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Gardeners get a start with seed exchange

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By Arin McKenna

It was obvious from the number of people walking around town in short sleeved shirts during the early February “heat wave” that spring fever had set in. In some people, that brings on the urge to get their garden going.
Although it is far too early for that, Master Gardener KokHeong McNaughton says it is the perfect time of year to start the seeds for that garden.
“This is about the time of year to start seeds, right after Groundhog Day,” McNaughton said. “According to the agricultural calendar, this is when most farmers would start thinking about planting seeds.”
To help facilitate that, the church’s gardening group began hosting the Community Seed Swap three years ago.
The idea grew out of the local permaculture group’s annual seed exchange. The group meets for breakfast on the second Friday each month to talk about permaculture. Every year they gather to trade the seeds they saved the previous year for others.
Since most of the group’s members belong to the Unitarian Church, they decided to turn their annual swap into a church project open to other members of the congregation.
“And then we decided, why don’t we involve the community,” McNaughton said, and the Community Seed Swap was born.
According to McNaughton, the event has slowly grown in popularity.
“Every year we get a few more people who know about it and look forward to it,” McNaughton said.
McNaughton reassures those who have no seeds to offer. She tells people, “Take as many as you want, and then you will have some, and then you can bring it back next year.”
McNaughton also provides handouts on starting seeds inside and on winter sowing, something she loves introducing people to.
“Basically, in the winter, you get to be so stuck in the house and you want to do something outside. So you mimic nature,” McNaughton said. “In nature, the plants drop their seeds in the fall, and it get covered with snow and it stays there and goes through a period of dormancy when it gets cold. And then in the spring it comes up.”
Winter sowing starts with cutting a container such as a milk jug in half and putting a drainage hole in it. That is filled with soil and seeds; then the top of the jug is reattached. The makeshift terrarium is placed outside and kept moist until spring. When the seeds begin to sprout, the container is opened up to let the sun in.
“And when it does, it’s just so beautiful. It’s so exciting to see the little sprouts,” McNaughton said. “And you open it up and take care of it.”
This year’s plant swap is May 14 and May 20. For more information, contact McNaughton at 920-6808 or kokheong@comcast.net.