Inside the Arctic Circle, set into the permafrost, the Global Seed Vault protects the future of the planet’s food crops. This initiative in Svalbard, Norway has been collecting the world’s seeds since 1984 and is the world’s most essential seed bank.
But today, even as the practice of saving our diminishing plant diversity is more important than ever, it is also more imperiled. Climate change is, of course, the cause.
The PBS Newshour took a look at the vault and its challenges and it is fascinating, sobering viewing. Watch the segment.
It’s always exciting to try new edible crops in the garden. Not only do you keep things fresh, which is a great goal for life as well as the kitchen, but a bit of a challenge can turn into a delightful achievement.
So why not try a new variety at the Great Seattle Seed Swap?
Browse the tables under signs for crop categories like Salad Greens, Tomatoes or Brassicas (and find out what Brassicas are-it’s OK if you don’t know). Ask another swapper what they’ve tried. Look up a variety in the stack of catalogs on a nearby table. Then just shake a few seeds into a packet, label it, and take home your treasure.
The goal of the King County Seed Lending Library is to celebrate seed. Sending you home with a new variety that may surprise you when it pops up out of the soil is the best way.
What seeds will be at the Swap?
The lending library has a supply of seeds donated by gardeners and seed companies that range from salad greens to squashes.
Some people will come to the swap with their extra seed packets or home-saved seeds (it’s not required but encouraged, just like masking!). And every year a couple of seed companies send us donations of seed to share.
This year we will enjoy selections from our friends at Adaptive Seeds in Bellingham and High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont. Seed from two wonderful corners of the country!
We can’t list all the types of crops and varieties that will be on the tables, but that’s part of the fun. Come and find out!
What else happens at the Swap?
Glad you asked! Some fantastic greening organizations and community partners will join us with tables of their own. Get your gardening questions answered, learn about growing fruit in your yard, and find out how to borrow tools from a community tool library!
Looking for a new taste from your edible garden? From greens to roots to legumes, the Great Seattle Seed Swap has a vegetable variety for everyone. In fact, seeking old or unusual varieties that you might not find in the seed racks is one reason people come to the King County Seed Lending Library seed swap.
Now is a great time to evaluate your seeds. It’s a fun rainy (or snowy) day project to pull out the box and flip through the packets. What did well? What did poorly? What can’t you wait to plant again? Perhaps most importantly, what can you take to the seed swap and be sure your gardening friends will be getting good seed?
As you hold an older packet in your hand, one big question comes to mind: Are these seeds still viable? Three years is a good general cutoff date, but some will last much longer. And if you haven’t been as careful as you should have in storage, they might not sprout. So how do you know?
There’s a pretty easy way to find out if the seeds are still good: do a germination test. Here’s one way to do it, in 5 steps. As an example, I will use a test that I began today.
1. Count out a good quantity of seeds. In this test, I used Black Spanish Radish (Raphanus sativus) from 2020. This was the last of a large bag tied up in the garage. I shelled them from their pods until I had 100 seeds.
2. Place the seeds on a moistened paper towel. This will give them a place to germinate.
3. Fold over the paper towel and insert it in a large zippered plastic bag. Lay it flat in a warm place out of the way. I use the top of my refrigerator.
4. Monitor the project daily for the next two weeks. Don’t let the paper towel dry out–the seeds need the moisture to sprout. Just open the bag and sprinkle a little water on the paper, or squirt it with a mister. Keep it moist, but not too wet.
5. Some seeds sprout within a few days, while others can take up to two weeks. When you see the first ones sprout, wait a few more days. Then open it up and count the little green shoots. The seed would be considered viable to share if more than 60 percent of the seeds sprout in your test. A higher number would be much better. At 50 percent or below, it’s best to just toss those seeds on the compost heap and buy (or swap for) fresh seed.
I’ll update this post with the results of my test, so check back in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, start your own germination test–and post your results to our Facebook page!
Update: 60 Percent Germination
Well, after 10 days I pulled the plastic bag from the top of the fridge and saw some pretty good sprouting. Not great, but good. Turns out my Black Spanish Radish seeds are right on the edge of the viability: just over 60 of the 100 seeds sprouted, a 60% germination rate. I will share the seeds this year while letting people know to sow a little more heavily, and then compost any leftover seeds after this season.
Want to learn how to start seeds, build a worm bin or protect your apples from pests? That information and much more will be available from the Seed Lending Library and our community partners at the Great Seattle Seed Swap on Saturday, April 16, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Joining us at the Swap will be:
Seattle Tree Fruit Society will be on hand with bags of nylon “footies” for sale. These protect apples from codling moth and apple maggot, two of the worst pests in our orchards. They also will have a limited supply of bare-root strawberry plants for sale.
Sustainable Ballardwill be at the swap with information about their tool library and their annual Edible Garden Tour, a truly inspiring event.
Tilth Alliance is sending a Master Composter to talk to attendees about composting techniques and tips. They show you how to build and care for a worm bin, so you can turn your kitchen scraps into fertilizer. He may even bring a worm bin for show-and-tell.
PNA Tool Lending Librarywill be in attendance too, showing an array of garden tools and talking about how to use the tool library.
Also, a leader of the King County Seed Lending Library will hold a short workshop on seed starting techniques.