By JOEY WALDINGER
Though it seems like the ice may never thaw and the temperatures may never warm, it’s seed fever in Charlotte.
What is seed fever? Linda Hamilton, the coordinator of the Charlotte Seed Library, describes it as “a phenomenon when seed catalogs arrive in the mail,” and gardeners become overwhelmed by the variety of seeds from which to choose, and methods for germinating these seeds. To help gardeners think clearly during this exciting time, Hamilton and Master Gardener Karen Tuininga led a Feb. 19 workshop at the Charlotte Library aimed at helping gardeners plan for the spring ahead.
The Charlotte Seed Library functions much like a traditional library. Gardeners can check seeds out and plant them, with the intent that, after their harvest wilts, they will collect their seeds and return them to the library.
For Hamilton, who became seed library coordinator last year, these workshop-style events are only part of her effort to revamp the library.
In the past, the library staff communicated with members mostly via the “seed circle” email, which was used primarily to pass along various technical information, Hamiliton said. Now, Hamilton wants to circulate this sort of information by holding more of these in-person support sessions.
At the Feb. 19 meeting, Hamilton said she was encouraged that the approach was engaging new gardeners, as there were multiple new faces in attendance.
Beyond these outreach activities, Hamilton has changed the contents of the library as well.
Previously, the seed library was a little more informal, with people dropping off seeds of all different types, and its collection was never too consistent, Hamilton said.
Last year, Hamilton purchased 75 fresh organic seeds from a Wolcott seed producer, all of which will germinate into vegetables. This is part of the library’s new agenda to encourage people to grow their own food and to rely on heritage varieties, which are plant species that haven’t been altered by breeders, Hamilton said.
“It’s a very empowering experience for people to grow some of their own food, and it’s also important just in the world today to be able to fulfill some of your own needs… to eat real food,” she said.
In keeping with the theme of preparation Tuesday night – Hamilton and Tuininga both extolled the fun of sifting the seed catalogs – Hamilton spent much time addressing the big picture questions that guide how one sets up their garden and chooses what to plant.
She stressed the importance of setting realistic goals regarding the amount of time that can be spent in the garden, noting that maintaining a garden is an encompassing endeavor, and that there is nothing wrong with scaling down so that one can devote more attention to their plants.
“A successful garden requires you to be present and attentive,” she said.
She read passages illuminating how plant genetic diversity has drastically diminished since the rise of industrialized agriculture, making it all the more important to save and reuse seeds, she said.
Tuininga, meanwhile, covered a lot of the more technical aspects of gardening and seed saving, such as how far apart plants should be kept so as to avoid cross-pollination, and how long one should wait before harvesting seeds to be returned to the library or used in future soils.
Going forward, Hamilton and Tuininga plan to hold support sessions covering topics such as composting and what species should be planted in what section of one’s garden, and they also hope to take library members on a visit to an area garden, Hamilton said. However, they also encouraged attendees to let them know what sort of programs or topics would be most helpful to address going forward.
“As ideas occur to you we’d love to have you share them,” Hamilton said.