Gardening / Nature / Politics / Society

What You Seed Is What You Get

When I was a child my grandfather taught me to collect the seed of flowers like garden lupines and tagetes. He dried them carefully in his cellar on a dish towel and then stored them in little tool boxes. He harvested potatoes and always kept some of them to let them grow next spring. I do not know if their name was “Cilena”, “Laura” or “Linda” and I even do not know which firm produced the grand-grandfather of the violet and orange flowers I have seen in my grandfather’s garden. To be honest: I was not a good gardener at the age of ten, I was only on my grandfather’s side without helping him (but with a lot of ideas what he should plant for me). Every plant had its right place in this garden: one line with short yellow flowers followed by a line with taller red flowers and even the cabbage had the same place every year.

To get back the taste of my childhood I started gardening at the age of 28 with some other gardeners. An anthroposophic doctor in my hometown had the idea to seed and plant a field in the way she was taught to get the healthiest results. According to the biodynamic rules of Rudolf Steiner she prepared the ground with preparations like horn silica and she believed in the relationship of plants, earth and cosmos and made a calendar when it would be the perfect day to for example seed carrots or salad. She divided the field into lots and sold them for one year to interested gardeners or – better: gardening beginners.

The vegetables on one lot were enough for a little family so I decided to buy it with two friends. We had fun to go there with the watering can, kept away the weeds, slackened the loamy ground and finally harvested. By that time I did not believe in this philosophy but I tasted the vegetables and they were much better than in the supermarket and even better than on our local market. The project was limited for one year. After this experience with tasty organic food I decided to continue in gardening. But not in the way Rudolf Steiner did.


Growing Vegetables

Growing Vegetables


I have read many books about organic gardening and perfect crop rotation. And I started to do it in a typical German “Schrebergarten”, an allotment garden close to my apartment. Here I mixed the way of gardening as my grandfather did with the ideas of organic gardening (“Never let any kind of cabbage, radish and turnip stay at the same place every year!” – First rule I learned about a plant disease called “clubroot”). During the anthroposophic gardening project I got to know more about organic seeds. We were advised not to buy seeds of conventional production but of associations like Demeter, Bioland or Naturland, who provide organic seed in Germany, because you cannot reproduce most of the conventional seeds. The quality is only guaranteed for one generation of plants and then you have to buy new packages of seed for the next year. Although I do not care about the relationships of cosmos and plants (I believe in the idea of judging if I have a good ground or a disbalanced ground) I liked the idea of being independent from big firms and I discovered a small group of organic gardeners in Germany with an online shop at their homepage

To discover old species of vegetables on this homepage was my favourite for many years. For example: strawberry blite which seems to be a new combination of genes – strawberry with spinach. But it is an old vegetable which was found next to old walls of castle ruins. In former times this vegetable was used to decorate the dinner table of kings, because it has some red “fruits” on the stem looking like little strawberries. Botanically speaking these fruits are the seeds for the next strawberry blites. In my opinion it does not make sense to grow vegetables and fruits in the garden which you are able to buy in a supermarket. It has to be something special like tomatoes with red and yellow stripes and a green cabbage which is 1.80 m tall in winter (even taller than my daughter at the age of five in the summer).


Strawberry blite

Strawberry Blite


The gardener who is responsible for many sorts of green cabbage is living in a region in the west of Germany where it is popular to eat green cabbage. He collects the seed of old gardeners and grows the plants for the “Dreschflegel” association. Now imagine that the European Commission is preparing a new law that will forbid those activities for seed diversity.



I do not know how they will control if a gardener passes seeds to his neighbour as I did it in my “Schrebergarten” and as my grandfather and his neighbours did it many years ago. But: Who has the right to stop what was the right of human beings since we discovered that it was easier to plant and harvest than to hunt and collect? Why has an American firm who was founded about 100 years ago more influence on our alimentation and our nature than uncountable private gardeners worldwide?





Many adults of my age go back to the “Schrebergarten”-movement because they want to show their children the circle of the year. They try to teach the next generation what might be forbidden in the future. Incredible! Now it is time to stand up for the right to use our knowledge in gardening. What started as a subversively part of urban gardening gets now a deeper meaning: guerrilla gardening with plants you do not expect next to a street could be a good way to protest against such plans. Why should we not replace the boring shrubs in public areas by unexpected vegetables like tall green cabbage or strawberry blite?  I hope that planting sunflowers next to a street is only the beginning of an awakening generation.

Stefanie Riepe

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