Join our seed saver network

We are recruiting new members to our Freedom Seed Saver Network! All new members will benefit from free training, support from our network of seed savers, and the chance to grow and save seeds for the Freedom Seed Bank.

We are offering new members the opportunity to take part in a series of workshops covering all the basics of saving seed for the most popular vegetable crops: in return we’d like you to grow and save seeds for the Freedom Seed Bank. The workshops will take place in the first half of 2018 at various community gardens across London.

Our network fosters peer-to-peer learning and support and so each of the workshops will be lead by a different network member. Each of the gardens that we visit will feature a seed saving garden/plot that has been established by one of our members.

The workshops will cover:

  • Botany for seed savers
  • Planning a seed saving garden
  • ‘How to’ guide for saving seeds of tomatoes, peas, beans and lettuces

There will be a total of 5 – 6 sessions with a minimum commitment of 4 sessions. Workshops will be approximately 2 to 3 hours on a Saturday morning, roughly once a month, plus optional trips or gatherings at other times. Exact timings and venues to be confirmed.

We are looking for people who already have knowledge and experience of food growing and have a space where you can grow seed crops (this could be a home, community or school garden).

This a great opportunity to receive FREE training, to learn about the lost art of seed saving and to help preserve our precious vegetable varieties for future generations.

If you are interested in taking part then please send an expression of interest (max 2 sides of A4) telling us about yourself and why you are interested in joining our network. The deadline for expressions of interest is Sunday 26th November.

Please send your expressions of interest or get in touch with any questions to: freedomseedbank@gmail.com.

 

Image: Lettuce seed heads, by Richard Galpin, Walworth Garden Lettuce Trials and London Freedom Seed Saving Project, 2017.

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Seeds for a Better World

We are delighted to be working with Global Generation and Garden Organic on a new project, Seeds for a Better World, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Seeds for a Better World aims to connect to and give back to our natural heritage by educating and inspiring young people and other London residents to learn about the cycle of growing and saving seeds. We will be:

  • working with a team of Youth Ambassadors to unearth the memories of immigrant communities in the Kings Cross area about vegetable varieties and growing traditions from home
  • creating new community seed gardens and a mobile interactive seed bank to take heritage seeds and the stories of those who grew them to new audiences
  • holding a Seed Festival to bring together diverse groups of people to swap seeds and learn from each other

The project kicks off in September when the Youth Ambassadors take a visit to Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library to gain inspiration from their collection of over 800 heritage varieties. The Seed Festival in January 2018 will include a Seed Swap, seed-themed cooking, food and creative workshops, such as making seed charms and jewellery. Activities will continue throughout 2018.

The project will inform participants about the heritage of cultivated vegetable varieties and how they are being threatened by industrial agriculture. Participants will also learn traditional seed saving skills and understand their importance in conserving open-pollinated vegetable varieties for future generations.

Seed diversity across the globe is more severely threatened than ever before. There couldn’t be a better to time to embark on this exciting project.

 

 

 

Walworth Lettuce Trials

August is the perfect month for saving lettuce seed and so in early August a group of us headed to Walworth Garden to find out about the work of seed buddy and artist Richard Galpin.

Tucked away in a quiet corner of the otherwise immaculate garden, Richard has created a seed saving bed and is trialling 30 lettuce varieties. He is assessing each variety based on its vigour, flavour and resistance to pests and diseases and will be selecting the best varieties to save seed from. The bed was riotous display of lettuces in full flower – a reminder that seed saving is not a tidy business. Many of the lettuces had reached over a metre in height, and they were nearly all covered in the characteristic tiny yellow flowers.

IMG_6322

Lettuces in flower at Walworth Garden (photo: Charlotte Dove)

Of the 30 varieties that Richard started with, about half of them had reached this stage. Others were lost along the way to slugs, foxes and that long dry spell in early summer (seems a long time ago now). It was remarkable how the varieties had coped so differently under largely the same conditions; some hadn’t made it past the germination bench, whilst others had reached full and glorious maturity.

Richard Galpin Lettuce Trials

The lettuce bed earlier in the season  (photo: Richard Galpin)

Richard is planning to save seed from about five of the varieties and is also experimenting with a cross between two of his favourite lettuces. Here Richard explains a bit more about more about his breeding experiment:

“I’ve been collecting speckled varieties of lettuce for a couple of years – a project that started with my interest in the Bloody Cos (or Spotted Aleppo) variety that originates in Syria. My interests are generally in the cultural aspects of the variety, and their amazing visual appearance – but some people also get excited about the health benefits of the anthocyanin that these red lettuces contain. By emasculating the flowers and hand pollinating I’ve managed to cross one of my long-standing favourite lettuces – Marvel of four seasons – with a vivid red spotted variety bred by Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seeds in Oregon, USA. The aim is a wider gene pool to make the variety more resistant to adverse conditions – and selected for suitability for London’s urban growing conditions. It will need some testing, and a few generations of growing out and selecting the best strains – but because i’m less concerned about uniformity than commercial growers would be, i hope to be able to supply the London Freedom Seed Bank with this variety within a couple of years. Look out for the Bloody Marvel…!”

We were impressed with Richard’s careful planning and attention to detail and can’t wait to include some of his Walworth-saved seed in the Freedom Seed Bank.

For more info about the Walworth Lettuce Trials:

https://www.richardgalpin.co.uk/walworth-lettuce-trials

 

Spring peas in Streatham

Guy Roberts is one of our amazing team of Seed Buddies who has been matched with a community garden this year to promote seed saving and to grow crops for the Freedom Seed Bank. He is working with Streatham Common Community Garden in south London, a historic walled garden dating from the early twentieth century.

Speaking about his progress so far, Guy says, “Finding a space away from other pea crops for the saving of Turner Spring peas was reasonably straightforward, however the hosepipe doesn’t stretch to the top of the community garden so it’s been a big ask to make sure someone carries watering cans up there, though so far so good as the first few pea pods are now developing. We’re also hoping to save seed of Pink Plum tomatoes, but the last few years we have suffered blight in the garden so we’re waiting to free up some space in the cold frames this year, and hope to use the lights [cold frame lids] to keep the rain off for a more successful crop”

Well done Guy for finding a suitable space away from other pea crops and for getting volunteers on board to help with the watering! If Guy’s harvest is successful then the seeds will be available for free at community events next year.

There are 13 seed buddies who have been matched with community gardens in London and who are creating new seed gardens to grow and save seeds that are adapted to London’s climate, and to teach others in the process. We will be posting about some of the other gardens soon. If you’re interested in creating your own seed garden then get in touch: freedomseedbank@gmail.com.

IMG_5796Guy with the Spring peas

Seed saving support for community gardens

The Freedom Seed Bank and Capital Growth have trained a team of Seed Buddies in the art of seed saving. Now we are looking for community or school garden groups who are interested in receiving help and guidance to start saving seeds. Participating gardens will be matched with a Seed Buddy, ideally from your local area.

A trained Seed Buddy will visit your garden at least twice over the 2017 growing season and will help you to come up with a plan for how to incorporate seed saving. They will offer practical advice about which crops to save seeds from and how to get the best seeds.

Your Seed Buddy will provide you with FREE SEEDS from the London Freedom Seed Bank and you will be offered the opportunity to donate seeds back to the bank at the end of the growing season.

To sign up for a buddy, just complete this simple form:

http://www.capitalgrowth.org/buddy_scheme/

Connected Seeds and Sensors

I was very happy to be invited along to the Connected Seeds book launch and winter celebration at Rich Mix at the beginning of February. The event featured talks on seed sovereignty, food growing workshops and an exhibition and short-film screening about the Connected Seeds project. The main attraction of the day was the Connected Seeds Library, a new interactive seed library which tells the stories of seeds and their growers in and round Spitalfields City Farm. It was inspiring to connect with other London-based seed savers and to acquire new varieties for the seed bank including unfamiliar crops.

Connected Seeds and Sensors is research project looking at how ‘smart’ technologies can be used to support more sustainable urban food practices. The lead researcher, Sara Heitlinger, based at Queen Mary University London, worked with 14 Seed Guardians throughout the 2016 growing season to grow and save a variety of different seed crops and to record environmental data in each of the gardens.

The Seed Guardians were from all walks of life and different cultural backgrounds with varying levels of gardening expertise. They each committed to growing one or two crops and then donated some of the seeds they had collected to the Connected Seeds Library. The interactive seed library contains seeds from each of the guardians alongside photos, video footage and sounds clips about  the crops from the guardian who donated the seeds.

The guardians grew their crops in various growing spaces around East London, in private gardens, community plots or on housing estates. Each of the gardens was fitted with a specially-designed sensor to record information about the environmental conditions in the garden, including air temperature, air humidity, air pressure, soil moisture and ambient light. The data visualisations can all viewed online:

http://www.connectedseeds.org/data-visualisation/

The data clearly demonstrates the capacity of smart technologies to inform growers about the environmental conditions of their growing space. There is lots of potential to use this data to encourage better growing practices or to map different growing conditions across the capital.

The exhibition featured a seed swap where a variety of crops grown by the seed guardians and donated by other visitors to the event were available. I swapped some of our seeds from the London Freedom Seed Bank with lablab beans grown at Spitalfields Farm and potol, a kind of pointed gourd. I look forward to passing these seeds on to our freedom seed savers to grow and save so we can increase the quantity in the bank and make them accessible to other growers and gardeners.

We’re delighted that there’s another project which is collecting London’s seeds and the stories behind them, and we look forward to seeing how the interactive seed library grows over the coming months. The seed library can be found at its permanent home at Spitalfields City Farm. Get in touch with farm staff to organise a visit or become a member. http://www.connectedseeds.org.

Charlotte Dove

06.03.17

Connected Seeds launch event

Have you heard about A Celebration of Seeds at Rich Mix on Wednesday 1st February? Folks from the London Freedom Seed Bank will be going along to find out more and to show support for this exciting new community resource.

What’s going on?

A day of talks, workshops, films and food to celebrate the launch of the Connected Seeds Library, exhibition and book.

The day offers opportunities for networking with experienced and novice growers around east London, stalls, free vegetarian lunch and exhibition tours. Come along to learn about seed-saving, seed sovereignty, and community growing spaces.

Combined with the Tower Hamlets Food Growing Network’s Winter Gathering, this event is the culmination of an 18- month community research project based at Queen Mary University of London and Spitalfields City Farm exploring new technology to support urban agriculture in east London. The research produced a Connected Seeds Library, which is an interactive community resource that links the seeds within to the stories of the east London growers who grew and donated them. The library will be on display in the cafe gallery at Rich Mix, along with photographs and audio documenting the research process.

In the evening, you are invited to walk over to nearby Spitalfields City Farm for the book launch, herbal drinks and music.

For more info and to reserve a place (tickets are free but must be booked in advance):

https://www.richmix.org.uk/events/spoken-word/celebration-seeds

https://billetto.co.uk/en/events/connected-seeds-launch-and-winter-gathering

Seed Buddies programme takes root

The Seed Buddies programme launched with a successful training day at the Regent’s Park Allotment Garden in October 2016. The day was attended by 18 food growers and gardeners from across London who have been selected to be the next generation of seed savers for the Freedom Seed Bank.

The training was delivered by seed officer, Catrina Fenton, and horticulturalist Claire Pritchard, from the Heritage Seed Library (HSL). They covered the basic principles of successful seed saving, and gave practical advice about saving the seed of a range of different crops, from easy-to-save peas and beans, to those at the more challenging end of the spectrum, such as carrots and beetroot.

The trainees come from different backgrounds, including urban gardening, landscaping and design, and are all committed to improving their horticultural skills and educating Londoners about the lost art of seed saving. Many are already working with environmental and community-based organisations such as Bandstand Beds, St Lukes Community Centre in Islington, and Stepney City Farm, and will be disseminating their newly-acquired seed saving knowledge amongst their existing networks.

The Seed Buddies will be matched with community gardens in their local area, and over the next year, will support their gardens to start seed saving. By working with community spaces, the Seed Buddies aim to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our seed heritage whilst also passing on practical advice and skills. All of the gardens which are involved will be invited to donate seeds to the Freedom Seed Bank at the end of next year.

Capital Growth will be matching Seed Buddies to community gardens over the coming months. If you are part of a community garden, or know one that would be interested in receiving a visit, then please make sure you register your interest here: http://www.capitalgrowth.org/buddy_scheme/

Final reminder for Seed Buddies training course

There’s just one week to go before the deadline to apply to become a Seed Buddy! 

Seed Buddies form an important part of the Seed Bank’s network. They receive FREE training, access to rare and unusual seeds from the Seed Bank’s collection, and play an important role in helping to raise awareness of the role of seed saving at community growing spaces across London.

Successful applicants will take part in a one-day training programme on Saturday 22nd October at the Regent’s Park Allotment Garden (10:30-16:00). The training day will be lead by expert seed savers from the Heritage Seed Library and will include:

–   Seed saving techniques: theory and ‘how to’ with different plants

–   Planning your space for seed saving

–  Small-scale storage techniques

After the training day, the Seed Buddies will be required to support/mentor two community gardens in saving their own seeds.

If you have any questions or are interested in taking part, then we would love to hear from you! To download a copy of the application form go to www.capitalgrowth.org/buddy_scheme/ or to ask any questions email freedomseedbank@gmail.com.

The deadline for applications is Monday 3rd October at 12pm.

Seed Saving for Beginners: Theory and Practice

London Freedom Seed Bank invite you to this half-day workshop at Glengall Wharf Garden on Saturday 15th October.

The session is for everyone interested in seed saving. Our trainer Charlotte Dove will go through the theory of seed saving (why save seeds, what is cross pollination, what are F1 cultivars) before giving practical advice on how you can save seeds from your garden, and what you need to do to successfully save the best seed crops.

Glengall Wharf Garden is thriving community garden in Burgess Park, south London, promoting food growing, organic horticulture and permaculture.

Course details

Date and time: Saturday 15th October, 12:30-15:00

Address: Glengall Wharf Garden, 64 Glengall Road, Peckham

To book a place, please go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/seed-saving-for-beginners-theory-and-practice-tickets-26079350038

This event is part of Capital Growth’s 2016 Training Calendar. For other upcoming training sessions, visit:  http://www.capitalgrowth.org/training/