Wednesday, September 15, 2021

What seeds have taught me about patience


One very strange thing I haven't been doing lately is visiting gardening centres. Prior to all this covid disruption, you'd probably find me browsing through a garden centre at least once a week. They were right up there with bookshops for me: regular haunts. But that was back then, and I haven't been to a bookshop for quite some time, either.

So, instead of picking up a punnet of seedlings at the local garden centre, for the last few weeks I've either been sorting through my stash of seed packets, searching the small section devoted to seeds at my local supermarket, or — by far the best fun of all — I've been browsing seed catalogues online, placing orders, then waiting for our poor overworked Postie to deliver me the goodies.

Another small padded envelope of seeds arrived in the mail today, and so I thought it's about time to share with you "What seeds have taught me about patience". It's not all good news, but it isn't a disaster story, either. 

On with the slide show.

I love the way coriander seeds hang around on top of the baby leaves until the very last moment. It looks like the baby plants are telling the seeds to "buzz off, now scram!"
It's a tiny bit late in the season for coriander — I normally start sowing seeds in autumn — but this will be my last batch for 2021. They have just a couple of months to grow into lovely leafy herbs before summer comes on. O
nce things get seriously warm they go berserk, become seedy in no time, and the leafy herb I love is no more.

I only sowed these basil seeds last Monday, and they're up as fast as those other legendary quick sprouters, rocket. I'm looking for a crowded pot of little plants that will look very photogenic for a few weeks and supply lots of leaves for tossing into the mix with tomatoes, especially. What a team!

I'm not fussy about where/who I get my seeds from, and my seed tin stash has all major and minor companies represented.

These English spinach seedlings came up only a day after the basil, and it's a good thing they're making a fast start. They're another crop which does better in the autumn and winter months, but I've got them in a partly shaded spot to avoid the heat, and I plan to fertilise the daylights out of them to make them grow faster. If we get a good crop, there's nothing Pammy likes more than a Japanese style Gomayagochi spinach salad with her grilled Teriyaki salmon. Home-grown spinach flavour here we come.

Once you get addicted to growing plants from seed, as well as actually planting some of the seeds (eg, the spinach, silver beet and spring onions in the top row) you also end up buying packets of seeds in a "seemed like a good idea at the time" kind of way. I fully intend to grow leeks, lettuce and radish some time soon, I hope. No reason why not, really ...

Here's one of those lessons in patience that seeds have taught me. Usually I am dead lazy about growing chives. Every winter my pots of chives turn into dense, unhappy clumps that turn yellow and look crook. Always a glutton for punishment, I have tried de-potting the clump, diving up the plants and replanting them in fresh mix, and the results have never been all that great. So most years I just buy a fresh punnet of little chives, plant them in a pot and they zoom away! This time, I decided to do it with seeds, and what do you know? (See below) ... 

It takes 14-21 days for the seed to sprout, and this pot took all 21 days to sprout (that was all of July). Now, 6 weeks later, we're in business snipping chives to go into Pammy's scrambled eggs on Sunday morning. But the lesson I have to share with slow-sprouting seeds is to know this in advance, plan well ahead, and try to see the year in three-month-long blocks of time. Impatient "days and weeks" thinking is just too hurried. If you grow chives from seed, think "third quarter of the year" as chive time.

Much more fun, quicker and prettier to look at, the wonderful world of lettuce is a great place for beginners to get started with seeds. There's a zillion varieties to choose from, especially when you start shopping online, and usually lettuce will sprout for you quite quickly.

I've been growing spring onions/scallions/shallots (call them what you will) from seed for several years now. My problem is that I hate wastage, and buying just one punnet of seedlings gives me about three times more seedlings than I have space for them, so I raise small batches from seed each time I start a crop. I cook with them all the time, adding them to salads and stir-fries, as well as using them as a mildly oniony substitute when I don't have any onions at hand. And that classic Chinese ginger and shallot dipping sauce for poached chicken is just heaven on a plate. I miss Yum Cha!

This is what arrived in the mail today, from my favourite online seed supplier, Eden Seeds. Like all the good quality specialists they have a wide range to choose from, and their customer service and delivery speed is reliably very good. This time I succumbed to the lure of two very pretty loose leaf lettuce, and a packet of the hard-to-find, tricky-to-grow and finely flavoured herb, chervil. I've been banging on for years about how good chervil is and so far I think I have convinced no-one. But Pammy loves chervil too, and that's all I need to know to enjoy its flavour. Its lightly aniseedy delicacy is superb with mild-tasting vegies such as zucchini and squash. Transforms them from bland to beautiful.

As well as being a sucker for lettuce varieties in seed catalogues, I am also very susceptible to limited edition tins of biscuits or other products on supermarket shelves. My shed has a goodly number of "collectable" supermarket tins filled with glues, nuts & bolts, and seed packets. All the cricket heroes on this Weet-Bix tin have long retired but this tin has aged nicely, with almost all the colours fading to a bluey-grey, as if there has been a printing mistake at the factory. Inside that tin is a cornucopia of seed packets that is constantly being added to ... more Aladdin's tin than Aladdin's cave.

Last but not least in the slide show is confirmation that not everything in that Weet-Bix tin is an edible. I know that cosmos is a bit weedy, so I have planted a row of cosmos seeds at the back of my Big Red geranium patch. So the plan is this summer the cosmos will add cheery yellow and orange flowers towering over the scrambling concourse of red geraniums, and then after the cosmos season has ended, the Battle Royal will ensue as weedy cosmos grapples with ever-spreading geraniums.

So, even though growing everything this year from seed is like gardening in slow motion, time ticks over steadily. It's spooky, like it has something to do with the position of the sun in the sky or something.

If you are impatient, don't even think about growing chives, chervil or parsley from seed. They're seeds of patience, for the long-term planners.

If you are impatient, get out there and start sprinkling around the basil seeds, the spinach, the lettuce, the rocket. There'll be something happening before one week has passed. 

I'm somewhere in between when it comes to patience. I do have some patience, but not a lot. So I do love it when seeds come up fast.

But I have learned that there's a deep satisfaction when real patience, the long-waiting, not-much-happening-yet kind of patience is rewarded. It's as if time has become an old friend with whom I am strolling through the year, hand-in-hand. 


Phil in Newy said...

Well that was an epic seed yarn. Nice one Jamie. I might put a plug in for Greenpatch Seeds at Taree, although I can't imagine you aren't aware of them. The local variety shop has DT Brown's thank goodness, as the two hardware shops in my suburb have gone away in the past 20 years. Very sad.

I was also a late starter with seeds. Only last week did I sow some in pots. I always miss the bus with seeds. What's kept me particularly busy this week is repotting. Not the actual transfer, but cleaning the effing onion weed bulbs from around the roots of the transplants. You of all people know what I mean by effing.

The BOM has predicted a "warm wet spring" and warm, not so good, but wet will make up for it. At last I can get some ground cover growing in all those ugly corners and especially on the footpath along the fence.

All good fun. Thanks for the epistles, and the thistles :0)

Phil in Newy said...

Just noticed your complaint about growing chives from seeds. I luckily inherited two pots of garlic chives, one much thicker stems than the other. They've hung about surviving my erratic watering for at least 10 years, but this week they got into the big beds and are set for life. I'm inside right now avoiding a shower of rain, but it's gone, so back out to tame the wilderness!!

Jamie said...

I'm always guilty of over-long postings, but now I have a captive, locked-down audience I just can't help rattle on! Sorry about that.
Those DT Brown seeds always work well for me. And yes Greenpatch Seeds in Taree are a good outfit. I was tempted to add in several more but decided to keep it down to just the people who sent me the seeds yesterday.
Good luck with the onion weed! I did major battle with one patch last weekend, and the next battle is due to kick off on Saturday morning. Amazing to think you can fill a whole bucket with nothing but onion weeds ...