What is a Preservation Garden

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Preserve heirloom flavors for future generations
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What is a Preservation Garden and why start one?

The aim of a Preservation Garden is to contribute to gardenersí efforts to save heirloom seeds. Doing so protects and promotes agricultural diversity and the purity of our crops. You donít have to be an expert to grow, share and start collecting endangered varieties for future generations.

Still wondering what is a Preservation Garden? At first glance, it looks like any other thriving vegetable garden tended to with care. Pluck an heirloom tomato and youíll taste the difference. Every plant in the ground is as nature intended, untouched by genetic modifications.

Starting this kind of project can easily become a lifestyle. Each year many such gardeners and small companies will trade and share heirloom seeds with other like-minded people. This increases the diversity within each garden and helps to safeguard the genetic integrity of heirloom plants Ė not just the ones commercial companies make a profit on.

Many gardeners already know that growing your own vegetables is one of the most effective and rewarding ways to rid your familyís diet of pesticides. Unfortunately, simply buying any seeds off the rack wonít protect you from genetic modification (GM). Growing your own heirlooms does.

Get to know heirloom plants

To begin answering the question of what is a Preservation Garden, you have to first understand what heirloom seeds are and why theyíre vital. For many, homegrown tomatoes are the gateway. A single juicy bite into one of these plump, irregularly shaped gems and youíre hooked. 

Compare the flavor of a vegetable from a preservation garden to one bought from the produce aisle of the grocery store, and youíll taste the formerís complexity. Even better, the flavors of each variety are so distinct that you can taste the difference between two different heirloom varieties.

This method of gardening is not limited to tomatoes Ė far from it! It applies to many kinds of vegetables, herbs and flowers. Contrary to a sadly common perception that these are hard plants to grow, they're not difficult to cultivate. Weíre referring to seeds that have been saved and passed on for generations for at least 50 years. 

Fragile plants would not have been able to adapt to and survive changing temperatures, extreme weather conditions and new breeds of pests that occur over this amount of time. Care for them with proper sunlight, drainage and attention and youíll see for yourself that these seeds produce the hardiest, tastiest and most tolerant plants around. 

Grow with patience

Getting a Preservation Garden to adapt to your yardís conditions may take a season or two. If some plants don't do well the first year you plant them, save the seed and grow it again the next year. 

Like the crops youíll grow, this type of garden can be any size or shape. You donít need a sprawling backyard to help keep these important seeds in circulation Ė you donít need any yard at all. Plenty of urban gardens thrive on roof tops or in window boxes, so donít let lack of land dissuade you.

What is a Preservation Garden beyond the tangible? Itís an educational opportunity, a chance to do something about the homogenization of our crops, and a way to take an active role in protecting this natural resource.

Begin with seeds from a seed saving exchange program, ask a friend or seek out a business that specializes in heirlooms. If you want to ensure your grandchildren have access to the same gorgeous purple carrots and stunning striped beats you do, either at home or at the farmerís market, then join the party and get planting.

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