Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seed Catalogs I like to support

In the world of buying seeds, if you don't want to support Monsanto-Seminis and you are interested in buying from companies which support unaltered, open pollinated and heirloom seeds. There are many alternatives to buy from.
I think there is definitely a new trend going for open pollinated, heirloom seeds. More and more people asking for non hybrid, non gen. altered seeds, seed catalogs are responding in adding more of these seeds to their offering and if you search for Heirloom Seeds on the internet, every year there are more new catalogs in that category.

The only way we can stop Monsanto in endangering our food supply is by buying consciously. Buy seeds from the companies which sign the 'Safe Seed Pledge', buy from companies which don't sell seeds owned by Monsanto, support the companies which try to preserve our food heritage. Buy Heirlooms, Open Pollinated Seeds. Don't buy products made with genetically altered plants. Read the fine print, read your labels when you shop, inform yourself where your food comes from.

We are not all powerless, those companies are only as strong as we let them.

So these companies supposedly are not selling Monsanto owned seeds and quite a few of them grow their own seeds.

Companies I have bought from before are marked by a '*'

Abundant Life Seeds *
Amishland Seeds
Baker Creek Seed Co. * this is right now one of my favorites, they got a great selection of Seeds from around the world
Berlin Seeds - no web site
Botanical Interests * luckily for me, I can get their seeds locally in a garden store
Bountiful Gardens
Diane's Flower Seeds
Fedco Seed Co. - phasing out seminis seeds. Fedco's catalog notes for every variety they sell a number code 1-5, which tells where that seed. came from 1=small independent farmer, 2=family-owned seed companies or co-operatives, 3=domestic & foreign corporations not part of a larger conglomerate, 4=multinationals not engaged in genetic engineering, to Fedco's knowledge, 5=multinationals engaged in genetic engineering.
Garden City Seeds
Heirloom Acres Seeds - rumored to have bad germination rate & bad customer service
Heirlooms Evermore Seeds
Heirloom Seeds* nice variety, it took a bit longer this year to get my order, they said they were overrun with orders (a sign of the times?)
High Mowing Seeds
Horizon Herbs* I found 'Bärlauch' a German wild growing herb there, they built special meals around this herb in Germany when in season. It grows wild in Germany.
Kitchen Garden Seeds* I have been buying from them in years, before they were affiliated with Van Engelen, Inc., they have signed the 'Safe Seed Pledge' and have a interesting assortment of seeds
Lake Valley Seeds
Livingston Seeds
Local Harvest
Mountain Rose Herbs* I ordered a few times from them when I lived in North Carolina. They sometimes had mislabeled plants. Otherwise a nice selection of herbs
Organica Seed
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply* I have not ordered seeds from them, because many of those seeds I can get locally. But I have ordered garlic, organic fertilizer and other garden related things from them. They have a great selection for organic gardening
Pinetree - this one I have been trying to order online a few times, unsuccessfully. Due to Shopping cart problems. I emailed them at least twice, never heard back. They got a nice seed selection if you can get them
Renee's Garden* Renee always has some nice seeds. I used to buy from there before she sold her first Seed catalog business. I do miss the old Renee's catalog. More selection and not so much packaged deals, like 2 different beans in a pack.
Richters Herbs
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Seed Saver's Exchange
Seeds of Change*another company I have bought from for a long time. They are owned now by M&M/Mars- this supposedly because one of the Seeds of Change founders is related person at the top from M&M/Mars, so when the seed company needed financial support they arranged the buy-out. Seed of Exchange say are in complete control of the company, the marketing and in choosing what seeds to sell.
Southern Exposure
Tiny Seeds
Tomato Fest - seed germination from this company is reputed to be poor
Underwood Garden Seeds
Uprising Seeds
Victory Seeds
Wildseed Farms
Wood Prairie Farm

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Seed Savings Importance In Monsanto Times

When I started looking into it, which seed catalogs are selling seeds benefiting the Monsanto corporation, I was surprised how many of the companies I regarded highly and I often buy seeds from, because they do sell a lot of open pollinated and heirloom seeds, the kind of seeds I only use nowadays, how many sell Seminis seeds. They do not only solely Seminis seeds but it sure is very difficult to find out which ones are coming from Seminis. Some companies are not eagerly sharing which seeds are connected to Monsanto, a few are sharing this information. Some companies stopped carrying the controversial seeds and others are phasing them out.

The other surprise to me was, how more and more formerly independent seed catalogs are being owned by larger enterprises, being consolidated. I knew before I investigated that some catalogs I used to shop at had been bought up by another company but I had no idea how bad this is getting. This is a bad direction for the future of our seed supply. We do not want the control of our garden seeds in the hands of a few corporations.

To show you how hard it will be to stay away from Monsanto's owned seeds, look at the Seed companies which sell Monsanto owned Seminis seeds. Look also at the connections the seemingly independent small retailers have.

* Audubon Workshop... Owned by Scarlet Tanager, LLC
* Breck's Bulbs... Owned by Scarlet Tanager, LLC
* Burpee... merged with the Ball company in 1991, also bought up Heronswood Nursery
* Cook's Garden... I used to get seeds from there, but in the last years I wasn't as impressed with their selection. They were bought up by Burpee's.
* Earl May Seed
* Flower of the Month Club... Owned by Scarlet Tanager, LLC
* Gardens Alive... Owned by Scarlet Tanager, LLC
* HPS ... Also owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Johnny's Seeds.... I used to buy a lot of veggies from there, since I only buy OP or Heirloom, and they don't have the variety I seek, I stopped buying from there. This is from their website: "Presently Johnny's carries about 40 Seminis varieties,which is about 4% of our vegetable varieties. Our intention is to continue replacing them." and "I don't see plant genetic resources being locked up by the conglomerates, because the germ plasm collections are public.
My main concern about Monsanto is the consolidation." This statement makes me wonder where they stand. They have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, but then what does that mean, if they are still supporting Seminis/Monsanto.
* Jungs.... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Lindenberg Seeds
* McClure and Zimmerman Quality Bulb Brokers.... I have ordered bulbs from them before and even though they have a great selection it's always a hit or miss. sometimes things are mislabled, sometimes they don't grow, sometimes bulbs are mediocre in size other times large. I stopped buying from them. They are owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella.
* Mountain Valley Seed
* Nichol’s.... used to shop there, but in the last years the catalog had ever smaller offering so I stopped going there. They are local to us. Their customer service used to be better when the parents owned the place. On their website they say:'We are an original signer of the safe seed pledge and offer no genetically modified seed, plants, or products'
* Osborne
* Park Bulbs.... owned by Park Seed Company
* Park Seed.... owned by Park Seed Company
* Park's Countryside Garden.... owned by Park Seed Company
* R.H. Shumway.... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Roots and Rhizomes.... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Rupp
* Seeds for the World... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Seymour's Selected Seeds.... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Snow
* Spring Hill Nurseries.... Owned by Scarlet Tanager, LLC
* Stokes
* Territorial Seed Co.... also locally, will give out list of their Seminis seeds if asked and say they are in the process to slowly replace Seminis seeds with new products.
* The Vermont Bean Seed Company.... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Tomato Growers Supply .... I have bought a lot of heirloom tomatoes, peppers and eggplants from them in the last few years.
* Totally Tomato .... bought from them before, nice selection of heirlooms, most I can get somewhere else. Owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Mountain Valley Seed
* Vermont Bean Seed Co. .... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Wayside Gardens.... owned by Park Seed Company
* Willhite Seed Co.

There is the rumor going around on the internet that these companies are now owned by Monsanto but this is not true. Nevertheless buying Seminis Seeds, supports Monsanto.

And remember not all of the seeds these Companies sell are Seminis Seeds. Some of them are in the process of phasing their Seminis seeds out.

For a list of which seeds varieties, which are now owned by Monsanto see here

Friday, August 14, 2009

Importance Of Seed Saving To Preserve Our Food Supply

Seed Saving is so important in these times we are living now.

I just watched the documentary 'The Future Of Foods' which is about Genetic Engineered Crops and how the Bio Tech Industry is starting to use unsavory tactics to take control of the seed industry.

It is scary where the bio-tech industry and food politics are leading us to.

I have been worried about genetically engineered foods getting into the food supply for a while, especially since the US Government does not mandate declaration of genetically altered ingredients in the food we are eating. The film was an eye opener how far the industry has already gone. The truth is, with some crops, there is no way knowing if it is in our foods or not. The contamination of fields from genetic engineered crops is widespread. And once a farmers field is contaminated with these genetically altered crops, his whole field can become contaminated through pollination. So it is anybodies guess how much of the genetically altered foods are already in our grocery aisles.

Because companies like Monsanto, which has been the most aggressive company in this new global food fight, have patented not just their engineered seeds, but have also patented components of the engineered plants. They now are able to sue these farmers for stealing their genetics, because their crop has now Monsanto's patented genetics and prevent them from saving their own seeds. Something those farmers and their ancestors probably have done for many generations. Farmers have been selectively saving their seeds to preserve the best adapted seed for their growing environment. It takes decades of hard work to get there and now Monsanto practically can own a farmers livelihood, because now the farmer either has to buy the seeds from these companies or has to start all over with selective seed saving. Which might not even be possible, if Monsanto & Co. bought up the former seed company and now let the open pollinated seeds disappear. Open pollinated seeds don't fit it the profit equation of these Bio Tech companies.

Think about this for a moment. Monsanto contaminates the farmers field, but the farmer gets sued and loses the court case. Where is the justice?

Did you know that 98% of all seeds are now controlled by just a few companies, some of them being Monsanto, DuPont, Mitsui, Aventis, Dow Chemical and Syngent. These companies in the last few years have gobbled up many smaller seed operations, then they got rid of all the open pollinated varieties of those seed companies, because these are not profitable enough for them. Thousands of food varieties have been lost because of this. Then they genetically modified many seeds and got them patented worldwide, so they now control these seeds all over the world. They control the production of these seeds and thus the availability of these seeds. Which also means they control the market and food supply. Scary isn't it?

The original Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970, protected varieties from others’ use for 17 years, but with the exception that farmers were allowed to save seed, replant it, and even sell it to neighbors. Breeders were allowed to use it for research purposes.

But Court decisions in 1980, 1985 and 2001, in favor of Monsanto, brought all products of plant breeding under the standard utility patent. Unlike the Plant Variety Protection Act, utility patents don't protect just finished varieties, they also protect individual components of those varieties and the processes used to create those varieties. No exemptions for farmers to save seed and none for research and breeding have been given.

With these court decisions companies are now allowed to patent DNA sequences, individual mutations, genes, cells, proteins, single nucleotide polymorphisms, tissue cultures and specific plant parts. It used to be that Life forms could not be patented, now they can be.

Plants, which are living forms, which can reproduce themselves through their seeds. The patenting of “intellectual property” to protect a manufacturing product does not really translate well into the improvement of life forms. Improving life forms has typically been the work of farmers, by observing mutations, then selecting seeds or animals for the desired traits. Farmers then were sharing and exchanging seeds to build upon one another’s efforts. Nobody really can own a mutation which occurs freely in nature. Biological heritage used to be held in common. This proprietary model the industry is trying to impose on a product given to us by nature goes against all agricultural traditions.

What happens if animals get contaminated with patented genes? People? Are we on the way to be owned by Corporations?

Monsanto bought out one of the largest Seed companies 'Seminis' in 2005. This gave Monsanto control of more than 30 percent of the North American vegetable seed market, more than 20 percent of the world’s tomato seed market and more than 30 percent of the world hot pepper seed market. Not sure if this has gone through yet, but they either bought or will be buying Netherland's 'De Ruiter Seeds' company with crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers and rootstock for the greenhouse market.

But these are not the only seed companies they bought up, many smaller companies were swallowed in the process of controlling the seed supply.

In 2007 Monsanto formed the International Seed Group Inc (ISG) as a holding company for the company’s growing investments in regional vegetable and fruit seed businesses.

So their seed busines now includes DeRuiter a “protected-culture” vegetable seed market; Seminis, the open-field vegetable seed market; and the International Seed Group, which serves the regional seed businesses.

Monsanto claims their genetically engineered seeds are needed to increase world food production and feed the hungry of this world. But a recent study, which was carried out over three years at the University of Kansas is undermining these repeated claims of the Bio-Tech industry. This study shows that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting their claims. Genetic modification cuts the productivity of crops.
One thing it does, it increases productivity of Monsanto, because not only do they get to sell all the seeds to the farmers but it increases the productivity of Monsanto's chemical divisions. These crops are engineered to be immune to the toxicity of Roundup. Farmers now can spray their fields with Roundup without harming their crops. This naturally translates to more sales of Roundup. And to more toxins sprayed into the environment.

"Bingo"! Isn't that interesting how that works?

So it who does it really benefit? Human kind? Or Monsanto?

But don't despair, these companies only can do what they are doing if we let them. We are not completely powerless.

More on this and what one can do to save our food supply in my next post.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Invasive Plants I Wished Didn't Come With My Garden

Most Gardeners in America don't start a garden from scratch, aside they build their own house or buy a house where nobody gardened before, you get a house with an garden which already is very much established or might not be to your liking.
Luckily Gardens are changeable, sometimes it's an easy job. Tear out some plants here and there, move things around, add some more. If the previous caretakers of this garden did a great job, then it's possible to work with what they have left behind. It's another story if the previous gardeners had no clue what they were doing, or were the lazy type of gardeners, who planted easy things, things which you plant once and soon they cover half your yard, or they could have left you a yard so tacky you barely can stand sitting in it.
After all isn't Beauty in the eye of the beholder?

So most true gardeners want to make the garden they get their own.

It is always a good idea to at least wait a season after moving in to watch what will pop up in the yard. There could be some pleasant surprised in the new yard, plant treasures and wouldn't it be a shame to accidentally killing some plants you would have enjoyed because you didn't wait before digging in.

Sometimes plants come with a new yard, you wished you would not have waited. All of a sudden they start popping up all over the garden, or start spreading in a tick mass covering everything up what gets in their way. You see these plants and wonder, "Why do I see these plants all of a sudden pop up all over the yard? Where did they come from? I didn't see them when we first got the house."
The reason they are all over your yard now, are: the previous owner planted some plants, they must have known about it's invasive potential, so they cut off the seed heads just in time and they never put any of these plants into the compost pile, they knew what would happen if they didn't keep them out of there.
You, unfortunately waited a year to not accidentally kill something you might enjoy, you just sat back and watched the garden grow and bloom and seed out. You also, as the winter approached, cut some plants back, uncovered some poor plants from this ever spreading ground cover and tried to compost it, now every little sprig of this plant survived the compost pile and after spreading your compost around your garden you spread the little, harmless looking plant all over the yard.
After you realize what has happened you think to yourself "I should have identified this plant and read up on it" but it is too late now. It is everywhere and no matter how hard and often you weed, it is uncontrollable. It has become the bane of your garden.

Has that happened to you? I bet you also had some not to nice thoughts about your previous garden care takers.

So I like to share some of the plants I wished I would not have in my garden. Plants which came with my garden and I probably spread accidentally or are just so invasive that I will never get rid of them. Believe me, I tried, I am at my 7th year in this garden. I am ready to give up on them. These plants keep me so busy that they keep me from doing the garden work I enjoy so much. Who wants to weed all the time, especially knowing you will never be able to control them.

Beware of these Plants:

Sagina subulata
Picture can be found here

very often sold as 'Scotch Moss' although it really is the 'Irish Moss'
Scotch Moss's botanical name is: 'Arenaria verna' it looks almost the same then Irish Moss, it has the same tiny flowers but it has a yellow tinge to the foliage, while the Irish Moss is darker green. Neither are really a 'Moss' but are used to give a moss like structure to the garden, they also grow where you wouldn't or couldn't grow real Moss.
In some areas gardeners have a hard time keeping it going but if you give it just the right climate and growing areas it just will go berserk.
Unfortunately Western Oregon just has the perfect climate for it. It should not be sold to unsuspecting gardeners or at least have a warning label of this kind : 'Plant this ground cover on your property with caution, since it is very invasive. It can regrow even from the smallest bit of green, worse if can and will reseed itself.'
It does not have a deep root system but I found the root system is like a dense mat, so even it pulls out easily you never get it all. Also you constantly pull up the top layer of your dirt. There goes all your good garden soil into the yard waste bin. Because you never want to put it into the compost pile. It will not be killed. In fact I put all the pulled up plants, dirt and all into a thick, dark plastic garbage bag and left it in a sunny spot for a year, thinking it will all be killed. When I opened it, it actually still had some living plants in there.
I even found this plant growing along streets in town, between cracks in the paving, in the forests and wild areas around town, the seeds and probably also pieces of the plant stick to your shoes and get spread around.

Soleirolia soleirolii
see picture here:

also called 'Mind your own Business', 'Mother of Thousands', Baby Tears (what fitting names) and others it likes to grow in any moist soil in sun or partial shade. It's highly invasive and difficult to eradicate. Even the roots are very invasive, the tiniest sections of stem will re-root where it is happy. Every piece of plant has the potential of making more plants. Plant pieces brake off easy, so it's a piece of cake to spread it by carrying pieces around on your shoes or clothing. As I hear it is not finicky about the soil, it likes them all as long it has moisture. About moisture, even if you let it all dry outs and it looks dead (you think, finally it's dead) wish again, as soon the rain starts it comes alive again. The roots keep it alive for just long enough. Same with winter, it dies back just to come back in Spring, leaping a few more yards.
Mine grows all over the Rock-walls in my garden. The previous owners must have liked the way it spills over the rocks. This means, because there is no way I can dig all the roots out between the Rock-walls, aside of disassemble the walls. I read the only way to get rid off it is to strip off the infested beds, removing all roots and stems and do not dare compost it.
Selective weedkillers won't work either, you have to dig all the plants up you want to keep, making sure no piece of Baby Tears is left on your plants, then kill whatever is left in that area and replant. There is no way I can get rid of it, at this point all I can do is trying to keep it in check every year I see it in new spots.
As I read on the internet this plant is on the invasive plant list in many countries. It should be outlawed to be sold to unsuspecting customers.

Glechoma hederacea also called creeping Charlie, ground ivy, gill-on-the-ground, creeping Jenny
see picture here:
its part of the Mint family and everyone who knows Mint, knows how fast it can spread. This plant spreads just like Mint by seeds, rhizomes and creeping stems that root at the leaf nodes.
It was originally introduced for a shade ground cover. It likes moist, shady spots such as under trees and shrubs. It's been said if you can take away it's favorite growing conditions you can discourage it from growing there. I am not so sure that works well, I have this weed growing in the driest spot under some house eves, where not much will grow, the ground is rock hard there and this creeping Charlie still manages to grow there, I keep digging it out, just to see it pop up again. You can try to hand-pull but aside you get every little piece of leaf or stem it just will grow back from the pieces left behind. If it gets into your lawn, it will completely take it over until no grass grows where it grows. I believe birds must spread the seeds also, then I start finding it in areas it did not grow before. This also is growing in parts of my rock-walls, which makes it impossible to control

Hyacinthoides hispanica also called Spanish Blue Bell

These flowers are widely grown around here and I see them sold in nurseries. I have to say they are pretty and are slightly fragrant. The original flower color of the species is blue but mostly you find a Hybrid plant in gardens which can be blue, lilac, pink or white. The species grows naturally in the Iberian countries and North Africa.
They are on the highly invasive plant list for the UK and many other European countries and also crossbreed with native related Plants there.
But they are not only invasive in the UK. I see them in many wild places around here. This plant sets a lot of seeds and they all germinate. The only way to control them is to cut of the seed heads before they drop. This wouldn't be so bad if you only had a corner of them. I on the other hand have them everywhere. My front rock-wall used to be covered in them, it was a sea of blue in Spring. One year I sat in my front rock-wall and dug out as many as I could. It made a dent in them but as they drop a lot of seeds between the rocks and boulders I don't think I'll ever get rid of them. I also have them in many places in the back, sometimes they just pop up somewhere. I now cut as many of the seed heads off as I can unfortunately there are always some I don't notice in the bushes. I also cut off many of them before they grow to big, thinking that like in Tulips they need the flowering cycle to feed the bulb. Maybe in 10 years I have starved them all. I have heard, if you grow them in a dry woodland area, they are not supposed to spread as much. I rather not have them, there are many plants which will be just as pretty and will be better behaved.

These are probably the worst plants I ever had in my yard in all my gardening years. They don't just keep me to busy weeding all the time they ravage the natural environment in many places. I still can't believe with the knowledge we have today about the invasiveness of some plants that they are still being sold in many places. I make it a point whenever I come across some invasive plants in Nurseries I let the people working there know what they are selling there.

So please do not plant these plants!