November 2020. Let’s talk about seeds
This was an ‘in house’ meeting. Terry McFarlane, our link with Garden Organic, reported back on participation in the Heritage Seed Library. We noted the concern that seeds have increasingly become the ‘property’ of a few big seed sellers. The growth of F1 Hybrid seeds and the variable quantities of seed in commercially sold packets are worrying developments. POG subscribed in 2020 to the Heritage Seeds Library and we received some seed packets – climbing beans, cabbage, broad beans, peas, turnips and tomatoes. These were distributed to volunteer POG members. They had mixed results with crop production. We did our best to compare yields and flavour with ‘non-heritage’ varieties. This led us to ask questions about what constitutes a heritage variety and whether there are other ways of developing seed stocks – perhaps through schemes which can establish which varieties do well in our micro-climate and soil conditions. (Following this meeting it was decided not to include membership of the Heritage Seed Library in our Garden Organic Group membership next year.)
Margaret Lear then took us through what she is learning about seed saving. She suggested that heritage seeds are simply varieties we choose to keep going. The background is that in the last 100 years something in the region of 90% of our food crop diversity has been lost. Saving and sharing seeds and keeping records can help us to build food security and – by trial and error – find what works for us. Margaret’s success this year was Asturian tree cabbage.
After going over the processes involved from ripening and harvesting to drying and storing, Margaret provided a few reference sources including:
The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving. By Buttala, Siegel et al. (Published in USA)
Our session concluded with discussion of the plans to set up a local seed library. Margaret Lear is leading this work and welcomes the involvement of anyone interested. email@example.com
October 2020. The work of PKC Tree and Woodland Officer
On 6 October Jocelyn McLaren, Perth & Kinross Council Tree and Woodland Officer, joined us on Zoom to talk about her work with the Council. Who knew that they are responsible for 32,000 trees on publicly-managed land? Many urban trees are ageing and need to be replaced. We learned about the under-planting of new saplings to replace old limes in Rose Terrace. Jocelyn explained the 6 considerations involved in planning tree planting:
Function – Diversity – Design – Species – Support – Placement.
The Council published an interim climate emergency report and action plan in December 2019, linked to its target of net zero carbon emissions. One aim is to expand tree planting on school sites, for which the Woodland Trust is offering free trees. It is important to recruit ‘stakeholders’ who will have an interest in ongoing maintenance of woodland areas and the control of invasive species. Our discussion after Jocelyn’s talk ranged over beavers, fruit tree planting schemes, trees in new housing developments, trees and pavements and enforcement of tree preservation orders.
On 6 July over 20 of us enjoyed a Zoom gathering at which Kate Everett described her plant nursery and forest garden near Alyth. My notes of the session begin with Kate’s outline of the history of Inverquiech and the phrase “ …going to make the place sing”. As we learned more it became clear that this has certainly been achieved. Later Kate said her garden had been designed to reflect “a song of unity” which includes weeds and all living things. The site borders the Isla and the Alyth and has ancient riparian woodland which is ‘managed lightly’. Kate believes in “small and slow solutions” which allow nature to take its course. There is now a teaching space on site and lots of activities are taking place. Kate concluded where she began with a summary of how – using the principles of permaculture (I noted down 12 of them) – the garden has been made to sing. There was much more and it was an inspiring session. Thank you, Kate.
On 5 August Margaret Gimblet contributed to another Zoom session when she described the origins and activities of Scotland’s Garden Scheme – with open gardens raising money each year for charities and details provided in the ‘Yellow book’ - well known to everyone who loves visiting Scottish gardens. With lockdown this year things have been different but it was good to hear from Margaret and we can hopefully look forward to a new season of open gardens in Perthshire and across Scotland next year.
Our third Summer Zoom event was a talk by Rhona Forrester speaking about beavers and biodiversity from her involvement with the Scottish Wild Beavers Association. The differences of opinion over the reintroduction of beavers to Tayside often feature in the press and it was good to hear the positive case for them and how they contribute to biodiversity. The photographs – captured with much patience – were a delight.