Sunday, 30 October 2016

Skirret and leek companion planting

Skirret (Sium sisarum) is a rare perennial vegetable that has been grown and eaten by people for many hundreds of years.  Skirret is very simple to grow but is very rare as the roots tend to be a bit thin and it is in no way appropriate for mechanical harvest.  Strangely there is very little information on skirret and even less information on how it interacts with other plants.

I have grown skirret plants in pots for far too long, it should be growing in the soil.  Skirret grows ok in pots, but the lack of space is rather limiting, it needs more soil than I can give it.  This year I have planted it into the garden to see what it can really do.  I have high hopes that the skirret will return a larger crop in soil.

Earlier this year, around January 2016, one Babingtom leek bulbil fell into a pot that was growing skirret.  I decided to leave it there as I did not have time to get it out and then I kind of forgot about it.  The skirret was over crowded badly so I had low expectations for the leek, I kind of expected it to be choked out and die.  As I was moving house I did not have time to worry about it.

Now we have moved and I have garden space again so I planted all of my skirret in the garden.  As I removed it from the pot I noticed the Babington leek plant was still growing in that pot among the skirret plants.  Not only this, but this Babington leek is far larger, healthier and stronger than the others of the same age.

The stem is about 5 times as thick as the same aged Babington leeks that were grown in their own pot and were far less crowded.  The plant was a lot taller than the other Babington leeks of the same age, while the others are all about 10cm tall and thinking of going dormant for summer, this one from the skirret pot is about 25cm tall and was sending up a flower stalk.  Babington's leek rarely flowers in its first year when grown from bulbils.  Unfortunately I broke the flower stem when I was removing the skirret from the pot so can not see how many bulbils it would have produced.  This one Babington leek also had produced three tiny bulbs from its roots which again normally does not happen until the second year.  So even without flowering it has reproduced for me.

All in all this one plant was very impressive, it is far larger than any other of the first year plants but a bit smaller than most of the two year old plants.

In theory each Babington leek bulbil will be a genetic clone of the parent and exactly the same as each of its siblings.  So they should all grow more or less the same if they have the same growing conditions.  The only difference is that this one plant grew in a crowded pot filled with skirret.

I think perhaps the skirret exudes sugars or something from the roots that help leeks to grow.  I have planted a leek among the skirret bed to see if it grows larger and faster in there.  Maybe I have stumbled onto something good here?  Or maybe it was just good luck?  I will keep an eye on this and see what happens.

I sell both Babington leeks and Skirret, if you are interested please search for my for sale page in the 'Search This Blog' button on the top right hand corner of the blog.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Blue watermelon seeds do NOT exist

Blue fleshed watermelons look delicious and amazing and are for sale all over ebay for very little money with free postage.  Many of these listing have sold thousands of these seeds, are located locally in Australia, and have 100% positive reviews.  It is unfortunate that blue watermelons do NOT exist.

I wrote a post on blue and black strawberries and how ebay sellers get positive reviews, you can search for that post using the search function at the top right of this page.

Selling things that do not exist is illegal.  Ebay has reporting facilities, I know people who report these fraudulent seed listings to ebay every time they see them, but nothing ever happens.  Hopefully this post will help someone not get taken advantage of by criminals.

Watermelons come in a handful of different flesh colours including red, yellow, orange and white, some taste better than others.  Unfortunately there are a bunch of thieves out there who have decided to steal from people with photoshop images of red watermelons.

Blue Watermelon Seeds
Blue watermelons do NOT exist.  They look amazing in these pictures, but unfortunately it is a picture of a red watermelon that has been photo shopped.  There was even a well known hoax about 'Japanese Moon Watermelons'.  Don't be fooled by criminals, they do not exist.  Watermelons have never looked like this and unless there are massive leaps forward in GM technology watermelons will never look like this.  Do NOT buy seeds of blue watermelons.
Blue watermelons do NOT exist
Blue watermelon looks delicious but do NOT exist

Purple Watermelon Seeds
They look great don't they, it is too bad that they do NOT exist.  There are no varieties of purple fleshed watermelons.  Yellow, orange, white and red all exist, but not purple.  If you look closely you may notice that the purple wedge is the exact same photo (with a different colour) to the blue watermelon wedge.  Do NOT buy seeds for purple watermelons.
Purple watermelons look great, but do NOT exist
Purple watermelons do NOT exist, I dare say they are selling all red watermelon seeds

Green Watermelon Weeds
Green fleshed watermelon do NOT exist.  It seems reasonably that they may exist as we have other green fleshed melons such as honey dew.  Unfortunately there are no green when ripe watermelons.  Do NOT buy seeds of green watermelons.

Green fleshed watermelon does NOT exist

Mixed coloured watermelon seeds
Any time you see pictures like this where they have a mix of different seeds and they include anything that does not exist, do NOT buy from them.  While white watermelons and the orange/yellow ones do exist why would you think they will send them to you?  If the seller is happy to lie about the others existing to get a sale why would they not simply just send you seed of red watermelons from a supermarket?  Do NOT buy seeds from someone if anything they list does not exist.
Blue and Green do not exist

Square Watermelon Seeds
Wow, where do I even begin... Square watermelons do kind of exist, if you go to Japan you will see them for sale in the markets.  But watermelons don't grow square without intervention.  Let me explain briefly.

As the tiny fruit grows you can place a special box around it, as it grows the fruit will mold to that shape.  You can even buy molds that are heart shaped or shaped like faces or mice etc.  Feel free to buy watermelon seeds from someone who is not a thief and use these molds to create square watermelons, but do NOT fund these ebay thieves as it encourages them to steal from other people.  If you want seeds of an unknown variety of watermelon why not just buy a watermelon from the market and use its seeds?

Some thieves are outright claiming that they are selling "square watermelon" seeds.  Others, like the one below, are implying that you will grow square watermelons but are not explicitly saying it in the ad.  Nowhere in their ad do they say that the watermelon will grow round unless molded properly.  At no point in the ad do they mention molds or where to buy them.  It is still theft as they are intentionally misleading people, it is still just as immoral and just as illegal.

If you are the criminal responsible for this ad, feel free to write a comment below and try to justify your deception.

They may have free postage and be based in Australia but that doesn't mean they are not thieves.  Let's face it, even people in Australia lock their door when they leave the house.  Who would have thought, we have thieves in Australia too!  Do NOT buy seeds of square watermelons.
Our friendly Australian thieves are implying their seeds will grow square fruit
Watermelon molds, pretty cool

Tiny Watermelons
This is another half truth designed to trick people and steal their money.  The picture in the hand is not of a watermelon but instead is Melothria scabra.  It is commonly called 'Mexican Sour Gherkin' or 'mouse melon' or 'cucamelon'.  They are green inside and taste nothing like a watermelon.

The picture inset on the lower right is of a large watermelon cut open.  They are implying that if you cut open the Melothria scabra that it will look like a watermelon.  Who knows what seeds you will get sent if you were to send money to these ebay thieves.

While you can buy seeds of Melothria scabra please only do so from a genuine seller and not from someone dodgy like this and try to avoid buying seeds from ebay ever.  Do NOT buy seeds of mini watermelons.
The fruit in the hand is a Melothria scabra, they are NOT red inside

These mini melons are no more real than these kiwifruit kiwi birds (no you can NOT buy seeds of them)
Multi coloured watermelons
Multi coloured watermelons do NOT exist.  Please don't waste your money by buying anything from anyone who tries to sell you such things.

Buyer Beware
Do NOT fund these criminals and encourage them to steal from other people.  Do NOT buy from them and hope to get something good with the ridiculous notion that you will at least get watermelon seeds.  These ebay thieves will send you watermelon seed, and they will likely grow,  but they will all be red fleshed.  This kind of thing is legally known as theft by deception.

If you want un-named watermelon seeds for cheap go to the market, buy a watermelon, and sow those seeds.  That way you will get cheap seeds and be able to eat the watermelon.

There are other fake watermelon seeds for sale on ebay.  Just because I have not listed the fake colour does not mean I am implying that it does exist.  Please research anything you buy BEFORE you give anyone your money.

The picture below shows a decent representation of the different colours that watermelons come in.  Feel free to buy these colours, but please try not to buy them from Ebay if you can find them somewhere else.  If people can sell things on ebay that don't exist, they can also sell things that do exist that they don't actually have.
Watermelons, all of these colours DO exist
Stock images on ebay
If you see seeds for sale on ebay that uses stock images, do NOT buy from them.

Perhaps, like the above examples, the thing that they are selling does not even exist.  There are literally dozens of different fake seeds for sale on ebay, many use stock images, very few bother to manipulate the image themselves.  I heard a story of one person who bought fake seed in bulk and were on-selling it.  They probably meant no harm, but the fact that they used a stock image should have warned buyers to keep clear.

If they are using a stock image there is a chance they have bought actual seeds in bulk of something they have never grown and are on-selling that.  You should not be funding these people either.  Even if they are selling real seeds, the fact that they have not grown them means that you do not want to be funding them.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

First Tomato variety

When I was a child I started to grow vegetables and save their seeds.  I had no one to teach me, or at least everything I was told back then was wrong, I had no resource books, and as far as I knew the internet did not exist.  Saving seeds was far cheaper than buying seedlings which is why I started to do it.  Saving seed is also very simple, if a child with no help can work out how to save seeds it can't be that tricky.

Many vegetables that I had access to were not suited to my climate.  Some such as the 'Apollo' tomato were utter garbage and I am yet to grow a worse tomato.  For some reason back then apollo was one of the very few tomato seedlings that was available to buy.  I don't believe that anywhere sells it anymore, they now have 'apollo improved' which I have no intention of ever growing.

I always applied selective pressure on any seeds I saved, when I was about 10 or 11 I began to dabble in vegetable breeding as I needed shorter season, higher yielding plants.  I could not afford to buy plants and have them killed by frost before providing a good crop.  Let's face it, I could not do any worse than apollo.

I only had a rudimentary grasp on genetics and I did not know of anyone who had ever done such a thing as breed vegetables.  Even though I had limited access to a very small and largely unknown gene pool I found it all very interesting. 

As I had never heard of anyone breeding new varieties of vegetables I assumed that I had either invented the entire concept or it was something the ancestors did but the knowledge of such was long since gone.  This was my gift to the world.  You may thank me for it.  

I took notes in a small note book which I kept for a few years, as I thought that this was cutting edge stuff I tried to keep good records but being a child and not knowing a great deal about genetics they were most likely garbage. That book also had notes I took on grafting various plants as well as different types of cuttings I was taking from carnivorous plants.  I was self taught and wanted notes to be able to share this knowledge with others.  Due to rats or water damage or whatever that book is long gone, it is no great loss.

In those early years I made an F1 tomato cross (from parent plants that I don't remember and may or may not have been un-named) that resulted in a reasonably small productive plant.  I can't remember if it was a dwarf or full sized plant but I do remember it being comparatively compact.  The plant gave an amazingly high yield of small sized tomatoes.  The plant cropped like crazy and I distinctly remember that I picked its last fruit the afternoon before our first frost.  The timing was a coincidence, but I thought the plant had timed this deliberately, and I was very grateful.  I had an extremely short season back then and this was the first to fruit and it fruited all season.  I saved its seeds as a way to thank that plant for feeding us so well. 

The next year I planted out the F2 seeds and some were great and others less so.  I didn't understand back then that the genes were segregating but it made sense that they were different from each other.  Back then, aged 11 or so, I did not know much about genetics but had the common sense to only save seed from the best plant.  I only saved seed from one plant to thank it for feeding us.  From memory it was the first to fruit and was much like the parent tomato plant, but I may be thinking of a later year in this little breeding project. 

For a few years, I can't remember how many, I saved seed from the best tomato plant to thank it for feeding us.  In doing so I developed and stabilised my very first tomato variety. 

As the summer was so short I was focused on early crops.  I started several different lines, I can't remember if they were originally from different crosses or not as it has been too long.  I don't think many kids back then would have created their own variety of anything by themselves. 

As the years went on I sometimes watched a tv show called Gardening Australia and the old bloke on the show explained about fermenting tomato seeds.  He seemed to know his stuff, and it was the closest thing I had to advice, so that is what I started to do with my tomato seeds from then on.

When I was finishing my year 12 exams I remember saving seeds from the tomatoes that I had created for the very last time.  I fermented the seeds, as I had learned to do from watching Gardening Australia, and when they were dry I carefully wrapped them in a small plastic sandwich/freezer bag and placed them in a jar with the rest of my seeds.  I then went to University and left all the seeds behind.

Recently I wanted to experiment with germinating old seeds so asked my mother if she still had any old seeds.  She posted me what remained of my little seed collection plus a few other old packets of seed.  There are seeds in there aged from about 20 to 35 years old which is perfect for the experiments I want to do.  When I opened the package and looked through the old and super-old seeds I was happy to see that there are quite a lot of seeds for me to experiment with.  Most of which are from reasonably common varieties which means I can experiment and not worry too much if any method is not successful. Some were incredibly rare but I have managed to germinate them and hope to grow them out and save their seeds.

As I rummaged through the seeds I found little plastic sandwich/freezer bags with some tomato seeds.  They each had a little note that Past Damo wrote.  They are the seeds of the first ever tomato varieties that I bred.  I thought that they were gone forever.

The seeds are 20 or so years old now and have been stored in less than ideal conditions, many seeds would be dead, but some are amazingly still alive.  I have planted some of the seeds and a few of them have germinated! Some are weak and die early but some are strong enough to be growing their first true leaves.

I find it very exciting.  I also find it nerve wracking as I don't want to kill them.  Perhaps these old varieties will be garbage, perhaps they will be great, regardless it will be fun to grow them at least one more time.  If any of them are any good I plan to name them after my children and save their seeds. If I do this I may sell them on my for sale page.