So… it is below zero here in Northern Minnesota, but I am dreaming about spring, counting the days until I can get out and work in our landrace gardens. Last fall Basswood and I hauled more then thirty truck loads of leaves and made three or four piles to use as mulch in the spring. We also spread some out on a couple of our gardens as insulation and worm food.
We had a mild start to winter this year, which means that a lot of the moisture that should have been snow fell as rain. That means we had less than a foot of snow when it got more than 20 below zero this last week. When there is not enough snow cover, the frost can go down several feet and take a while to thaw in the spring. (We cover our septic drain-field with straw in the fall to keep it from freezing up in the winter.)
My birthday is in the middle of April and about half of the time the snow is melted by then so I can work in the garden. Even then, the frost is still not all out of the ground. The old timers here plant their gardens on Memorial Day weekend, because they say the seeds will just sit in the ground if you plant before then. (Our frost free date is June 10th.)
That is why I am excited about starting to develop landrace crops with Basswood this year. Most seeds you can buy come from southern states. That is probably good for most of the country, but here we need seeds that are adapted to a short season that can get cool at any time. (It has frosted at least once in every month here.) This is why Basswood is visiting the mountain villages in Mexico and Guatemala to find heirloom and landrace garden seeds to add to the seeds he was able to buy here in the US.
We plan to make a couple of our garden plots landrace gardens, where we will grow a few seeds from each of the heirloom and landrace varieties that Basswood has found. We will grow these seeds all close together so that they can cross. We will then collect seeds from several plants labeling the seeds according to the characteristics we liked. After several years of saving the best seeds, and then planting each year with the best seeds from the last few years, we hope to have developed our own landrace garden seed varieties. (Basswood has spent a lot of time online studying how far our landrace gardens have to be away from our heirloom varieties in order to keep the heirlooms pure.)