by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener
Prior to 1990, the word ‘seedy’ tended to be associated with shabby or run down areas or clothes, or a somewhat disreputable reputation.
Ironically enough, some speculate that the term probably came from the appearance of flowers after they’ve shed their seeds, when they start to lose colour and eventually die.
However, that all changed in 1990, when the first Seedy Saturday was held at the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, BC. At the time, the idea of conserving heritage seeds from garden plants or agricultural crops wasn’t really a thing, and it was hard to find heritage varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and grains.
In 1988 Sharon Rempel wanted to find period-appropriate heritage vegetables, flowers and wheat for the 1880s heritage gardens she was creating at the Keremeos Grist Mill museum. As a pioneer in Canada’s organic and heritage seed movements, she organized the first Seedy Saturday event, and has kept the titles “Seedy Saturday” and “Seedy Sunday” dedicated to the public domain.
In Canada, these events have continued to be locally or regionally organized events, although the amazing organization Seeds of Diversity maintains a national presence. Almost all of these events occur in the late winter, with a few in the autumn.
We totally get it. Canadian winters are long and cold and by February, gardeners are already looking forward to the springtime and planting. Seedy Saturdays/Sundays are non-profit, public events organized by individuals and community groups to bring together gardeners, seed companies, nurseries, gardening organizations, historic sites, and community groups so they can learn from one another, exchange ideas and seeds, and purchase seeds and plants in a social setting. Seeds of Diversity promotes these events on their website.
Many Master Gardener and Ontario Horticultural Association organizations are critical partners in these events – I love this poster from the London Middlesex Master Gardeners for this year’s event.
Every year more communities join the movement – according to Seeds of Diversity more than 170 events were held in 2019 across Canada. These events can be small or large, depending on the community. I love that they all have the same themes of encouraging use of open-pollinated and heritage seeds, enabling local seed exchanges, and educating the public about seed saving and environmentally-responsible gardening practices.
They’re a great opportunity to swap and exchange your seeds with others, get new varieties from other seed savers, meet seed companies in person, attend workshops/talks, and of course buy seeds!
In the Peterborough area, we are finally getting back to an in-person event. 2023’s Seedy Sunday will be held on Sunday March 12th from 11am to 3pm in a new location at the Peterborough Square Mall in downtown Peterborough (where the winter Farmers’ Market is being held). It’s a great venue, with lots of space (the pre-pandemic Seedy Sunday was held at the Emmanuel United Church and George St United Church).
Long time organizer Jillian Bishop (who runs her own UrbanTomato business and hosts seed saving workshops) says the event is “the perfect place to get inspired for spring. Come out to get all the knowledge, tools and resources needed to get growing this season.”
This year’s Peterborough Seedy Sunday event includes:
- An incredible diversity of vegetables, flowers, herb seeds available for sale
- Community groups showcasing the great work they do locally
- Informative hands-on workshops
- A popular Seed Exchange Area where you can trade seeds with other gardeners
Get more information at:
Search for #PtboSeedySunday
Jillian says the last few years have been challenging because of the pandemic.
“As many of you know, in 2020, two days before we were set to host our 15th annual event, we had to cancel as the world began to shut down. As disappointed as we were, we knew it was the right thing to do! Of course, no one could have predicted what happened in the weeks, months and years to come, particularly in the world of seeds and gardening.
All of a sudden seeds became a hot commodity, and seed vendors across the world saw unprecedented demand as people became more concerned about securing their food sources, and had more time at home to plan, plant and enjoy their gardens.”
Peterborough Seedy Sunday, like similar events, went virtual for a few years, but Jillian is very happy to be planning a return to in-person seed fun and spring mania for the 15th annual event, with 13 vendors selling seeds, compost supplies and more! Workshops will be focusing on hands-on skills sharing.
If you’d like to take part in the Seed Exchange, please bring your seeds divided into smaller envelopes (approx. 25 seeds) labeled with the name of the plant, year harvested, and any other information you would like to share! Once you have them all ready, you can bring them down to the Seed Exchange and swap them for other fun varieties you have yet to try in your garden!
Hope to see you in Peterborough, or join your local ‘seedy’ event!
Words of Wisdom from Jillian Bishop
Why I Save Seeds
“Saving seeds means a lot to me. It means a lot to the world. Each heirloom seed contains history and future. Past and present, the ability to adapt to unforeseen climate change and unique environments, to spread stories and knowledge through generations it contains the capacity for communities to grow their own food in sprawling fields, community gardens, abandoned lots and fire escape pots.
Those seeds are living beings. They want to grow. They needs stewards. Citizens willing to give them water, sun, soil and yes, cheesily enough, love.”
More links and information
Seed Companies in Canada -list of seed companies in Canada, as well as the vegetable and fruit seed they’ve sold in recent years.
Peterborough Seed Savers Collective – Great short film (2015) about seed saving work happening locally – follow local seeds being grown out by the emerging Seed Savers Collective, and being shared at an annual Seedy Sunday event.
Why is Biodiversity Important? – Learn why diversity of plants and animals is important.
Canadian Seed Security – The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security works with farmers, researchers, universities, and other organizations to develop resources that can help farmers and seed growers advance their knowledge on seed in Canada.
Seed Savers Exchange – Stewards America’s culturally diverse and endangered garden and food crop legacy for present and future generations. We educate and connect people through collecting, regenerating, and sharing heirloom seeds, plants, and stories.