Q&A: Khann Chov, farm manager for the CAC Beardsley Community Farm

As farm manager for the CAC Beardsley Community Farm, Khann Chov will supervise its seed swap open to the public 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25—and the community farm work day that precedes it from 9 a.m.-12 noon.

How will this seed swap work?

It's an opportunity for excited, experienced, and novice gardeners to come together and share seeds. And Beardsley farm has so many seeds we've collected over the years, and they're so viable. We want to share and we're also excited to swap out some and get some interesting stuff.

What will people bring?

We don't know. It will be a surprise.

What kinds of seeds do you just have loads of for giveaway?

We have various lettuces, like Black Simpson, plenty of greens such as Georgia Southern collard, and purple top turnips, okra, and early Alaska peas. And dwarf blue curl kale.We'll also have a Wild Insectary mix, a wild card mix of flowers and herbs that will be beneficial to insects. And lots of Early Wonder beets.

What about heirlooms?

We're going to have several heirloom varieties packed and ready to go for a suggested donation of $3. We have a limited amount, so people who are interested in those seeds should come early. It's like a gardening kit, a few seeds of each, 10 types of vegetables like Arkansas Traveler tomatoes and Jericho Romaine lettuce.

Is there anything noteworthy about the heirloom Jericho Romaine?

It's a type of lettuce that can withstand hot temperatures.

People who bring seeds, how should they pack them?

You don't have to do anything to them. We'll organize them when we get there. We're going to have tables, coin envelopes, markers, and tape.

You're saying seeds collected before last summer might still grow?

Some of our seeds date back a few years but they're still viable. The viability depends on the variety and how they've been stored. You can test for viability of your old seeds by wetting a paper towel, putting seeds in it, and placing it in a dark, fairly warm place, like under the sink. Then gauge how many sprout.

Do these seeds go straight in the ground?

I recommend direct sowing for loose leaf lettuces, greens, and the peas and such. You probably should start the head lettuces indoors.

Can we plant the lettuces and cool-weather crops right now?

We've had such a mild winter, if gardeners are careful, I don't see why not.

But the warmer weather plants, like tomatoes and peppers, start them inside?

Yes. The average last frost is April 15, so that's the really safe time to plant warm season vegetables outside.

Are there any vegetables you shouldn't start indoors?

All root vegetables need direct sowing—if you try to transplant them the root might come to harm.

If you have leftover seeds this spring, how can you store them so they'll still be good next year?

Seeds need to be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. You can just put them in envelopes, but make sure you label them. Ours have been out in our barn.

Are you going to grow some stuff?

I live in an apartment, so not there. But I do work at the farm, and we do plenty of planting. We're going to do a large portion of the farm in the Native American Three Sisters planting.

Beans, corn, and squash?

Yes, and we'll try growing other types of cucurbits up the corn stalks, too, like cucumbers.

What kinds of beans will you plant?

We're still figuring out the varieties. But one difference we're really excited about is planting dry beans, so we can store them longer. [Redeeming Hope Ministries] Food in the Fort program likes having things like burritos, so growing beans that will dry is good for that.

A person doesn't need to bring seeds to swap?

Not at all! We just want to encourage gardening in general, and this is a good place to have a conversation with others who have been doing it, and get some seeds. Everyone is welcome.

For more information on the Feb. 25th work day and seed swap: beardsleyfarm.org or call 546-3500