Sunday, March 7, 2010

Seed day

I'm being a bit careful about which jobs my dodgy back is capable of tackling right now, but sowing seeds is a pleasant little task which is fairly safe, provided I don't do something silly with a full bag of potting mix. And so I'm taking a little gamble on the weather cooling down a bit over the next few weeks and I'm sowing up some pots of seeds, hoping that by the time they germinate in a week or two, things might be a little less humid summery and a bit more warm autumnal. Fingers crossed.

First up, three pots of herbs. From left to right, chervil, rocket and coriander.

I'm going to add in several links with this post, just because I think it's appropriate this time round. On the left, the chervil seeds came from the Italian Gardener an Australian-based seed supplier selling seeds sourced from Italy. So far, none of his seeds have let me down, they've all been great, and for the roughly $4.50 price of each packet you seem to get a zillion seeds, many many more seeds than from other seed companies. In the background, the rocket seeds come from Yates, Australia's biggest seed supplier, and they're absolutely fine, never let me down either. In the foreground the coriander seeds are the ones I saved from last year's harvest.

Now, this looks like far too many coriander seeds in that pot, and you're right, that's far too many. Deliberately so, because I don't know whether they're duds or not. If only 50% of them come up, it's probably still too many. But if only 25% come up, it's probably right. So, I'll just wait and see. And if I have 100% germination and too many plants, it'll be out with the tweezers and I'll ruthlessly cull the weaklings so that Charles Darwin would be proud of me.

This is just a photo of last year's coriander, the parent which produced the seeds above. Early March in Sydney is probably a month too early to sow coriander seed, especially if the weather stays warm, but as I still have hundreds of seeds left over, I'll just sow another batch in April, which is probably a more sensible time to do it, as coriander grows best during the coolest months of the year here – May through to September. The later batch will be sown in the ground. If it's hot this month, I'll move this potted coriander to a more gentle spot in the garden that only gets morning sun.

There's a simple explanation for the large number of fine, thin chervil seedlings here. I spilled them accidentally from the packet, and then got sick of picking up the fine seed to retrieve my boo boo. And so I'll wait for them to sprout and I'll thin them out then.

The great thing about chervil is that this herb loves the semi-shaded spots in gardens. In fact, don't give it full sun. So, if you're a balcony gardener with limited sunshine, or in the inner city where the neighbouring buildings and trees cast long and lengthy shadows, try some chervil. Chervil is one of the four classic French 'fines herbes' – parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon. It has a delicate flavour that has hints of aniseed. This photo is one of last year's pots. Chervil is a short-lived herb that I find grows easily from seed. A pot like this might last you about two or so months; towards the end just sow another pot of seed.

The third crop sown today is rocket. I stopped sowing rocket last November, as it's just too hot to grow rocket here in summer. It should do fine from now on. In fact, it should rocket away! It's well-named. Sown today on Sunday, the seeds will probably be up by Thursday or Friday. Rocket lives hard and dies young, and so I try to sow a pot like this roughly every four to six weeks, from now until late October.

This is a typical pot-full of rocket from last year. It's ready to harvest at this baby stage. I harvest it with scissors, cutting the plants off almost at the base. When it's baby-sized like this it's still nutty and lovely to eat in salads. Let it grow another 10 days more, when the leaves are double in size, and it will have become peppery and not really all that pleasant to eat in salads, especially if there's a lot of it in the salad. Unfortunately, this larger, peppery rocket is what most shops sell and so I find it's no wonder that rocket isn't all that popular with your average punter.

To finish off the pots of seed, I cover them with seed-raising mix. The chervil and the rocket are barely covered with seed-raising mix. The packet says to sow seed 3mm deep, and so I aim for about that thickness of coverage. Coriander seed needs to be sown 6mm deep, and so I cover it with a thicker layer of seed-raising mix.

Water well with a very fine spray so as not to wash the seeds away, and leave the pots in a warm but not sunny spot. In this warm weather, which is essentially still very summery, everything should sprout soon enough. When they do sprout I'll lightly liquid feed them then thin them out a week or so later on if they're too crowded. The chervil will remain in a semi-shaded spot, but the rocket and coriander will be moved to sunnier spots once they're underway.

Finally, another bit of seed-sowing today. On the left, some red-stemmed spring onions and some mixed mesclun lettuce, and in the round pots on the right, the Gymea lily seeds which I blogged about here.

Phew! All good fun, though and my back is just fine! I love watching seeds come up – I don't think I'll ever get sick of it – and to toss in a final link for this link-filled blog I'd have to say I am always inspired by Michelle and her great blog at From Seed to Table.

Right now I'm most fascinated to know whether the Gymea lily seeds will sprout, but my iffy home-saved coriander seeds have a very nice touch of suspense about them, too. As for the others, it's routine, but a very pleasant routine indeed.


Liss said...

Snap! We've planted seeds of coriander, chives, leeks, rocket, baby cos, mignonette lettuce and red onion today. Fingers crossed!

Our other babies (broccoli, savoy cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflowers) have sprouted up magnificiently that we planted 2 weeks ago so I'm keeping positive!

*chink* cheers to a wonderful autumn crop!

Liss said...

Oh Jamie, I'm also looking at planting some grapes this autumn, any you'd recommend for domestic use in Sydney - I've got my mind on Isabellas and pink Ionas..?

Jamie said...

*Chink* Liss, good luck with your seeds and autumn crops, too.

As for grapes I tried them many years ago and got sick of the powdery mildew on both the leaves and grapes (which were Waltham Cross).

I really don't know much about growing grapes in Sydney, other than it's difficult due to the humidity. You'd need to make sure there was plenty of air flowing around them, perhaps by trimming off excess growth where it's not needed, and placing the grapes where they'll catch some prevailing breezes.

But what the hell. Gardening is all about having a go, isn't it? So have a go at the ones you've chosen, and good luck. My Greek neighbours grow ornamental grapes over their pergolas and they produce the loveliest cool green shade, even if they don't produce crops.

But then again, what do the people at Bond's Nursery recommend? They're in your area and their suggestion would probably be another good bet.

Evelyn Howard said...

HI Jamie
Hope yr back gets well soon. I sowed some Coriander seeds today too. I like the look of chervil, tho' I've never cooked with it. Maybe I'll get some, just becoz they look pretty :)

patientgardener said...

It always makes me smile when you post about waiting for the weather to cool down before you sow seeds while I am waiting for it to warm up so I can sow seeds.
Thanks for posting about Chervil - I have never tried growing it but I think I will give it a go.
What is seed-raising mix, I havent heard of it here in the UK

Jamie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie said...

Seed-raising mix is sold everywhere here in bags. It's a very fine, sandy type of potting mix specifically designed for sowing seeds into and for raising seedlings.

Here's a link to the supplier of the seed-raising mix which I usually use.

michelle said...

Jamie, you're such a sweetie, you say such nice things about my blog. :) Thank you! I just pulled out my winter crop of chervil and got out my package of seeds to sow another round. My seeds came from an Italian seed producer also and there's enough in that packet to last for years.

My grape vine gets powdery mildew every year and I've found that an extract of Neem oil is a very effective organic treatment. The brand that I buy is Greenlight. It's also great for treating powdery mildew on zucchini plants.

crystalzerosix said...

you are the photo lover...very nice picture's collection....

don't forget to 'follow' my photoblog too...

Aanee Flowers said...

Decent post about soying,
I especially like the fact that you pointed out about the qauntity of coriander seeds. Great tips.

Aanee xxx
Aanee Flowers Donegal