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Back to December 2015 Newsletter

Calling Tomato Growers!

Angie Koch

Do you have experience saving tomato seed? Are you interested in helping Seeds of Diversity renew and expand our Seed Library? Every year we choose a vegetable crop or family to focus on for Seed Library grow-outs, and we’ve deemed 2016 to be the Year of the Tomato.

Seeds of Diversity's Canadian Seed Library is a collection of seeds that backs up the work of our member seed savers and Canadian heritage seed companies. As a not-for-profit project, we store back-up samples of Canadian seed, prioritizing rare and locally adapted varieties to be available for future gardeners and farmers.  

Why Tomatoes?

Often we’ve focused on particularly hard-to-save seeds for our Seed Library Grow-Outs, such as biennials or crops requiring especially large isolation distances or minimum populations to protect against cross-pollination and inbreeding depression.  However, earlier this year, we received a very generous donation from the Dan McMurray collection of the Creston Seed Bank in British Columbia: 839 different varieties of tomato seeds! Their collection was larger than they could manage well, so they downsized their inventory and sent the balance to us for safe-keeping. This means that – in addition to our already large tomato inventory – we now have over 800 new varieties to maintain.

What’s Involved?

We will send you seed. You start and transplant the seedlings – ideally at least 12 to maintain good genetic diversity. Keep all other tomato varieties at least 5m away to protect against cross-pollination. Take notes and submit observations (we’ll send you a form to use) so we can learn more about the seeds we’re protecting. Eat lots of tomatoes, but save the best for seed.

We typically invite volunteers to keep up to half of their seed harvest, and send the rest for freezer storage in our collection. Quality matters – the seeds we keep in our collection must be grown with proper isolation, and they have to germinate well – but large quantities don't matter as much. Some of the varieties promise to be very interesting, others may be duplicates of more common varieties. We won’t know which is which until we grow them out and receive your observations.

Who Can Participate?

If you have the skill and interest to save good quality tomato seed, we’d love to hear from you. Maybe your local Community Garden or Neighbourhood Association could organize a joint project. We’ve already had one farm near our head office agree to grow out an assortment of varieties to the seedling stage, which will then be shared with a Community Garden for seed grow-outs over the summer.

You can learn the basics of tomato seed saving by downloading our free handout at seeds.ca/diversity/seedsaving, and graduate from there to our popular handbook How to Save Your Own Seeds.

Use your skill to make a difference.  Contact us at growers@seeds.ca

 

 

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