There’s a lot to be said for growing vegetables from store-bought seedlings. It’s quick and easy, and you can be confident that the seedlings are ready to plant right away. It can also give an earlier start, and therefore earlier harvesting times.
The one big drawback, however, is that you’re limited to what’s available in stores.
Every year, the “classics” will be available in any gardening centre: herbs, onions, cabbages, beans, peas, etc. These will typically be the same varieties from year-to-year.
There will also be some less common stuff, based on the latest trends, or on what’s been showcased on national TV gardening shows.
That still leaves a lot of plants that never appear in garden centres, including the majority of the heirloom varieties.
This is where it pays to grow things from seed, purchased from one of the many seed suppliers. The seedlings above are celeriac, for example, which is a tasty addition to the winter table.
I’ve also grown a bunch of heirloom brassicas, parsnips and french red shallots. Yum!
You can, of course, mix-and-match. Which is what we’ve done — I don’t think that’s “cheating”!
We say: why just stick to orange carrots!
One of the greatest things about growing heirloom crops are the surprises you get when you pull things out of the ground. This carrot is purple! This beetroot is yellow!
It certainly makes for an interesting sight when they’re piled on the counter 🙂
We had lots of multi-coloured carrots that we made into a multi-coloured carrot cake, using a regular carrot cake recipe from the Woman’s Weekly.
Yum! And see those little dots of bright colours throughout…
At this time of year, the tomato crop is in full swing, and the great thing about planting heirloom tomatoes is the variety. At any given point, our fruit bowl is full of ripening tomatoes, red and yellow, small and large. We pluck them off the plants as soon as they start to colour up, to reduce the crop losses to caterpillars. It doesn’t take long for them to ripen properly, and then into our cooking…
In addition to eating them fresh, we’ve also been storing them for future use, via bottles of:
- roast tomato passata
- tomato ketchup
- cherry tomato & onion relish
These French breakfast radishes are super cute! Baby-sized and bright red, these are ready for the picking. They are also one of Miss P’s favourites.
We’ve got plenty of other root crops in the ground at the moment, some fast-growing but most taking their time:
- heirloom radishes (various colours)
- heirloom carrots (various colours)
- onions (various)
- spring onions
- potatoes (going in soon)
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:
- Diggers Club (the source of most of our seeds to this point, but extremely slow to process orders in recent times)
- Greenpatch Organic Seeds (have just received our first order in under 4 working days, will be ordering from them again!)
- Eden Seeds
- The Italian Gardener
- The Lost Seed
- Tasmanian Gourmet Potatoes
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?