While putting in my seed order to Salt Spring Seeds a few weeks ago, I clicked on a link to the Seed and Plant Sanctuary of Canada. This seed sanctuary is run by the Salt Spring Seed folks, and as part of their mandate they have been enlisting the help of hundreds of plant-loving seedy-type people across Canada to expand the sanctuary. Canadians can sign up for active membership with the sanctuary for a small fee, and receive up to 5 types of seeds to grow in their area of the country. If you report back to the sanctuary folks about the results of the growing 'trial', you qualify for a different batch of 5 types of seeds the next year. And so on, and so on. In the words of Salt Spring Seeds' Dan Jason:
"Along with the many gardeners and farmers on Salt Spring Island who are growing out seeds for the Sanctuary, we also have several hundred Active Members across Canada. Their work is essential to see how varieties do in other parts of the country and through a lot of growing years. It is also crucial to have living gene banks elsewhere in case of crop failures, fires, floods or genetic contamination here on Salt Spring."
Growing and saving seeds in various parts of the country makes sense, so we don't put all our "seeds in one basket" so to speak. Dan speaks out strongly for the necessity of growing out the seeds and collecting new seed year after year, in various parts of the country, so that the plants continually adapt to changing circumstances as the climate itself changes.
In the documentary "Gardens of Destiny," Dan points out that saving seed in large 'doomsday' repositories for years - decades- on end, may be less of a food security measure than we'd hoped, since by the time the seeds are needed, climate and other environmental factors may have changed so much that the seeds just can't grow in those conditions anymore. Seeds lose some of their viability over time anyway, and if the seed starts off less potent and then has to contend with changes in humidity levels, a thinner ozone layer, earlier or later first/last frost dates, less or more rain or ground water, then it stands to reason that the odds of the seed actually producing a good yield would be much lower.
I'm in the process of applying to become an active member in Canada's seed sanctuary. It turns out many of the seeds I already ordered from Salt Spring Seeds are ones that they are encouraging people across Canada to grow and report back on. I'm just waiting to hear back from the SSS folks as to how to best document my 'trial' in the way that would be most useful for their database. I haven't anything other than blog sporadically about my garden outcomes over the past two years, and it's time I changed that. I'm going to need to get more organized and consistent about how I record how well things grow here, so I can maximize my chances of dependable yields. I want to grow things and track things with the idea that one day what I grow might be all (or almost all) we have to eat. Last year I still had somewhat of a 'hobby' mentality about the garden - it was just a neat thing to try. But this year it's time to step things up to the next level.
On that note, does anyone have any favorite ways of documenting your garden successes and/or failures? What sorts of information do you take note of? Planting and harvesting dates? Specific location the seed was planted? Estimated yields? Diseases or anomalies? I really don't know what type of information will be the most useful to record. I want to record this stuff on the computer but also keep paper copies in a binder or something. Any suggestions are much appreciated!
Picture of one happy Dan Jason courtesy Salt Spring Seeds