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MEETING REPORT: The Magical World of Seeds.

San Diego Seed Company Seed Rack.

By Karen Andersen and Donna Mallen. Photos by Janet Ward.

(Editor's note - I inadvertently scheduled two people to write the meeting report for December, and I apologize to them and to you for my error. And, since both reports are so great, touching on similar but different points from the presentation, I am including them both here with my sincere thanks to each writer.)

Brijette Peña, December meeting speaker and owner of San Diego Seed Company.

By Karen Andersen -

December’s meeting welcomed special guest Brijette Peña and her crew from the San Diego Seed Company. The San Diego Seed Co. is a unique research and growing facility located right here in the heart of City Heights. Boasting one acre of land, Brijette and the company produce, breed and trial seeds that will specifically thrive and adapt to our San Diego climate. Working with the likes of UC Davis and the Organic Seed Alliance, the company tests and researches many different varieties of plants on their Certified Organic Urban Farm.

You could tell from the presentation that seeds are their passion, but outreach and education are their company’s mission. We learned why “local seed” matters, the history and brief politics on seeds, how seed has helped shaped our country and its policies, harvesting and obviously why saving seed is a worthwhile skill.

Brijette gave us a 101 on best seed growing practices. Her tips are tried and true: begin with really good quality seed starting mixes, moisture matters, make sure the planting depth is correct for your particular seed, and be very generous with your feeding regimen. These simple steps will set you on the road to success with your seeds.

We also learned why it is important, if you are practicing organic growing, to use organic seed. They are acclimated and designed to develop under particular growing conditions. Brijette touched on the differences between Heirloom seeds, Hybrid seeds and GMO seeds. How we as mankind play a part, the issues and benefits of our interaction/interference in each; and most importantly how to start saving seeds. Did you know, there is a difference between saving “wet seed” and “dry seed”? Wet seed needs to ferment for the best success in germination.

Yellow Poinsettia at the meeting.

By Donna Mallen.

In her lively, yet encyclopedic, presentation, Brijette Peña, owner and founder of San Diego Seed Company, shared her insights into organic plant production, botany and the history and economics of farming and gardening that she has learned over the ten years of the San Diego Seed Company’s existence.

Today, San Diego Seed Company is the only certified organic urban seed producer in the U.S. On their one-acre farm, they grow, package and, field test their vegetable and flower varieties tested for flavor, disease resistance, moisture requirements, and suitability for small-space farming.

In her presentation, Ms. Peña explained the differentiations among the classifications of Heirloom, Hybrid, Genetically Modified and Organic seeds, and the intriguing story of how the development of twentieth century intellectual property law led to the world-wide reduction in available plant varieties as the age-old farming practice of saving seeds from this year’s crop to plant next year was replaced by corporate sales of patented varieties. Notably, Heirloom seeds have been handed down from farmer to farmer over the years, with the characteristics of the plants generally remaining true to their parent plants. Hybrid seeds have a particular economic value, in that they have unstable genetics resulting from being bred as a cross between two different parents, whose seeds will yield plants with various traits of the two parents.

Ms. Peña explained how to clean and save tomato seeds and other “wet” seeds that require fermentation in their seed sac to cure for future germination in nature, and the simpler task of saving other seeds that merely need to dry out after maturity on the plant. Her company also offers expert seed-cleaning services for those of you with large crops who want to have an expert prepare your bulk of seeds to save for next year’s planting.

The San Diego Seed Company website is not just a seed store with great photos of the seeds they have for sale. It is a resource with extensive information about selecting, planting, growing and saving seeds, as well as pages devoted to soil health maintenance, Integrated Pest Management, composting, sustainable gardening and more. It lists live classes at the San Diego Seed Company farm, and a link to blog site providing a wealth of additional information.

The online seed store, itself, is unique in the plethora of very detailed information about each variety of the seeds they sell. Fortunately for Southern Californians, the seed varieties offered are known to be well-adapted to San Diego’s climate, as they have been grown on the company’s farm. The website includes tips on planting within your own microclimate within San Diego County’s range of sub-climatic conditions and varying soil composition.

Browsing through the shopping area, I found that I missed my opportunity to grow my own Mung Beans for sprouts, because they’re a warm season crop that grows well in San Diego and are now out of stock after the smart buyers grabbed them all during the recent warm growing season sale. I’ll check back in the Spring before the other Mung Bean gardeners beat me to the checkout basket. I also finally got the answer to the question of whether Hyacinth Beans can be eaten by humans. The answer is negative. They’re poisonous. But the flowers are beautifully ornamental.

Paperwhites at the meeting.


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