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  • Vegetable seeds now valued as the givers of life they are

    May 5


    Plant a saved pea and it will remember what to do


    I’M BREATHING EASIER NOW that the vegetable seeds on my heating mat are coming to life. The tiny ones rising up to become crowd-feeding tomatoes and salad greens, the creamy teardrops morphing into squash, and all the rest—theirs is an inimitable feat powered only by nature, which should be humbling for us humans who are the proud, self-appointed, top-dog species roaming throughout the global savanna.

    At our house, the germination spectacle almost didn’t happen this year. Preparing for deep isolation more than six weeks ago, we stocked up on frozen, dried and pantry foods, the usual staples to see us through the next several weeks. It never occurred to me to put my seed order in early, and when I finally got to that line on my to-do list, seed packets were already flying off the shelves everywhere. Too late, I realized I’d been caught with my gardening pants down.

    After some frantic scrambling online, I managed to get what I needed from two trusted sources, although my orders are so backlogged by the landslide of sudden demand that, taking the positive view, my seed shopping’s all done for 2021.

    This rush on seeds and ensuing scarcity should not have hit me by surprise because, in reality, it’s been coming for years, waiting only for a trigger. Seeds have always been valuable currency, although, like so much of nature’s treasure trove, we’ve commodified, adulterated and exploited them to the point where their essentiality for life has become lost on so many. But that might be changing now, given the current upheaval and disquiet. Suddenly we’re spending a lot more time thinking about food, shopping for it, and hoping that the stocks and supply chains hold up.

    No surprise then, that all around us there’s a major gardening revolution going on. Tools everywhere are coming out of storage, and vegetable beds are being created or refreshed. Down on our knees and with reverence and contrition, we are opening the earth’s mantle to rediscover the lifeblood of soil. We are creating food plots on boulevards, balconies, community allotments and in our own yards. We are rushing to the garden centre for transplants; local greenhouses are selling millions of them and struggling to stay ahead of demand.

    Gardening is for everyone. If you’re new to this, support is almost everywhere you turn. The Victoria Master Gardeners are eager to answer your questions and get you started: Check out their friendly website. The City of Victoria is taking the unprecedented step of retooling some of its own flower-growing greenhouses for the production of up to 70,000 vegetable seedlings. These will be given free of charge to families at risk for food insecurity.

    The Food Eco District (FED), a local, urban gardening non-profit, is working with its business partners to supply food gardening kits to 500 families who’ve been disadvantaged by COVID-19. These kits will contain everything needed to start a garden, including seeds.

    Back at my house, the seed saga has ended well. Fortunately, I had older seeds that could still be coaxed to germinate, and also some seeds I saved from squashes we bought and ate a month ago. A friend gave me heirloom tomato seeds that came from her neighbour, and my astute daughter was kind enough to share seeds she had bought well before the crisis.

    We could say that we’re once again planting Victory gardens, as our ancestors did during the war years. This time the victory will be in better foods and food security. That alone will help make the world a better place.

    Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic is a Saanich-based writer and Master Gardener. Her books include People in Transition and Ernie Coombs: Mr Dressup (both from Fitzhenry & Whiteside)


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