Garden planning...

29 July, 2012

I have spent a leisurely weekend afternoon looking over the current status of my seed supplies, and working out what (if anything) I need to purchase for the coming season.

Note: when I say "need" I really mean "want".

I really enjoyed garden glut's recent post on her seed storage method. My seed collection is housed in two old wine glass boxes. Each box has 6 partitions and I have allocated a month to each of these. I have an autumn-winter box and spring-summer box. It seems to help me successively sow which I tend to do once a month (if I'm sticking to the plan), as once I've sown a seed I put it into the next month it should be sown in.

Its amazing how many seeds one can end up with. I say this as if I am an innocent bystander in this excess of seed, when really it is all my own fault. I just love the idea of growing different veg, always a new type or a new variety. And the packet of seeds invariably contains 20 to 200 seeds, when I will never use that many. I wish there were seed companies that sold varieties in packets of 10 seeds. Just enough to try something, without feeling guilty when the packet is there with too many seeds to sow 3 years later! Or hoping it will still germinate if its something I really like!

But anyway, back to my collection. I have currently (in no particular order): Pumpkin (4 varieties), Scorzonera, Spaghetti Squash, Carrot (4 varieties, plus my own saved seeds from last year's crop), Parsnip, Lettuce (5 varieties), Kale (3 varieties), Spinach, Cabbage (2 varieties), Celery (4 varieties), Cauliflower (2 varieties), Collards, Leek, Beetroot (2 varieties, plus some in the garden going to seed), Squash, Zucchini (4 varieties), Eggplant (4 varieties), Peas (2 varieties), Snow Peas, Celeriac, Climbing Beans (4 varieties), Bush Beans (2 varieties), Cantaulopes (7 varieties), Watermelons (6 varieties), Tomato (7 varieties), Cucumber (7 varieties), Peppers (4 varieties), plus assorted herbs and flowers.

I knew it was going to be bad, but not this bad.

So I have come up with a short list of seeds to buy: Corn and Tomatoes. I know I already have more tomato seeds than any rational person could need, but I want some big beefsteak type, some green and some white tomatoes, so I can make gorgeous multi-coloured tomato salads to cheer my heart in the height of summer. Preferably with buffalo mozzarella, basil leaves, good olive oil and good bread!

Now I just have to decide where they are all going to go in the garden. About half of what I grow goes into the main veg patch which consists of 8 beds in a 4 year rotation.

The rest will need to get squeezed into the rest of the garden which is a mix of edible and purely aesthetic plants. Hopefully it will fit, otherwise I will be trying to get a lot of seeds off my hands. I try to get them off my hands by spreading the veg growing word to friends and colleagues, but it hasn't made much of a dent in my stocks so far. If anyone out there in blog-land would like to take some off my hands feel free to contact me. Seriously.

What do you do with your excess seeds?

Comfort buying (partial) success...

21 July, 2012

A few weeks ago I succumbed to the early instinct to buy vegetable seeds. I knew then that it was too early, I wouldn't be able to sow them anyway, but I followed my gardening heart, not my head, and purchased away.

The complicating factor was that I bought them from an American seed store. Now I wouldn't usually do this, but I came across a few varieties that I hadn't seen in Australian seed catalogues. I know a little about AQIS (the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, which now is known as DAFF  - Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Biosecurity... what a mouthful!) and so I did look up whether these seeds would be allowed into the country.

The problem is my research was incomplete. I looked up a couple of the species names, but then I got bored and didn't look up the rest.

So I have been eagerly awaiting the delivery of my parcel of American seeds. But earlier in the week my hopes were dashed when I recieved a suspiciously flat parcel from the American supplier with Quarantine stickers all over it.

My poor seeds had been seized! I couldn't believe it - I knew at least some of them shouldn't be a problem.

So I called the friendly DAFF Biosecurity people, and they very promply looked into the matter and agreed that some of the seeds were ok, but others would need an import permit and were unable to be released without one (which I did not have and would cost about $150 to obtain - per seed packet!!!).

So I will have to do without the tomatoes, pink popcorn (damn, and I was particularly looking forward to those) and pumpkin seeds, which were only not released as they apparently did not have the full species and genus name on the seed packets. Grrrrr.

But I do have the cucumbers, melons, eggplant, carrot, collards, lettuce and peppers. Yay!

I'm particularly looking forward to the Tigger rockmelons, and the Alibi cucumbers which looked exactly like the ones my grandmother used to grow.

So now I'm off to introduce this lot to my other seeds, and begin to work out the current status of my seed collection and see what seeds I need to buy for the coming season and what will just be superfluous seed collecting as I will never be able to fit it into my garden.

I expect that I will end up with more seeds than I could sow in a lifetime even with these good intentions. Its just that I'm a sucker for a new and different variety, and so I end up with about 50 different types of zucchini and couldn't possibly grow them all. Hopefully my plan will minimise the excess seed purchasing, but we shall see.

Yummy, pretty things...

19 July, 2012

When the edible plants certainly seem to be slowing down, I start to look a little more closely at the less obvious edibles. And in the last couple of sunny Melbourne days there have been a few popping out amongst what I had classified as the non-edible garden.

I'm talking violets.

I have grown these as a ground cover for a while, not realising they were the same edible flowers as the exorbitantly priced sugared violets I have occasionally splurged on to make a really special dessert. But at about $20 for a teeny tiny bottle of them, it had to be a truly special occasion. (Though they do elevate anything chocolate from delicious to the realms of absolutely spectacularly divinely delicious. Trust me. I love them finely chopped and sprinkled over chocolate mouse!)

So when seeing them in the garden and picking a fragrant bunch, I wondered - are the the same one's as the one's you eat?

And it turns out they are! Praise the interwebs! (

So I decided that I could make my own sugared violets. So I went out and picked a heap.

Apparently there are two ways by which you can sugar a violet; either dip them in egg white, then in granulated sugar and let dry, or dip in a sugar syrup, then granulated sugar and let dry. So I thought I would try both and see which worked best.

I ended up with two aluminium trays full of drying sugared violets. Certainly more than $20 worth!

I thought the sugar syrup and then granulated sugar method worked best. The sugar seemed to stick better with less gaps and not clump as much. But I did learn that you need to let the syrup cool before starting to dip the violets, otherwise they cook in the hot syrup and shrivel. Not what you are after.

Here is a close up of the syruped violets:

Here are the egg whited violets:

But I do think they don't have as strong a violet flavour as the bought ones. I'm thinking of doing another trial of making a sugar syrup and infusing a heap of violets in it, then using that sugar syrup (cooled of course!) to dip the whole violets into, then granulated sugar.

But until then I have a heap of sugary violety goodness to enjoy!

Early asparagus...

10 July, 2012

Over the weekend my task was to tidy up the aspargus bed.

And it appeared some of the plants didn't seem to be getting the message that its winter, didn't you know. Look at all the new asparagus shoots coming up!

This one appears to be a little behind the times.

Not that I'm complaining of course.

My rule with asparagus is if its bigger that my little finger then its edible size. And so I ate the ones that passed the little finger test.


Nothing like a little asparagus snack when wandering about the garden. I do love a suprise harvest.

Challenge update #3...

04 July, 2012

Not much is happening in the garden at this time of year. While the broccoli, beetroot, kale and occasional peas are good for eating, there isn't much else which is doing its bit to fill my plate and stomach.

And as such the Great Fruit and Vegetable (not quite) Self-sufficiency Challenge 2011/12 tally is suffering. (If you're asking "what is this challenge of which you speak?" see here)

June has been the first month in the last 7 months that I've fallen below the 50% challenge mark.

The last 9 months of challenge have been thus:

Jun - 46%
May - 56%
Apr - 98%
Mar - 93%
Feb - 93%
Jan '12 - 51%
Dec - 57%
Nov - 55%
Oct '11 - 36%

The current average is sitting at (drumroll please)... 65%

Which doesn't give me a lot of room to move in the next 3 months of challenge - the hungry gap of the year.

Why didn't I plant winter veg in Jan? And I thought I was so good in Feb and Mar planting my little brassicas... pride always comes before a fall. I won't be so smug next year thats for sure!

There are plenty of caulis and cabbage yet to be eaten - hopefully they will mature in the next 3 months and feed me!

I've had to resort to the markets again, which is nice for variety but not for my pride.

Come on garden, you can do it!