Growing heirloom seeds with compost

This spring I read a blog at Yard Eatins  that featured a list of heirloom seed suppliers compiled by Treehugger and a video of Jere Gettle, founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I like to garden and this inspired me to try growing my own heirloom seeds.

Heirloom seeds refer to varieties of fruits and vegetables that were typically grown prior to the advent of industrial agriculture. Their use dates back 50, 100 or more years ago. These seeds would have a wide variety of characteristics that would only vary slightly over time due to natural pollination. Because modern agriculture typically uses a small variety of seeds that have been developed to produce high quantities and withstand disease, the older varieties of seeds are often in danger of becoming extinct.

I looked up suppliers located in Ontario and found a company called The Cottage Gardener. From their catalogue, I ordered a few varieties of heirloom seeds to try in my garden this year. One of the varieties I chose was the Savignac Tomato; it lists its history back to the 1930s in Quebec and will produce a round fruit that is juicy and sweet. This sounds good to me!

Since one of my goals in life is to reduce the amount of waste that I generate, I decided to see if I could grow my seeds without buying any new materials, such as plastic seed trays. I also want to grow my vegetables organically. I picked up some compost during Halton’s Compost Give Away event that is held each May at the Halton Waste Management Site. For a few weeks I saved my empty food packaging, washed it and set it aside to use as my seed trays.


I initially used plastic ground meat trays to start the seeds in, as you can see in the photo. I did purchase some soil at a local garden centre, as it is important that the seeds do not get contaminated from fungus that could be in your garden soil. I mixed this soil with the compost, filled the trays, poked in some seeds and then watched them germinate and grow.


A few weeks later, after they had produced their first leaves, I transplanted them to larger containers. For those I used clean, empty packaging such as milk cartons, coffee cups, plastic drink cups, yogurt containers, berry containers, etc which I poked small holes in the bottom for drainage.


Once I had them all planted in these containers, I placed them in a large clear storage bin that I had. This made it easy to start setting them outside during the day and gave them a bit of protection from the wind, serving as a mini greenhouse for them.

June 5, 2013 was the United Nations World Environment Day. This year’s theme was Think-Eat-Save, encouraging all of us to become more aware of the environmental impact of the food choices we make.


I am really excited about growing my own food and all the benefits that go with that, including:

  • Not using chemical fertilizers or pesticides
  • Reducing the distance the food had to travel to get to my table
  • Saving on fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Preserving seed diversity
  • Saving money
  • Eating fresher fruits and vegetables that taste better and have more nutrients

I am currently waiting for them to get a bit larger and then I will transplant them from the pots into my garden. Hopefully by the end of the summer, I will have some sweet and juicy tomatoes to enjoy. I will post back and let you know.

About Shirley McLean

I am the Supervisor of Solid Waste Planning at Halton Region. My educational background includes a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from the University of Guelph. My career focus is to work on programs and policies that lessen the environmental impact of waste on our earth.
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