Seeding is believing
© Guardian photo by Mary MacKay
Veseys Seeds employees Helen Morrison, right, and Krista Clyke hand pack some of the extensive amount of seed varieties available from this P.E.I. company.
The weather outside may be frightful at this time of year, but for farmers and home gardening enthusiasts it is a delightful time to starting planning for the upcoming growing season.
This year there’s something new on the to-do planting calendar — the first P.E.I. Seed Expo, which is being presented Saturday, Jan. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. by the Farm Centre Association as part of its Legacy Farm initiative.
“This is a good opportunity for people to see what new introductions there are, as well as developing an understanding and appreciation for heritage seed that have been developed in this region that are particularly well suited for this environment,” says Phil Ferraro, general manager of the Farm Centre Association, which received funding from the P.E.I. 2014 Fund for the Legacy Farm project.
Regional garden and farm seed companies have been invited to the Farm Centre to present their wares, including Veseys Seeds, Cardigan Feed, Phillips Seed Service, Nature’s Crop, Halifax Seed, P.E.I. Potato Board and Agro- Coop, High Mowing Organic Seed from Vermont and Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Maine.
“It’s a whole spectrum of what’s available in the region. There will be companies here that specialize in garden seed, like various vegetables and flowers, and there will be some companies that will (be dealing) specifically with what we call farm seed. . . ,” Ferraro says.
Participants will have an opportunity to ask the seed representatives any questions regarding growing challenges they face in their farm of garden.
“One of the big reasons to grow your own home garden is that freshness and the quality,” says Angus Mellish, who is seed manager at Veseys Seeds in York.
“You can grow a variety in your home garden that tastes really good and really fresh that may be something that a commercial grower can’t grow because it can’t be harvested mechanically, like a carrot. . . . So for a home gardener we’re looking for what is the best tasting carrot out there, or what is the earliest one, because those are things that are a real value to our customers.”
Simplicity is also in mind when Veseys chooses what seed varieties to carry.
“Things that are really vigorous, that germinate really quickly to, they’re easy to establish. Disease resistance is a big one for us (too) because 99 per cent of home gardeners don’t want to be out spraying their garden. . . . to avoid blight (on for example),” Mellish says.
Because late blight typically smacks the life out of tomato plants in September, Veseys concentrated on finding ones that weren’t so strongly affected.
“In the last two or three years we found three late-blight-resistant varieties that never need to be sprayed. They stay green well into October, nice and healthy. So those are the kinds of things that we really focus on — the things that are going to make life easier for our home garden customers,” Mellish says.
At the P.E.I. Seed Expo, there will also be opportunities to talk about trading seeds. There will be a series of speakers throughout the day addressing issues dealing with seeds and food security as well.
“It’s not specifically about heritage seed or preserving open pollinating (varieties); there are many good attributes to hybrids that have been developed and people will be able to learn about them as well,” Ferraro adds.
“This will be an opportunity for people who (are likeminded to get together (to share their experiences). . . It’s like fish tales, everyone has their gardening stories, like the biggest zucchini they’ve ever grown.”