Rare Seeds, Pest Resistant Plants, and Other Gardening Tips

This installment of a regular feature directs gardeners to suppliers of rare seeds and recommends disease and pest resistant plants.

| March/April 1981

Under still-chilly banks of brown-tinted, aging snow, slow droplets of melt soften the awakening soil. Brave, bright crocuses break the newly thawed earth, mild breezes compete with the last of winter's cold winds, and eager gardeners—wondering if it's still too early to plant a few rows of peas—rejoice in the opening scenes of spring's stately pageantry.

Uncommon and Rare Seeds

Occasionally—with all the hoopla about the new flower and vegetable introductions from the "big boys"—we tend to forget about the offerings of small seed suppliers. Yet such firms are often quietly working to preserve varieties that have never even been included in—or have all but disappeared from—the larger catalogs.

The Abundant Life Seed Foundation, for example, specializes in plants native to the North Pacific Rim, especially rare and endangered species that are not generally commercially available. The foundation offers seeds of trees and shrubs, garden and wild flowers, herbs, vegetables (all open-pollinated and untreated), and sprouts. They will even barter for needed seeds, tools, office supplies, or donated labor. So if you'd like to plant a few Saskatoon serviceberry trees... or a stand of thimbleberries or Himalayan blackberries or a patch of Gramma Walters pole beans (perhaps allowing the vines to climb the stalks of some Black Aztec corn), send $2.00 ($2.60 in Canada) for a two-year subscription to the foundation's catalog. It's worth every penny!

Another outfit that specializes in uncommon "kernels" is the Prairie Seed Source. The Prairie Seed folks are devoted to the preservation of the prairie plants that once covered ten states and two Canadian provinces but which have—during the past 200 years—been plowed, paved, or poisoned almost out of existence.

Disease and Pest Resistant Plants

Wholistic gardeners have developed a great number of insect- and disease-control strategies, which include organic sprays, companion plantings, and "everybody get out in the garden with a can of kerosene" bug-picking parties. But folks often forget about one of the most important weapons in the natural gardener's arsenal: the careful selection of resistant plant varieties. A few minutes of research in seed catalogs can save you many hours of backyard toil and increase your garden's yield.

You could—for example— fret about the fungus that's always laid waste your cucumbers in the past or you could plan ahead and set out one of the "super cukes" with resistance or tolerance to anthracnose, powdery and downy mildew, angular leaf spot, and scab. Look for Sweet Slice and Victory among the table varieties, and Liberty and Saladin for pickling.

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