Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gene mixing by nature - seed offer

Hello out there my fellow gardeners, the seeds are ripening and I've a suffit of mustard and orach seeds that I'd like to share with some of you. Both of these wonderful leaf plants will self sow in your garden for years to come if you give them half a chance and provide greens each spring to early summer.

Orach is a fantastic and ornamental spinach substitute which holds longer than its aforementioned taste / cooking cousin. It's elegant colours ranging from golden green to deep purple, with complenentary towering seed stalks by the end of summer, make it so desireable that I like to call spinach an orach substitute. I have several varieties in my garden but I don't isolate so there are likely to be crosses. If you would like some seed of my garden's yellow/green/magenta and bronze orach mix then email me.

Cute Ruby Mountain Orach seedling. Can't find my field 'o' orach picture at the moment but they merrily grow in and around a purle lace elderberry bush in my garden making a nice contrast and complement in yellows, greens and bronze.

I believe the two types I am growing are both Indian mustards or Brassica juncea (has anyone seen my memory, I left it around here somewhere). I have a mix that may be red stemmed, red leaved, large or crumpled leaf types varying in hottness. This is a very early green that tastes great when used to spice up a salad or in stirfry. Substitute it for part of the 'spinach' you would use in another recipe to give it a new kick. My original seed was Osaka Purple and Wild Garden Seed mix. If you would like a small baggy of mustard seeds, email me.

A field of self sown Osaka Purple mustard. P.S. A poster pointed out to me that someone let their mustard go to seed in a public garden and that not everyone appreciated having bushels of these pugnent plants so caution is advised ;) They are easy to remove if you have too many.


Saving small bunches of Brassica seeds
- mustard in this case - my handy* tutorial.

Step 1: After removing the early bolters or off types, let it flower and seed

A typical yellow mustard flower and plump green seed pods - incidentally, the pods are edible. The most known type of edible brassica seed pod is on the rattail radish.

Step 2: Once the seed pods are dry and tan coloured, cut off whole stems but careful not to shake them, the pods shatter easily. Other writers note that it is really important that the seed pods dry on the growing plant as they don't continue to ripen well once removed. Also try to get keep them dry during ripening.


Step 3: Put seed pods in large bowl and crush them in your hands, the seeds will slide to the bottom.


Step 4: Remove the chaff that'll mostly be on top of the seeds - that's the extra stuff that's not a lovely reddish brown to black seed.


Step 5: Bag and label - TADA!

* Get it, handy? Notice how my hand is in most of the pictures... I thought I'd make them action shots.

Irish Seed Savers on saving Brassica seeds
Long Island Seed Savers on saving Broccoli seeds - with notes on fungal diseases

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jack Frost has been packing his suitcase...

... and if you live in the northern hemisphere then he's heading for a return to a town near you if he hasn't been already.

It's the time of year to hurry up and take in the pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes, basil and other tender plants. Pull up and store those tender ornamentals too such as cannas, dahlias, and glads. If like me, you plant out half hardy herbs like bay larel and rosemary, they should come in soon too though they will live through a couple light frosts. Go, go, go, that white crystalline sheen does not respect busy schedules.

Lettuce in seed with red orach in the background.

Plants know it. Long ago, my corn salad and orach went to seed. Dry beans are rattling in their pods, lettuce and carrots sport their decorative seedhead fringes and my magenta spreen and bietina (type of swiss chard) have their mysterious green spikes that must look all the world like weeds to my neighbours. I self consciously assured the conservative gardening neighbour that I was saving seed from actual vegetables. I think she believed me and told me she didn't look over at my yard anyhow... (No really, she's a lovely lady but I don't blame her as the garden is looking a little bit dishelved at the moment).

Carrots in seed - easy to see that they are related to queen anne's lace also known as wild carrot.

The flow of ripe tomatoes which has been gaining speed for the last couple weeks is slowing down now. I will probably cover a few choose plants with blankets if it looks like we'll get a week or more of nice weather afterwards. As my hubby says, "Tomatoes are the ultimate seasonal fruit. You got to eat them when they taste good because soon they'll just be tasteless ice balls from the supermarket. Not worth it."

Magenta Spreen, a member of the goosefoot family, in seed. Think of it as a supersized lamb's quarters in party dress.

So today I'm going to be busy.

But the gardening season is far from over as my blush savoy cabbage is turning a lovely shade of purple and the kale keeps on pumping out leaves. Perennial onions, that melted in the heat of summer, have renewed vigor, pushing up green spires alongside the chrysanthemums that are in full bud just begining their dazzling show.

Buckwheat in seed. I grow it as a covercrop though of course it make a good grain too.

So when is Jack coming to Ottawa? Weather stations predict possible lows between 2-4C this weekend sometime, possibly even tonight. Anything 4C and lower is a possibility of frost especially in low lying spots as the temperature is read approximately 4 feet off the ground. It will decrease about a degree every foot down so it could be 0C at ground level. Other conditions favourable to frost are still winds and clear skies. And when he comes, you'll be sure that he too will make his complementary visit to "The Hill.*"


*The Hill: The rest of the country has a bad habit of calling the government Ottawa. Since not all the residents of Ottawa are employed by the government, it is often referred to as The Hill here since parliament resides on a slight rise in the landscape, cut behind it by a percipitous fall toward the Ottawa river.