Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Coriander the easy, seedy way

I really ought to have a bit more faith in myself. There I was a few weeks back, filled with doubt that my coriander seed-saving skills were up to scratch, and so I sowed my seeds really thickly, hoping that maybe a quarter of them might sprout.

Doubter! Now I feel foolish, because it looks like three-quarters of the little blighters want to enjoy the autumn sunshine, and now I have a two-inch high glut of too-much baby coriander to manage.

All the babies are as cute as these guys. After the first long baby leaves soak up the sunshine, the next to come are the ones that look like proper coriander.

It's not a huge glut, it's still a small glut, but it's as crowded as a Hong Kong vegie market down there.

Late last year my coriander did what all coriander does when the weather warms up. It goes from leafy to flowery to seedy in the space of two weeks. So I let the plants go through their life cycle, waiting for them to then start dying down and the seeds to go from bright green to showing tinges of brown ... and then I pulled up the plants, snipped off the seed heads and put them in some brown paper bags and hung these up on a nail in my shed.

Totally forgot about them I did, but as autumn arrived I knew it was coriander seed planting time once the warm part of autumn was over.

Instead of painstakingly plucking individual seeds off the stems, I just closed up the bag and gave it a very good shake. Sure enough, a hundred or so seeds fell off and these were the ones I planted.

I use an easy method for planting them. I just clear a small patch of soil of weeds, dig it lightly with a fork to fluff up the soil, then I scatter the seed randomly, fairly thickly from my hand, medieval seed-sowing style. You know, just casting them out.

Then I get out a bag of seed-raising mix (it's a fine, sandy potting mix) and scatter this (also medieval-style) over the seed until you can't see them anymore. It does not need to be a thick layer of seed-raising mix. A quarter inch or about 5mm at best is all that's needed.

The huge, enormously difficult trick that you need to master is to remember to water the patch every morning, if rain isn't forecast. I use a light, fine spray setting on my hose attachment, so that the soil is well moistened but isn't washed away.

The seeds come up in about two weeks, and you'll have to wait another week or so before the seedlings send up those second pairs of leaves that actually look like coriander.

If you sow coriander seeds now, in autumn in temperate Australia, the plants should last you through the winter. 

In my case, due to the excess of success, I will have to "thin out" my coriander patch, pulling out some plants to give the remaining plants room to grow. If you leave them overcrowded, your crop won't thrive, so you'll just have to do what farmers do, and manage your crops. Just pull out the smaller, weaker plants — Charles Darwin would want you to — to let the stronger, fitter plants thrive.

And PS: if you save seeds this way, you almost certainly will have saved more seeds than you could ever grow at your own place, so give the leftovers to your gardening friends.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

(Not) doing the rounds

Well, I was going to write this blog posting two days ago, while the rain was still falling. And I was going to start it with something like "it's been 900 days since the rain began falling, or at least it feels that long ..." but things got away from me. 

And now today the sun is out, the sky is blue and Huey the Rain God is having a good old chuckle at my expense. Very funny Huey. Love your work.

But truly rooly, the non-stop month of rain that was March 2017 was getting to me, as a gardener. There wasn't much to do, I found that I was getting out of the habit of doing my normal "morning rounds". It was so wet outside that I stayed inside and just looked out, most mornings.

All that is over now. It seems to be turning into a more normal April. Our local newspaper informed me that Sydney has already had half its 12-month average of rainfall in the first three months of the year. So a not-so-wet April and May would be a welcome gift to autumn.

As you can see from the panorama shot above, it's not as if the garden is suffering from all the rain. If you look closely it's not thriving especially well, either. That only happens when there is plenty of sunshine, as well as lots of rain.

Our newest jewel, the baby frangipani, is doing what all good Sydney frangipanis do: it's coping well with whatever Sydney's weather gods dish out.

Various flowers have taken a beating in the constant rain, but all foliage is thriving. A long time ago in this blog I spent about 20 photos and even more words documenting the various different shades of green and greeny-blue/bluey-green we have growing here, and this one photo is a summary of that notion. A beautiful colour, green.

The lemon grass loved the rain, but it would rather be somewhere warmer, like South-East Asia. This lovely plant has become on of my favourites in the garden, once it has grown its summer crown of fragrant, willowy straps.

Every year in autumn the grapevine growing on top of the pergola belonging to our neighbours, Michael and Soula, finally scrambles its way onto our olive and murraya trees, but this year is its best effort ever. The vines have made it over the top of the olive tree and are now cascading down the other side. In late autumn Michael always cuts the vines back, and I get out my extension loppers and trim off the remnants dangling over my side, so order will be restored in winter.

And so the seasons roll on, but I would like it known that the first month of autumn 2017 has been a soggy one. I'm looking forward to getting back into the routine of doing the morning rounds. First item on the agenda is pulling weeds. Lots of weeds.