One of the most wonderful things about gardening is the opportunities to share - ideas, seeds, plants. Little packages of promise, a seed transforms into food, medicine, craft materials, ground builder, habitat, beauty and more. A high percentage of the plants that I grow in my garden have been given to me by others though for more unusual specimens I have had to hunt long and go far, even for natives. For things I can't find through my seed networks, I rely on small seed companies that use organic, sustainable methods, grow their own seed, and prefer heritage varieties or those bred by traditional methods.
Cheap eats or at least plants that produce fruit at the local big, box store.
A couple of years ago, I noticed Big Business muscling in on this backyard veggie gig. It had always been there supplying sweet corn and onion starts but now it was selling 'heritage' varieties too.
Oh know it's that same blond skinny lady that's sold me shoes, cars, shampoo, and now carrots?
The bigger the Grow-Your-Own club grew, the more the Green Eyed Money Monster noticed. Eat-Local, Be-Healthy, Urban-Farming - the buzz words of a movement toward producing food more sustainably were cut out of the newspaper of trends and pasted ransom note style onto their own advertisements.
Going for a can of paint at your local box hardware store, you might just stumble into these bold displays and think "This is the year I will finally grow some of my own food." You might fill your basket with your very first packet of lettuce and tomatoes. Great! Get Growing!
The new outdoor room seems to be the Victory Garden. I'm sure it's just Martha's concern for the planet and interest in cooking...
In the meantime, if you are looking for alteratives, here are some sources.
Seed Trading Networks - There is lots of variation here from living seed banks such as Seeds of Diversty to round robins started from local plant/seed swapping sites like Plantcycle. Any place gardeners hang out, is a place to find people's trade lists such as Gardenweb and Homegrown Goodness. Of course, to trade you need seed and there are lots of great books at the local library on how to grow and collect your own garden seed. Realseeds in the UK has good descriptions for various plants. I can't forget Bloggers Seed Network. Lots of bloggers, in fact, will have seed lists and enjoy trading or just sharing seed. Speaking of free, some places like Wintersown are just that generous!
Garden Clubs, Nature Organizations, and other local plant sales - Plant enthusiast clubs, or demonstration gardens, like the Ottawa Horticultural Society and the Wildlife Fletcher Garden - Saturday June 5, 2010 from 9:30am - 12:30pm - commonly hold plant sales. Also watch out for the Rare and Unusual Plant sale held at the Experimental Farm on Sunday May 9, 2010 from 9:00am - 1:00pm. Even the City of Ottawa is giving away trees. Plant sales are often used as fundraisers too - watch for them as the season warms.
Local Seed Companies - Seedy Saturdays are a great way to learn who your local seed sellers are. Some of them don't have big operations or even websites as I learned when I met Mountain Grove Seed Co. from the Perth event. Organic / alternative food stores such as Rainbow Foods will ocassionally supply 'small seed.' The advantage of seed that is grown locally is that it will be better adapted to local conditions. You can get plants too such as from Yukos Open Pollinated Seed Plant Sale - I'll post details on her plant sale shortly, and I Wet My Plants - local blogger who also has a tomato sale.
Over the Fence - Don't just send those spready (okay, invasive) plants over (or under) the fence to your neighbour, pass some beans and tomato seed along as well. It is also the best way to get ahold of any plant with enthusiastic growth. Mint should not be bought! P.S. If you do buy mint, then just get it from the grocery store, stick those branches in water and watch them root before your very eyes. Some of the best varieties of veg have names like 'Italian Friend Tomato,' and 'Bert's Bean.' This might be slightly annoying to people who are trying to sort out all the multiple names for similar varieties but it doesn't change that it is a good plant!
Save Your Own Seed - I know, I already covered this one, but in the hard slog that is Autumn when we are cutting down the jungle sized weeds, hauling in pumpkins and almost wishing for snow to give us a break, don't forget to pull some seeds off your favourite plants. Your slightly too common amaranth or magenta spreen is something another person is yearning for. Besides, sharing is what us gardeners do.