Fall weather and cooler days means that gardeners are now engaging in a crucial stage in the cycle of food propagation: seed saving.

The Upper Big Wood River Grange 192 Community Garden in Hailey is designed to produce seeds from vegetables and other plants for the Wood River Seed Library to safeguard plant biodiversity in the Wood River Valley.

“Seeds have an amazing genetic baggage that expresses itself in response to the changing climate and to the various micro-climates of our regions,” said Grange Master Gardener Manon Gaudreau. “This results in more robust seeds that are more suitable to grow in our climate.”

21-10-20 seed saving.jpg

A sample of produce from the Grange Hall seed-saving garden in Hailey.

The Grange will offer two seed-saving workshops to train gardeners in the practice of seed collection: one on Friday, Oct. 22, at 1:30 p.m. at the Wood River YMCA in Ketchum; and the second at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30, at the Grange Hall in Hailey. Local seeds will be cleaned and stored for the local seed bank. Seeds from years gone will be distributed for growing out next spring. Take home seed-saving kits will be available.

“The Grange Community Garden was recently put to sleep after producing a fair amount of various seeds to stock our seed library,” Gaudreau said. The plants include zucchinis, yellow summer squash, acorn squash, Lakota squash, kabocha squash, butternut squash, delicata squash, cucumbers, green bush beans, dry pole beans, sunflower, marigold, calendula and feverfew.

The garden had three mounds of the “three sisters,” an Iroquois planting model that utilizes a tall sunflower (instead of corn) in the center, offering a nice climb for the pole beans, with squashes planted in the periphery.

“The squash leaves cool the feet of the beans and their prickliness discourages animals from eating the young and tender green beans growing in the center,” Gaudreau said, offering one of many lessons shared by gardeners and seed savers at the garden.

This summer, YMCA employee Nicole Kessler and Environmental Resource Center Biologist Clayton Matheny joined the Wood River Seed Library as co-managers.

“They bring with them a lot of enthusiasm, expertise, as well as collaboration with their respective non-profit organizations,” Gaudreau said.

“Working with the Seed Exchange has helped me feel more connected to the people and landscape within this community,” Kessler said. “Everyone is so eager and willing to collaborate on issues that they feel passionate about and it is exciting to meet new people and engage in awesome projects. Manon is extremely knowledgeable, so I feel very grateful that I fell into this opportunity to grow and learn from her.”

The group was able to build, paint and display the seed library in the lobby of the Wood River Community YMCA, incorporating the work of the Seed Exchange into the Y’s summer Nature Explorer Camp.

“This collaboration allowed us to help students understand where their food comes from as well as the importance of locally grown food. In addition, the community members enjoyed access to a large variety of free seeds throughout the growing season,” Kessler said.

Matheny was joined earlier this month by a crew of Sage School students to plant shrubs to the west side of the grange garden to create a wind break for the garden. The shrubs were dug out from the backyards of volunteer “seed librarians” and potted to make their roots through the summer.

Matheny has plans to grow native plants in the grange community garden starting next spring.

“The native plants (flowers) and the shrubs are part of our plan to provide a nice pollinator habitat around the garden,” Gaudreau said. “If you have seeds to share with our seed library, bring them to any upcoming events, or bring them over by appointment.”

To contact the seed library, send an email to woodriverseedlibrary@gmail.com

For more information about the Grange Hall go to www.grange.org/upperbigwoodriverid192/

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

Load comments