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Saving Seeds

Seed Saving - What's it good for?

Seed Saving - What's it good for?

One of the very cool things about gardening is that you get so much, if you are kind to the earth, and thoughtful of your plants, keeping them out of harm’s way, praying for perfect gardening weather and in a place where they are happy.  Then, when they have served you well by producing so much that you have to give a lot away, and toil in the kitchen preserving for the winter (I used to preserve in Agee jars, now I freeze), they turn into seeds.

Because I like to save seeds, I make sure that the plants I am getting the seeds from were grown from heirloom seeds themselves.  Hybrid seeds, which usually come from the big seed producers, have been altered for their own purposes, and do not reproduce accurately as the heirloom seeds, which haven’t been cross-bred or anything, do.

Before the seeds are in the right state for saving, there is some “unsightlyness” in the garden that must be overlooked.  For summer crops, this usually happens at the end of the season, after the lettuce, silverbeet etc has bolted, the beans have gone stringy and the sunflowers have turned their heads down and drooped.  At this stage, non-seed-savers normally go around their garden and pull stuff out for their composts or green waste collection bins.  But not me, I look on gratefully as my vegetables carry out their final act of generosity.

Obviously, I do not have enough land to grow all the new seeds that I save.  I have oodles of them.  In the photo of the marigold seeds above, there are enough to grow a whole field of marigolds, or at least ring a large garden with  marigolds.  And those are just some.  In my last post, I put the call out to anyone wanting some.  Because, really, the humble marigold is very, very valuable.

I also have some silverbeet seed to give away (both the red and green stalked variety), some runner bean seeds, some asparagus (a perenial) and a small amount of lettuce.  I also have some delicious rocket.  And not to forget the sunflower seeds, but I am planning to try eating those (I bake a lot of bread, and like to make my own muesli, and organic sunflower seeds are quite pricey and goodness knows how far they travel).

So, with all the talk of a global recession, isn’t it nice to have a store of something  which will only increase by 1000% or more in this day and age.  And isn’t it great to know that if things get really bad, at least you’ve got some heirloom seeds to use to grow food.  And isn’t it just beautiful to have something this beneficial to share.

Life is good.

Post Script: The fonts I have used are my own.  “Marigold” is written in my own handwriting font, julesgirltalk (free for personal use) and my very newest font, JulesScribble, is used to write SAVING SEED.  Any feedback is gratefully accepted.


That scruffy flower? Calendula and what I do with it

calendula tonics

Calendula and marigolds are some of my favourite flowers.  The variety of  common calendula (C. officinalis) that I grow looks like a bright yellow or orange daisy.  Apparently marigold is slightly stronger than calendular, but both are edible, so to put the petals in a salad or on top of a (chocolate?) cake adds a gorgeous appeal, as well as being healthful.

I was told that calendula was used in the American civil war and the first world war for its healing properties.  I make a tonic from it to drink or to use on the skin (after cleansing, before moisturising).  If you want to use my recipe, please do, but note that I am not a medical professional so in other words, take what I do with a grain of salt as the only animals this particular batch was tested on are myself and my daughter (consider that a disclaimer), or you can see how e-how recommend using it.  Also, you may be interested to read some reviews by users of a commercial product and note that there are various reactions to their calendula toner.   Also, I found an article on the interweb that had some interesting information about the beauty and benefits of calendula.

However, speaking of animals, I did make up a batch of calendula moisturiser a few years back, and gave it away to friends as a lip balm for Christmas.  I got a lot of good reports, one person told me they used it on a scab on their dog’s leg which wouldn’t heal, with the result that it healed within a few days once using my calendula balm.  Another friend had a burn on her arm which she used it on – apparently instant relief and fast healing (Weleda mentions usefulness for burns in their info page on Calendula and so does medfinds).  But I’m already a believer.

Besides looking impossibly cheerful despite being discriminated against (the scruffy flower) and rejected by people, calendula is good as a companion plant in the garden, working for us to protect our plants.  Apparently certain parts of it repel insects which want to harm veges like potatoes and tomatoes.

So it is so versatile and useful!  And how about drinking a nice cup of calendula tea when you’ve just come in from the garden?  Or if you need to put your feet up after a shopping expedition at Harrods (check out the price of their calendula tonic and see if you don’t feel cheered after making up some of your own).

If you want to grow calendula but don’t have any seeds, I have lots because I am a seed-saver, (look out for an upcoming post on seed-saving) and I am happy to send you some.  Please send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with a note reminding me you’d like some marigold or calendular seeds.  My address is:


PO Box 30048

St Martins 8246


New Zealand

Cooking homegrown kohlrabi at the bach

From garden to table

From garden to table

Remember that patch of Kohlrabi I planted and posted about here?  Well, just before we left for a week at Little Akaloa (we went there the day after school had finished for the year, and noone was there yet – it was like having our own private beach, but that is another story*) I checked the garden of course and saw that the kohlrabi were a bit crowded.  So I thinned them and we took them with us.

Don’t they look funny, like little aliens?  And the salad spinner on the left has the leaves, which I did use in a salad, but also chopped up and made a pasta/cheese sauce dish.  Very nice.

By the way, the font in the image here is one I have just created, and will soon be released at my shop.  Also, the layout, minus the photos and text of course is available as a 300dpi 6×4 png with transparent bits for popping your own photos in hereFree.  It’s a wee brag book page.  I also used it with a photo of my daughter and her sports trophies, that is zipped up with it, as well as a discount coupon for my other fonts (just thought you may be interested).

Anyway, the recipe is a freestyle adaption of one I posted here.  You can do it with whatever you have.  Do let me know how you get on.

* Little Akaloa was where we were over Christmas.  No, this year I did not get to have a traditional Christmas day swim – Felicity did though, with Hambley the pug, but I was too busy gathering heart-shaped stones – so many at Little Ak – and an abundance of gorgeous, coloured, worn bits of glass.  See where Little Akaloa is here.

A morning stroll in the garden

How to grow goodness

How to grow goodness

Today of course is Saturday, and it was the day of the school fair, and of course, the netball game at 11.30.  I had a great sleep, it felt like I’d slept in, but then I looked at the clock and it was only 7am.  Good, I thought.  I want to do about an hour and a half of gardening and I’ll need to be finished by 10am to have a good clean up, as I planned to turn the compost heap, so I knew I would be filthy.  So I made my usual banana smoothie for breakfast, and had a stroll in the garden.  It is looking beautiful.  Three of the sunflowers I planted two weeks ago have germinated, and I still hold out hope for the others.  Also, two more cucumbers have germinated (they are in pots), and the three baby tomatoes have grown, as have the lettuce, corn and kohlrabi which I mentioned planting in the post where I gave away a 6″x4″ quick page for this blog.

Then went back to bed to think about what I wanted to do in the garden.  I snoozed for a while longer, then put on my old clothes, unlocked the shed and got out everything I would need: the empty rubbish bin for putting cardboard in for soaking in water, the hose turned on and running into the rubbish bin, the rake, the spade, the fork, and my good, thick workman’s gloves.  Serious indeed.

The plan was to turn the compost heap, and prepare the Compost and Divine Garden beds, presently with silverbeet, comfry and rocket past their “best by” dates.  So how to begin?  I raked the old silverbeet, comfry, and prettily flowering rocket.  Put that in one wheelbarrow.  Then I forked out all the most recent compost which hadn’t broken down yet, and put that in my other wheelbarrow.  I disassembled the compost heap (it is the kind that one builds up by interlocking the sides as it gets higher) and raked out all the decomposed compost (isn’t the juxtaposition of those two words great??) and put it on the garden beds (the Compost Garden and the Divine Garden).  What beautiful and sweet compost, and so many worms!!!  Lovely.

Then it was back to rebuilding the compost heap.  I put the garden waste I had just weeded from the C & D gardens (which I was preparing which presently had the rich compost I had raked sitting on it) from the first wheelbarrow into the bottom of the compost heap.  Then I put some pea straw which was dry and added lots of water.  Nice.  I ripped up some of the very wet cardboard (which was soaking in the empty rubbish bin, now filled with water) and added that, then put the next lot of compost, the half decomposed lot on top of that, added some more pea straw, and the rest of the water.  Then I put some of the ready-for-the-garden compost back on top, knowing the worms would make a bee-line for the bottom and get that other garden waste ready.

Then I planted three of the lupins in the Divine garden.  I have six more to plant out tomorrow, but needed to get inside and start getting ready so we wouldn’t be late for netball.

Then I went inside and looked out the window at my beautiful garden.  I noticed there was a happy sparrow admiring my work.  I love birds in the garden I thought to myself, there they are, singing away, how lovely.  But hang on a minute!!!!!!!!!!  That bird had a worm in its mouth!  From my beautiful garden!  I want the soil to have those worms though.  So I was out in a shot – and put the wire covers over my garden.

I noticed the worms weren’t there when I had a stroll after I came home from the school fair.  But I knew the birds couldn’t have got them.  Those lovely worms will be deep down in the soil now, well out of reach of the sparrows.

Ah, life is good.

Purple potatoes and what to do with them.

What to do with purple potatoes

What to do with purple potatoes

I love to grow veges which are a bit different.  They delight us and our guests and give me a new riddle to solve – what to do with them.  Of course recipe books don’t cover the food I have, mostly grown from heirloom seeds, so I have to make up my own.  When I plant something new, half of the fun is thinking what to do with them.  I like plain cooking:

“Suppose you learn plain cooking. That’s a useful accomplishment, which no woman should be without,” said Mrs. March, laughing inaudibly at the recollection of Jo’s dinner party, for she had met Miss Crocker and heard her account of it.  Excerpt from Chapter 11, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

And what is plainer than mashed potatoes?  These beautiful Urenika purple potatoes are divine boiled (the water turns green) then mashed with butter and milk.  So creamy.  And the purple looks enticing on the plate alongside salad greens. 

I love to make Shepherds Pie.  It’s very easy.  In a bowl, I just mix together a bunch of freshly harvested, washed, chopped, leafy vegetables and some cooked ground beef with some chopped tomatoes (I used last season’s tomatoes which I froze in blocks of 400g, lightly thawed, then chopped in the food processor).  When this was mixed together, I put it some pretty oven proof dishes, and the mashed potato was put on the top, under some grated cheese. 

As for the vegetables to put in Shepherd’s Pie, whatever is green and in the garden will work.  At the moment there are a lot of silverbeet, leek, asparagus, celery, parsley.  Just think what vitamin and mineral goodies this combination of vegetables have in them!  Soon there will be beans (here in New Zealand).  So depending on what is available, this dish will always taste different.  And you don’t need to have ground beef.  My 13 year old daughter made up a beautiful recipe with tuna (same principle, but no longer called Shepherd’s Pie, she calls it Tuna Bake).  Or you can put beans in, or lentils.  Or sausages, or not have meat at all. 

This is cooking freestyle, kind of Plain Cooking.  Surprise me!

Silverbeet, baby leek and asparagus with pasta and brie sauce



One of the benefits of drinking my breakfast smoothy in the garden, is that I get to see what is happening and what is ready to harvest.  So today I harvested and made up a recipe for what I had.  Click on the image if you want to try it.  Doesn’t that food look so tempting sitting there on my mosaic outdoor table?  YUMMMMMM!

Bon appetit!

Plantings in the Enjoyment Garden

The Enjoyment Garden as of 18 October 2008

The Enjoyment Garden as of 18 October 2008

Today I got out there.  Felicity and I went for a drive out to Woodend, and on the way, we got 2 trays of 5 sweetcorn plants, and some lettuce, which I should have looked at more closely, as there were only three plants in there.

Then when I got home, I saw that the red orach I bought last week could really go in, or at least out of the glass-covered patch.  I also planted the kohlrahbi which I bought last week.  I thought they would be ideal in the enjoyment patch.

The Enjoyment Patch is in the corner, directly in front of the compost bin.  So the lettuces will be slightly sheltered from the sun in the heat of summer and hopefully won’t bolt too quickly.

And as usual, what enjoyment I had there in the garden.  I watered the earth first (didn’t put any compost on, but will pile it all up tomorrow when I get a chance), then weeded and dug some holes for the plants with my NIWASHI.  It’s my favourite tool for the garden.  So I made sure it was in the photo.

This morning I had been a bit creative, and made some slightly curled photo edges, so I thought it would be ideal to use one of those in my wee layout above.  Click on it for an enlargement.  The font, of course, is my own handwriting, jules-writing (also known as jules-te-reo as it uses Maori macrons), the painted butterfly is from my Spring is Sprung element pack (well, Spring is here in New Zealand in October), the slightly shabby striped paper behind everything is from an old paper pack of mine called Autumn Chalk Papers (really should re-release that).  The notepad sheet with the wee dog sticker on it is a freebie that comes with my NB Note Well Notelets.  The photo edge is a set I am getting together at the moment which still needs more work.  The only thing that is not mine is the All is Green by one of my favourite designers, Theres K.  By the way I have made a 6×4 Quick Page 300dpi freebie, a simpler version of the above layout with only my own designs.  Please download it here.

Next weekend is Labour weekend, traditionally the weekend for tackling most of the preseason garden projects.  I can hardly wait!


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