Saturday, 25 August 2012

Seed saving - and food for free

Yes, it's that time of year again when every horizontal surface is covered with trays to collect and contain my seeds.

Now, this year as most in the UK will tell you - it's been a rubbish year. Thankfully, I DO save from biennials so I have Beetroot, Parsnip, and Scorzonera seeds. And now, the tomatoes are starting to come - Early Tanana, Maskotka, Rambling Gold, Latah and Aranyalma and French Black so far...Unfortunately the ones at one of my 'stable' places to grow veg have got blight so I pulled half up last week, bagged the green toms and any that don't show signs of blight will get eaten, but not saved from.

I have also spent today with my chillis and peppers - dipping the unopened flowers in PVA glue and tying twine or red cotton around them to identify them. This method stops the flowers from cross pollinating and results in pure seed.

You can see the wet PVA and the tie on this Numex Twilight.

Here's some I did earlier in the year - as you can see, the pepper is just the same as the ones that weren't PVA-ed

These are potatoes that were dug up from the compost heap - Amorosa, Kestrel and [yay] Mr Little's Yeltolm Gypsy. From last year's tubers.  Result.

And the last of the parsnip seed, just before it is removed and the last bit of drying done before packing up. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Japanese wineberries

These were looking fantastic at Ryton yesterday. We have now got some at home but they aren't at this stage yet.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


I've finally got it. Blight that is. The toms from the circle at the lottie finally succomed.

Surprised it wasn't earlier but it's still disappointing.

I've taken all the reasonably sized ones off and will try to let them mature but in 2 days, some have gone from green to black on the plant - even with only a few signs of black or yellow leaves. Must be mutating again.

So - I haven't got time to dispose of the lot tonight as I'm doing a day's course tomorrow, I was just popping down the plot to get the gooseberries I'd propagated earlier in the spring for the teachers to pot up tomorrow. But ended up having to pull up several plants otherwise those that are looking ok might just survive a few more weeks and I do want to give them a fighting chance.

Anyway - glum glum glum.

Roll on 2013. I'll be going back to making sure they are all under plastic next year.

Some from the circle are in the greenhouse or courtyard and they are still ok so far. Fingers crossed I may get a few seeds to share.

No photo - it's too depressing.

So I'm including a photo of my friends band's first CD. Keep it quiet but they first recorded most of it about 18 years ago and released it on vinyl but it only came out as a 'long player' the other week. Available on itunes or in hard copy from local independent record shops or from, of course, the fabulous Sister Ray in London Village.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

A big Hint and Tip for newbies

And I mean those capital letters.

I don't grow very many F1 hybrid veg. In fact, unless it was free seed I think I grow only 1 and that's Goldrush F1 Courgette. I grow this because I love love love yellow courgettes and if I have enough I make a huge soupy stew [usually Nigella\s Happiness Soup but I'm not eating carbs so it would be slightly adapted but I digress]...And this year, what with losing so many cucurbit plants - I was chuffed that 2 Goldrush F1 plants made it and started producing flowers and there seemed to be little slug damage.

That is - until the courgettes themselves were not yellow when they started growing. Not in the slightest.

And because so many other courgettes are now no longer even alive I can't even rip these out as we need all the courgettes we can get our hands on this year!


So the Hint and TIp is - don't throw away all your old seed packets [I get through so many I rarely save them as most are handmade and the packs get reused or composted; and any plastic bags get reused anyway - but when you have paid GOOD MONEY for F1 HYBRIDS because you just want YELLOW COURGETTES and then find they are not yellow and you threw away your old packets, you can't even send the pack back to the supplier and DEMAND YOUR MONEY BACK.

When I first started, I would stick every pack I grew into a scrapbook for future reference - these days I'd probably take a photo of the packet so I think I shall be doing that in future with ALL purchased packets. Not many turn out completely wrong but at the prices they charge they should at least be the right chuffing veg.

Tender and True Parsnip seed saving

The one thing I would advise all seed savers is to collect and process your seed as soon as you can. This doesn't mean before it is ready but when it is, do it pronto. Otherwise you end up finding a bucket of old seed in the back of the shed with a dead mouse in it. Not good.

So today it is parsnip seed collection day. It's coming off by the seed and going straight into a used tissue box, with some silica gel packs, until totally dry. Then it will be packed into small bags and shared out amongst seed circles.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Good old Mrs Hutchinson and her potato onions

Watch out - it's another Heritage Veg Review.

This is why going to a HSL seed swap trounces everyone else. I got these in January at Garden Organic's Potato Day. I popped them into my Hugelkultur bed around March time, having popped them into a pot of compost as soon as I got them. Harvested this last weekend and I am very pleased with them. These are the 'eaters' - you can see they are a decent size. The others have been strung up to dry and they'll go back in as growers for next year.

A note of caution. Eat the big ones and use the small ones for next year as the small ones grow into a smaller number of larger onions and the large ones grow into a larger number of small of you want to eat larger ones, sow the small ones. And if you can get any of the large ones to flower - for goodness sakes save that seed!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Seed Saving and stuff...

I wouldn't normally mix blogs, it can get confusing - but I am also blogging the 'seeds sown from a seed circle 2012' and the link is here

If you don't know what a seed circle is - Real Seeds invented it - info here

If you do want to participate in one, we have a few on the Grapevine on this board here. Beware - that general seed swapping rules DO apply [and we will remove any posts that don't] however the circles are for anyone to participate in as the seeds are sent to a central person first.

This is a pic of some Dobbie's Purple Beetroot - which I am saving from for me, for friends, for circles and the rest will go to the Heritage Seed Library. The tops of those are about 6 ft tall, and you can see how big the beets themselves are!

We will start a new set of circles next January on the Grapevine - this year's haven't been so good for obvious reasons, all the more reason to plan to save your seeds so that in the event of failures, other people may have seeds that you want that you can swap with - plus the seeds evolve as our ever changing climate does.

My main aim is to save from the best 10% of any open pollinated crop - whilst selecting for the things that I want.

So in leeks, the LAST 10% to bolt - in tomatoes, the first 10% to crop.

If you want a link to some decent seed saving guidelines - well, you could do worse than one written for schools, which I helped write and take photos for. Linkie is here. Enjoy!

August update

So far, with this year being so rubbish, I am just going to be Statto - rather than too emotional about these seeds. So here goes...successes so far in yellow font.
Achocha Lady’s Slipper (cyclanthera pedata)
I sowed these at one of my schools, and nada. They way well have come up and been slugged but I got nothing. 
Babington Leek (allium ampeloprasum babingtonii)
These were on my hugelkultur bed but due to a problem with one of the paths, may have got trampled on when we were redoing the path - but they are tough little things so might well grow back again.
Stamme onions
These are growing under the Gertrude Franck bed
Egyptian Walking onion Catawissa allium cepa proliferum
A success, they have walked already on my Hugelkultur bed. 
Broad Beans
Unknown Variety
Will be sown for an overwinter crop in about Sept
French Beans
Major Cooke 
Bonne Bouche
Cherokee Trail of Tears
Madeira Maroon
Swedish One Dot
I sowed the dwarfs in the GF bed, but of course, they got slugged but some recovered so perhaps we might get some beans from some of them. The climbers I've cancelled for 2012 due to the fact that 99% of the ones I put out were slugged and I just didn't want to chance any more failures. Will save the rest for 2013.
Runner beans
Mrs Connell’s Black 
Mark is growing these and - although they looked pitiful for ages, have now got flowers and small beans growing. At last!
Painted Mountain
As far as I know, still growing strong at school.
Quillquiña = Bolivian Coriander
Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis).
Flat Leaved Parsley
I sowed some of these in the GF bed and some have come up whereas others haven't. What a rubbish year to try this little experiment!
Sorrel Belleville
These seeds are growing happily
Siberian Kale
Nero di Toscana aka Black Kale 
Not sown yet. 
Grandpa Admire’s
Pommee Brune d’Hiver
Sown a fair amount and am having lovely salads from them. Success!
Avon Resistor 
Sown in GF bed and growing well.  As seen on this photo next to some Long Red Florence onions. 

Peas and Mangetout
Golden Sweet mangetout 
King Tut/Pran’s Pea 
Magnum Bonum
Salmon-Flowered Pea 
Skånsk Märgärt
Stephen’s Pea 
Suttons Purple Podded 
Golden Sweet, King Tut's, Purple Podded and Magnum Bonum all sown, grown and being eaten if not already all harvested. The rest, either a late crop, an overwinter one or next spring.
Pepper, Chilli
Alberto’s Locoto, a Rocoto pepper
Chilli de Cayenne 
Small Unnamed Chilli 
Anaheim Chilli
Pepper, Sweet
Napier Pointy Red 
All sown, and growing well. Some may end up at Garden Organic's Chilli Day as they were grown at one of my schools and are being 'sold' [free but a donation to the fund would be good] to support that school's seed purchase for next year.
Hungarian Zucchini
Georgia Candy Rooster Squash 
Waltham - butter nut squash
Zapallito Squash 
Hmm.....I am rather tender about squashes at the moment as nearly each one was mullered as soon as it was out by the slugs. I've lost about 100 plants. And where the plants have grown, I have pathetic specimens or the fruits have been mullered. As shown by the trails of slime in the photos. I'm this close to ripping the lot out as seeing this each day is more than a little deflating. 

Alpatieva 905A
Beijing Yellow
Dwarf Mr Snow  
Early Tanana
Green Bell Pepper
He-man rootstock,
Korol Rannikh  
Michael Pollan
Monkeys Ass
Plumpton King
Prairie Fire 
Yellow Out Red In
Red Pear
Slovienian Black
Tasmanian Chocolate Dwarf
T.C. Jones 
Vova Yellow 
All sown and grown. I have hopefully got one of each myself, and when I went to the plot yesterday - even though the potatoes has blight a week ago, none of the toms have so I'll keep calm, carry on and harvest what I can. Harvests so far, a few Koraliks and one Nova/Vova yellow. I must check out it's real name! No Monkey's Ass yet - but I have high hopes. All the others are here, there, everywhere and are being grown by schools, chums and swappers. I took a fair few to the Nottingham Organic Gardener's Plant Swap and given loads to my contacts all around.
True Potato Seed
Blue Belle TPS      
Not sown this year as I have a large tray of TSP from our own Potato Breeding Project in my greenhouse. Thank goodness I kept it there as my 2 lottie neighbours have lost all theirs due to [yes] blight. 
Spring Cabbage Durham Early
Nope, can't remember if I sowed these or not. Doylem!  I'm thinking not if I have no recollection.
Tzimbalo Solanum Caripense
Sown and grown, I have one at the plot that has flowered. It's not very big but it's been a rubbish year so I can't blame it. I gave one to a chum and she has it in her new polytunnel so you never know, she might get a decent crop.
Sweet Peas [mainly pink]
I thought I HAD sown these, and put them in a different place to my Cupanis but they have come out looking exactly like the Cupanis -  so somewhere along the line...someone has mucked up. Probably me of course!
Helianthus Sungold
I didn't sow these as - by the spring - I had hundreds of sunflowers all germinating in the soil direct. But come the slug onslaught, I have only 2 growing. So maybe I should have sown these - who knows? Next year. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

So, when I got back from my holiday...

In no particular order:

The inside of the Gertrude Franck bed - under the enviromesh things are cooking well, 

 Up - beetroot with some weeds which will be removed this weekend - just slipped the camera under for a quick shot. Down - Some parsnips amongst Long Red Florence onions. Wahoo!

From outside the mesh - looking good in there

 Some potato onions - all looking ready to harvest. I have 3 varieties and this is just 3 of the bunches. Looks like a fun packed potato onion weekend ahead. These are in a Hugelkultur bed and have a spot of Allium Leaf Miner so I might remove them all and once checked over, grow under netting next year.

 This is pretty much what I found on most cucurbits - bad slug damage including trails just to set me off on one. Little ****ers.

And the Hugelkultur bed; looking exceptionally healthy, those are 2 tomato plants in the nearside area - just left to their own devices once planted out. Next year, it will be just self sown toms only - sort of...I'm just going to sprinkle seeds over the bed and leave them to germinate when they are good and ready. They usually catch up ok. 

And to the Beetroot - this is Dobbie's Purple from a packet I got from the HSL people, which was due to be chucked as it was in the 'old stash' - so more than 10 years old. It grew well, so well that I decided to save from it and my lottie neighbour cadged one off me and is also saving it. I'll strip it with enough for me and several seed circles and give the rest back to the HSL. The tops of those stalks are over 6ft. So you can see how big the beets actually get. HOOGE!

And the Chokeberry - Aronia. Bought from a little nursery in between Oxford and Banbury for a knock down price, mine finally turned red this week. Haven't tried it yet.

Without photos - I have harvested some tomatoes, beetroot, more rasps and even though the potatoes got blight last week, the Heritage tomatoes haven't. Some are looking a little 'worse for wear' in the 'water and food' stakes but as I've seen any dodgy looking leaves, they have been quietly and calmly removed and disposed of without a fuss. So if we keep schtum then they may never know. You haven't seen me, blight?