Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Seedy pots

When we did the makeover of our garden in early spring last year, one of the things I wanted to do was reduce the number of things growing in pots here. I had dozens of them, a lot of them succulents. And so I guess, with my succulent garden now planted in the ground, I have reduced pot numbers markedly. But they're making a comeback! I seem to be growing more things in pots again. Right now it's herbs and salad greens which  are coming up from seed, in a gaggle of pots parked here and there.

I guess this is because pots have so many attractions. For one thing they contain the size of your 'patch' of whatever you are growing. And secondly, the soil is nice, really nice (well, for a while at least). Thirdly, you can move pots around, first to the gentle, dappled sun/shade when they are baby seedlings making a start in life, then out into the open sunshine to catch the autumn warmth once they're growing well. So far, almost everything has gone to plan, except for one hitch which was all my fault. Here's the story so far...

So-called 'micro-green salad mix' which is actually normal
salad mix. The 'micro-green' bit is where you harvest these things
young, nothing else. For lunch today I'll be getting out the
scissors and snipping off enough to go in a sandwich.

This is the exciting action shot of how it all looked once I had
sowed the seeds, back on March 18 this year.
And this is what I sowed: coriander, chervil, flat-leaf parsley
and those 'micro-greens', a freebie from BBY magazine.

Five weeks later and the parsley is doing really well. The first
trick with the slow-to-germinate parsley seed is to soak them
in boiling water first (just put the seed in a bowl, pour over
the boiling water, and leave them there until the water is cool.)
Instead of taking the usual three or four weeks to sprout, they
were up in two weeks, and they've been growing eagerly ever
since. The other trick with parsley is to grow them from seed,
not seedlings. Parsley belongs to the Apiaceae family of plants,
which also includes carrots, chervil and parsnips. All of them like
to send down long taproots and they hate to be interrupted! They
being transplanted as seedlings. When you grow parsley
from transplanted seedlings they might survive OK (but they
can have a higher failure rate, especially in warm weather) and they
also tend to go to seed more rapidly than plants raised from seed. 

Coriander is another one that belongs to the parsley family,
and it does better from seed, too. It also does better in gardens
here in Sydney in winter. The slower growth rate now suits
coriander fine, and this pot will last for months. If you grow
coriander in a hotter climate you need to do it like a farmer,
sowing then harvesting the whole plant six weeks later, then
replanting and harvesting six weeks later, and so on. In hot
weather, if you let the plants grow on, the leaves change from
broad and flat to spindly, then they flower (very prettily) then
they set seed, all in very rapid succession. So the trick to being
a lazy backyard coriander grower, who just wants some leaves
on hand most of the time, is to grow it from seed in autumn.

The chervil is coming up but lagging behind, and that's entirely
my fault. Why? Well, if I had bothered to look at the seed
packet I might have noticed that my seeds were well past their
'use-by' date, and none of the original batch came up. So I
re-ordered another packet of seeds from The Italian Gardener,
they arrived in the mail a few days later, and about 10 days
later the seeds came up and they've been doing fine ever since.
Apart from its delicate, mildly aniseedy flavour, the great thing
about chervil is that is isn't a 'sun-hog'. If your garden isn't
as ideally sunny as you'd like it to be, chervil does well on
half-day sun rations. More people should grow it. We love it
with steamed vegetables, finely chopped and added just
before serving. It transforms steamed zucchini.


Alex Krasovskis said...

For me growing things in pots is addictive to the point where I have too many things to plant out and not enough room. I should be planting more things that will stay in the pots.

Lanie at Edible Urban Garden said...

I have just started to grow things in pots to help control my nematode problem. So tomatoes etc. all in pots. It is a bit addictive. Your salad greens look gorgeous. Think I'll do that in my lunch break (because as you can see I am thesis writing now.....mmmmm).