Seed Saving 101


  • Method of Pollination – Amaranth is self fertile, but is occasionally wind pollinated.
  • Time to Harvest Seeds – Cut down and dry the seed heads when they start to drop a few seeds. When they are dry and brittle, thresh them and blow away the chaff, it’s tedious, but worth the effort. Whether you have leaf, grain or ornamental amaranth, you can eat the seeds and so can the birds if you leave some seed heads intact.
  • Seed Viability – 2 years.
  • Isolation Distance – 3km recommended, up to 30% wind pollination possible.
  • [important]Asparagus[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Perennial vegetable that produces seed in the second year, it is insect pollinated, but there are only a few varieties available, so cross-pollination is less of a worry than selecting a variety that produces female spears, as there are now hybrid crowns available that are all male.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – The female crowns produce small red berries, wait until the ferny foliage begins to droop in the fall, then collect the berries and soak them in cool water. After an hour squish the berries in your hands to separate the seeds from the pulp. Spread out the separated seeds to dry thoroughly, and store in a cool dry place. It takes 3- 4 years for a seed to sprout, grow and produce spears for harvest.
    • Special Instructions – There is little difference between wild asparagus and domesticated, so collecting wild seeds is perfectly acceptable.
    • Seed Viability – 3 years
    • Isolation Distance – Not a concern
  • [important]Beans[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Self pollinating. Bees will occasionally cross pollinate bean varieties but the flowers are self fertile and often self pollinate.
    • Time to harvest seeds – Bean seeds are ready to harvest about six weeks after the “green” beans are harvested. The seeds will rattle in the dry pods by then, pull up the entire plant on a dry afternoon and hang upside down for a week. Thresh the beans into a clean bucket or garbage can. Leave the beans on a screen to dry some more if you can bite a bean and leave a dent.
    • Seed Viability – Seeds kept in a cool dry place in a paper bag will keep for three years.
    • Special Instructions – Beans occasionally get a pest called the bean weevil, if you see any holes drilled in the bean seed jacket, dispose of the damaged beans in the garbage, and freeze all remaining beans for up to one week in a sealed container.
    • Isolation Distance – Bush Beans and Pole beans 50m, except Scarlet Runner 800m.
  • [important]Beets[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Beet pollen travels long distances, and will readily cross with Swiss chard and other beets. Beets are biennial, and need to overwinter, in the Pacific Northwest a cloche will protect them from hard freezing, and also keep the seed pure when the seed stalk comes up in the second year.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Harvest the seed stalk when the seed balls turn brown (there are actually 5-6 seeds in each nugget). Hang the stalk upside down to dry for about a week, then strip the seed balls from the stalks and pour them from one container to another, facing away from the wind, to remove chaff.
    • Seed Viability – 4 years
    • Isolation Distance – 3-8 km
  • [important]Broccoli[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Cross pollinated by insects. Will cross with Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and kohlrabi also check the ingredients in Chinese greens mixes. Insects can carry pollen for miles, so it is recommended that you only allow one member of the cabbage family to go to seed each year.
    • Time to harvest seeds – Wait till most of the seed pods are dry, plump and brown, cut the plant down and hang it upside down to dry for about a week. Put the whole plant in a paper bag and roll it gently with a rolling pin, pour the seeds and chaff onto a screen, and winnow out the seeds onto newspaper. Fold the newspaper along the crease and pour seeds into a sealed container.
    • Special Instructions – Most varieties of broccoli are F1 Hybrids, look for heritage varieties like Italian overwintering.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years, and they produce thousands per plant.
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6km except arugula, 800m
  • [important]Cabbage[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Cabbage is a biennial that will crack open in the second year and send up a stalk, children find this very entertaining, and will believe you if you tell them the cabbage exploded. Cabbage will cross with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi and cauliflower. Separate these by at least 200 ft. Better yet, set up a four year seed rotation. It is necessary to overwinter at least three plants to insure pollination. A cloche of remay cloth protects and isolates cabbages quite well. Time to Harvest: Collect the seed when the seed pods turn yellow. Some seeds will scatter by themselves, but a plant produces thousands. I hang the stalks in a pillowcase to dry for a week, then beat the pillowcase and pass the seeds through a screen.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6 km
  • [important]Carrots[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Carrots are a biennial that will cross with the native weed Queen Anne’s Lace if it is blooming within 1000 ft. If you have to leave the Queen Anne’s Lace because it is a host plant for beneficial insects, isolate your carrots with a cloche.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – The flat seed heads turn brown in the early fall. It is a good idea to put a paper bag over the seed heads when the top seeds begin to turn colour, since the seeds scatter readily, and you can’t harvest them early if you want them to germinate. When the paper bags rattle with loose seeds, cut the stalks and hang to dry for a week, rub the seed heads on a screen, and save the seeds in a cool dry place.
    • Seed Viability – 3 years
    • Isolation Distance – must isolate with a cloche and hand pollinate.
  • [important]Chives[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Chives are bee pollinated perennials that will not cross with any onion or leek.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – When the flowers turn brown, and the shiny black seeds are visible, cut the flower stalks and leave them in a paper bag to dry for one week, just shaking the bag should remove most of the seeds. Pour from one container to another on a breezy day to remove chaff.
    • Seed Viability – 1-2 years
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6km
  • [important]Corn[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Corn is wind pollinated, and will cross pollinate with corn up to 3.2 km upwind.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Corn kernels are ready to harvest about a month after the tassels dry and the corn is ready to eat. Corn is susceptible to inbreeding, and also racoons. To avoid inbreeding harvest kernels from several different plants by peeling back the husks and tying the cobs together and hanging them for a few weeks. Rub the dry kernels off the cobs and store them in a paper bag. The only thing I’ve found that works on raccoons is an electric fence.
    • Seed Viability – 2 years.
    • Special Instructions – The sweeter the corn variety, the more susceptible the sown kernels are to rotting. If corn borers are a problem soak seeds in a strong tea made from butterfly weed or English ivy before planting.
    • Isolation Distance – 3.2 km, recommend Seed to Seed book for a good method of isolating corn ears with paper bags.
  • [important]Cucumber[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Easily pollinated by hand in the greenhouse or by insects outdoors. Each plant has both male and female flowers, the females are easy to recognize by the tiny green swelling at the base of the flower that will become the cucumber. Cucumbers need to be 200ft from other cucumbers, but can be safely planted with melons and squashes.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Harvest the cucumbers for seed about five weeks after they are ripe for eating. They are not damaged by light frost, and should have turned yellow. Scoop seed pulp into a jar and leave for several days to ferment, add water, pour off floating debris and spread out the seeds that sink on a paper towel to dry.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance – 800m, recommend bagging and hand pollinating, see CVGSS website, Demo Garden page for a how to.
  • [important]Kale[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Kale is in the cabbage family, it flowers in the second year and will cross with cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and cauliflower. Separate these by at least 1000 ft. Better yet, set up a four year seed rotation. It is necessary to overwinter at least three plants to ensure pollination, plants are not normally self fertile. A cloche of reemay cloth protects and isolates varieties for hand pollination. Time to Harvest: Collect the seed when the seed pods turn yellow. Dry the stalks and then crush them up with a rolling pin and a pillow case, or by feet. Separate the chaff and allow to dry well before storing.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6 km
  • [important]Leeks[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Leeks are bee pollinated biennials that don’t cross with onions or chives. Stagger leek varieties so they don’t bloom at the same time to prevent cross pollination. Leeks will also propagate asexually by bulblets around the base of the plant. Check for them in the second spring.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – When the seed heads turn brown and the black seeds are visible, cut the stalks and put them in a paper bag, after a week shake the bag, and winnow the chaff by pouring the seeds from one container to another on a breezy day.
    • Seed Viability – 3 years
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6km
  • [important]Lettuce[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Lettuce is self pollinating, but it may cross if grown side by side.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Lettuce bolts in hot weather, producing a tall pagoda shape in leaf lettuce, and by cracking an X in the top of head lettuce as the seed stalk emerges. Lettuce seed ripens over time and scatters everywhere, if you don’t mind shaking out the seeds a bit at a time this is fine, one lettuce can produce 30,000 seeds after all. If you’d rather collect them all together, tie a mesh bag or old pantyhose over your lettuce stalk. Remember, you want the seeds from the plant that bolted last, we don’t want to breed lettuce for speed.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance: 3-8m
  • [important]Onions (Allium Cepa)[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Onions are bee pollinated biennials that will cross with any other blooming onions within 100 ft. Onions won’t cross with leeks or chives. Although they have few enemies, they can’t handle competition with weeds, and need a light straw mulch for water conservation.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – In the second summer onions produce seed heads, when they turn brown and the black seeds start to appear, cut the whole stalk and put it in a paper bag to dry for a week, shake the bag and collect the seeds. Winnow the chaff by pouring the seeds from one container to another on a breezy day.
    • Seed Viability – 1-2 years
    • Special Instructions – Sweet onions are not good keepers, plan to overwinter these in the ground and ensure dry soil (raised bed is ideal).
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6 km
  • [important]Parsnip[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – This biennial doesn’t cross with carrots or Queen Anne’s Lace. Insect pollination is most common, with some self fertilization between different ages of umbels on the same plant.
    • Method of Harvest-  Collect the umbels when they are mature, often only a few are brown and dry at a time.
    • Seed Viability: 2 years.
  • [important]Peas[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Peas self pollinate, bees will occasionally cross pollinate plants closer than 15 ft apart. Planting a tall barrier crop such as sunflowers can help prevent this, as does planting different varieties, like sugar peas near snap peas, instead of two types of snap peas.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – About a month after the eating peas are ready the seed peas have dried and are rattling in the pods. Pull up the whole plant on a dry afternoon and hang it for a couple weeks. Strip the peas out of the pods, or thresh them in a wool blanket, the chaff should stick to the blanket, and the peas should roll down.
    • Seed Viability – 3 years
    • Isolation Distance – 100m if possible, at least 15 recommended.
  • [important]Peppers[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Pepper flowers contain both male and female parts and pollinate themselves. If you can grow peppers outdoors, it is best to keep different varieties 50 ft apart to prevent bees from cross pollinating them. In the greenhouse gently shake the flowers to pollinate them.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Wait until the pepper is overripe and the skin starts to pucker. Cut open the pepper, and leave the seeds on paper to dry for a week or two without washing them.
    • Seed Viability – About 2 years
    • Isolation Distance – 165m
  • [important]Radishes[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Radishes are pollinated by bees and will cross with radishes from your own and neighbouring yards. Only allow one radish variety to go to seed per year.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – When the seed pods turn brown and the seeds inside are plump and yellow it is time to collect the seeds. Pull up the whole plant and let it dry for a few weeks. Put the seed pods in a pillowcase and roll them lightly with a rolling pin. The seeds turn brown as they dry, save them in sealed containers.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance – 800m
  • [important]Spinach[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Spinach is wind pollinated. To further complicate matters, most spinach bears male and female flowers on separate plants so isolating a single plant amounts to birth control. The best way around this is to grow a monoecious variety (both male and female) and bag it when the flowers appear, or to put reemay cloth over your spinach row and shake them gently when the tiny flowers appear.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – When the spinach leaves turn yellow strip of the seeds with your hands and dry them thoroughly on paper before storing them in a sealed container in a cool dry place.
    • Special instructions – Perpetual spinach is not related to spinach (spinacia oleracea) and will not cross pollinate.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance – 8km
  • [important]Squash (Cucurbita family)[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Squash is insect pollinated, so squash should be bagged and hand pollinated then tagged with yarn to insure pure seed. Note that squash from different families can be grown together, like Maxima pumpkins and Pepo summer squash. Compare family names to be sure your squash won’t cross pollinate.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Allow squash vines to die back before harvesting squash for seed, you can keep the squash for months before eating if you keep unmarred ones and wipe them with a damp cloth. To harvest seeds, rinse seed pulp in cold water, squishing it in your hands so that pulp and flat, non-viable seeds float up, collect the large plump seeds at the bottom and spread them out on paper to dry completely.
    • Seed Viability – 4 years
    • Isolation Distance – 800 m
  • [important]Tomatoes[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Tomatoes have flowers with both male and female parts, so they are usually self-pollinating, bees may cross pollinate varieties less than 10 ft apart.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Wait until fruit is over ripe before picking, a thumb pressed into the fruit will leave a dent. Scoop out the seeds and pulp and put them in a jar to ferment. After several days add water and pour off floating debris. Sinking seeds can be spread on paper towel and dried completely.
    • Seed Viability – 4 years.
    • Isolation Distance – Self fertile

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Comox Valley Growers and Seed Savers Monthly Meetings


Monthly Meetings are scheduled for every first Thursday of the month.

  • Time: Starting at 7 pm, and held at Creekside Commons, 2202 Lambert, Courtenay.
  • [notice]New directions!  To reach Creekside Commons from Courtenay, take Cumberland Road, turn left onto 20th Street, then the first right onto Lambert.  Follow to the end of Lambert and park on the street.[/notice]
  • Please watch for parking guides. Creekside Commons is a shoes-off sort of place, so bring slippers, and a mug. Or click here to view a Google map.

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Seed Saving Information

Choosing Seeds to Save

Please let us know if you are growing seeds for the Comox Valley Growers and Seed Savers Society,
so that we may add your seeds to our data base.

Seed packaging bees‘ take place throughout the
winter. Also, please contact us if you have space in your plot to grow some of the Society’s special
seeds, and we will make arrangements to get them to you.



Seed Database Form Guide and Seed Saving Tips

In order to have outstanding vegetable and flower production, seeds need to be kept clean and free
from unwanted cross-pollination.

  • Seeds must be from open pollinated varieties and not a hybrid (F1), and preferably locally produced.
  • Seeds from other locations must have their locations identified.
  • Choose seeds from plants with good form and vigour, good taste and size, resistant to disease and for greens and herbs, slow to go to seed.
  • Reliable plants to collect seeds from are: spinach, lettuce, arugula and cilantro.
  • Peas, beans and tomato are self-pollinating and any fruit collected should be based on the overall plant and not just on the earliest fruit production, although this should be one of the criteria.
  • Label the early fruit for seed saving, not eating.
  • Collect seeds from plants such as leeks, parsnips and parsley the second year.
  • Collect the seeds in well labeled paper bags and ensure they are well dried before storing.
  • Refer to the book ‘How to Save Your Own Vegetable Seeds’, published by Seeds of Diversity, Canada, for details on requirements for plant spacing in the garden, and for clear seed saving guidelines. This book is available for purchase though the Comox Valley Growers &Seed Savers.
  • Please download and print the data sheet below to sort and itemize your seeds….

~ click here to view or download a seed data form ~

Seed Data Form Index

  • Garden Location – May include neighbourhood, mini geoclimatic zone, and/or street address.
  • Species – Refers to common species name (i.e. pole bean).
  • Variety- Refers to: common variety name (e.g. Blue Lake).
  • Isolation Distance – Distance to other plants of same species, or description of method of isolation to prevent unwanted crossing.
  • # Plants – Number of parent plants grown, necessary to insure genetic diversity and to prevent “bottle necking”.
  • Garden Location – Any other information from what was listed above.
  • History – Seed source, unique characteristics which may include: disease resistance, early vs late blooming, height, flower colour, or other history and interesting information.


Packaging Seeds Tables

Member’s meeting September 2019

Our guest speaker for September is Joyce McMenamon.

Joyce has been our “compost guru” for many years and loves to talk about compost. She has developed the Speedbin  composter and gives presentations all over the island.

She will bring a microscope and some compost so that we will be able to see for ourselves the diversity of micro=organisms in our soil.


Complete organic fertilizer – adapted for the West Coast.

Donna Blazar has adapted Steve Solomon’s recipe for complete organic fertilizer for use on the West Coast.

DONNA BALZER’S 2019 Complete Organic Fertilizer– West Coast Soils

  • Enough COF to cover 100 Square feet (10 square metres)
  • 3 Litres high protein seed meal (percentage of protein will be on bag)
  • 1 litre Fishbone meal (I now use Rock Phosphate in same amount but soft rock Phosphorus or bonemeal works too)
  • 1 Litre kelp meal
  •   500 ml Azomite (optional)
  • 500 ml Ag limestone (#100 screen)
  • 500 ml Ag gypsum
  • 75 – 100 ml Potassium sulphate (optional but i was low on K so am adding now)

MIX WELL by pouring between buckets (Outdoors please! Don’t inhale dust!) Use right away or store in rodent-proof container.

Other Ingredients- mixed with water and sprayed on separately or mixed with COF recipe above:

  • 5 ml (1 tsp) laundry Borax (Mule Team Laundry Borax) – spray on soil not on plants
  • 7.5 ml (1 ½ tsp) zinc sulphate mixed with 2 litres water and sprayed on leaves (Donna Balzer bought at pharmacy)
  • 7.5 ml (1 ½ tsp) magnesium sulfate – sold as Epsom salts, Could also mixed with 2 litres water and sprayed on plants and soil.
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) copper sulphate (various sources including Bordens, Victoria). Alternately mixed with 2 litres water and sprayed on plants.

If plant growth slows down, side-dress rows with another 2 litres of the above COF mix mid-season.

Note: this mix does not replace soil testing

. Optional: Add up to 1 litre of the COF Finished mixture to compost pile and then water in well.

Contact Donna for additional information.

DO NOT SUBSTITUTE DOLOMITE FOR OTHER LIMES – Dolomite is lime (Ca) with Magnesium and it can cause tight soils where there is clay and will mess with the Calcium/Magnesium balance required to mineralize soils.

The ideal balance to create nutrient dense food is: Calcium 68%, Magnesium 12%, Potassium 4%, Sodium 2% Sources for materials listed above: Station Farm & Feed on Port Alberni Highway ; BuckerFields in Parksville, Bordens in Victoria
Based on Steve Solomon’s “The Intelligent Gardener” Book page 84-85. Converted for Canadians by Donna Balzer based on materials available for gardeners.



AGM with Speaker Donna Balzar

Our upcoming meeting on June 6th will be our AMG and we have invited Donna Balzar to come and speak.

The title of her talk is   Perfect Soils for Stress-Free Gardening

Donna Balzer has two greenhouses and a big vegetable garden on her double lot in Qualicum Beach. She is an award-winning media personality and garden consultant with a personal passion for food.

Horticulturist, speaker, and author, Donna has a degree in Agriculture with a specialty in Horticulture. She has a YouTube channel, 3 seasons as host of the Internationally broadcast Bugs & Blooms on HGTV, and appears frequently on CBC radio in Canada.

Her recent book No Guff Vegetable Gardening is a Canadian best seller perfect for beginners and her newest book The Three Year Gardener’s Gratitude Journal is ideal for skilled gardeners who want to learn more from their own experiences ( )

She will be arriving to set-up for 6.30 and will have a table with her books for sale. Her talk will begin at 7.00 so please come early.

After her talk  our chair and treasurer will present their reports for 2018 and we will elect Board members for 2019. The Board is interested in getting a few new members. If anyone is interested please contact us before for more information.

Following the AGM we will have the usual social time with snacks and drinks.

The meeting will be held at Creekside Commons, Lambert drive, Courtenay.

Meeting April 4th 2019

  • Time:  7 pm.
  • Place: Creekside Commons, 2202 Lambert, Courtenay.
  • Directions.  To reach Creekside Commons from Courtenay, take Cumberland Road, turn left onto 20th Street, then the first right onto Lambert.  Follow to the end of Lambert.
  • Parking:  There is limited parking in the Creekside complex so please park on Lambert if possible, it’s a short stroll to Creekside. Our parking guide will indicate any free parking spaces inside the Commons.
  • Creekside Commons has a shoes-off policy, so bring slippers.


This month Karen Cummins presents “Creating Beauty and Joy………and food too!”

If the world is going to be saved, gardeners will be the ones who do it” was a prediction Des Kennedy made in his book The Way of the Gardener. How will we do this?

In this presentation we explore how to build and steward earth friendly gardens where nature is co-creator and provides most of the services. Using a paradigm shift and the latest science based knowledge we can support biodiversity, sequester carbon, use fewer resources and create less waste while  building our own outdoor sanctuaries that have the potential to link across our community.

Bio of Karen Cummins
Over the past 40 years Karen has worked in nurseries, garden centers, golf courses and municipalities and is now in private practice specializing in sustainable landscape design and garden management in the Comox Valley. She is a graduate of the University of Guelph Horticulture Diploma program and is an ISA Certified Arborist and Tree Risk Assessor. She was thrilled to study in the first class on Sustainable Horticulture at Kwantlen College and has qualified as an Accredited Land Care Practitioner with the Society for Organic Land Care (SOUL).

Bursary offered for Organic Seed Production course.

Comox Valley Growers and Seed Savers 2019 Organic Seed Production Bursary

Offer expanded to Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands

CVGSS is offering a full scholarship for Vancouver Island and Gulf Island farmers to take Canadian Organic Growers 2019 intermediate online Organic Seed Production course and practicum.

This in depth course covers commercial production, harvesting, marketing, and breeding of organic seeds plus guidance in build your own seed-farm business plan.

The course will focus on building the competencies needed for successful, commercial organic seed producers. Modules covered in this certificate program include:

  1. Organic Farming Practices

  2. Organic Seed Production and Harvesting

  3. Organic Seed Quality Assurance

  4. The Business of Organic Seed Production

  5. On-Farm Organic Plant Breeding

For all of the details go to:

For the successful applicant, CVGSS will cover:

  1. $1,000 up front for tuition fees and books with the balance reimbursed upon successful completion. Total $1,100 + taxes.

  2. $350.00 up front for the practicum with the balance reimbursed upon successful completion. Total $400.00 + taxes.

We are looking for:

  • A Vancouver Island or Gulf Island commercial farmer with a minimum of 2 years commercial production and sales

  • With Secure access to owned or leased land

  • Who is Organic certified or working towards certification

  • Who wants to start or expand commercial seed production

The course starts April 8th with a registration deadline of March 24. To provide enough time to assess applications, CVGSS requests all applications be in by March 15, 2019.

2019 Organic Seed Production Bursary Application

Deadline: March 15, 2019





Tell us about your farm and business. These are our main questions, but please do not hesitate to add any additional information that you think would be helpful.

  1. How long have you been growing commercially?
  1. Are you certified organic and if not, are you transitioning to organic? Please provide details.
  1. Which crops are you currently growing commercially and do you have plans to expand?

Email applications to:

For more information, contact Dianna Talbot at 250-339-4042

Applications will be reviewed and approved by the board of the Comox Valley Growers and Seed Savers.

Meeting February 7th

Our guest speaker for the February meeting was Arzeena Hamir.

here are the  meeting notes prepared b y Valerie Bernier.


-trained agrologist and owner of  Amara Farm a local Certified Organic farm

-Has been growing in the valley for 6+ years

-Was staff agrologist for Territorial seeds Canada which became West Coast seeds


Her goal: help us growers make the best choices for our own gardens


Source of seeds

The best source of seeds is always your own because you will select the plants that do the best on your land and for you.  For example, here land is wet and cold while another local farmer might have a well drained, dryer and warmer soil.  If you cannot save your seeds, she encourages to buy seeds from as close to your region as possible, Seedy Saturday being a really great option!  When you save your seeds, try something simple.  Start with flowers or peas, beans and lettuce.

Hint: West Coast seeds as well as most large seed companies (Johnny’s, Vesseys) do not grow their own.  However, WCS focus on seeds that can grow in mild, wet climate.  For example, we can grow greens year round easily but we have a really hard time growing great tasting tomatoes.  That is why WCS has lots of greens, lettuce, Asian Greens, etc.  Ex William Dann has seeds for dryer climate and mainly from Europe–Sylvain likes them because of unique-open pollinated varieties.

As an organic grower, she must always buy organic first whenever possible and they have become more available in the last few years.


High Mowing Seeds Co, based out of Vermont and Johnny’s Seeds are also companies they often buy from as they have several organic varieties.  Sylvain says: Lindenberg seeds have reasonable prices as their packets are smaller as another cheaper option.


The real cost of seeds are about $0.20 for a $2 packet but all the work and cost goes into creating the catalogues as they are very detailed.  Another point of interest, farmers like Arzeena are always looking for new varieties and so seed companies need to have trial beds so they can test out these new seeds.  As more new seeds get added in, the seed companies must drop some and it is often the older heirloom varieties that disappear.  Many of those seed companies are based in the USA, but rarely are the seeds grown in USA and Canada.  Beet and chard production are from Washington and Oregon-about 90% of all those seeds come from those states.  Heat requiring crops are often outsourced in China, Vietnam and Cambodia.

In contrast, High Mowing do not do outsourcing from other countries.

Salts Spring Island sedds grow their own as well as outsource locally from Amara and other farms.  We can also buy Good Earth Farm here in Black Creek.  You can find them at Seedy Sat, Farmer’s market and Art Knapp.  They also do school fundraising programs!


Let’s decipher the catalogue.

Tomatoes:  Are seperated into slicing, paste and cherries.  Hybrid F-1 is First fillial generation after the cross and are generally more expensive than OP.  They cross two lines of female and male tomato varieties.  Hybridized seeds are more uniform, are hardier and grow faster and earlier than OP.

If you want to save your seeds, stick with Open Pollinated.


Grape tomato means a tomato slightly oblong in shape.

Semi-determinate: tomatoes, squash and cucumbers

Vine (indeterminate) you need to prune and stake –not recommended for container growing.  Bush (determinate) containers ok.

In general, the more sprawling, the more production.  Often bush will be earlier, but will not produce as much.

The 62 days means maturity from the time of transplanting.  For tomatoes, you are adding about 6 weeks prior to that.  So anything past 90 days, it will be very challenging to grow in this area unless you have a greenhouse.

Cherry tomatoes always produce quite early like Stupice.

Heirloom usually means dating pre-WWI.  There are no GMO vegetables.



Heavy self seeder or reseeds itself.  Know to be very careful with those or they will spread!


Butternut Squash

Early 75 days-Avalon-85 days-Polaris-92

In this region, choose early varieties as they might not have time to ripen.  However, we might not get the deeper colour and flavour of the squash because of lack of heat accumulation.


IN sum, try to buy as local as possible and fill in the gaps with other companies.  Baker Seeds-Missouri-Rare are good options for the very unique, unusual varieties.  They are a socially responsible company and during the war in Syria, they donated part of their proceeds to the families affected.  Look for their big sale in August.


Time to start your seeds

Keep in mind how much power you use to keep your seedlings warm-wait until the cold spell passes.  Celery, celeriac can be started early but they cannot go below 10 degrees.  Bottom heat is used at Amara to quicken the growth and stalkiness of the plant.  You will need to add supplemental light for sure before April.  Arzeena uses Home Depot ballasts and fluorescent tubes like Cool white combined with warm or full spectrum.  Start at 6 am to 8 pm on a timer to give full 14 hours.  No more than 4 inches atop the plants will ensure they do not get leggy.


Trays–Integrity Sales & Distributors

At Amara, they mainly buy plug trays of 72 and 128 but if you can, use the plastic containers you have at your house combined with little square plastic containers.   She does not prefer peat pot, paper, etc because they dry up quickly.  Word of caution-the peat pucks often do not degrade easily and hold the roots together too much.  What to use then?   Having a clear container with a lid like a plastic clamshell containers work great!  Salad containers or anything like that. If you want to avoid plastic, you can use egg cartons and put soil in an egg shell with a hole at the bottom. Remember that this option contains a very little bit of soil and need to be transplanted quickly.



1st option: Medium needs to have bacteria and fungi.  They do not work in a sterile system.  Amara farms do not sterilize and bleach trays exactly for that reason.  Introduce worm castings to help introduce bacteria and it will help break down anything undesirable.  The goal is to avoid damping off which is a fungus that lives on the top of your soil mix and thrives on moisture and air.  If it is present, the seedlings will look beautiful for a while and all of a sudden, they will die.  If it happens, you need to throw out the entire tray and disinfect the tray. To avoid, allow the mix to dry on top.  You can also use perlite on top and it will provide perfect drainage and the fungus will not like that environment.  You could also use cinnamon on the top to kill fungus.  You could water with cool chamomile tea.  Water from beneath is also a great way to minimize the chance of damping off.


2nd option:  Sterile soil mix.  In that case, make sure your containers are also super clean and sterilized.

Alternative to Peat–Coconut fiber

There is a dairy farmer in the valley that has a digester and what comes out looks like Peat-he uses it as bedding.


Potting mix

Buy organic potting mix.  There is no such thing as Certified organic-it only means they are suppose to be inspected but makes no real difference.  Sunshine is a really great one.  #4 is quite chunky but you can sieve out the chunks.  You can buy seed starting mix with vermiculite.  It is very small particles.  The finer the mix, the easier it is to start especially small seeds.  You can make your own mix if you want.  SharKare is a better, cheaper supplier of the individual ingredients: 50% peat and 25% Perlite, 25% vermiculite.

Every seed has enough energy to take it to a three leaf stage.  So you either start out with soil with added nutrition, you can liquid fertilize or transplant into larger pots.


Also at the meeting we will be signing up volunteers for seedy Saturday (2nd March) and renewing and issuing new memberships.
We will be selling tickets for the upcoming Backyard Bounty Workshop with Linda Gilkeson. This is Linda’s last year of lecturing before she retires so make sure you get a ticket for 6th April.
We will have tomato and pepper seeds available to buy, at $1.00 per pack, so that you can go home and get them started right away. Remember to plant a few extra to donate to the plant sale.
The meeting starts at 7.00 pm and will be followed by light refreshments and time for socializing.
The address is Creekside Commons, 2202,  Lambert Drive, Courtenay. There will be a parking attendant to indicate where to park.
Bring slippers and money.

Seed Saving

Link to excellent article by Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds.

December 6th meeting 2018

As is our custom our last meeting of the year is a potluck get-together. Bring a dish to share and please list the ingredients so we can be aware of anything that might not agree with us. Please feel free to bring partner, spouse, friend or children.

We will start a bit earlier than usual – at 6pm

After the dinner we will have an open discussion about our best books and /or web sites, so make sure you bring that information along so that you can share with the rest of the group.
The address is Creekside Commons 2202 Lambert Dr Courtenay and John Blythe will be there to direct you to suitable parking.
Remember to bring slippers

November 1st 2018 Monthly meeting

Tomatoes in Greenhouse

This month the topic of discussion at our meeting will be “What vegetables are you harvesting from your garden this week and when did you plants them?” The second part of the question is “What part of the Comox valley do you live?”

It would be of benefit to our members if we could give them some idea of when to plant each crop in order to have fall and winter vegetables. So do a stroll round your garden and make a note of what has survived our first frosts and is ready for consumption and let us know.

The meetings are at Creekside Commons on Lambert Drive, Courtenay. Light snacks are provided after the discussion – time to get to know each other and carry on the conversation.

bring slippers and seeds for the seed exchange.


Monthly meeting September 6th 2018

September 6th at 7.00 we will be meeting once again, at Creekside Commons, Lambert Drive Courtenay.

Our theme for this evening will be a round table to hear from everyone about their successes and failures so far this year so bring your stories to share.