Seeds are fantastic! These little dry insignificant beads can give life to your lettuce, tomatoes or even a huge mango tree!!! Can you imagine? As the master of seeds here at RVA, I have the privilege to work with them at least twice a week during what we call Common Action.

What does it mean to work with seeds? Well, with my accomplices, we set seeds to make seedlings to plant in our gardens. We make sure that we have enough of each type of plant we want to provide in the garden. It is important that we produce a wide diversity of seedlings as we work according to permaculture principles and intercropping and promoting biodiversity is key! Mixing plant families together and adding a lot of aromatic herbs on the same beds reduces the risk of diseases and increases the fertility of the soil. Students that work with me in the seed nursery, learn about the different plant families, they learn how to recognize the seeds and the seedlings from the different plants. After a few months, they are able to advise their teammates about the plants that need to be directly seeded in the beds or the ones that need to become strong seedlings before being transplanted in the beds. It is a really important and interesting activity. Every week, we use our newly made, rich compost to set our babies! We make a few trays of lettuce seedlings (Lettuce is our ground cover crop that goes in between of a lot of other crops. It grows fast and keeps the ground covered until the taller crops are big enough to keep the area weeds free! it’s a good combination!), pakchoy is a favorite as well (it grows incredibly well here!), cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, all sorts of sweet and hot peppers, beetroots, cucumbers, squash, watermelons… It is always a joy to see them sprouting the next week! Weeding the seeds trays is a fun and critical activity! Some young weeds have the tendency to pretend they are seedlings and seedlings sometimes just hide between the weeds! Learning how to recognize them engages almost all of your senses. First sight, some have such specific shapes that it’s easy to spot them, for the others, one might need to touch and feel the leaves, smelling them is also a good idea! Still, sometimes seedlings lose the battle when an unexperimented eye decides of their fate! I have to pay a lot of attention!!!!

As part of the Seeds master job, I am also in charge of the seeds greenhouse. In this space, we grow plants that will be used to save seeds. Nobody is allowed to harvest anything to eat out of this greenhouse! We are used to seeing pumpkin or tomatoe seeds, but some other crops can be quite surprising! What a surprise for many of us to find out how to save seeds from lettuce or pakchoy! It is a very precise work. One day the pods are green and the next they are overripe and the seeds just fall on the ground! It’s a tricky process to know exactly when to harvest!!! The seeds are very tiny and it is often a long process to collect just a few of them. But what a rewarding activity, once you have harvested the seeds from your veggies and you seed them to make new seedlings! The second and third generations of your plants are more and more adapted to the local climate.

One of my favorite parts of the job is to find new species and new seeds wherever I go and try to collect them to expand our seeds collection! Our seeds greenhouse is like an experimental lab! We plant new species found here and there, hopefully adapted to a hot and humid climate, and we watch them grow and develop into delicious fruits!

The Seed nursery also includes a Trees Nursery. Whenever someone eats any local fruit, the tradition wants that they keep the seeds. This allows to always have a supply of local fruit trees ready to be planted, either in our beautiful fruit forest or in the community, in someone’s backyard garden or in a local school. Trees demand a lot of care and specific conditions to grow, but what a satisfaction to see your cherry seed point it’s first green leaves out of the dirt!

Working with seeds is a joy and a very rewarding process! All students and teachers that engage in this work are usually touched and fascinated by the beauty of the results. I would encourage anyone with a garden to start saving seeds from a few plants, just for the pure joy of watching them grow in the next season!