Posts Tagged ‘seeds’

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.

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First seeds sprout

12 November, 2009

When I went down into the back yard after work this evening to water the gardens, I noticed a few changes.

  • All the seedlings, whatever their species, are so far growing well, with probably the Lebanese cucumbers doing the best.
  • The first beetroot seeds have germinated and are lifting tiny, red and green shoots above the soil.
  • And two of the climbing beans (out of the 5 or 6 seeds I splanted) are sprouting as well.

Things are on track!

The first radishes sprout

The first radishes sprout

The first climbing beans appear

The first climbing beans appear

The vegetable garden bed, half in the sunlight and half in shadow

The vegetable garden bed, half in the sunlight and half in shadow

The vegetable garden from above

The vegetable garden from above

Initial plantings

6 November, 2009
The garden bed - trellises in place

Figure 1. The garden bed - trellises already in place (I forgot to take a photo earlier in the process)

The garden bed is located close to the lower, northern side of the backyard (see Figure 1). Made from 6 treated pine sleepers from Camp Hill Timber and Landscape, it’s 2 sleepers high on all sides (so I don’t have to bend down all the way to the ground while working in it) and has dimensions of 3.6 x 1.2 metres. It’s positioned so that it will receive heaps of sunshine for much of the day, but from about 2.00 to 2.30pm onwards the Fiddlewood tree down the lower back corner will completely shade it. This will hopefully save the plants from getting heatstroke due to too much exposure to our subtropical summer sun.

Trellises

First task of the day was to make myself 3 trellises, to support Lebanese Cucumbers, Cherry tomatoes and Climbing beans. I was able to make the trellises from fairly cheap materials. Each trellis consists of a metre of plastic coated, wire mesh with square holes 10 cm on a side. The mesh was stretched between 2 pine garden stakes each a little over a metre long. The mesh is actually 1.2 m high, with the top 20 cm folded over to keep things tidy. But I have a feeling I’m going to have to unfold it later, especially with the climbing beans which need a trellis up to 2 m high.

Diagram showing the layout and information about the vegetables initially planted in the garden

Figure 2. Diagram showing the layout and information about the vegetables initially planted in the garden

With the trellises built (it took about 3/4 hour sitting in the shade under the back deck) the action shifted to the garden bed itself. I first moved the sugar cane mulch back from the northern half of the bed, clearing it off the soil  in readiness. I used a rubber mallet to hammer my 3 trellises in a line down the bed, 30 cm from and parallel to the northern wall.

Lunch

Before I could start planting, the Significant Other suggested that since it was the last day of our 2 week vacation (not counting the weekend still ahead, which I suppose we would have had anyway), we should head up to the Rare Pear at Holland Park for lunch. Which we promptly did. Lunch was great, coffees weren’t bad (though not a patch on the coffees we experienced down in NSW last week – is it the milk they use?), and we were back home within the hour.

Planting the veges

Lebanese Cucumber seedlings

Figure 3. Lebanese Cucumber seedlings planted and awaiting mulching

Back to the garden. Satiated and armed with a black and white printout of my handy dandy diagram (see Figure 2) I set to planting with a will.

  • First plants to go in were the Lebanese cucumbers – 3 seedlings, 20 cm apart.
  • Cheery tomatoes – 2 seedlings, 60 cm apart.
  • Climbing beans – 5 or 6 seeds buried 2 cm down and 10 cm apart.

Then, down the southern side of the bed, starting from the western end:

  • Radish – seeds, 1/4 inch down in two rows 20 cm apart.
  • Carrot – seeds, 1/4 inch down in two rows 20 cm apart.
  • Chillies – in 2 rows of 2 seedlings (2 Cayenne, 1 Siam, 1 Anaheim) with 25 cm between them.
  • Sweet corn – seedlings in 3 rows about 70 cm apart, 2 seedlings in each row about 35 cm apart.

I watered the plants at various stages during each planting, of course.

All up, I suppose this process took about 3 hours.

At the end there were one or more seedlings of each kind left over. AnnMaree suggested potting some of them, to go up on the back deck with the other potted herbs and plants. By this stage of the afternoon I was pretty much out of energy, so I promised I would pot some of them and plant the rest in a spare, long-prepared garden bed on the south side of the back deck… tomorrow.

I’ve also put off building a cage to go around the whole bed. It’s to be chicken wire over some kind of wooden frame, set up so that the sides can be lifted up and back to allow easy access. I’m hoping I won’t need to build this – that the possums and crows will keep their greedy claws and beaks out of it. Let’s face it, I’m kidding myself here. But I also know that building a cage of the type I have in mind is going to be a monumental undertaking (for me) and will take all of a day to do. And at heart I’m lazy, when it boils right down to it. So if I can get out of it, I will. I’ll pay for it later…

To top things off, it rained quite strongly for a short while during the night, giving the garden and its plants their first proper watering.

A pre-planting shopping trip

5 November, 2009

Thursday 5 November. We’d been back from our week’s vacation down the coast for a day or so. It was time. The vegetable garden bed lay out there, begging to be planted with healthy and life-giving produce.

But first, of course, it would be nice to have some produce to plant in it. One of our neighbours had given me a range of different tomato seeds some weeks back, but unfortunately none of them were quite what I wanted to use in this initial planting. (I know from past experience that in the subtropics cherry tomatoes tend to be the most resistant to bug attack, and none of the donations were of cherry tomatoes.)

I actually spent a large chunk of yesterday on the web, some half-formed ideas in my head about what I wanted to grow. By late afternoon I’d come up with the following list of plants I was pretty sure would grow in the local conditions:

  • Sweet corn – it used to grow okay down in the Lindum gardens, and I love the stuff, so let’s have another go…!
  • Cherry tomatoes – tied to stakes or a trellis to minimise the space required;
  • Climbing beans – again, can be trellised to keep their space requirements down – I once was not a bean fan at all, but have gradually changed to a position of bemused tolerance over the decades;
  • Lebanese cucumber – AnnMaree at some point evinced an interest in these – I can’t stand any cucumbers personally;
  • Carrots – we both like carrots, and they’re usually easy to grow;
  • Beetroot – another one for AM – I hate the evil, stainy things;
  • Chillies – because I never had much success growing them back in the day, and I ain’t going to let a mere plant beat me!

Hmm. Seven kinds of vegetables. Seemed like a lot to fit into about 5 square metres of garden. At least without some careful organisation. Especially knowing how much space sweet corn alone takes up – greedy, bloody, nutrient hogging critters that they are.

What it all meant was, first, getting on the PC and checking for information about how far apart the various vegetables would have to be planted to give each the optimum growing conditions, and composing a diagram of the garden bed to make sure everything would fit in. Only then could I do up a tally of the seedlings, seed packets and ancillary equipment (such as trellis making materials) needed. And finally I could take my you-beaut list off to the nearest Bunnings Warehouse garden store, which happens to be at Mount Gravatt, a 10-minute drive away.

Diagram

Diagram showing the original conception of how the different plants would be laid out

Diagram showing the original conception of how the different plants would be laid out

Never having had (or been prepared to afford) Microsoft Office on my home PC, I turned to faithful OpenOffice. Its word processing module did me proud, too. In fact, before long I realised I just had to do my diagram in full colour. (This meant I ended up having to re-do it in monochrome for later, when it was time to print out a copy to take down the back yard.) And it meant I knew with all possible confidence that the desired plants would fit in the bed.

Tally

The end tally which became my Bunnings shopping list was something like the following:

  • Beans, Climbing – Seeds
  • Carrots – Seeds
  • Corn, Sweet – Seeds
  • Cucumbers, Lebanese – Seeds
  • Chillies – Seedlings, at least 9
  • Beetroot – Seedlings, at least 6
  • Tomatoes, Cherry – Seedlings, at least 6
  • Wooden stakes –
    • At least 6, each at least 5-6 feet long – to bear trellises
    • At least 4, each at least 3-4 feet long – to stake the chillies
  • Trellis – 3 lengths, each about 1m long and 1m+ tall – for climbing beans, cherry tomatoes, & Lebanese cucumbers
  • Chicken wire – to protect plants from possums & cats – more than 10m
  • Wire, thick – to build the frame to drape the chicken wire over – 1 coil longer than 15m
  • Compost bin – just on spec. Will have to introduce composting at some point.
  • Worm farm – ditto. AM’s idea – to help the composting process, I believe.
  • Latch – for latching back the garage door. Well, while in Bunnings…

Bit of a ring-in, the last few items. Oh well, if the available products looked okay and the prices were right, why not? And if they weren’t, they’d keep for another week or 5.

At Bunnings

And, well, after spending over an hour wandering the Bunnings garden section here’s what I ended up actually buying:

  • Beans, Climbing – 1 packet of seeds
  • Carrots – 1 packet of seeds
  • Corn, Sweet – Seedlings, 6
  • Cucumbers, Lebanese – Seedlings, 4
  • Chillies – Seedlings, 8
  • Beetroot – 1 packet of seeds
  • Tomatoes, Cherry – Seedlings, 4
  • Wooden stakes –
    • 6, each perhaps 2/3 of a metre long – to stake whatever needed staking
    • 6, each a little over 1m long – to bear the trellises
  • Plastic covered wire mesh – 1.2m high and 5m long, to cut up into 1m lengths for use as trellises for the climbing beans, cherry tomatoes, Lebanese cucumbers
  • Bird wire – to protect plants from possums and cats – a 10m roll
  • Wire, thick – to build the frame to drape the chicken wire over – a 15m coil

Funny how you adapt as you go along – especially when you see the prices of certain things, such as readymade trellises.

By the time I got home from the gardening store it was later afternoon and I realised I wasn’t going to be able to start planting today. So inside the downstairs back door went my newly gotten goodies and then I thankfully retired upstairs to a cold beer, resolved to do all the planting on the next day.

(Oh, and that evening AnnMaree, myself and my best mate “O” headed up to the trivia competition the Holland Park Hotel. It was the fourth time we’d gone along, but the first time we managed to win it. The prize? A $50 voucher to use in the pub’s restaurant, which is actually a rather good eatery now, following a recent revamp. So that was a pretty grand ending to the day.)