Gardening Tips for Seedy Characters Week 1

Editor’s Note: This week marks the beginning of a new gardening feature by Michelle Smith, who will also write more broadly on agricultural and food issues for The Spectator in a regular monthly column that will launch next week. This week, we introduce Smith and present her first tip of the series.


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Meet the Author

Michelle Smith has been market gardening and farming in Cape Breton for 30 years. Using and growing a wide variety of open-pollinated heirloom seeds she has developed ways to manage the challenges of her bioregion and work her family farm. Over the years, she has built up a store of practical and technical knowledge. She grows and saves seed stock of grains, dry beans, potatoes, squashes and tomatoes as part of her rotation, devoting five acres of her 40-acre farm to horticultural crops and small grains.

She is familiar to many for her gardening and seed workshops. She served as secretary on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and has represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture. She has been a staunch advocate in many arenas for farmer-driven agricultural policies and farmer-centered rural development. She has run twice for the NDP in Inverness County, once each provincially and federally

She has three grown children, 20, 28 and 30 and is more comfortable in rubber boots than business suits. There is nothing she can do about her hair. This picture shows her with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that has the same approach to hairdressing.



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What to do this week:

Photo by Jack Dykinga via US Department of Agriculture

Photo by Jack Dykinga via US Department of Agriculture

The seed catalogues are out and the time has arrived to plan what to buy. Before you whip your charge cards out, this week is a good time to check on the seeds you didn’t use last season.

If you just threw them in the kitchen drawer, there are seeds that are forgiving and may be just fine: these include tomato, beans and squash. Other seeds need to be better protected from the changes in moisture that occur in the average kitchen. Carrot, onion and lettuce seeds need at least a well-sealed mason jar. Darkness is also a good idea but the key thing to worry about is change in moisture level.

Once you have inspected what you have left, it is time to plan what to buy. I will cover a few tips for dealing with seed catalogues next week.

If you can’t bear to throw seeds out, even if you have not treated them well, I suggest you put them all in a big jar and mix well. Once planting time arrives you can toss them in the squash patch. This is easier than actually throwing out seeds, and some things may even grow!






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