The ground has been covered with snow these past 3 weeks and it is freezing in the northeast. Too cold to go outside and I’m starting to get cabin fever. Yet, when I received a package of heirloom seeds from Clear Creek Seeds my mood brightened considerably. It’s time to start thinking about the garden!
In my search for non-GMO, heirloom, untreated and non-hybrid seeds for my garden I came across the Clear Creek Seed Company. I found them to be completely transparent about their seeds. They are on a mission to protect heirloom seeds and I applaud them for that.
I thought an interview with Rick Nation, the owner of this family run business was the best way to get you some important information about how to choose seeds, what to do with them and other important tips for having a successful, natural garden.
I want to expand my garden this year and start a lot of the plants from seeds and I have to say that I already learned a great deal!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your company mission?
Our mission is simple, to help maintain a source of quality seeds to supply families with good nutritious vegetables for generations to come.
My family and I had two purposes in mind while starting our business, one was to establish something that we personally believed in and two was to to do something we could pass down to our children. Running an honest business is very important to us and we gauge how we are doing by the feedback we receive from our loyal customers. Our high level of repeat customers indicates to us that we are on to something. All people want a good product at a fair price but it is the service that sets companies apart. We strive to provide the best service in the industry.
Can you explain the importance of having signed the Safe Seed Pledge and what is the Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG)?
Signing the Safe Seed Pledge shows our customers our commitment to providing only the highest quality seeds.
We offer only heirloom, non-GMO, untreated, non-hybrid seeds. Quality seeds produce quality plants.
The Council for Responsible Genetics is the leader behind responsible genetics and an opponent to genetically modified food. We decided to join their cause after being introduced to them through their Safe Seed Campaign. We do our part to warn of the dangers of GMOs through articles on our website, customer contact at markets and expos, and through lectures at local colleges and garden group meetings.
Can consumers trust seeds that are labeled “organic”?
Only seeds grown under conditions mandated by the National Standard for Organic Agriculture can be sold as “organic”. The certification requires rigorous soil testing and the use of only approved fertilizers and pest controls, among other criteria.
This is a costly process which most seed suppliers find prohibitive. Customers understand this and find that the heirloom label is sufficient for assurance of quality. Even though many of our seeds are from certified organic sources, we don’t label them as such, heirloom says it all.
Can you give some tips for starting the seeds?
Different varieties have different requirements but all have common needs: good soil, warmth, water, and oxygen. While starting seeds indoors, you are trying to simulate ideal outdoor conditions for your variety. Correct soil temperature, correct amount of water, correct exposure to light will produce plants ready for the great outdoors.
Some varieties are not good candidates for starting indoors. Our website has to tons of information to help with this. We want to be a source of information to you and maybe even sell some seeds in the process.
What is the best soil to start the seeds in?
Most people will buy a seed starting soil mix from a local store. Others will mix their own providing they have all the materials at their disposal, namely organic materials usually found on a farm. There are quality seed-starting mixes which are formulated to discourage common soil borne pathogens that cause seedlings to rot, and to retain both water and air with ease. But as with anything, having someone else make it for you will cost you extra. People tend to have the “perfect” mix which lends too many variations.
However, it’s not the precise mixture, but what’s on top of the soil that counts most. We discovered that differences between commercial organic seed-starting mixtures and various homemade mixtures almost disappear when all of the seeds are covered with vermiculite instead of a planting medium. Vermiculite is a wonder additive to seed starting soil. It improves aeration, enhances drainage, conditions to soil, and raises the pH. It’s a wonder-food for seeds.
When is the best time to start the seeds?
Referring to starting seeds indoors, this depends on different factors but mainly which varieties you are starting. It’s best to work backwards when thinking this through. Determine when you are wanting to transplant your plants into your garden. Determine how long it takes for your variety to get to the stage of being transplanted safely. That’s your date to start your seeds indoors.
A basic rule for starting outdoors is after the last frost and when the soil is a consistent warm temperature. This is different for every zone so check our website for all the details. Keeping good notes will be invaluable for you next year. You have to know your garden and use everything else as a good resource.
When would someone know when to transplant the seedlings?
There is no hard and fast rule of when to transplant a seedling out into your garden. The general rule of thumb is that when a seedling has 3-4 true leaves, it’s ready. The first leaves to emerge are the cotyledons which will look different from leaves that will grow later. True leaves grow shortly after the cotyledons.
Making sure that the plant has enough of these leaves to keep it sustained when planted out in your garden is important to its proper growth. Just remember, it is not how tall but how many true leaves your plant has that will determine when you should be planted outdoors.
How can we attract pollinators to the garden?
We started offering flower seeds for the sole purpose of creating pollinator-friendly gardens. Attracting pollinators to gardens is simple if you just follow a few steps. You first must select flower varieties which are rich in pollen and nectar.
We offer flower varieties which are good attractants for common pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Flower colors are also important. Bees are attracted to blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow. Another trick is to plant flowers in clusters of single species which attract more pollinators than individual plants.
And don’t use pesticides. They are not selective and kill both bad and beneficial bugs.
Are there “organic” ways to get rid of pests in the garden?
A hundred years ago farmers had the same problems with crop pests as we do today but did not rely on the harmful pesticides. Farmers came up with multiple remedies for removing insect infestations from their garden plants. These include insect traps, careful crop selection, and biological controls (such as predator insects and beneficial microorganisms).
Natural solutions such as neem oil, salt spray, mineral oil, citrus oil, cayenne pepper, onion/garlic sprays, etc. and flowers such as marigolds and vegetables such as radishes did the job perfectly without having to worry about poisoning their families.
What is the best way to store seeds?
How you prepare and store your seeds is important to their eventual viability. Processing seeds for storage varies by variety. They all must be carefully dried and then stored under the proper conditions in order to give them the best chances of germinating and producing healthy plants.
All seeds must be thoroughly dried before storage which may require the use of a desiccant such as silica gel. Once dry, transfer the dried seeds quickly into airtight storage jars and place in a freezer, refrigerator or other cool, dark place. They will be ready when you are ready to start your garden.
Get more information on seed storing here.
How can we save seeds?
Conditions for saving seeds (dark, low humidity, cold) are the opposite to the conditions seeds need to grow (light, wet, warm). The best way to save seeds for future plantings are to keep the seeds in the original seed packets; that way you know where they came from, the name, planting instructions, etc. Then put them in clear sealable sandwich baggies with the date on the baggie. This way you know when you started storing them.
Put all of the baggies in a gallon sealable container and put it into the freezer. Your freezer is cold and has low humidity. You probably don’t go into the freezer several times a day like the refrigerator. Each time you open/shut the door, the outside air comes in, raises the temperature and humidity. This isn’t good for your seeds. Under these conditions you will be able to save your seeds for years. We have a seed viability chart on our website detailing the life expectancy for different varieties under ideal conditions. Use this as a guide when doing your seed saving planning.
Where can we get your seeds?
Our entire selection of heirloom, non-GMO, pure seeds (vegetable, flower, and herbs) can be found on our website, www.clearcreekseeds.com.
Your readers may want to checkout our seed ordering tips before they order.
Rick, thank you so much for all this important information and for the work you do!
Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot more confident in starting seeds this year! I’m so happy to have found Clear Creek Seeds because I really trust them to offer the heritage seeds that I am looking for!
Disclosure: I did receive remuneration and product in exchange for this post. But I would never promote a product I did not believe in and this company is one that I trust.