All About Gardens


It’s that time of year to start planning your garden. If you’re searching for seeds you will want to check out It’s It's that time of year to start planning your garden. If you’re searching for seeds you will want to check out Seed Savers EXCHANGE. This nonprofit organization works to keep diversity strong by collecting, growing, regenerating and sharing endangered heirloom vegetable, flower, herb and grain seeds and plants. The Exchange was started in 1975 by Diane and Kent Wheatly with two plants (a morning glory and a tomato) that Diane’s great grandfather brought over from Bavaria in the 1870s. Word of the Exchange spread and soon a network of gardeners was formed. The Seed Savers Exchange, headquartered in Decorah, Iowa, is now the largest seed bank of its kind with 13,000 members.

In addition to selling a wide variety of seeds, (I counted 80 selections of tomatoes alone), the Exchange maintains the Svalbard Global Seed Vault that stores over 20,000 rare heirloom and open-pollinated varieties of seeds so they don’t disappear.

In the last century, the world has lost 75% of its edible plant varieties. Heirloom and organic seeds could well be lost with current farming practices. Close to half of America’s commercial farmers use a limited number of genetically engineered crops that are patented and cannot be saved and replanted. Who can forget stories of the Great Irish Famine, a time of mass starvation and disease resulting in the death of over a million people. It was brought about by a potato blight. Nearly half of Ireland’s population relied almost exclusively on potatoes as a source of food. With almost no diversity in the potato crops, the mold spread rapidly leading to devastating crop failures from 1845 through 1849.

The Seed Savers Exchange website includes tips on plant care, pollinators, soil and seed saving as well as recipes. Call to request a catalog (563-382-5990) or order online at


The Nyack Seed Exchange was established four years ago as a place for gardeners to share seeds. Sponsored by the Nyack Library, the seed exchange offers a variety of vegetable and flower seeds for free. Gardeners are encouraged to save and return seeds to the Exchange.

About 25% of the seeds come from gardeners. The remainder have been donated by commercial companies such as Hudson Valley Seed Company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Burpee and Fedco Seeds. Some of the seeds are organic and are indicated on the packets.

From mid-March to shortly before Memorial Day, available seeds, listed in a binder, can be picked up at the Nyack Library weekdays from noon to 3:00 pm. It is also possible to place holds at both the Nyack and Orangeburg Libraries.

The Seed Exchange offers several educational programs a year and hosts a pot luck dinner mid-summer and another just before Thanksgiving. Volunteers are needed to hand out seeds at the Nyack Library. Contact Laurie at