Starting your own seeds

Seeds are living beings. When you buy seeds, you are not buying a thing. You are buying the services of the person who cared for, cleaned and packaged the seeds.

Cate Henderson, KASSI
Cathy, from the Kingston Area Seed System Initiative (KASSI) introduces the locally adapted, open-pollinated seeds in their living Seed Commons

We had a great turnout for Seeds, Soil, Supper – the first workshop in our Think Like a Forest workshop series.

The workshop was facilitated by Cate Henderson, who has been growing and saving seeds for many years. We learned how to buy seeds, how to successfully start seeds, how to care for them and how to make your own seed starting mix.

Starting your own seeds is a wonderful, rewarding experience and allows you to grow an incredible variety of vegetables, flowers and herbs you can’t buy at the garden centre or grocery store.

How to buy seeds

If possible, buy local seeds or buy from seed companies who lovingly grow, care for and package their own seeds. Most seed companies purchase their seeds from overseas and then simply repackage them, which means they aren’t adapted to our local growing conditions. For example, 90% of broccoli seeds come from a single farm in Mexico. You can get locally adapted seeds from:

  • KASSI (Kingston Area Seed System Initiative): With the cancellation of Seedy Saturday KASSI is exploring ways of making their seeds available to gardeners. Watch their website.
  • Bear Root Gardens: All seeds are $3.00, with free shipping on seed orders over $30. Potato seed is $5 a pound. Free pick up in Verona or West end Kingston. Check their website for their catalog. Message, email or call to order.
  • Kitchen Table Seed House: “We strongly believe that planting seeds is an act of hope, resistance and resilience. Growing plants, tending a garden and sharing food with neighbours and loved ones can be healing and is just one of the reasons we do this work and share these seeds.” Free seed delivery in Kingston Sunday March 22nd and Sunday March 29th. Pick-up between 10am-1pm, at the Kingston Memorial Market parking lot. Go to their website to place your order and enter the promo code Kingston Memorial Market to forgo shipping fees and choose the date you want to pick up your order in the notes section.

What to look for on a seed packet

open pollinated or OP: Seeds from open pollinated plants grow like their parents. Pollen flows freely between plants. They retain their genetic diversity, adapt to changing growing conditions and are the foundation of our seed system.

hybrids or F1: hybrid seeds are created from open pollinated varieties. There are some great hybrid varieties, but their seeds are unstable and won’t grow like their parents. You must buy seeds each year to grow hybrids.

patented (PVP/UP/bag tag): A patent grants exclusive rights to the patent owner. Four multinational chemical companies control 60% of the seed market and they use patents to restrict seed saving and sharing in order to increase profits. It’s illegal to save patented seeds.

How to start seeds

  • Wet the seedling mix well
  • Fill your tray with seedling pots made from sustainably harvested peat or coconut coir (reusable) or use a soil blocker that eliminates the need for pots
  • Plant seeds to the depth listed on the seed packet (good rule of thumb is twice as deep as the size of the seed)
  • Label the pots (popsicle sticks make great labels!)
  • Cover the tray
  • Place the tray in a warm place
  • Uncover the seedlings once they germinate

How to make seedling mix

Using a soil block mold eliminates the need for pots. You can buy soil block molds from Lee Valley.

You can easily make your own seedling mix! Rideau 1000 Islands Master Gardeners shared recipes that work well for seedlings and transplants.

Kingston Food Forest Network’s Think Like a Forest workshop series explores our relationship with food, soil, and the wild beings with whom we share this land. If we learn from the wisdom of wild forests, from each other and from our experiences on the land, we can become wise Earth stewards.