On The Farm

Seed Saving at Blackberry Farm

I am proud to announce that Blackberry Farm is partnering with Seed Savers Exchange to grow out eight seed varieties that are low in seed quantities.

The world-renowned Seed Savers Exchange organization is located in Decorah, Iowa where a large collection of heirloom varieties is maintained. Due to their climate, it is often difficult to bring some varieties to full maturity for seed-saving purposes. Two examples are cowpeas – field peas – and limas. That’s where Blackberry Farm comes into play. Our climate is well suited for growing both cowpeas and lima beans.

In a number of cases, individuals may have a very limited number of seeds left to donate, with some having low germination rates. I want to share about the two varieties that were the greatest challenge in terms of having viable seeds to work with.

The greatest challenge was the Maupin Cowpea that came from St. Augustine, Florida. We were sent eight seeds of this variety, and none of them looked viable to me. All eight seeds were planted, and only two came up. For me, that is far too close for comfort. That’s two seeds away from extinction, and, from my perspective, failure is not an option.

The second noteworthy variety is the Red Eye Lima Bean which came from Shreveport, Louisiana. For this variety, we were given six seeds, four of which germinated.

When working with a limited number of seeds, I always start them in pots or seed trays using a sterile seed starter mix. The plants are kept in the greenhouse until they toughen up and are ready to be planted out in the garden. The two varieties that I have described are now growing in a small garden bed close to our garden shed. Both varieties are doing very well, and I look forward to seeing them produce seed pods in the near future – and enough seed to bring them out of the danger of being lost.

The Seed Savers Exchange sent us a total of eight varieties to be grown out for seed. The other varieties include two strains of the Winsall Tomato, which was introduced in 1924, the White Whippoorwill Cowpea, the Blue Bloom Pole Bean, the Bolivian Rainbow Hot Pepper and a second lima.

As the season progresses and the varieties near seed maturity, there will be further information written about our seed-saving project with the Seed Savers Exchange.

John Coykendall, Master Gardener
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