Going to seed

This year, one of the challenges that I set myself was to save seed from some of my edibles.  I don’t actually know what I’m doing here.  I’ve read stuff that says you have to have plenty plants and not mix them up, and they might not come true, etc. etc. I’m afraid I’m not a very patient or methodical person.  I learn by doing, not by meticulously following instructions.  It’s a slow and painful method, admitedly.  But nature sets seed and sows it all the time, and has got pretty good at it, so there must be some plants that aren’t complicated to save seed from.  Anyway, I got stuck in and although I’ve been winging it, here are some of my results so far.

seeds oct 17

Top: chard (pink and red).  This one took some patience.  Chard grows to an enormous height as it goes to seed, and then falls flat on its face, sending up forests of flower shoots.  I left it alone, praying that whatever was unlucky enough to be underneath would eventually recover again (ajuga reptans, and it did).  By late September, I was confident that it had actually set seed.  I cut it off at the base, rather than hoiking out the plant, to avoid disturbing the soil (and just out of curiosity to see whether the plant would regrow).  I carried the plants around to the back of the house, holding them upright like some sort of ceremonial flag.  There was a pattering sound as seeds cascaded all around me.  It will be interesting to see where chard appears next year.  I lay the plants down on the patio and painstakingly stripped off the seeds.  I ended up with several handsful in the two tubs at the top of this picture.  I don’t yet know whether they will germinate, but if they do, then I’m how self-sufficient in chard.  I’ve also been reading over on Skyent that perpetual spinach (leaf beet) self seeds happily, so am planning to give that a go next year.

The bottom tub is red orache.  I have also stripped seedheads and sprinkled them around the beds at the front.  This self-seeds very happily and I will probably be overrun with seedlings.  But just look …

red orache to seed Aug 17

Another easy plant to save seed from is sorrel.  This is schnavel, originally from the heritage seed library.  It has a lemony flavour and adds a zingy lime-green colour to the garden.  It looks rather like dock when it goes to seed, and when the seeds look dry and papery, they are ready.  I’ve sown some and they germinated and happily produced seedlings:

sorrel seedling oct 17

The utility room has been stuffed with paper bags full of various seed heads, but I finally got around to organising them into envelopes:

seeds in packets oct 17

Some plants self-seed so happily that I just left the seedheads on the ground:

lambs lettuce and land cress seedlings oct 17

Lambs lettuce and landcress.  Oh, and violets.

cosmos oct 17

And then there is cosmos.  These are from seed that I saved a few years ago.  They are … well, prolific.  They have grown huge and fallen over across pretty much everything .  I think if I’d grown these from commercial seed, they might not have been quite so large.  And they would have had white, pink and dark pink flowers rather than raspberry ripple.  So I’m starting to learn what you can and cannot get away with.

borage beans sweet peas Aug 17

Here are three really easy ones.  Sweet peas, runner beans and borage.  You will never need to save seed from borage.  Once you have it, it will be in your garden forever.  Sweet peas and runner beans just need time for their pods to get good and fat, and ideally dry, and then you can keep them and plant them on for next year.  I put sweet pea seeds in the same pot as a runner bean, as they are happy companions and a magnet for insects.  Nasturtium also set seed happily, but I left them alone to self seed last year and they took ages to get going.  This year I shall collect some, and see if I can get them started earlier.

It’s good to feel just a little bit less reliant on commercial seed companies, and a bit more self-sufficient.

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Garden journal – 6 October 2017

Anni’s garden is still going strong – like me, she’s leaving it be as much as possible rather than ‘putting it to bed’. Happy bees.

Anni's perennial veggies

I did some ‘work’ in the garden today.  Not counting minor interventions like taking off dock leaves and flowering stems it was the first time I had done anything since pruning the fruit trees and removing the flowering stems from lots of salsify plants in the height of summer.

It is bulb planting time and I had bought some narcissi and grape hyacinth for spring colour to go in the bed with the step over fruit trees.  Wherever I could find a space I put a mixture of the flowering bulbs, garlic bulbs and some saved vetch seeds in all together.  I hope that they will come up in a clump with the spring bulbs first and then the garlic and vetch growing on through the summer.

From the outset I have put other plants in with the apples.  This was one of the little fruit trees just after planting…

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The Launch of the National Forest Gardening Scheme — Anni’s perennial veggies

Forest gardening involves planting trees, shrubs and perennial plants together in a way that mimics a natural forest ecosystem and is productive.  According to the Agroforestry Research Trust, its aims are:

  • “To be biologically sustainable, able to cope with disturbances such as climate change
  • To be productive, yielding a number (often large) of different products
  • To require low maintenance.”

Anni’s post below is a call-out to all gardeners interested in the forest gardening approach:-

 

Calling all aspiring forest gardeners I know there are lots of people out there who are passionate about forest gardening and would like to see more of them planted across the country particularly in places that are accessible to the general public. For the past year I have been involved with other link minded people […]

via The Launch of the National Forest Gardening Scheme — Anni’s perennial veggies

Bugging me

We had a couple of sunny Autumn days lately, and I determined to get out into the garden.  The profusion of spent borage, exuberant pot marjoram and ancient alchemilla were bugging me.  It needs tidying up, I decided. So out I went, secateurs in hand.

front garden sept 17

The garden greeted me with a sunny smile and a happy hum of activity.  I was distracted by this:

hoverfly on poppy Sept 2017

and this …

bee on cosmos Sept 17

The bumble bees were rattling around noisily inside the late foxgloves.  OK, I thought, so the beds can’t be tidied up yet.  I proceeded to the front border, determined to cut down the alchemilla before it seeded itself everywhere.  I was stopped in my tracks by this:

spider sept 17

A garden spider preserving something for her larder by wrapping it in silk.  Her web was strung across the alchemilla.  Naturally I couldn’t disturb her.  Next to her was one of my favourite insects, the dapper shield bug:

shield bug sept 17

Clearly leaving the front border alone for a while had enabled the insects to move in and organise the infrastructure that they require.  It would be rude to interrupt.  So – that left the borage.  Surely I could tidy up the borage by now?

bee on borage sept 17

Bug*** off!  said the bees.  I want those last flowers.  So I gave in.  I am slowly redefining ‘gardening’ as being with the garden, rather than interfering with it.  And it rewards me.

borage and marjoram sept 17

Bug house

The rich earthy leafy smell in the woods is telling me that we are squarely in Autumn.  So we got organised last week and furnished the bug houses.  This one is in the front garden, sited underneath the bird cherry for shade:

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All carpentry by the multi-talented Rick.  As he was hammering the mesh onto the front, apparently two bugs crawled over to have a look.  A promising sign.

‘Weeds’ by John Walker

Weeds book by John WalkerThis is a comforting little book that speaks up for ‘weeds’.  The author is keen to tell you about their finer points, before telling you how to manage them in an earth-friendly way – if you still want to.  He describes a selection of 60 weeds common to the UK Midlands.  The principles apply to many other weeds of similar habit or species, so this is not intended to be a definitive guide.  It is more of a ‘spiritual’ guide; a guide to developing a mindset that recognises that some weeds have a useful place, and others do perhaps need gently dissuading if we are to achieve our gardening goals. Continue reading

Harvest, harvest, while you still can

As I sit to type this there is a chill in the air, the sun is lower, and Autumn is signalling its presence.  Mists float through the valley, and the trees are tinged with orange.  Plants are increasingly frantic to seed, and insects and larvae have not much longer to feed.  The perennial tree cabbage is clearly being enjoyed:

tree cabbage aug 17 eaten

The borage has nearly finished flowering, but the bees tell me off when I try to remove it, even if there is just one flower left:

bee on borage aug 17

We want to invite the bugs to stay with us over winter, so they are nice and handy for the re-emergence of the garden in Spring.  Rick has built a couple of houses, which we will have fun furnishing this weekend (no trip to IK*A required).  Here’s one:

bug house unfurnished aug 17

I’m still harvesting salad:

salad early sept 17

The tomatoes are ripening now (they’re outside against our front wall which holds the heat from the sun).  I’m also harvesting red orache, nasturtium, garlic chives, chives, welsh onion, wild rocket, runner beans, sorrel, baby chard, golden oregano, lambs lettuce, mint, more runner beans … in fact, there  is more out there than I can usually remember to harvest.   (And by the way, all of those things listed do not get eaten by slugs).

So for now there is still plenty for everyone to eat.  But we’d better make the most of it while we can.