SeedKeep is organised by Knockvicar Organic Garden, a Social Enterprise. The garden was established in 1998. Community activities include working with school gardens, a youth education project and maintenance of a community hall.
Watching a bee being busily benevolent, amongst a single plant sea, of flowering future seeds, inspired our first Seed Swap Sunday. From that we have found ourselves surrounded by an active and diverse community of growers. The swap events are open to all ages and abilities and welcome the practical and economical exchange of both bought, and self saved seeds – while advocating seed saving by providing information and workshops.
We learned a great deal over the past 5 years through workshops and networking with Madeline McKeever at Brown Envelope Seeds in Cork, and the national treasure which is the Irish Seed Savers Association in Clare. We procured more basic seed saving equipment, then, at the 2013 seed swap, we talked about seed banks and offered an open invitation to join our growing, local, seed network.
That April we agreed upon the twenty locally valued varieties which we sought to save in our first year. They included Crimson Flowered broad beans, Gortahork cabbage, Kuttingen carrots, Tamra cucumber, Shinkinu onion, Little marvel peas and the tomato varieties, Green Zebra and Sungella. All are open pollinated varieties. Some are well known amongst organic and heritage growers, but none are available in local supermarkets. Also, experience shows that commercial seed producers can drop a variety that has grown successfully for years, without warning & never to resurface.
Having a community spread in excess of 10 miles means practical, organically recommended isolation distances can be simply achieved once a grower agrees to grow just one type of a particular variety to avoid cross pollination and so keep varieties true. Maintenance accidents and disasters occur – especially when many helping hands get to work in a garden without supervision. Two years of tendered growth eagerly weeded out by lack of recognition. Lessons are learned. Better labelling used. A minimum of 2 growers per variety serves as back-up & reserving a future crop worth of seeds means new efforts can be made in this, or the next growing season.
Meetings allow issues to be discussed and tips to be shared. Our growers range from the 4-12 year old pupils of national schools to an unlimited age, who share their experiences as amateurs, farmers, seasoned gardeners and keen botanists. A high season 3 course meal of the produce grown is highly recommended.
Seeds are harvested and cleaned, then thoroughly dried and labelled before storing in our community funded A+ efficiency fridge. The past use of an unplugged donor fridge sadly recorded no useful temperature insulation. Biennial seed crops are sprouting nicely, having passed through careful selection, then the ‘vernalisation’ process of exposure to cold temperatures to seed true this year. Now looking forward to sharing seed at the upcoming swap! (edited 15.02.18)