The Populuxe Seed Bank is a privately run seed bank located in Victoria, BC.
In January 2009 I decided to start my own private seed bank. Over the course of 2009 and 2010 the original number of a handful of varieties of seeds I started with has grown to over 100 heirloom and open pollinated varieties, and is growing exponentially as each month passes, and other dedicated growers donate their seeds for preservation.
The Populuxe Seed Bank was born to acquire seeds, grow them out, and then redistribute them to anybody wishing to grow these varieties. The Populuxe Seed Bank also documents seed histories to preserve the stories associated with the variety. The Populuxe Seed Bank helps to educate other private growers on how they can start their own seed bank to help preserve biodiversity.
Please feel free to browse the site and send me any questions you may have.
The Populuxe Seed Bank has a twitter feed here.
As you may have noticed, this blog and site have been quiet the past few months. There is a very good reason for that, and let me assure you that it’s not because the seed bank has been forgotten or neglected.
Life sometimes gets in the way, and unfortunately that is affecting my work with the seed bank. Major life changes are happening for me right now, but once those have settled down a bit, the seed bank will kick back into high gear, and with some pretty good sized changes.
So, never fear, the Populuxe Seed Bank has not been abandoned, but I’m only able to put in the minimum required amount of work for right now, which unfortunately means no real grow outs this year either.
If you would still like to order seeds, rest assured that I am still sending those out, although it may take a day or two longer than it would normally take me.
Thanks for your patience, and stay tuned, because changes are coming (especially for next year!).
My first foray into growing cotztomatl in 2012 started out a little bit bumpy, but I’m pleased that this plant found its footing in my garden and not only grew, but grew really well. There were a few surprises growing this plant, and having spread the seed around a bit in 2013, I’d like to provide those attempting to grow this one themselves with a bit more information than I had to go on.
It wasn’t just me growing it this year, two friends Meighan and Gayla wanted to grow this one out with me, so we all started the seeds at more or less the same time and started comparing notes.
I had a tough time initially starting this seed. I start my seeds with bottom heat, but no enclosures/domes in order to keep the air circulating. Normally this works just fine for my Solanums, but after weeks I had seen nothing from my Cotztomatl. I resowed. Nothing again. I was starting to think all was lost. Until we compared notes.
Gayla and Meighan started theirs in an actual seed enclosure – and both of them had no trouble with germination. So I resowed again, this time with miniature domes around their individual cells, and sure enough, they germinated no problem.
First lesson learned with Cotztomatl: You need bottom heat and high humidity for proper germination.
The seeds and plants themselves look much like tomatillos, although they have more of a sprawling growth habit. Tomatillos generally grow up from one central stalk, cotztomatl grows out from several at the soil level.
Second lesson learned: These guys need at least three feet of room to grow in every direction. They’re almost unstakeable/uncageable. So give them room to sprawl.
Once they were transplanted they almost needed no care at all. I planted three separate plants, to make sure they had cross-pollination (I wasn’t sure if they were like tomatillos where multiple plants are needed in order to get higher pollination rates), and just let them go.
The blooms also resemble tomatillos, although they seem to be bigger. They’re a lighter yellow on the outside with a deeper purple/black closer to the centre. They’re gorgeous flowers, and they flower profusely. The plants are gorgeous in the garden just for their flowers alone.
Fruit set was very good (again, I can’t speak for if you only have one plant), it seemed to be very close to 100%. Like tomatillos, without a good amount of heat ripening and setting can be slower. My plants had about 6 hours of direct sun a day, with about 4 additional hours of dappled sun. They did just fine.
I started harvesting the first fruit in August, but the real huge amount came around September/October. Mountains and mountains of the fruit.
So what did it taste like? It’s kind of like a mealier, earthier tomatillo with a slight fruity finish. Sounds strange, right? The fruit is small, less than 1″ in diameter, and a golden orange. It has the husk like many other Physalis species, and that needs to be removed for consumption.
The raw taste was a little… strange. I snacked on a few, it was alright, Gayla hated the flavour.
Third lesson learned: The raw flavour is alright, if a little weird. Cooking with them is awesome.
I liked throwing them into chili and random Mexican-type dishes. They add quite a nice, subtle, earthy flavour to the dish. I imagine they’d be awesome in a salsa, but unfortunately I didn’t make any salsa this year.
I let my plants go on a bit – I live in a place with a very mild winter (snow is scarce at best), so I wanted to see how long these would last for. They even survived a few light frosts without any damage. Unfortunately, a few successive hard frosts is what finally killed them off in January. However, with a cover I believe they would have survived even then.
Fourth lesson learned: It’s a very tender perennial in zone 8. Light frosts won’t kill the plants, but successive hard frosts will.
These buggers are not easy to harvest seed from – even more finicky than saving seed from tomatillos. In my ultimate laziness I decided to let them sit outside. Seriously, I just let the fruit sit there, in little tubs outside. Now, I can get away with this because besides maybe from snow a few days a year, all we have is rain for the winter. Letting nature take it’s course to rot away the fruit, leaving just the seeds, was the absolute easiest method to allow me to get these ridiculously tiny seeds out of the dense fruit.
If you’re in an area with a lot of snow, all you’ll have is frozen fruit until the spring thaw. The image you see above is after about three months of fruit sitting outside in the chilly rainy weather here on Vancouver Island.
For colder climates, I’d suggest bringing the ripe fruit under cover (a cold room or storage shed if you have it), and keep these suckers wet. They will rot down, and all you’ll have left is some pretty cool looking skeleton husks, and a bunch of seed kept inside for you to easily slide out and bag up.
This was a great experiment for me in 2012, and I’m glad I had the chance to grow it. It will return to my garden again in future years, and it was a huge bonus that it was such an easy and care-free plant.
…. Here I come!
Just a quick post today to say that my whole day will be spent at Seedy Saturday (10-4pm at the Victoria Conference Centre). If you’re in the CRD, be sure to come. There’s of course the seed exchange, a bunch of talks, and a whack of vendors selling seeds and local foods. Seedy Saturday is where I get most of the acquisitions for the seed bank each year, so it’s always something I highly anticipate. Not to mention I’ll be volunteering with a great bunch of people, so it’s sure to be a blast.
In seed bank news: the grow out list is almost complete and will go up either tonight or tomorrow afternoon. Same with the seeds for distribution this year. I know a bunch of you have been asking for both, so stay tuned! I will be sending a newsletter out when that goes live (sign up for the newsletter is at the top of the left-hand column).
Have a good day faithful blog readers – I know I will today.
What a quiet year it’s been here on the ol’ seed bank blog. I do definitely plan to change that with this upcoming season, although the actual growing part might end up being a little tricky (more on that later when things are coming closer to being finalized).
I just finished up saving all the seeds from 2012 – and while I usually have an actual seed sale, this year I think I’m just going to do this distribution for cheap through this site this year (it hasn’t been updated yet, but this page is where you kind find what is going to be distributed). This year was a tough year for the garden, so while I don’t have as much as I’ve had in previous years to distribute, I do have some varieties that I am very glad to be distributing. Hopefully the quality will make up for the lack of quantity.
Over the next few weeks you’ll see this website being updated to reflect the new year – including my growing lists for 2013, as well as varieties that will need volunteer growers (I know I’ve already gotten a few interested people asking me about it – the enthusiasm is awesome!).
I’ve also been working on a Wiki located here that will house growth notes and photos of the varieties grown for the bank, and I’m hoping it’ll be a fantastic resource not only for myself, but also for you folks looking for information on seeds in the bank. It’s a little bare right now, but I am working on going through the multitude of photos and varieties myself and the volunteer growers have grown. It’s definitely a work in progress, but feel free to poke around for now.
That’s it for now – but if you are interested in becoming a grower, please do use the form located on this page to get in touch with me.
The leaves are all turning red and yellow and orange here in Victoria, and the nights definitely are a lot crisper than they used to be. I’ve whipped out my cardigans and jackets, and it seems too damned cold to walk around in shorts and tank tops anymore. Fall is here!
This blog has been very under-used this year. I had a few frantic emails from friends of the seed bank asking if it was gone; never fear, it’s still here! We’re still here and totally in operation, unfortunately there just hasn’t been much to share.
The tomatoes that did survive the prolonged stay in their seed starting pots are now just starting to ripen. Unfortunately with the dip in temperatures, I’ll probably have to ripen the majority of them off the vine and inside. The injury to my right wrist that delayed all my plantings seems to have been worse than just a sprain, and it’s still quite painful, which has lead to a very lacklustre year with gardening, because I just haven’t been able to put in the time required this year.
But, the nice thing with gardening is that it’s never a one-shot deal; there will always be next year, and that’s what I’m looking forward to now.
I’ll probably end up growing almost the exact same thing next year since I got such a poor harvest (if any harvest) this year. I’ll be bringing my peppers in to overwinter – of course they’re all flowering like crazy now, and I’ll have to pull those all off before bringing them in.
I have a second sowing of Slocan Snow Peas growing nice and strong right now, and the potatoes will be dug up imminently. There’s some Gabriola Garlic in the ground, and I’m looking forward to eating that next year.
The Cotztomatl are just starting to ripen now, and I’m looking very forward to sampling them, and hopefully saving enough seeds to share.
The ‘Agona Local’ tomato from PGRC has proven to be one of the best growers this year – it’s absolutely loaded with fruit (most of which I’ll probably ripen indoors) but it’s compact size and great production would make me think this would be a great variety for container growers. Stay tuned for taste and a more in depth post about that variety in a bit.
Thanks for sticking with the seed bank during a quiet year, and keep checking back for more updates coming soon!