Last week’s Garden News article in full!
With only three Allan Shepherd columns left until Christmas, the end of the year and sadly the end of my time at Garden News I thought I’d use my remaining features to provide a round up of my favourite organic books, ethical products and seasonal activities to keep you going through the coming year. There won’t be an organic column next year so I feel like I need to fill your stocking with something that will last a while!
For Christmas this year I’m asking santa to enrol me as a member of Garden Organics’ Heritage Seed Library. On Boxing Day I’ll get to chose up to six packets of seed from over 200 unique varieties that are only available to members. These seeds are no longer to be had commercially because their owners could not afford to register them on the National Seed List. Instead they have been made available to gardeners free of charge through the HSL. This does not mean that they are inferior seed stock; far from it. Some are more flavoursome and colourful than varieties grown commercially and many carry interesting histories. Perhaps just as importantly, all help to increase the diversity of crops grown in Britain, with many specifically suited to local climatic and soil conditions. I’ll be looking out for the Welsh ones!
Like all organic seeds HSL seeds are free from Genetic Modification – something that is important to me and may become more important to you over the next few years. In Britain Genetically Modified (GM) crops are currently only grown in field scale trials, where they have to be monitored by law to see if they contaminate other crops near by. There are moves afoot in the gardening industry to introduce GM crops to gardens but as yet there is no certainty whether this is safe or even in the best interest of gardeners.
In some agricultural scenarios GM seeds are designed to be grown with chemicals made by the same company. The farmer is reliant on the company for both seed and pesticide. And even then the seed can only be used once. GM seeds are not designed to be saved but to be grown by the farmer under licence from the company. Farmers do not have the right to save seed from their GM crop. Whereas a Heritage Seed Library seed can be saved and used indefinitely by the gardener and allowed to morph and change over many years, perhaps evolving over time into a new stronger variety, a GM seed is a fixed and patented invention designed to stay the same.
To me, membership of the Heritage Seed Library will not only be great fun – what could be better than picking out new varieties of seeds to order on boxing day – but it will also be a constant reminder that in gardening diversity = strength. Can we sign up for a better future? To borrow Barack Obama’s phrase: Yes We Can!
Back Garden Seed Saving, Sue Stickland