Part of the problem with growing blueberries in alkaline soil is that the microflora that helps them flourish doesn't naturally occur in alkaline soils, or at least in far smaller numbers. If you can grow azaleas you can grow blueberries, but I wouldn't recommend planting them on a spot that used to be prime tomato soil. I know someone who keeps blueberries sorta alive with massive doses of iron every year, but that's not a solution that I'm interested in. I am looking into replacing the soil where I grow them and somehow providing a permanent barrier to keep the alkaline from contaminating the soil too massively.
Seed companies have done [mostly] one of two things lately:
been bought out by Monsanto
closed ranks against Monsanto and labeled everything they carry as guaranteed non-GMO
The latter companies keep track of the former, and the info is fairly easy to find, particularly through Baker's Creek Heirlooms, which is owned by some of the folks leading the fight against Monsanto.
Hybrids are no worse than heirlooms/open pollinated varieties.
The reason for this is: all heirlooms/open pollinated varieties were once hybrids. What they are is Stabilized hybrids, selected through several generations until the wanted characteristics come through on a consistent basis. A first generation cross, what most people know as 'hybrid' is F1. Parent x Parent=F1 baby. Seed saved from the F1, is F2. Generally, at the F8 generation, the variety is considered stable and can be called open pollinated.
Hybridization has been used for centuries to select for hardiness, flavor, color, and other wanted characteristics.
For instance, did you know that once there were no orange carrots? They were all white or yellow. I believe they didn't appear until the reign of King Henry VIII, and then as a novelty. Obviously a popular novelty.
Some species, like apples, require hybridization to set fruit. Every apple seed is unique. They do not breed true to the parent plant. This is why varieties are propagated by grafting.
The main difference between hybrids and open pollinated varieties is that you can trust that the seed you save from an OP variety will be the same as the parent plant, where with a hybrid you'll get a mixed bag of genetics that may turn out wonderful, horrible, or average.
I have some:
green flowered yucca seeds-1 swap
various tomato seeds-several swaps, but pm me for actual details
some various flower seeds-a few swaps
some fruit tree seeds, mostly apple-a few swaps, pm me by 4/10/13 if interested
some various weed seeds-several swaps, but would be for next season on most, since I'd need to collect them
I haven't dealt with that particular soil type, <sounds like some sort of chalk, perhaps?>, but I can give you a couple tips for long term improvement.
1. Keep planting in your mushroom compost and leaf and hay mulch for now, that was an excellent idea. You can use any or all of the three in conjunction with the following.
2. If you can deal with the labor, dig a hole, put in a layer of fresh garden compost, then layer in dirt>compost>dirt until hole is filled. Dry stuff like leaves or end of the season garden detritus can be layered in also. This usually is only two compost layers deep. Layering in the dirt does two things: it adds the soil microorganisms more directly to the compost, and puts the decomposing material where it'll be worked into the soil sandwich more thoroughly and quickly. You'll want at least two or three inches of dirt as the top layer to keep the smell from escaping.
3. If you don't have the time or energy for all that, just scrape back the dirt, add a thick layer of leaves, put the dirt back. you can put a thin layer of compost underneath or manure on top of the leaves if you are worried about nutrition levels. This does two things: gives you a non-burning, non-compacted layer of moisture retention right at root level, and gives you an instant raised bed effect. You only need about an inch or two of dirt to top this.
I use both of these. Neither magically improves the soil overnight, but over a few years it makes a big impact. I try not to plant over fresh compost, so the compost holes are rotating and we try to get them done in fall or the mild part of winter for the areas that are going to see the most use. The raised leaf bed can be planted immediately after making it, and I've had lovely results, the only downside is that it needs more manure or other fertilizer such as fish emulsion during the growing season for heavy feeders, since leaves are a bit low nutrition. But squash will grow like crazy on it with no extra effort.
Edit: Tilling is a long standing farming technique, but over time it damages your soil, letting nutrients escape, breaking down the overall tilth of the soil, and creating more run off and more loose soil that blows away. Particularly with fragile soil types. It you feel it is something that is integral to your garden, you might want to make sure you have a heavy layer of mulch [rotten hay springs to mind], to till in when you till, which should at least help the tilth of the soil.
Currently have about a quart of Parisian Market carrot seed, heirloom, short, round and sweet.
Not giving away the whole amount, but anyone who wants a packet, drop me a PM and let me know.
[I'll send them for a SASE or a trade. You can send a SASE even if you don't get an immediate reply on the PM, since I don't always check my mail here, but include a note saying what you're sending it for, please.]
I forgot to mention, and find that this is a very over looked resource on this forum, if you are not doing a forest garden or if your garden is going to contain many staples like peas, beans, tomatoes, squash and so on, anyone would be well served to check out the plethora of books written on ordinary or organic gardening. Local sources for these would be used book stores, thrift shops and your local library. Permaculture books are excellent for putting together a system, but I find them severely lacking in information on individual plant types and even pest/disease control.
While I do believe that a properly functioning permaculture system will have very few problems with disease and pests, most people don't start with perfect soil/climate and depredations and plagues can discourage the hardiest gardener let alone a person who is new to it. While I would recommend being very careful of many of the traditional remedies (aka poison, so on) (I don't use them), I have found that no information is wasted. The more you know, the better-informed choices you can make. Never take just one source's word for something that sounds weird to you. Books on forests and trees are also good information sources whether you are doing a food forest, or just a guild or two, or merely a sustainable garden. Other information sources on plants include gardening magazines and seed catalogs, local gardeners of all sorts, state agriculture and forestry extensions, local nurseries, public ornamental gardens, private and public forests (walking through them gives a feel for how real forests work), online agricultural information from many colleges and government programs (really, not everything the government is evil. Promise).
I am not just saying this. This is something I do myself, even after nearly thirty years of organic gardening. I have gardened in rich loam fields, sandy compacted small areas, clayey soils, and pots over the course of my gardening adventures. Even if I don't agree with someone/author on methods to results, I can usually find something to learn from them.
I keep most of it in my head because when I'm out in the garden its inconvenient to go searching for information for six hours, but keeping notes and copies of pertinent articles will serve you well and make it easier to find what you are looking for. I am new to "permaculture" as a system, but not to most of the methods that go into permaculture. Some of them are ones I've been using for years. I find that most of what I know about gardening is very useful in a permaculture context, and gives me a wide range of ideas to pull from. Remember, permaculture is a combination of cultures that works well enough to thrive and last with minimum input from you. The cultures being human culture and nature culture.
If you don't like/find useful the local plants, look around for plants that grow in similar climes around the world. For instance, lavender is not native here, but it comes from a very similar region soil/weatherwise in France. (Yes, I know there is more than one type of lavender. Anyway.) Thus lavender thrives quite well here with little or no care at all. Basil, also. Baby it in pots and the stuff keels over or just withers up and dies. Stick it out where it is hot and dry and in the local soil and it's very chirpy. <laugh> Who would have thought?
Also, just because its happy in your area doesn't mean you should grow it. Check FIRST for invasive stats. You don't want to accidentally introduce something like the 'kudzu in Florida' 'water lilies in the Lousiana waterways' 'fish tank weed loose in the Mediterranean' fiascoes. The difference between "very, very happy" and "invasive" in your area is like this: Snapdragons vs. bindweed. Snapdragons: I don't weed or water them and they still happily self seed all over my properties and bloom beautifully. Most of them are also perennial. They do NOT, however, spread over to my neighbors' properties. <-"very, very happy" Bindweed: Gorgeous, lush foliage, happily climbs up my plants, knocks them over and smothers them. Nearly impossible to eradicate. Whack it off and you can barely tell a month later. Also, happily spreads via root and seed. Roots can travel 25 feet in a year, the longest root ever traced was 2 miles long. The seeds can remain viable for up to 50 years. The plant if flowering when whacked off will set seed from the whacked off section of flowers. <-"invasive"