Growing from seed

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Seed packets from Diggers Club
Seed packets from Diggers Club

A lot of what we’ve grown has been from seed, rather than seedlings. What has been interesting is that plants from seeds have consistently grown quicker and stronger than seedlings. For example, our sugar snap peas from seeds are gowing incredibly, while the seedlings of snow peas from the local garden store have barely moved (very disappointing).

Dollar-for-dollar, you can’t beat seeds. At $2-4 per packet, that’s the price of a single vegetable from many supermarkets. Packets contain 50-200 seeds, depending on the variety. This may seem a lot (it is!), but it gives plenty to share around with neighbours, or to trade for other seeds.

Most seeds last for 2 years, giving a good chance to get value out of them. I’ve also been lazy: instead of planting in punnets, I’ve sown seeds directly into the ground, with complete success. (No doubt this is due to the warm Sydney climate.)

There are many suppliers of seeds in Australia, mostly organic, including:

Note that a lot of these suppliers concentrate on heirloom seeds, old varieties no longer seen on supermarket shelves. These are great, well adapted to local conditions, and often both tasty and unusual. Seek these out wherever possible!

Where have you been getting your seeds from?

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Sugar snap peas: 2m high and still growing

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There's a climbing frame somewhere under there
There's a climbing frame somewhere under there

When we moved into our new house, I created three climbing frames, the first two for sugar snap peas, the third for snow peas. As you can see, the first bed is growing out of all bounds! Even at 2m high, these plants are still attempting to go up, and would do if I didn’t keep nipping out the buds (apparently this should help to increase pea production).

All three plants are now flowering, hopefully just the start of much more to come. Must remember to mark the first seed pods, so I keep them for seed rather than eating them.

Sugar snap peas in flower
Sugar snap peas in flower

Overall, I’m very pleased with how these have turned out so far, even if I’m not quite at the level of succession trellises. (Maybe next year.)

White passionfruit

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Before heading off to work this morning, I planted out two new white passionfruit seedlings. These were a gift from my grandmother, who rescued a fruit from her old house, and grew new plants from that.

Apparently these type of passionfruit produce long, almost banana shaped fruit that are extremely sweet. The fruit is, naturally, white. (They are also very uncommon, rarely if ever seen in garden stores or seed catalogues.)

I’ve planted them along the side fence at the front, with the goal of covering over some ancient (and faded) graffiti. They should end up taking over the entire fence, making for a glorious green border rather than a boring paling fence.

Rhubarb plants

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Four rhubarb plants, ready to be planted into the ground
Four rhubarb plants, ready to be planted into the ground

I’ve been cooking a bit with rhubarb recently, including a home-made rhubarb-and-apple pie  last weekend (yum!). I’ve wanted to grow fresh rhubarb for some time now, so last week I ordered four plants from Greenpatch Organic Seeds. Four working days later, they arrived!.

I planted them into the front corner of the garden this afternoon, in between showers of rain. They should be able to grow happily there without getting in the way of anything else. I also don’t think they’ll be very appealing for light-fingered passer-byers.

While I was in hurry to order the plants, I’ll now have to wait. All my gardening books say that rhubarb can’t be harvested in the first growing season, making it two years before we’ll be able to savour the red stalks. They say patience is good for the soul, ask me in two years…

The Pansy Project

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We recently came across The Pansy Project. It’s an inspiring act of guerilla gardening: Paul (based in the UK) plants pansies on sites where homophobic abuse is experienced.

The project’s website has been offline for a little while, but Paul’s blog makes for interesting reading.

Lemons, limes and oranges

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Orange, lime, orange and lemon
Orange, lime, orange and lemon

The last major task for the front garden this season was getting in the citrus trees.

Two weekends ago, I started by marking out a garden bed 5.5m x 1.2m, and then dug that down to a depth of a foot-and-a-half (a back-breaking job!). I then constructed a treated pine frame to build the bed up.

I hadn’t quite done the numbers first, and discovered that I’d need an extra 2 tonnes of soil, or thereabouts. So another call to the bulk supplier, and a lot of shovel work later, and the bed was full.

The local Bunnings had a reasonable range of fruit trees, and this is what we ended up putting in:

  • Orange, Lane’s Late Navel (full size)
  • Lime,Tahitian (full size)
  • Orange, Valencia (dwarf)
  • Lemon, Meyer (dwarf)

Now to wait a season (or two) for a full crop…

Inner west community gardens

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Path through the Marrickville Food Forrest
Path through the Marrickville Food Forrest

There are a number of community gardens in the Inner West of Sydney (and many more beyond). These provide a great opportunity for those with small gardens (or no gardens!) to grow their own vegetables, herbs and fruit.

Today we visited the Marrickville Food Forrest, located on Addison Road, in the Addison Road Centre (ARC). As is typical, it is squeezed into an unused plot of land behind some buildings, but thriving nonetheless.

It makes me appreciate how lucky we are here. We have easily 5 to 6 times the space of a typical community garden plot, with plenty of sun, and room for growth. Now the pressure is on to really make it thrive!

Over the next few months we’ll try to drop into more of these gardens, to get further inspiration on what (and how) to grow. There is also the potential to join up with a Seed Savers group, to swap seeds (we have plenty left over).

These are the gardens on our list for the Inner West:

Further information: