This year I participated in our local library’s first ever implementation of a seed bank. They took those gorgeous wooden cabinets that held the cards people could use to find books and now use a computer screen instead and turned it into being a keeper of seed packets. They communicated with heirloom seed companies and received donations of varied seeds for flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Then they painstakingly labeled small envelopes with common name, variety, seed source, date added, and where in the notebook notes can be found on how to grow each type. The library had a farmer do a presentation for interested patrons. He was knowledgeable on growing and on the proper procedures for saving seeds from your harvest in order to grow again next year. The dream is that we grow varieties that do well in our location, and at harvest leave 25% of the plants unharvested so the seeds can be collected from the produce when they are ready. It means, to my understanding, letting the fruit/vegetable rot on the vine, then gathering the seeds, cleaning and drying them, and putting them away until next growing season. Part of the seed bank expectation is that some of those collected seeds are given back to the seed bank. Over time, the best heirloom seeds for our area will fill those boxes at the library.
I chose 5 or 6 things to try. Only 1 of them succeeded, and that one succeeded very well!
Common name: tomato
Variety: Red Zebra
Seed Source: Seed Savers Exchange
Date Added: March 2018
When I got the packets home, I discovered there were only 10 seeds in each. I started some inside early, including the tomatoes. There was a 100% germination rate on them. When it came time to transplant them to bigger containers, I carelessly snapped one off at ground level. Certain it wouldn’t survive, but also being the eternal optimist, I planted it anyway. As time went on, it didn’t appear to be growing – but it didn’t die either. Weeks went on and it eventually started to grow. At this time its 9 siblings were going bananas with growth. When it came time to plant them outside, the 9 went into the prepared space, and little sibling stayed in its container, but it was placed near them.
These tomato plants grew so vigorously I thought maybe I’d planted magic beans by mistake. The stems thick and fibrous, the branches lush, and lots and lots of blossoms. Soon, they were covered with many baby tomatoes. The little sibling was far behind in growth and production but eventually baby tomatoes sprouted on it as well. 100% germination and prolific production is a gardener’s dream come true.
There were battles with hornworms, blossom end rot, and with cages to keep them up off of the ground, but soon the day came when a large bowl of glossy, a bit smaller than pool-ball-sized, red fruits, with green stripes, were picked from the plants. I don’t like eating fresh tomatoes, but I love using them in sauces. These fruits were blanched in boiling water then thrown into ice water and their skins were peeled off. Being small, I cut them into quarters and added them to spaghetti sauce. This is where things literally fell apart for red zebra tomato. They turned to mush and lent little flavor to the sauce. It never occurred to me that these were not suitable for canning (or putting in sauce). Not wanting to eat them fresh, it’s unknown how they taste that way, but they have little flavor in sauces.
You know about hindsight. I googled the variety and read some reviews. One person said that they are the perfect market tomato because they look so gorgeous. They also commented on the vigorous growth of the vines.
Lots of mistakes by moi, including a growing season for tomatoes was lost (seed savers say grow only one variety of a particular fruit or vegetable at a time or there is danger of cross-pollination).
if you want to get free seeds, do research on the variety before committing to it
figure out if you want to give vigorous but unpalatable plant seeds back to the seed bank
plant seeds you are confident will give you the product you want
keep an eye on your plants for nefarious pests!
Make sure you have enough support for your plants, as it’s tough to do once they are booming
water at the same time each day
make sure you fertilize and/or add mineral supplements, as needed