Category Archives: Seeds

Spring is in the air…

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
―Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg


I don’t know that I find anything more energizing than seeing the first daffodils emerge, a sign that spring has surely arrived.

…The cool mornings and warm afternoon breezes, the drizzly mornings, the sunny afternoons, the grass awakening to a vivid green, the red buds, the dogwoods, the cherries….Spring is my soul medicine.

It’s hard for me to not want to skip out of my job and spend my days barefoot gardening, and my nights cleaning out and organizing my home.  Spring is a time to start fresh and allow yourself, and your garden, to grow, flourish, and fruit.

Look how happy spring makes me…

By now you have hopefully prepared your beds, if not, it’s never too late…maybe.  You can now focus on the health of your soil and your spring, summer, and fall garden plan.  Planning ahead allows you to reap a continuous harvest, and avoid a lot of frustration and confusion.

Compost is key to soil health, and you should consider adding about a 2″ application over your beds and incorporating it 6″ deep into the soil.  There are many sources of compost.

You can get fully composted animal manures, mushroom compost (though this may be laden with harmful chemicals if not organic), make your own compost from kitchen scraps and waste, etc.

I find that making compost is the best source.  For one, it’s pretty much free.  Secondly, you know what is in it.  And lastly, you help keep all those kitchen scraps from ending up in a landfill and leaking methane gases into the atmosphere.

Spring time, to me, smells like soil.  The bacteria are kicking into full-drive, as they decompose matter to create fertile, earthy goodness.  You can tell the health of your soil from smelling, feeling, and looking at it.

Healthy soil should form a ball that can be broken by  the light push of the finger.  It should smell like the forest floor, and it should be dark with very few large clumps.

If you find that your soil is heavy in clay (in Polk County??….neevveerr).  Adding compost, over the years will help to fix some of the problems associated with heavy clay soils.  Clay soil tends to hold onto too much water, hinders root development, causes caking of the top layer, and decreases the ability of plants to absorb certain nutrients.

Compost improves aeration, drainage, soil texture, organic matter content, and bacteria in the soil.  Over time it increases the fertility of the soil, allowing you to grow healthy plants with minimal input.

This blog was just a taste of the gardening information out there.  The best way to learn to garden, is to garden.  Let your mistakes teach you, find what works best for your space and time, experiment, and most of all, delight in your successes.

A great website that has helped me a lot is

A good book for a quick reference is the Rodales’ Complete Guide to Organic Gardening.  Don’t let the size fool you.  This big book has short informational blurbs on almost anything you could think of.  My mom gave me her copy, and for that reason, I love it most of all.

So, as you shed away the winter blues and begin to work your garden, be sure to acknowledge the joy it brings you, and share this with those around you.

Happy Spring to you!



Feel free to email me with questions:

Sydney Klein



Gardening with Kids

This week marked the beginning of a new educational program run by Sydney and Alex, the AmeriCorps members at PCOAED.  The after-school program seeks to increase children’s understanding of where their food comes from, how to grow it themselves, and the nutritional benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

The program will continue until school lets out and will incorporate vegetable and herb gardening, cooking, and additional outdoor science education.  Heidi Ramsey, the after school director at Polk Central Elementary, has allowed us to visit the school once a week to provide hands-on, environmental education.


This week’s focus was on seeds.

Everyone was allowed to feel, smell, and explore a variety of seeds that are common in cooking and baking.  The children were excited and engaged as they realized they had eaten mustard, poppy, sesame, and dill seeds.  They were allowed to crush up coriander seeds and smell the fragrant, lemony odor.

The students then learned about seed growth and season extension.  In preparation for an early spring garden, the children planted broccoli, kale, kholrabi, mustard, and lettuce seeds in flats.

A large part of experiential education is open exploration.  As an educator you are there to answer questions as they arise, but not to hinder students from self-discovery.

I have spent the last three years teaching children about environmental conservation and gardening, and it is by far the most rewarding and exciting job one could ask for.

Children love dirt, worms, and most of all, eating.

Gardens allow a space for exploration and learning outside the traditional classroom.  Kinesthetic learners who may struggle in school, thrive, as they are able to learn through physical movement and self-guided problem solving.

Children also learn to prepare fresh produce, and often when they cook these things themselves, they are excited to eat them, and even ask for seconds!

I can’t wait to see how the students learn and develop as we progress through our gardening program.  I hope to provide a weekly update, and hopefully some funny stories, as we ourselves learn as we teach.


The Pinnacle of Self Reliance – On Farm Seed Production

Carolina Farm Stewardship is offering an awesome opportunity to learn from the best, Dr. john Navazio of the Organic Seed Alliance and with none of that drive 4 hours to Raleigh junk either – he’s comin’ to the mountains! On Thursday, March 20th from 9 am to 1 pm he will be at the Mountain Horticultural Research Station.  This is an awesome opportunity and not to be missed. More details below:

On-Farm Variety Trials, Seed Production and Plant Breeding: A Primer for Organic Vegetable Growers
Who: Dr. John Navazio, Organic Seed Alliance Senior Scientist and Washington SU Extension Organic Seed Specialist
+Principles of designing, conducting and evaluating on-farm variety trials using basic scientific methods
+Choosing appropriate varieties, integrating trials into your current production, and crop traits to consider for trial assessment
+The basics of reproductive biology, harvest timing and seed cleaning using vegetable crop examples that are best suited for seed production in the varied climates of NC
+Classical breeding methods that can be used to enhance varietal adaptation to your cultural practices and environmental/market challenges
While open to anyone, content will be aimed at growers who have strong baseline knowledge in sustainable vegetable production. We also welcome extension personnel and those providing technical assistance in the agricultural field.
When/Where: 9 AM – 1 PM (Sign in at 8:30 AM)
Monday, March 17, 2014
The Center for Environmental Farming Systems
Main Farm Complex (Service Building) Goldsboro, NC 27530
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
North Carolina A&T State University
Coltrane Hall (Godfrey Room) Greensboro NC, 27420
Parking for workshop available at: House of Prayer for All People Church
101 South Dudley Street, Greensboro, NC 27401
Directions: Attached to this email
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center
455 Research Drive, Mills River, NC 28759
***The WNC Organic Broccoli stakeholders meeting and presentation of 2012-2013 Participatory Broccoli Variety Trial results will follow the March 20th workshop from 1:30-3:00PM. If you plan to attend RSVP to:
Cost: $10 includes all workshop materials, snacks and beverages throughout the morning.
First-time registrants in this system simply create a guest user name and password by clicking the “New Visitor Registration” link when prompted to login. If you are a current CFSA member you should already be in the system with your login name being your primary email. Click the “Forgot your password?” link to have it reset it and send you an email with a new one.
Contact the following people with questions:
Registration: Anna Dobbs, anna@carolinafarmstewards.org919-542-2402
Workshop content & day-of support: Eric Soderholm, eric@carolinafarmstewards.org252-482-0696 (o), 301-221-7119 (m)

Taking All the Trouble Out of Picking Seeds

This is plain amazing! There is nothing quite like getting new seed catalogs in the mail during the doldrums of winter but I have always found myself at ordering time overwhelmed with the choices and having six different catalogs laid out before me can never quite choose. But today we can rejoice for life is about to get a whole lot easier – we found this site through (and if you haven’t been there it’s a great place to go) but the website compares seed catalog prices and varieties and takes it all the way down to how many seeds you are getting per dollar spent.