Heirloom seeds to Terminator seeds?

The whole of Seed Saver’s Exchange’s seed collection is now part of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an act that apparently gives biotech companies access to them so that they can make derivatives that they can then patent. This sounds alarming but I confess that I still don’t understand how we could ever keep a biotech company from doing this in the first place.

Rather than rehash the whole thing, go to this post and read the letter from Seed Saver’s Exchange’s founder Kent Whealy. It’s a long letter full of ugly business but it is worth reading.
Now, I wonder how many of the heirloom vegetables I am growing fall into this.
One new thing I learned by reading Kent’s letter is the concept of Terminator Seeds. The sci-fi geek in me perked up and I immediately pictured a tomato from the future sent back to kill my Brandywines! Seriously though, the concept of a Terminator Seed stinks of Big Business. A Terminator Seed is the seed from a plant that has been genetically modified to kill the embryo in the seed so that you and I cannot save the seed. Basically all the seeds in the plant are duds, blanks, sterile.
Another neat thing I learned about by reading the letter is the concept of Sacred Seeds. Apparently Native American nations have collections of seeds that have been preserved by them. Now these seeds are also part of this complicated Global Crop Diversity Trust deal.
Ok, so I am being a bit paranoid about this but don’t underestimate the things that people will do for money. After all, this has happened before when genetically engineered pollen blew over to farmers’ fields and then they got sued (this is alluded to in the letter). I’d hate to go to jail because I saved some seeds.
And you thought Blight was your only gardening problem!


I went through my blog all the way to the first postings of last year and boy! is it different this year!
Last year by this time, we were seeing temperatures in the high 40’s. Today’s high is expected to be in the high 30’s.

  • I sowed my first batch of seeds this past Sunday –February 21.
  • I am a tiny bit more knowledgeable about my veggies this year than I was last year by this time.
  • My dog is one year older and a tiny bit less spastic, although she still eats anything I put outside whether it was meant to be eaten or not.
  • I have most of what I need for the garden already so I can concentrate on growing things and not on growing my inventory of gardening tools.
  • And most importantly, I am more confident in my ability to make my veggies grow and fruit.

It was nice to look at some of the photos in my blog from last year and see what all this work is all about. There will be tomatoes, there will be peppers. Also, it was good to read about all the headaches I suffered last year to bring me down from my pre-season gardening cloud. Blame this ignorant bliss on the seed catalogs. Right now, before any plants are growing, all I have are the beautiful pictures of the vegetables and flowers grown by some mystical Master Gardener at Thompson & Morgan, or other such magical place. Surely they don’t ever have to contend with raging winds, driving rain, murderous hail, uninvited hungry beasties of wing or fur and all manner of crawling critters.
No matter. I will do this again this year.

I buy my seed locally anywhere they sell it. On the web, I buy from 2 or 3 places. This year I ordered seeds from:

Thompson & Morgan
Seeds Trust
Reimer Seeds

Locally, I bought seeds from:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Plantation Products (American Seed and NK Lawn and Garden)

Last, I actually saved seeds from last year although only from a couple of pepper plants.

My Tomatillo Mexican Husk sprouted yesterday, Tuesday February 23, two days after sowing!
Also, one of my gourd plants germinated as well. I moved them under lights.
This morning, I had a number of Siberian tomatoes starting to come up.

Let’s do this!

The Chiltepin

Year after year I have put chiltepin seeds, also known as chile tepin or chile pequin, in peat pellets, professional growing medium, dirt, etc. with no results; or if you prefer, with the result that at the end, all I had were empty peat pellets, empty pots of professional growing medium, empty pots of dirt, etc.
This year, I tried it once again and pow! one seed sprouted. I cannot tell you how elated I was. I actually did a little jig the morning I came down to inspect my peat pellets and found this little gem. I have nurtured it since and this is what it looks like today, February 21, 2oo9 (see picture above).
The chiltepin pepper and I have history. We go back all the way to my childhood in the Sonoran desert, where peddlers would come to our street selling wild chiltepins that they had harvested in the Sierra Madre mountains.
The little round peppers can be eaten fresh but we always used them dry and are so hot that we used bits of grocery paper sacks to protect our fingers when we crushed them into soups and stews. Just one was enough to provide any dish with considerable kick.
Experts say that the chiltepin is the precursor of ALL peppers. It is a wild plant and so they tell me, it takes a year or two to fruit, but I have read somewhere that people get fruit out of it the first year. A well-tended chiltepin plant can live for a long time -20 or 30 years! although the oldest plant I have seen was reported to be 5 years old.
It is because of the reported longevity of the plant I intend to plant my baby into a large, regular pot and not into one of my home made self-watering containers, which have to be emptied and cleaned at the end of each growing season. Here in Kansas, I will have to bring it inside during the coldest months of the year.

I am hoping that tomorrow is nice enough for me to put plants into the remaining 4 self-watering buckets that I’ve made.

By now, I usually have all the seeds I am going to buy for the growing season but today I bought some seeds for stuff I hadn’t decided yet if I wanted to grow or not, so I will be sowing stuff tomorrow as well.

Murder in the Garden

Every year since I began gardening – 6 years now, I do something that brings me great shame and heart ache.
Early in the year, when I do my sowing, I put several seeds in each pot or plug in order to ensure that I get at least one plant. However, it seems every year, more than one seed germinates in each pot or plug. If you grow plants from seed, you know this.
So, in order to allow one plant to survive and to mature, I am instructed by conventional wisdom to clip all seedlings except for the strongest one.
Every year, comes killing time, my chest fills with anguish. I feel dirty. This is the miracle of life people! These plants did their part. They came. That was our agreement. I provided life with the means to come forth and it did!
I think this contract we make with the Universe every planting season is the source of my shame. I feel I am betraying something when I “thin” the plants.
I wonder if anyone else feels this way. I wonder if some day I will grow callouses on my heart and I won’t feel a thing.
I wonder.