant.

Diane began her collection with her Grandfather Ott’s Morning Glory vines and German pink tomato seeds. The Ott’s began researching commercial farming and planting which has contributed to the diminishing of the diversity found in food crops. As the years went by, the Whealey’s changed the name from True Seed Exchange to Seed Savers Exchange and in 1986 they made the move to Decorah, Iowa. Later Ken left the business and they later divorced but Diane remains as Co-Founder and vice president.

Today the SSE is the largest non-governmental seed bank in the United States. There are13,000 members from all 50 states and 40 countries. Members receive a yearbook that offers around 20,000 listings of which 13,000 are unique to the SSE. They have over 5,000varieties of tomatoes, 900 kinds of peppers, 400 types of squash along with 1,500 varieties of beans.

Their storage facility has a climate controlled underground freezer vault. The backup vault is located at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Island of Spitsbergen in Norway and at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colorado. The Seed Saver Exchange Farm is funded by membership fees and over two million dollars’ worth of seed sales to the general public. It also helps to pay the salaries of 50 fulltime employees and the nation’s only seed historian who researches the provenance of donated seeds to insure their authenticity. The SSE also has a full-time librarian, a collections curator, seedbank, public programs and facilities managers’ plus numerous other positions. It is a large employer in the small town of Decorah. An orchardist oversees the more than 550 pre-1900varieties of American apples that are grown on the farm on a bluff. The farm has eight miles of hiking trails and an Amish-built Visitors Center.

At the center of the farm, there is a restored red barn. Diane’s display garden is planted in front of the barn. The late summer garden is an artist’s palette of color with a large variety of colors of vegetables mixed with flowers. The farm’s location was chosen because it is surrounded by bluffs and trees which prevent the “blow in” of pesticides and other contaminants. This is important to protect the purity of the seeds and plants. The mission of the SSE is to “conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

seedsaverfarm

Seed Saver Farm

Heirlooms are usually those types that were grown before 1950, before the “Green Revolution” when Agribusiness began using pesticides, chemical fertilizers and high-yield crop varieties. This allowed for an increase of the food supply, food crop varieties, food quantities and calories per acre worldwide. Heirlooms are open pollinated meaning that a variety is pollinated only by its own pollen variety and by wind and insects. This results in a plant that looks like the parent.

According to Tim Johnson, SSE seed bank manager, this process can be repeated over many generations or seasons. Open pollination means that no one can really own the seed. For an example Monsanto Agriculture Company from St. Louis, Missouri owns over 90%of all the commercial soybeans grown in the U.S. One big aspect of the SSE is to get seeds there and available to the public to plant and grow. The SSE website has a map showing where seeds are available which helps the public purchase and grow these plants.

We have an incredible history of our food crops because America is a melting pot of cultures and people groups. Each group brought a rich heritage with them and many brought seeds and cuttings to the United States when they emigrated from other countries.

The plant collections at the SSE are divided into five categories:

  • Seed Collection: Forty five plant types that are regenerated from seed. Most are annuals that will produce seed each year. Some are biennials that require two seasons of growth and reproduce.
  • Vegetative Collection: Some of these plant types are stored as bulbs or tubers rather than seeds. Each of the four vegetative plant types maintained requires its own method of storage and regeneration.
  • In Vitro Vegetative Collection: Potatoes and sweet potatoes are maintained in at issue vulture laboratory rather than in a field. Started in 1994, the tissue culture lab minimizes the amount of time, space and labor required to maintain these plants.
  • Apple Collection: Begun in 1990, the Historic Orchard contains hundreds of 19thcentury varieties on twelve acres. The orchard is open from March-December.
  • Grape Collection: There are 360 grape varieties maintained in this orchard. These were donated by the late Elmer Swenson, an accomplished grape breeder from Osceola, Wisconsin.

I was curious how the SSE decides what to plant in their gardens. Was told that today Jenna Sicuranza is a self-proclaimed “plant geek” who serves as collection curator for the SSE. She decides and chooses between 500-700 varieties to “grow out” each year. They measure leaf and petal size, fruit weight, length and diameter. At the SSE they also want to maintain a high germination rate. This all is a very detailed process and the seed must be properly dried and stored under ideal conditions.

The SSE also has many educational opportunities throughout the year. The Farm is open from March through December. They kick off in March and begin with a plant sale in early May. A conference and campout is held every July. This event brings experts and amateurs alike to compare growing skills and patterns. Though experts are brought to lecture and inform those attending, it is also a fun time with many families returning year after year. Other activities throughout the year include a Fundraising Dinner, Tomato Tasting, Squash Festival and Three Days of Seed Saving Workshops. The grand finale is the Farm to Table Meal with fresh foods grown at the Seed Exchange.

Checking the SSE website, the closest location on the Seed Rack Location Map is located in Arlington at the Whole Food Market at 801 East Lamar Blvd. in Arlington, Texas. Dallas sells SSE seeds at Nicholson-Hardie in Park Cities, 5725 West Lovers Lane or the Whole Foods at 4100 Lomo Alto Drive, Dallas.

Watch out because this can be additive to the avid gardener but we are thankful that SSE exists for now and for the future.