Stave off the late winter blawhs with a good ‘ol seed exchange and shopping spree! No one can complain about seeds – they’re not shoes!
We have had an impressive pre-spring-spring thaw here in Toronto! Weather like this makes anyone anticipate warmer days, except we just end up on a weather roller coaster because it’s the end of February/beginning of March and pre-spring-spring. However(!): For the garden junkie in you, it is time to start seeds indoors and sow early spring vegetables like onions, kales and radishes – whoopie!! So I am gifting you all my personal list of whos’ who to soothe that late winter-pre spring itch. I am a die-hard open pollinated sourcer and try to stick to it as best as possible because open pollination maintains the genetic diversity of the species, giving you a better and healthier yield. If you want to know, just ask the seller or the person you trade with. Just remember that there is no such thing as a perfect source. Enjoy!
Toronto Urban Growers: My inner hipster go-to. The Toronto Urban growers is an organization that supports and promotes the organic cultivation of vegetables in the city (Urban Agriculture). They have an extensive list of resources and are one of the most inclusive networks for all levels of experience. Brown-thumbs always welcome. They will have an ongoing update of FREE!!! seed exchanges throughout Toronto and the GTA. My personal favourite seedy networks are The Toronto Community Garden Network and Toronto Seed library. The seeds collected and traded are from a variety of sources, but always ethically sourced, organic or locally harvested and saved by avid home gardeners. If you are not in Toronto, then Seeds of Diversity is the place to go! You can also search online for local garden networks in your township or city.
Let’s say you’re a painfully introverted heirloom addict with a warm spot in your heart for those hard-to-find unique varieties. There are so many places to go, but here is a list of my absolute personal favourites:
Aster Lane Edibles: Organically grown, open pollinated seeds for vegetables and edible greens, including flowers – both annuals and perennials. Based in Ottawa region in Ontario, they ship nationwide, depending on what it is you’re after. They will indicate on the website what is available and/or when and what has sold out (frequently updated), tips and tricks to a good yield. These guys are very popular, so popular, that they only respond to questions and orders via, email or facebook. Andrew Telsing operates as a living nursery/garden centre that cultivates 100% edibles. I have ordered hard-to-find Yacon tubers from there and any query responses have been swift, professional, and knowledgable. Well worth the electronic back-and-forth. If you’re in the Ottawa region, congratulations! She’s a hop, skip and a jump away, and I’m one dirty-jealous-but-comfortable-online-seed-hoarding-bitch.
Urban Harvest: Colette Murphy has been producing organic, open pollinated seeds since 1997, and is a regular fixture in the farmers’ market circuit. You can find them weekly at Dufferin Groves Market and Wychwood Barns. Incredibly knowledgeable, approachable, she and her staff not only sells an overwhelming collection of organic heirloom seeds, but soil amendments for all your garden needs. Added to this collection are a handful of hand crafted salves and soaps. Their website will give you a regular update on their whereabouts, including the new 2018 catalogue for download! If you’re in Toronto, but don’t want to go on “tour” with them (although I think you should – no two markets are like the other), their seasonal pop-up that just opened again at 1340 Bloor St. W. (West of Landsdowne on the north side) and runs from beginning of February to the end of March – So run!
Haitai Seeds: Ever go vegetable shopping in Koreatown, or Chinatown and wish you could grow some of these yummy veggies on your own? Haitai Seeds are based in Oakville, ON. and specialize in asian vegetable seeds, from large white radish, nappa cabbage (kimchi), mustard greens, flowers (as a vegetable), okras etc. Orders are open to public, and clearly specifies shipping charges. In-person visits are by appointment only. Ships international and across Canada. As a first generation colonized Canadian- Korean, I have never been so happy to know this place existed. If you need some assurances, they are also listed on the OMAFRA list of vegetable seed distributors.
Wylie Mycologicals: What urban homestead is complete without a mushroom to forage? Wylie Mycologicals is located near Owen Sound and ships across Canada and US. Do confirm this one detail about the US. These guys have been busy cultivating mushroom kits for over 20 years and boasts a wide variety of indoor and outdoor growing kits. Though I’ve never foraged any of my own, I have grown and eaten from a kit. It was so delicious. If you have $28 bucks plus tax and shipping to spare, it’s well worth the adventure.
Seed kits: Not gonna lie – I’ve never used seed kits. Sorry. I’m either a glutton for punishment (because I’ve failed so often in the past), or I just enjoy trying my hand at growing things. More than likely it’s the former and not the latter combined with an itch to shop that has been diverted to seed hoarding. Good thing I’ve started to learn how to save my own – this can get expensive!
Well, that is literally the ‘short’ list. A very small list; but I have found that a few really good sources that you like and rely on can give you double the pleasure in experimenting and growing vegetables. There are hundreds of seed-saving networks and even more locally harvested seed companies, so if you use one that is not on this list and like them, fantastic! I hope this list find you very well, and I hope it encourages you to, at the very least, get out and try something besides the local hardware store.
All the best luck for spring 2018 and another season of homesteading-ish!