Tuesday, June 30, 2020

An Audience of Plants!


Hello Gardeners!

I hope your gardens are doing well. My peas are almost ready to pick! Maybe yours are too. If you are able, leave some pea pods on the vine to save for seed. Peas must ripen on the vine until the pods are brown and the peas rattle inside the pods, about a month after harvesting others for eating. If you harvest them too early they won’t be viable. If the weather is wet when it comes time to harvest the peas you can pull the vines and let them dry in a well ventilated area until they are dry.

Here is a wonderful way to use potted plants. They are the audience at a musical quartet performance! Check it out:

  

Minnesota Grown Directory Free Copies
Every year the Minnesota Grown Directory is published with information on Minnesota farmers selling to the public, products available, pick your own, CSAs, organic certifications, hours and directions to get to the farms, etc. This directory is free and the WBL library has lots of copies.
You can request a copy for pickup by calling the White Bear Lake library at 651-724-6007 Press 3.

Seed Requests
Do you still need seeds? If so, send me an email. We can arrange a pickup time. Check the blogsite for the list of available seeds.


Save Seeds

Don’t forget to save seeds for the seed library! If you have seeds to donate, hold on to them for now and store them in a cool, dry location. Place them in a paper envelope with the name of the seeds, date and general location. Later I will let you know how to actually donate the seeds.


Classes

The website with classes hosted by the Ramsey Master gardeners:

Happy Gardening,
Pam

Contact info for the Seed Library:
Blog site: WBL Seed Library


Friday, June 12, 2020

MN Grown Directory and Upcoming Events


Hello Gardeners!

Every year the Minnesota Grown Directory is published with information on Minnesota farmers selling to the public, products available, pick your own, CSAs, organic certifications, hours and directions to get to the farms, etc. This directory is free and the WBL library has lots of copies.
You can request a copy for pickup by calling the White Bear Lake library at 651-724-6007 Press 3.

Seed Requests
Do you still need seeds? If so, send me an email. We can arrange a pickup time. Check the blogsite for the list of available seeds.


Save Seeds
Don’t forget to save seeds for the seed library! If you have seeds to donate, hold on to them for now and store them in a cool, dry location. Place them in a paper envelope with the name of the seeds, date and general location. Later I will let you know how to actually donate the seeds.


Seed Talk
The next Seed Talk is Tuesday June 23rd at 6:30 pm via Zoom. The topic is the Ten Top Things to Make Your Garden Great. I’ll talk about some things you can do to keep your garden looking great and producing throughout the summer. It will be a virtual event via Zoom. The event is free, but you need to register thru the Ramsey County Library here.


Classes
The website with classes hosted by the Ramsey Master gardeners:

Happy Gardening,
Pam

Contact info for the Seed Library:
Blog site: WBL Seed Library


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

White Bear Lake Seed Library FAQ


Hello Gardeners!

I’ve had many new people order seeds from the White Bear Lake Seed Library and thought a FAQ was due. Even if you have been using the seed library for a while, you might find this info useful. There are specific changes due to Covid-19 which I’m sure you are getting tired of hearing about, but like most business it affects the seed library too. At the end is information about how to get neonic free plants and the status of various plant sales in the area.

What is the White Bear Lake Seed Library?

It is a repository of free open-pollinated seeds available for community members to grow, enjoy and save seeds for future seasons.  It is located in the White Bear Lake library, 2150 2nd St, White Bear Lake, MN 55110. When the White Bear Lake library is open, the seed catalogs and drawers containing the seeds will be on the right after you go through the doors.

What seeds are in the seed library?

There are vegetable, herb, flower and native plant seeds in the seed library. All the seeds are open-pollinated, non-hybrid seeds.  There are some organic seeds as well. The varieties and amounts vary depending on what seeds are donated.
There are two binders at the seed library table that contain pictures and growing information on every plant we carry in the seed library. You can use your phone to take a photo of the page so you can reference the information at a later date. Since the library is closed, there are lists of seeds available on the blog site. Unfortunately, these lists do not have photos or detailed information as normally this wasn’t needed. I do update the lists regularly.

Where is the blog site?


How do I get seeds?

When the library is open, you can peruse the seed catalog binders, select your seeds from the seed drawers, fill out a membership form and return that form to a librarian at the main desk.

For now, you make a list of specific seeds you want, email it to me, wait for a confirmation email, and then show up at the next pickup date. I really do need the specific variety of a plant, not just say ‘tomato’ because I am not very good at making guesses at what you want.

The next seed pickup on Thursday April 30 from 4:30-5:30 pm at the White Bear Lake library’s parking lot. To pick up seeds on this date you must email me your order by noon Thursday April 30, (wblseedlibrary@gmail.com). You can read the details at the blog site WBL blog site.

I plan to have seed pickups about once a week throughout May or until there is no more interest. I rotate the day of the week and the time to allow more people to participate.
 
How do I donate seeds?

The seed library depends on donated seeds as we are not funded. When the WBL library is open you can donate seeds in the bin at the seed library table. Until then save seeds you want to donate in your refrigerator.

We encourage all members to learn basic seed saving techniques, but ask that beginning seed savers only collect seeds from ‘Easy to Save’ plants (tomatoes, beans, peas, lettuce, and native plants). If you are unable save your own seed, please donate a packet or two of fresh, commercially grown, open-pollinated, non-hybrid seed to help keep our library stocked.

If you are certain your plant was not cross-pollinated, then learn when the best time is to harvest the seeds. Try here for help or ask me. Allow the seeds to fully dry, package them in a paper envelope with the common name of the plant, scientific name of the plant if known, the year, the location, your name, isolation distance and whether you practice organic gardening techniques (i.e. no pesticides, etc.). Drop them off in the bin at the seed library.

What seeds should I save?

A seeds is a seed is a seed. What difference does it make what seeds I save?
Bear with me as I explain a little science.

 Open-Pollinated and Self-pollinated – Open-pollinated plants are pollinated by wind, insects, or gardeners to set fruit and make seeds. Self-pollinated plants do not need wind, insects or gardeners to pollinate their flowers as they have what is called ‘perfect’ flowers. ‘Perfect’ flowers contain both the stigma and pollen on the same flower and sometimes are pollinated just by the act of the flower opening.  Frequently the term open-pollinated refers to both self and open pollinated plants.

Open-pollinated plants have stable genetics and come true from seed. This means that if you have a 'Big Orange’ squash plant, and you've ensured that there was no cross-pollination with other plants in your garden or pollen from your neighbor didn’t sneak in;  the resulting seeds that you save from the crop you grow this year will produce 'Big Orange' squash plants, and not something else.

Cross-pollination can occur with both self and open pollinated plants, but only with plants in the same family. For example, if a bee visits a tomato plant flower then goes to a squash plant flower, you will not get ‘tomquash’ or a ‘squatom’ seeds from the fruit. But if your roaming bee visits a summer squash and then checks out an acorn squash those fruit may very well produce seeds that grow a strange fruit (which may or may not be edible) that you could call a ‘sumacorn’ or maybe a ‘acornmer’. Or perhaps those seeds will not set any fruit at all (sterile).

Self-pollinated plants are what we consider ‘easy’ to save seeds as the chance of cross-pollination is small. True open-pollinated plants are what we consider ‘medium’ or ‘difficult’ to save seeds because you need to make sure the plants are not cross-pollinated with other varieties.

Seed packets may say ‘open-pollinated’ or ‘OP’ or nothing at all on the seed packet. If nothing is specified, this is where you have to do a bit of sleuthing to find out whether a particular variety is open pollinated or hybrid. The internet is a wonderful resource for this.

Heirloom – are simply open-pollinated varieties that have been around for many years, usually at least 50 years or more. Think of them as the old standbys that usually produce consistent fruit every time you plant those seeds. Usually, seed packets will have the word ‘heirloom’ on the packet.

Hybrid – A hybrid plant is one that is bred from two different types of plants and is a result of a controlled breeding process. This is developed through a series of crosses where the parent plants impart the offspring with desirable traits. This process can be very involved and take many years. The result can be plants that have higher yields or are more resistant to disease. But the drawback to these plants from a seed saving perspective is that the genetics of hybrids is unstable and the seeds from these plants do not usually breed true.
We do not have hybrid seeds in our seed library. They will grow great plants and produce, but please do not donate the seeds from these plants. Seed packets may say ‘hybrid’ or ‘F1’ or not specify anything if they are hybrid seeds. Again, if nothing is specified, this is where you have to do a bit of sleuthing.

GMO – stands for Genetically Modified Organism. GMOs should not be confused with hybrid plants. GMOs have their genetic traits modified in a laboratory where specific genes are either added or deleted from a plant’s DNA. This is a very expensive process and at this time only commercial crops such as corn, soybeans, sugar beets and cotton are modified. At this time there are no GMO seeds available for gardeners.  So though a seed company or a seed packet may say not GMO, right now it doesn’t really mean much as all packets of seeds available to us common folk are not GMOs.

So in summary, the Seed Library wants open-pollinated, heirloom or self-pollinated seeds that have not been cross-pollinated with another variety. Seeds from tomatoes, beans, peas, lettuce and native plants are what we call ‘easy’ to save seeds.

Difficult to Save’ seeds require special planning to preserve the purity of the variety. These plants are easily cross-pollinated and you must maintain isolation distances between plants to ensure they will produce seeds true to type. There are also many plants that either don’t set seeds in a typical Minnesota growing season (i.e. rosemary) or need two years to produce seeds (i.e. carrots, parsnips).

There are many types of vegetables and flowers that are open-pollinated, but are easy to be cross-pollinated. For example, all melons are in the Cucurbita family, so squash, pumpkins, melons, and zucchini will cross with each other.  Isolate by 800 ft – ½ mile. Also, anything in the Brassica family – broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, kale, collards, and turnips all cross within each other and are insect pollinated. Separate by 800 ft – ½ mile. Corn is pollinated by wind and must be at least ½ mile away from any other corn. Onions are insect pollinated so separate by about a mile. Even some flowers will cross-pollinate with vegetables as carrots will cross-pollinated with Queen Ann’s lace flowers.
 
What are the isolation distances for plants to prevent cross-pollination?
 
Please read about isolation distance from Seed Saver’s Exchange here.
Seed Saver’s Exchange has a lot more good information about saving seeds.
 
Can I save the seeds from produce I buy at the grocery store or farmer’s market?

More than likely the produce at the store is a hybrid. Large growers usually prefer hybrid varieties as they are more consistent, travel well and many times are more resistant to certain viruses and fungi. Unless you know for sure the produce you buy is an heirloom variety, do not save these seeds.

 How long do seeds last?

It is a highly variable length of time because how the seed is stored is usually more important than how long the seed is stored. A great location to save seeds is your refrigerator in a sealed container.  I use a plastic container to save my paper envelopes of seeds in my refrigerator. A bad location is in a car during the summer.
Some seeds last only a year, such as onions or parsnips. Some seeds can last up to 5 years such as radish and melons. See seed life chart  or seed viability chart for a handy list. If you donate seeds that are older than these guidelines I cannot use them for the seed library as it does not benefit the people who take these old seeds. They may get only a few seeds to germinate or none at all. Seed libraries do not do germination rate testing, so please only donate fresh seeds to the seed library.
 
How can I tell if a plant is open-pollinated or a hybrid?

The only way to tell is either look it up online or if you’re lucky it will say on the seed packet. If it says ‘hybrid’, or ‘F1’ then it is for certain a hybrid.  If it says ‘heirloom’ or ‘open-pollinated’ it for certain is open-pollinated.

Do you ever have classes about gardening?

I give Seed Talks once a month on the second Tuesday evening from 6:30-8 pm at the White Bear Lake library. The Seed Talk is a community discussion on a particular topic related to gardening. They are on pause for now, but please feel free to email me with any questions.

Check the Ramsey County Master Gardener website for online classes.

Where can I find neonic free plants?

Many of you bought plants at the Friends School Plant sale over Mother’s Day weekend, but this year it is canceled (you know why). Or you bought native plants at the Landscape Revival during the first two weekends of June, but it is postponed or rescheduled (same reasons why). Both these events provided neonic free plants. But you can find other growers in the Twin Cities area that sell neonic free plants. Check the Friends School webpage for a list.




 What do you mean by neonic free plants?

Neonicotinoids or neonics are a class of systemic pesticides that have been proven to be detrimental to pollinators.  The Friends School Plant sale has a good write up on this. At the end of their article is a list of other excellent places to find information on pollinators and neonics.

I have more questions?

Feel free to email me at wblseedlibrary@gmail.com.
 
Who sent me this email?
I confess it’s me, Pam Larson Frink. I am the head organizer or you could say Seed Librarian for the WBL Seed Library. This is a volunteer position and I am not the only volunteer as there are several seed packaging events throughout the year where many volunteers help package seeds. (Though right now the only person seed packaging is me.)

Happy Planting!
Pam

Contact info for the Seed Library:
Blog site: WBL Seed Library