Saturday, January 26, 2013

Seedy habits

The therapists say that the first thing to do with any addiction is to admit you have one. Good advice, but I'm not sure if they know what they're doing after that point is reached. Anyway, here goes: I am tragically addicted to growing plants from seed, and my success rate is OK, not brilliant, but getting better. There, I've said it. I'm feeling better already.

And so at the latter end of this hot, windy and rather unpleasant Sydney Saturday afternoon in January, I've brought out my seed tins, taking stock of the lovely little packets of tragic temptation lurking demurely inside, and I'm planning my autumn seed-raising campaign now. Oh what fun, must put on the kettle to make a calming slug of green tea while I plan out my gardening future.

Here's the hot candidates, all vying for attention. With some,
I'm just waiting for this rolling series of heatwaves to be over
before I get any plants growing again (rocket, lettuce and chervil
all hate the heat and wouldn't be worth bothering with right now).

But there's another category of seeds which is demanding
my attention now: those plants which really only are happy
when sown as seed in the spot where they are going to spend
the rest of their little lives. These are the fuss-pots which don't
like being transplanted as seedlings. Here, there's Florence
fennel, Shirley poppies, carrots, parsley, rocket, beetroot, chervil
and parsnips. I'm already starting to play favourites, though.

While I do of course like to eat parsnips, there
is something extra about them that I like. Being
slow and a bit haphazard in the way they come
up from seed has its 'challenge and reward' buzz
when you see them finally come up, but I just like
watching them grow, and of course harvest
time is lucky dip at the carnival time: you never
know what shapes you'll get (but my second
crop was much better than the first, and my
secret of success is deep, maniacal soil prep).

Call me sick, but I just like parsnip foliage.

If you think having a crush on parsnips is worthy
of referral to a therapist, wait till you hear my
Shirley poppy problem! Total failure last time,
complete duds. I rescued the situation by buying
and planting some Iceland poppies in their place
(and Icelands are easy-peasy, lovely from seedlings).
But here I am planning to have another go. Of
course I don't have a clue where I went wrong.
Tragic fools rarely do. But I'm going to try again.

Florence fennel also needs to be sown direct
into the soil. No transplanting seedlings, please.
As I mentioned a couple of postings ago, I
currently have a little 'test batch' sown and
growing well. Pam and I love to blend sliced 

fennel and potatoes together (more spud than
fennel of course), sprinkle with olive oil, grinds
of salt and pepper then toss, into a covered dish
then bake slowly for as long as you like. The
fennel caramelises and becomes a bit sweet
and the result is utterly delicious.

Oops! A seed spill in the bottom of the tin.
Whose are they? Not the fennel! Yep, the
fennel, recognise those seeds anywhere.
Thank goodness for stocktakes and stickytape
fennel seed packet back in good order now.

Two last little asides. Seed packets give old tins a meaning and
purpose in life. Most of my seeds are in the cricket-crazy-kids'
Weet-Bix tin, but the retro-themed Yates commemorative
125th anniversary tin is doing fine service, too.

Last but never least, I amazed myself by actually checking the
'sow by' dates on the back of all the seed packets before I did
anything else. It is a bit depressing to carefully till the soil,
prepare the seed beds, sow the seeds and water them for days,
then weeks, on end, only to have nothing happen. At that point
 you wonder where could you have possibly gone wrong.
Then you finally, belatedly glance at the seed packet only to
discover it says: "You should have sown them three years ago,
you fool". So take it from a tragic fool, read the packet first!


patientgardener said...

Excellent another seedaholic. I confessed a few years back. I thought growing veg would justify my addiction but producing crops but it wasnt me so instead I have embraced my obsession fully with no apologies and the flower seed packets are completely out of control with more on order - oh dear

Missy Piggy said...

Because I garden in pots I've been growing everything from seed and it's mostly worked really well..some failures to sprout but not too many.

Sue O said...

I love growing parsnips too, but the ones I planted last year didn't germinate, not a one! My seeds were probably old, but that usually doesn't bother them. Maybe parsnips are pickier than most.
And when you say soil prep, how crazy do you go for the white tubers?

Lanie at Edible Urban Garden said...

Seedy addiction. Great title.
"Hello, my name is Lanie and I too am addicted to seeds."
I think the last time I counted I had over 60 packets. That is just silly. My success rate isn't all that crash hot either. Reading your post reminded me of all the seeds I could plant. Thanks.

Jamie said...

Thanks for your comments, seedaholics!

Sue, the maniacal soil prep is lots of lots of digging mostly. I love saying the word 'tilth' to myself while I reduce each clod and clump to fine crumbliness. I pretend I am a Spanish gardener from Barthelona who likes a fine tilth.

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