Archive for the ‘Websites’ Category

Collecting parsley seed

11 November, 2010
This stuff would make a good, low hedge

This stuff would make a good, low hedge. One that would have to be replanted every year or 2 but still...

Some months back we planted a bunch of left-over parsley plants in the Annexe, simply because we bought a punnet of something like 8 seedlings and only had room in pots to plant 2 of them, from memory.

The Annexe plants went on to grow like Topsy, as you can see from the accompanying photo.  It seems that garden bed’s combination of wet soil (it cops all the run-off from the yards further up the hill and never seems to dry out) and limited direct sun during the day (due to the back deck being in the way) suit them well. Furthermore, the local possums and bush turkeys obviously don’t like this flat-leaved variety of parsley, as they’ve left them completely alone. (Whereas the Italian variety we keep in 2 or 3 pots on the back deck has often become a tasty snack for the varmints – recently a neighbour spotted a turkey flying up to the deck just so it could bite off one of the plants down almost to the roots.)

Anyway, a few weeks before we went away on our trip to the SW of WA, most of these parsley plants started going to seed. A couple of them were going yellow, wilting and dying, so I pulled them out one weekend. The rest I left in there, not having the time to see to them before we left.

Starting to look the worse for wear

Starting to look the worse for wear

Anyway, looking at them earlier this week, I noticed that only one of them appears to be still in seed, while the others have gotten over their wild and crazy fertility spurt and are turning into masses of useful leaves instead of flowers and seed heads again. So I guess they can stay in the garden for the foreseeable.

But it did give me the idea of perhaps collecting some seeds from the one remaining plant that’s seeding, and keep them for future crops. How to do so, though? It’s not something I’ve done before, not with just about any type of herb or vegetable, and certainly never with parsley.

Jumping on the web, I Googled madly away and came up with the following tidbits of information:

  • Parsley belongs to the Carrot Family (Umbelliferae) – species name Petroselinum crispum.
  • Wait until the seeds turn brown and dry on the plant before collecting them.
  • To collect them, cut off the head as a whole and then crumble it in the hand over your waiting receptacle.
  • To prevent the seeds flying away everywhere, i.e. falling randomly, tie a piece of pantyhose/stocking over them – ‘they continue to ripen as if uncovered’.
  • One source claims parsley seeds can only be saved for a year, and aren’t any good after that. Another source says they can be saved for 2 to 3 years if prepared properly. Hmm… who to believe?
  • And the kicker – parsley plants of different species that haven’t been planted separately with a distance of a couple of kilometres or more between them may cross-pollinate (the rogues).

So, when all’s said and done, it may not be worth the risk of collecting and saving the seeds, as these plants may have been cross-pollinating vegeto-orgiastically with their back deck Italian cousins. Who knows what will germinate from such profligate progeny?

I’ll think about it. Meantime I’ll still keep an eye out and ‘harvest’ the seeds when they’re ready. At least I’ll have a year (or more) to decide whether to use them or not.

Some sources for information on parsley seed collection:

“Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook” by Jack Rowe – http://www.howtosaveseeds.com/seedsavingdetails.php

ABC Online Forum thread – collecting parsley seeds – http://www2b.abc.net.au/science/scribblygum-old/posts/topic23283.shtm

“Parsley” from herbs200.com – http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_parsley.htm – the “Habitat and Cultivation” section on this page is a mine of useful stuff in a compact and comprehensive form.

Useful online gardening resource

7 December, 2009

This afternoon I finally sat down at the keyboard here at home (having left work early – we went and tried out new Honda Civics in the local dealer’s car yard for a bit, but didn’t take as long as expected there) and started looking for information about what exactly is the right time to be thinning out plants, particularly carrots and beetroot.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, both beetroots (particularly the higher row) and carrots are growing very well, and so closely together that it’s hard to see the soil between them now.

When I first set the new garden bed up, I did a bit of online research as I had few printed resources to call on. I found a range of fairly useful resources spread across a number of sites, including:

Now all of these have proven to be reasonably good sources for the sort of information I need. However, I have to admit I felt that none of them truly went out of its way to be as thoroughly comprehensive as it could be, at least in terms of the information provided about each vegetable. Especially, and I mean especially, from the point of view of gardening up here in the sub-tropics.

Today I may have found a site that actually does strive to provide every bit of information it thinks might be useful about a wide range of vegetables (not to mention fruit). The site I’m talking about is  Successful Gardening with Annette McFarlane.

McFarlane is a local – best as I can tell, she lives somewhere on the north or northwest side of Brisbane. (I’m basing that on where she holds her library seminars and other events – very few of them are on the southside. I also found out from another site that she teaches horticulture at a TAFE college out at Grovely, in the city’s northwest.)  So she tends to write about local conditions, indeed to focus on them, which is just what I’m after. Pretty much all the other sites I’ve mentioned above tend to be rather south-of-the-border-centric. (Damned Mexicans.)

McFarlane is a devoted organic gardener, by the looks. I’m not yet prepared to go quite that far in my backyard endeavours, although I do hope to avoid the use of nasty chemicals wherever possible. Once upon a time I was a fan of the whole idea of permaculture although I never really followed its dictums with much faithfulness, apart from using proper spiral vegetable gardens. that was when I returned to live with my parents on their 3 acres for a time, back in my late 20s and early 30s. Still, I’d rather be doing the soil more good than harm with my gardening endeavours – who wouldn’t?

Part of McFarlane’s site is a set of PDF fact sheets (she calls them ‘articles’) detailing what seems like lots and lots of directly useful data about 30 different vegetables – including almost all the vegetables I’m currently growing. (Eschallots and chillies are the notable exceptions, although there’s a fact sheet for capsicums.) Each fact sheet is anything up to 4 x A4 pages long – vastly more information about individual species than I’ve seen on any other site.

I’ve had a look through a few of the sheets, in particular those for beetroot and carrots of course, and as a result I now know the following (and I quote):

  • “Carrots can be harvested when they are deemed large enough. Immature, ‘baby’ carrots should be ready in around 10 weeks, their selective harvest leaving more room for the remaining carrots to develop to a mature size over the next 6-10 weeks.”
  • “Beetroot can be harvested at any stage that they are considered large enough to eat, but certainly before they exceed 10cm across. Plants generally require 10-12 weeks to mature fully. Overly large or slowly grown crops are more likely to be tough and fibrous”

And this is pretty much all the information I was looking for, nicely packaged into a couple of handy PDFs.

She also says somewhere that the beetroot seedlings removed during the thinning process can, if carefully handled, be successfully replanted somewhere else. Hmmm. My thoughts immediately turned to those couple of squares of unused space in The Annexe. Been wondering what to do with it – and it gives me the chance to experiment and see if other vegetables will succeed in that rather overly warm and sunny environment.

The information in the fact sheets is clearly stated, well worded, and decently broken up with the use of headings so that it’s all quite readable. And there’s even the occasional “Did you know?” to provide a little entertainment as one works one’s way through the drier, factual stuff.

Thank you for all that info, Annette McFarlane. As a fellow Brisbanite and on behalf of all novice vege gardeners around here, I salute you. I hope and suspect your online resources will continue to inform and inspire me. Please don’t ever take them away!

Next up: digging out information about ‘natural’ pesticides that I can have ready for the inevitable day when the flying nasties invade.