Backyard Seed Bank

Launched in 2010, The Backyard Seed Bank is a campaign to get gardeners to think about where their seeds come from, pass on skills on how to save seeds, and create a living seed bank growing in backyards of our community.

Seed Swap

Last modified on 2013-02-15 11:39:44 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Join in the ever-popular and truly great time that is the BASIL Seed Swap on Friday, February 15 from 7-9 pm at the Ecology Center in Berkeley.

Seed Swap Card

Potluck supper, hoe down music, home-grown garden seeds, raffle and the company of fantastic local gardeners!  To prepare please pre-label your seeds with the common name, variety name, genus, species, harvest location, year harvested, the # of plants collected from, cooking and growing  information.

Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave, near Dwight Way, Berkeley.  Bring food and seeds to share or $10 donation.

7:00 Making the most of the Seed Swapwith Mat Rogers of Curate-a Crop in the Sierra Club Room

The bounty of tables and tables full of seeds at the BASIL Seed Swap can be mind-boggling and the desire to collect them all overwhelming for the enthusiastic gardener and seed saver. This talk will cover basics to help you make the most of the seed swap.  What crops can be grown together and produce viable seed?  Which seeds can be sown directly in the garden and which must be started indoors?  How do I know if this seed is good?  Find out the answers to these and many more questions in this informative workshop before the seed swap.

7:30 on Old Tyme Music in the Ecology Center

Swap seeds and sign up for the Curate-a-crop program

Your local seed libraries need you to grow, save, and return seed. Help by joining the Curate-a-Crop program.

  • Pick out one or more varieties from the collection highlights to grow out
  • Accompanied by a series of workshops to make you a skilled seed saver
  • Events for the nascent seed saving community
  • Return seed and share your story after the harvest
  • Create a population of locally-adapted open-pollinated seed to feed our cities

Sign up at

8:30 Raffle!

Gift Certificate to Good Vibrations

Gift Certificate to Westbrea Nursery

Gift Certificate to Urban Ore

Gift Certificate for a Yoga class from Bridget Fredrick

Pink Garden Pruners from Hida Tools

Edible Plants from People’s Grocery

Local Chile Mint Tea from Grey Dog Teas

Baked Goods from Oakland Hearth Bakery & Catering

9:00 Seed Swap Ends, Clean Up Begins!

Please lend a hand! There will be a lot to clean!

9:30 Afterparty, Karaoke at Nicks Lounge!

Sing your heart out all night with other rowdy gardeners!

3218 Adeline St Berkeley, CA 94703


Seed Swap and Class next weekend

Last modified on 2012-03-25 16:36:58 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Agrariana’s Backyard Seed Bank invites you to two upcoming seed saving events…

Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL) 13th Annual Seed Swap

Friday, March 30, 2012

Potluck supper, hoe down music, home-grown garden seeds, and the company of fantastic local gardeners! Come learn about seed saving classes and the Library. BASIL is a project of the Ecology Center.

7pm – 9pm. Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave, near Dwight Way, Berkeley

Cost: food and seeds to share or $10 donation.

More info at: 510-548-2220 x233,,

Basic Seed Saving Workshop

April 1, 1-3 pm, at Permaculture Institute of the East Bay

Resister to RSVP and be given the location.

Co-taught by the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL) and Agrariana

This is the kickoff event for our Curate a Crop campaign for the 2012 growing season, a series of workshops and community events to teach you everything you need to know to be a proficient backyard seed grower to share seeds with friends, neighbors, and local seed libraries.

This hands on workshop will cover basic seed saving, botanical terms, plant sex, garden planning & seed processing. We will focus on beans, lettuce, peppers, & tomatoes.

Participants who wish to grow seed for their local seed library will receive plants or seeds of locally adapted, open pollinated vegetables.

Sliding scale $5-30, no one turned away, please RSVP

For more info contact

Seed Saving Basics at Mosswood Community Garden

Last modified on 2011-10-14 17:51:35 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

Mat Rogers is a  Mosswood Community Garden volunteer and the director of Agrariana, who’s Backyard Seed Bank project works with local gardeners to grow and save quality seed for local seed banks as part of the East Bay Seed Hub. He will give a free talk on ‘Seed Saving Basics’ Saturday, Oct 15 at 10 am in the Mosswood Community Garden near the intersection of MacArthur Blvd. and Webster St. in Oakland.

Mat will talk about why people save seeds, how plants reproduce, and three families of very easy seeds to save — beans and peas, tomatoes, and lettuce.  The talk will last about an hour and include seed processing demos so you’ll be ready to save seed at home and plan your garden for seed saving next year.  For those wishing more in-depth discussion, he’ll continue after the main talk to have a roundtable discussion about more advanced seed saving while we do some seed processing.

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Purple Carrots

Last modified on 2011-08-23 17:56:19 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Cosmic Purple Carrot

I recently harvested a bumper crop of carrots (cultivar Cosmic Purple) from a plot in Oakland’s Mosswood Community Garden.  They’re gorgeously purple on the outside with a vibrant orange interior and green core.  Beautiful sliced and though each carrot isn’t huge, they are amazingly crisp and extremely sweet.

This variety is a clear winner for Bay Area gardening.  Carrots are biennials, meaning they wouldn’t go to seed this year.  I wanted to turn over the garden bed, so I didn’t leave any plants in the ground to go to seed.  Maybe there will be space nest season for one bed to eat and another to grow out for seed.

Seed Saving Subtleties

Last modified on 2011-07-02 16:45:42 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Psst! I have a secret to share. I’ve been in meetings of late in old metal workshops and on blighted streetcorners. Up to seedy business. Envelopes with unknown contents have changed hands and there’s been talking of putting things underground.

No, I haven’t joined the Bay Area mafia, but I can share that it looks like Agrariana’s Backyard Seed Bank campaign is collaborating with the spunky startup, the  Seedfolks, to bring more seed saving and sharing to our community in the near future.

Which has all reminded me of a great article from March in the NYT, Heirloom Seeds of Flinty Hybrids.  I want to bring your attention to how the piece sussed out the various ways open-pollinated varieties can originate.

First, there are the family legacies, like Bakery’s squash. Emma Adkins, of Van Lear, Ky., took this striped acorn cultivar from her mother’s garden and donated it to Seed Savers in 1994.

Perhaps the greatest number of heirlooms comes from the second group: old market varieties. A classic example is the Danvers carrot. The Fedco Seeds catalog traces this vegetable back to Massachusetts farmers in 1871.

Third is a “modern heirloom” like the sugar snap pea. The vegetable breeder Calvin Lamborn developed this open-pollinated favorite for the Gallatin Valley Seed Company in the 1970s.

The origins of the sugar snap, a rogue, thick-walled pea, lie in Mr. Torgrimson’s fourth category, “mystery heirlooms.” These are serendipitous discoveries and field crosses that farmers and gardeners decide to preserve and plant again.

So, to review, all heirlooms are open-pollinated, but all open-pollinated varieties are not heirlooms.  Open-pollinated varieties can arise in at least four ways.  A cultivar can be passed down through generations — literally an heirloom in the common sense of the word.  The Champion of England pea would be a good example. The variety can be a resurrected market variety from the past, such as the White Egg Turnip. Modern heirlooms would include open-pollinated cultivars developed by state agricultural extension programs, modern breeders such as the Podoll family profiled in Lisa Hamilton’s Deeply Rooted, and varieties developed by Santa Rosa horticulturalist Luther Burbank (Burbank practiced both hybridization and classical breeding). The fourth example would be a desirable recessive trait that surfaces from the many, many Punnett squares happening when a bed or field of plants are allowed to cross.

A fifth example to point out are varieties developed in various parts of the world and brought to our attention through international seed exchanges or seed hunters. An example is the Tigger Melon, from an Armenian market. There are probably many more ways for open-pollinated cultivars to develop since we are, after all, talking about the riot of fecundity that is plant reproduction.

Tigger Melon

Photo by Zanshinart/Flickr

The article takes a very even-handed view of hybrids. Seed companies might do dastardly things with hybrids to maintain profits or undercut small growers, but biologically, rather than the boogie-seed they’ve been portrayed as, seeds from an F-1 hybrid contain genetic material from the two parent plants plus any other individuals the hybrid might have cross-pollinated with. The offspring population’s genetics will have more heterogeneity than a stable open-pollinated population and may have traits that are unlike those that prompted the creation of the hybrid and may be undesirable. Then again, seeds are not static and it is through unfettered breeding that a desirable rogue, like the sugar snap pea, might develop. That’s just the biology of hybrids, though Pollan warns us “the decision to plant one variety and not another is freighted with moral and environmental significance.”

So take a moment to ponder these seed subtleties and be on the lookout for Agrariana/Seedfolks programs coming soon.