‘Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.’ ~Lindley Karstens
Spring is nature’s way of saying “Let’s Party!” ~ Robin Williams
“Watermelon — it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.” ~ Enrico Caruso
At our local playgroup, we each bring a piece of fruit on a Wednesday mornings for a snack. The curious thing is, even kids that generally turn their nose up to fruit, will jump onto a fruit platter with all the zeal of a starving chimpanzee after a good run around!
A few weeks ago, Tracey bought a home grown melon that was just delicious. She was a little unsure of it’s pedigree, but it was a little smaller than a rock melon, a pale yellow inside and dripping with the sweetest most delicious melon-y juice. I managed to spare a few seeds from the worm bin, rinsed them off and let them dry. Easy, right? Ready for planting.
It was then Tracey and I realised just how little we know about collecting, saving and storing seeds.
As it turns out, it’s a bit of a mix of science and art. And I’ve been doing it wrong.
While dry seed collecting is pretty straight forward, (shake contents of dried seed head into paper bag…) “wet” seed collection is a more careful process.
Apparently, wet seeds (such as tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers etc) are best fermented for several days to remove germination-inhibiting substances from the seed coats . Fermenting helps the seed’s germination by killing molds, mildews and other disease organisms that may be hanging around the seeds after harvesting.
So here it is. The most simple, step by step instructions to saving “wet” seeds I could manage.
- Scoop all the pulp and seeds from the fruit into a bowl or large jar.
- Add enough water to cover the seeds and fill to the top of the container. Cover the bowl with a cloth and set aside in a warm place for 1½ to 5 days. The time will vary based on the time it takes for the seeds to ferment. Healthy seeds will sink, as dead seeds and most of the pulp will float to the surface.
- Check your seeds a few times a day, as fermentation will be evident by bubbling and/or by the formation of a white mould on the surface of the mixture. Once this has occurred, give the seeds another 24 hours in the mix.
- After the 24 hour fermentation process, pour off the mix, being sure to reserve viable seed from the bottom of the bowl.
- If you need to, rinse the seeds few times to make sure they are clean of any remaining pulp.
- Drain your cleaned seeds in a colander lined with kitchen towel.
- Spread the seeds evenly on a plate to dry. Leave the plate in a cool, dry shady spot for several days.
- After the seeds are dry, they can be stored in jars, envelopes, foil or plastic snap lock bags to ensure freshness.
This fermenting procedure probably also explains why watermelons, tomatoes and cucumbers are growing like weeds in my backyard. After our stinking hot summer, I had a number of fermented melons that were tossed into dad’s mulcher and literally cast over the back fence garden bed. They have been popping everywhere ever since. Admittedly, it’s a nice problem to have, so I tried to save the seedlings, replant them, or give them away.
Now that everyone I know and friends of friends are stocked, the wanton plants are getting weeded out and placed in the compost tumbler!
I didn’t ferment Tracey’s melon seed, but will give them a go anyway later in the season and let you know how I go.
I should note that for best results, seed saving should be done with heirloom seeds. Hybrid seeds may be a waste of effort as the plants may not produce the same fruit or vegetable as you tasted. Checkout my post, Heirloom VS Hybrid for more info.
Next week, I have a Mega-Melon to take along that will probably feed all of playgroup and the 3’s kindy next door. My unofficial Uncle Michael gave it to me fresh from his garden patch. It weighs almost as much as my three year old! If it’s good, I’ll know how to save the seeds this time.
I hope the kids will be impressed!
The Mega-Melon had fermented. In a scene reminiscent of “Goodfellas” I chopped all 13kg of it down with a meat cleaver, ran it through the blender and fed it to the worms. It was a messy, sticky job.
The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the world. ~ Vita Sackville-West
If you were wondering why I haven’t posted for a while, this week has been perfect garden weather. So I swapped the keyboard for the trowel. Lots of showers, punctuated with bursts of lovely sunshine sans the crushing heat.
My little part of the world is in a very happy place.
So I thought it would be nice to give you a little tour to see what is growing and how things have progressed in the last month or so. Let’s start with the raised beds….
My allium bed has spring onions, leeks, garlic and chives in there, plus a marauding watermelon. It’s looking a little spare in patches, so I have some celeriac sprouting in the greenhouse that I plan to pop in there as soon as it is ready to transplant.
Next, meet the brassicas! The large middle bed has brocollini, cavello nero and red cabbage, with garlic chives and regular chives. Red cabbage is such a handsome plant.
The third raised bed has chives, beetroots, cavello nero and wonderful red malabar spinach weaving its way around the trellis.
My broad beans are showing their first flowers, as are the kidney beans. The snow peas and sugar snaps are past their awkward spindly seedling stage and are now ready to start racing up the supports I have in place for them.
I also have a zucchini variety called “8 ball” which, as the name suggests, will produce billiard ball sized fruit. I have optimistically given them a trellis to run up, but it seems they want to sprawl.
Last year’s crop of baby corn didn’t make it inside the house, the kids devoured them all alfresco. So this year, I have planted three times as much. I have planted them closer together and hope they will benefit from being planted in the cooler, wetter part of the year. I have called it my mini “Field of Dreams“. I have planted some sunflowers at the fence line for a bit of cheer and to attract the bees.
My lebanese cucumbers are scrambling up the trellis I have for them, and I have a few first fruits, plus plenty of bright yellow flowers. When pregnant with my middle child, I craved a good crisp, cool, crunchy cucumber at least once a day. Husband was becaming paranoid that the greengrocers were gossiping and laughing at him as he was in there almost daily….always leaving with a few fresh, turgid cucumbers. If I had known then how easy they were to grow, I could have saved him the embarrassment and risk to his reputation.
I have a bit of a ratbag bed that is playing host to some wayward tomatoes and chilli’s or capsicums. I am just waiting to be surprised here. It’s a bit of an experimental bed. I was not sure if I could grow tomatoes this late in the season, but they have sprung up everywhere.
I moved my up-cycled cane sun-lounge bed into a sunnier spot as the rainbow chard seemed to just hibernate in the shade. I was hoping to fill this retro bed with a riot of kitschy colour , but to date, it’s hardly much of a party. A few sunny days will hopefully encourage the shy plants along.
It doesn’t feel like I have much planted until I have to photograph it and write about it! Once planted, a veggie patch of this size is not exhaustively difficult to maintain. It is, however, a cultivator of patience. I am itching for everything to hurry up and grow but, that’s really more my problem, isn’t it?
So while the backyard garden ambles toward harvest, I will focus my impatient energies on to developing my tragically fallow front yard into a perennial vegetable patch. Thats’s a whole lot of work just waiting to happen!
“Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.” ~ Thomas Fuller,Gnomologia, 1732
Each time I turn over a garden bed and prepare it for new visitors, I revitalize my pretty meager soil with the contents of my compost barrels and worm casings.
As the new plants are bedded in, the watering starts and so do the surprises!
Where I last had beans, I am now growing watermelons and rockmelons. I have also been pulling out tomatoes, capsicums, runner and broad beans from that patch. A few fine specimens have been allowed to mingle. I have also managed to transplant a few to new homes.
The most productive cherry tomato bush I have in the garden at the moment sprouted from the side of my old compost bin. Tomatoes seem to be the most prolific sprouter’s, they have returned to every spot that I have planted them previously.
Even last season’s sunflowers are making a few new appearances.
I have two mango trees that have sprouted from pips that have been placed in the worm farm.
Yesterday, while taking a break from writing this very article, I found an avocado sprouting from a composted seed nestled in the capsicum bed. Camouflage style, very stealthy.
It is actually rather a wonderful problem to have. Especially when you consider my frustration with actually trying to propagate seeds! Plus, you know how much I love anything that is FREE!
What free-love plants show up in your garden?