[i just wanted to wish jill from studio choo a big congratulations- she’s getting married this weekend! best wishes for a long and happy marriage, jill! also, ashley is taking a week off, so “small measures” will return next week]
You know Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is no ordinary garden shop the second you turn down Petaluma Boulevard. Housed in the towering old 1926 Sonoma County Bank, it’s hard to miss the Seed Bank. Selling over 1200 varieties of seeds, the Seed Bank is a stand out not only because of its impressive edifice, but it’s the company’s commitment to growing and promoting varieties of heirloom fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers that attract backyard gardeners and locavores from miles around. Even non-gardeners can’t resist poking their heads into the marble building to take a look at the rows and rows of colorful seed packets carefully cataloged and tucked into beautiful Amish-built seed racks the owners had custom built on-site.
Started in Mansfield, Missouri by 17 year-old Jere Gettle in 1998, it turns out that there’s very little that’s ordinary about Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. When Gettle started collecting the seeds of older, rarer varieties of plants and selling them through his mail order business he found that there were gardeners, growers, and small farmers all over the country interested in growing their own heirloom crops and antique flowers and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds quickly found a following. Many of the seeds we buy from big seed companies at the local hardware store or garden shop have been manufactured, modified, and hybridized over the decades and many older varieties of fruits and vegetables have been lost in the process. Gettle’s commitment to pure seeds (all seeds are non-GMO) and seed preservation have made Baker Creek the go-to seed store for thousands of gardeners. The success of his Missouri store led to the company opening it’s first branch way out west in Petaluma, where foodies, farming and slow food movements converge.
When we visited the Seed Bank there was a haul of locally grown potatoes in the middle of the marble floor, still covered in dirt with handmade signs describing the different varieties. The rows are organized by types of fruits, vegetables and flowers, and the seed packets (all either from Baker Creek or other small seed companies around the country) have colorful vintage graphics. Almost every seed gets a detailed description and origin story (many are from the 19th and early 20th century).
CLICK HERE for the rest of the seed bank post (and more beautiful pictures) after the jump!
We left the Seed Bank with a brand new stash of seeds and wanted to make sure that we took good care of our new investment so we decided to create our own little seed bank to keep them until we’re ready to start planting. Seeds are actually alive and lifespans range from six months to ten years. Storing seeds in cool, dry, dark conditions is considered best. We used some corked bottles, labels, and an old recipe box to make our own bank. Since seeds need to be kept dry above all else, store your seeds in an airtight container, such as zip lock bags, jars or glassine envelope. We used corked vials to store our seeds and typed up labels letting us know which was which, and included the date so we remember how old our seeds are. Many gardeners encourage adding a desiccant to your seeds to keep the conditions extra dry. We made sure to save the seed envelopes, too, storing them alphabetically in our handy recipe box for future reference. Seeds like it a bit cooler than room temperature so find a cool place in your house to store your bank. Our recipe box can easily be stored in the back of the fridge until planting season is here or, more likely, until we actually have time to plant them. Here’s a quick guide to vegetable seed lifespans you can print up and store in your own seed bank, and more information in general about seed storage from the folks at The Heirloom Gardener. If all goes well and our green thumbs start to itch, you may be seeing a post about Parisian Picklings in the near future.