Archive for the ‘Collecting seeds’ Category

Peach Hollyhock, BlakeneyI can feel it coming on. This slight obsession with Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea).

Deep pink Hollyhocks Ambler Road

Not only are they wonderful for greening-up our streets, but now they’re creeping into my front and back gardens (and a few clients’ gardens too). I want a field of them. I want to plant every seed that I’ve lovingly collected to see how they develop after cross-pollination. But alas, I’m short of an acre or two.

Cream Hollyhock with deep peach centre and blushings BlakeneyOn a recent trip to Blakekney on the north Norfolk coast, these joyful blousey creatures were everywhere. In little alleys, surrounded by flinty gorgeousness, in front of cottages on the street,

Cream Hollyhock with gentle peach blushings Blakeney

and even on their last knockings, I found them irresistible (and collected a few seed heads from each).

Hollyhock seedlingsI’ve only ever sown Hollyhock seeds in spring, from seeds gathered from neighbours’ front gardens, but I’ve collected seeds from surrounding streets and friends’ houses and started off a selection of these in the beginning of September. I’m not sure if, given a head start, these biennials/short-lived perennials will flower next summer, but I thought it was worth a try and will overwinter these in my greenhouse.

October Hollyhock seedlingsI’ve even started off a few last week to see how these do too.

And there’s plenty more to sow in spring for further experimentation. The delicious ‘Halo’ series (bold blooms with contrasting colours at their centre), are said to flower in their first year, so definitely worth a try,

Creme de Cassis Hollyhockand I spotted this rich ‘Crème de Cassis’ variety a few years ago at the Hampton Court Flower Show which I’m now itching to get growing.

We’re hoping to go large with our tree pit planting for our community project next year, so many of these little seedlings are destined to brighten up our streets (and a few front gardens if people want them). Just can’t wait to see how they all flower in the years to come.

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Sugarloaf chicories in front garden

I’ve failed again! I’m really starting to get to grips with successional sowing over summer and have enjoyed months and months of lettuces (and other herbs and leaves) picked from my front garden. But despite actually sowing (and even buying) some leaves for over-wintering I didn’t manage to get most of them into the ground. The shame of it all!

So here I have my one success story. These are Sugarloaf chicories and I grew them as they come highly recommended by Joy Larkcom. Need I say more! I’ve been mixing these with the end of my summer/autumn lettuces, Sorrel and Sweet Cicely and have been enjoying some rather tasty salads.

Metal Hoops from Plant BellesBut as the temperatures are soon forecast to dip again, I’ve decided it’s time to do some wrapping up. I bought these natty hoops from Plant Belles some while ago and they seem just the ticket.

Adding bamboo canes for mini clocheYou simply thread a few bamboo canes through the holes in the hoops,

Mini cloche covered in fleeceEt voila! Covered in fleece, I now have my own cloche/mini tunnel to keep my chicories covered up during the coldest and windiest of months. Hopefully the protection should elongate the harvesting season for the Sweet Cicely and Sorrel too.

And I’ve left a couple out in the cold as I’m  keen to see how well they survive with no extra help.

Nicole collecting seeds from street HollyhocksMeanwhile, neighbour Nicole is collecting seeds from her ‘Halo Apricot’ Hollyhock, remarkably still in bloom in her tree pit. It’s a gorgeous variety and it’ll be interesting to see if the seeds come true or if fraternising with other Hollyhocks in the street will supply some interesting variations.

Cavalo NeroAlongside my Chicory, Cavolo nero is supplying some delicious winter veg,

Daubenton's perennial Kaleand on the corner plot, a small cutting of Daubenton’s perennial Kale, acquired from Charles Dowding, has come on marvellously. Looking forward to taking my own cuttings come spring and popping this very useful veg in many a new spot (sticks are there to deter foxes digging the plant up when tiny).

Beans to collect for seedsI’ve been meaning to do a final clear up in the corner plot for ages now, but bulb planting has taken precedence. However, all bulbs have been planted for both clients and myself (hurrah!) and it felt great to have time to collect the last of the seeds and clear up the garden for winter. Just a bit more leaf raking (GRrr..), a bit of mulching perhaps and then there’ll be plenty of time to catch up on reading and researching what to grow next year.

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This year I was so pleased with the fabulous cos ‘Freckles’ lettuce that I grew, that I decided that I’d have a go at collecting seeds from my crop after they’d started to bolt.

I planted a fair few lettuces,

so my seed collecting patch took up a fair amount of space too.

As I started to sift through the seed casings, I realised that my seed collecting was going to take me a fair old while. Not only do you have to divide the outer brown covering from the seeds, but each seed is attached to its own little fluffy parachute, so this has to be carefully detached too (as you don’t want to leave any organic matter other than the seeds in its envelope, as it could rot and the moisture destroy the viability of your seeds). After about half an hour, I started to get itchy, thinking about all the other things I could be getting on with in the garden.

After about an hour, I did have a good pile of seeds, but I still felt a tad resentful about the time I’d spent sorting the seeds to get to my haul. And that got me wondering about how seed companies collect their seeds.

I called Joy at Sea Spring Seeds (a small seed company offering a choice selection of veg seeds) to ask how they collected their seeds. Apart from their Chilli seeds (in which they specialise and offer 40 different varieties), they buy in all the rest from seeds manufacturers. Whilst we agreed that collecting some seeds (I love collecting seeds from beans, sweet peas and hollyhocks) was a worthwhile project, she advised against seed collecting for some plants for a number of reasons. Firstly, letting your plants go to seed can take up valuable growing space and can lead to weed problems as you ignore the space around plants going to seed whilst tending more critical veg production.  This is true. I could have pulled these plants up a couple of months ago and had a whole bed of tasty mustard leaves happily growing by now!

Also, large seed manufacturers have specialist drying equipment for the seeds, so that the seeds are dried correctly before being stored and will maintain their viability. Bad drying and storage of your seeds (always store your seeds in a paper envelope in a cool, dry space), could mean that seeds could have lower germination rates when it comes to sowing them. And then there’s the question of hybrid seeds that will never come true as they have 2 different parents. Blimey, this is where things can start to get complicated (unless you want to be truly experimental). If you’re after a specific hybrid plant and don’t want to waste your growing year on a non-too-certain outcome, then it’s best to stick to bought seeds.

All in all, although there is a thrill about collecting your own seeds (I did really enjoy discovering what a lettuce flower and seed head looked like), certainly for lettuces and other more fiddly seed heads, I think I’d rather pay my £2 and save my precious time and space for growing more veg.

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