Know Your Seed

Why hello Fernie! Aren’t you looking gorgeous? Everything is budding and ready to sprout for this year’s garden season. I am often asked to share my knowledge on growing food in the Elk Valley, so I thought I would create a crash course on cold-climate gardening. Each month I’ll be providing tips on how to improve your cold climate food production.

Growing food in cold climates can be frustrating! You can put so much time and resources into growing your seedlings, just to watch them stagnate or wither. Becoming familiar with different seed varieties and where they come from can greatly reduce the work required, improve yield, and contribute to your local food security.

Seeds for Success, Local is Best
Local seed sources are already adapted for our short growing season and variable weather. Wildsight offers a number of different seed varieties grown locally. 

Heirloom and Landrace Varieties
I could nerd out for several pages but let me keep it brief: Heirloom varieties are well-loved cultivars with a long heritage of hand-selection by gardeners. Landrace seeds are varieties that have developed by natural selection and have been collected for use by gardeners and homesteaders. If you are able to source local heirloom or landrace seeds, you are likely to save yourself a lot of work as their genetics are aligned to thrive without a lot of added care and resources. Saving these seeds helps to increase biodiversity and preserve genetics. Open-pollinated seed varieties are much easier to save for next season (but more on seed saving later!). 

Learn from Your Neighbour
If you can’t find seeds grown locally, ask around for what varieties and companies to purchase from! Does your neighbour have lovely early tomatoes every year? Is your local farmer’s spinach slow to bolt? Find out which varieties (or cultivars) grow best in the Valley. Our local greenhouses, gardeners, and homesteaders are happy to share their knowledge (the Elk Valley Homesteading group on Facebook is a great resource!).

Quick Calories
I grow food to feed my family nutrient dense calories. I try to grow 70% of all my family’s calories for the year. Given the number of frost-free days in the Valley, I focus on crops that require low effort, have high calories, and have a wide variety of nutrients. Parsley is easy to grow and super nutrient dense. Potatoes can improve soil quality and are easy to store calories. Kale and chard are cold hardy and can be harvested all season long. That being said, I always find some corner of my garden to try and grow a watermelon because I think it’s fun! If your space and time are limited, look for hardy and quick to grow crops that are nutrient dense!

Every Seed Has a Story 
There are so many wonderful small seed companies in BC! Supporting local and small seed companies helps preserve genetic diversity and improve seed lines for local food production. Shop around and ask around!