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Seed Savers Garden coming to Heronswood

Sharing the passion and skills needed to protect the future of heirlooms at our new garden.

Image: The heritage gardens at Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa. 


Over the coming year, we’re building an exciting new Seed Savers Garden at the home of The Diggers Club, Heronswood. 

Our dedicated team of gardeners are creating a unique living space that will be a working demonstration and education garden where all gardeners can come to learn and experience the art of seed saving.

Heirlooms are in our hands

Growing a plant from seed is perhaps the most empowering act a gardener can undertake and the more gardeners that learn the simple skills of seed saving, the better our chance of preserving these historic treasures for the future. When a gardener sets a seed in the earth, they are part of a long line of gardeners stretching way back in history and extending beyond us all into the future.

The simple act of sowing a seed links a gardener to an unbroken chain of observation, selection and cultivation that stretches back to the earliest domestication of wild plants for human consumption.

It is this history and lineage that is encapsulated by the concept of an ‘heirloom’ seed; a tradition handed down from one generation to the next as a valued and treasured part of cultural identity. As large global chemical companies continue their rampant acquisition and amalgamation of seed companies, the traditional garden varieties that our ancestors preciously guarded and handed down are disappearing – and once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.

The best thing we can all do as conscious gardeners is to learn the principles and techniques of seed saving to empower ourselves to preserve the diversity of our food crops.

Australia's food heritage

The vast majority of vegetable and flower crops we grow in our gardens today have their origins in other regions of the world. Tomatoes originate in Central and South America, melons were first domesticated in South Central Africa and beets have been cultivated in Europe since ancient Greek times. Whilst there is a growing movement to document and cultivate First Nations staple foods, the Australian diet is as multicultural as our people – we are, after all, an immigrant culture that celebrates the history and diversity of our forebears.

The Diggers journey with heirloom seeds began nearly 30 years ago in 1992 when Clive and Penny Blazey visited The Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) in Iowa, USA. By this time, the founders Diane and Kent Whealy had been running SSE for 17 years and they had a well-established network of ‘seed stewards’ across the country, donating and preserving heirloom varieties that were facing extinction. Back then, the protection and preservation of heritage or ‘heirloom’ vegetable and flower seed varieties in Australia was virtually unknown, other than what was happening within family and community seed exchanges.

On returning to Australia, Clive and Penny set about the task of raising the profile of heirloom vegetables and we continue in this mission today.

Over the last three decades, through our trialling and seed production programs, Diggers has rescued and reinvigorated many Australian heirloom vegetables like Pea ‘Franks’ (shared by Diggers member May Barnes), Carrot ‘Western Red’ (courtesy of the O’Connor family) and Cucumber ‘Crystal Apple’, an iconic Australian backyard variety that featured in seed catalogues in the 1930s.

A new generation of seed savers

The last 30 years has been a valuable and rewarding journey, but the work is not done! The global coronavirus pandemic has heightened interest in gardening and growing food at home, so the need to preserve and pass on vegetable varieties suited to small-scale and local food production has never been so great. We want to support all those interested in the age-old art of seed saving to gain the skills and knowledge needed to save the seed of the future.

Our new Seed Savers Garden will demonstrate the basic seed saving techniques necessary to pass seeds from one generation to the next. It will include seed crop management (i.e controlled pollination), separation and isolation systems (i.e. caging, bagging and timing to maintain varietal purity), rogueing for trueness and general cultivation to maximise seed production and viability. We will also run workshops on seed cleaning techniques, including easy-to-make cleaning equipment.

How you can help the future of heirlooms

Saving the seeds of the future and preserving the best of the past is central to The Diggers Foundation mission. There is no government body that supports the preservation of heirloom vegetable and flower seeds – it has always has been the community of gardeners and small-scale farmers who have been the stewards. Without government funding there is a real danger that many of the heirloom vegetable varieties carefully selected and curated over generations could be lost forever.

We are seeking your support to help us maintain our living collection of Australian heirlooms – to catalogue, record, preserve and, most importantly, grow these wonders of yesteryear.

If you would like to share and preserve an heirloom variety from your family or community, please email us at


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2022 Gardening Diary and Calendar Combo
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2 year membership + Garden Calendar and 2 Seed Packets
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Membership: MNE2CA2
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