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Keeping Heirloom Gardening Relevant
Terry Harper
Skilled gardener Terry Harper with the Riverbank Heirloom Garden Club hosted a presentation at the Riverbank library earlier this month to share knowledge about fruits, vegetables, and planting a winter garden. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

With an idea to start a free seed library, experienced gardener Terry Harper with the Riverbank Heirloom Garden Club held a presentation at the Riverbank Library earlier this month where he discussed planting a winter garden. He also offered information on seeds, vegetables, fruits, and bugs, bringing awareness about Heirloom gardens because, as Harper noted, they are declining.

The idea that Harper has regarding a seed ‘library’ would follow the concept of checking out a book from the library and then returning it. As an example he explained that the seeds could be held at the library and other gardeners could bring seeds and take seeds as needed at no cost. The person would take the seeds for whatever they would like to plant and grow and then once their vegetables are harvested they save the seeds and return them to the library. Having a local seed bank would ensure that there are fruits and vegetables that grow in our area and climate.

“Everybody buys plants and not seeds,” stated Harper. “People don’t know how to start seeds. They don’t know where seeds come from they just know the plant. The presentation is to try to help people learn how to grow some good wholesome food.”

Heirloom seeds are pure seeds. They are not genetically modified organisms (GMO) and they are not hybrids. Hybrid gardening is planting two different plants together to create one vegetable or fruit. The seeds from the hybrids may not sprout and if they do, Harper explained that you never know what you are going to get. For example, if you plant a squash you may get a yellow squash or you may get a striped squash and the seeds are not pure.

“Heirloom seeds are pure seeds,” added Harper. “They have been around for thousands of years. So when you plant them you know it is going to come back the same thing.”

During the hour-long presentation recently at the Riverbank branch library, Harper shared gardening knowledge and tips like how to keep weeds out of your plants by using newspaper. He also brought a few gardening tools that he gave away to guests in attendance along with some seeds.

There were a couple of books that Harper had on hand like “Good Bug Bad Bug” that helps gardeners know which bugs are good for their garden and which ones are not. Another book was the “Seed to Seed” book to help gardeners know how to save seeds and utilize growing techniques like not crossing the plants. “Carrots love Tomatoes” is a book that helps people plant the right plants together for a successful garden.

A winter garden should be planted this month, according to Harper, and some of the vegetables that you can grow during the winter are Brussels sprouts, beets, spinach, radishes, broccoli, onions, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, and celery, to name a few.

Specifics on how to lay out your garden, start your seeds, record keeping, soil preparation, pest control and harvest were all topics on the agenda at the Riverbank Heirloom Garden Club session. Harper invites the public to join the club; there are no dues, by-laws, or elected positions, however, there is the sharing of knowledge and free heirloom seeds.

For more information regarding the Riverbank Heirloom Garden Club call 209-869-1325 or email