Friday, 29 December 2017

Comparison of Thyme varieties

I have grown a bunch of different varieties of edible thyme over the years.  I haven’t disliked any but some are better than others.

I have always wanted someone to do a comparison of the different varieties of thyme, but the best I can find are some general words or exaggerated hype about just one variety, but no comparisons.  So I decided to write a quick comparison of some varieties I have grown and take some pictures to compare them. 

Before you read this please note the leaf size will vary on each plant depending on growing conditions, the photos will only give you a general comparison of plants grown under similar conditions.  All of the below varieties have survived for me through many harsh frosts, snow, and hail.

Each year I tend to cut the plants down pretty hard in spring, this encourages new growth and the trimmings can be planted and will usually grow new plants if watered a little.  Like many other leaf herbs, frequent harvests encourage it to produce and if left unharvested they can get a bit woody and unproductive.
All were same sized cuttings planted on the same day: Variegated lemon thyme, Orange peel thyme, Tabor thyme, Jekka's thyme
Comparison of Thyme varieties:
Regular thyme (aka Garden Thyme Thymus vulgaris) is a good edible herb, not surprisingly it smells and tastes of thyme.  The leaves are tiny and green.  It is meant to be drought hardy and frost hardy.  For some strange reason I have trouble growing it.  Random things happen that can’t be the fault of the variety such as my kids pull it up or the pot gets knocked over and one of the kids kicks it under a shrub where I can't find it.  It just hasn’t had a chance to thrive for me.  It is not included in the comparison photo as it looks tiny in its pot.  It is simple to strip the tiny leaves from the twigs. 

Silvery posy thyme (Thymus sp) is a lovely edible thyme.  The leaves are the same size as regular thyme but are variegated and interesting.  We grew it for years, it smells and tastes and is used just like regular thyme but is far prettier.  Mine was vigorous and strong, unfortunately being variegated means it does not cope with hot dry weather as well as all green varieties can.  After growing it in an arid climate with one too many weeks in a row where day time temperatures exceeded 40 it died, and I didn’t replace it.  Now that we have moved near Canberra I should get another one as it grows well here and I miss it.  
Thyme leaves back and front, from left to right: Garden thyme, Lemon thyme, Variegated lemon thyme, orange peel thyme, Jekka's thyme, Tabor thyme
Thyme comparison from left to right: lemon thyme (this plant is older than the rest), variegated lemon thyme, orange peel thyme, Tabor thyme, Jekka's thyme
Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) is another great edible herb.  I have been growing my plant for over 9 years, it takes strong frost and heat/drought and has survived for me through some rather extreme conditions.  It has tiny leaves of a similar size to regular garden thyme that are green and smell like thyme and lemon.  Stripping the tiny leaves from the twigs is simple.  This plant is usually very productive and very hardy in heat and cold.

Left to right: Tabor Thyme, Variegated Lemon Thyme, Jekka's Thyme
Left to right: Garden thyme, Lemon thyme, Variegated lemon thyme, orange peel thyme
Variegated lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) tastes and smells the same as lemon thyme but the leaves are variegated.  Variegation varies from leaf to leaf and from branch to branch, some branches are whiter than others.  It probably does not take extreme heat as well as the green form, but it is a little prettier.  Stripping the tiny leaves form the stems is simple.  I will probably grow more of this as it is useful and pretty.

Left to right: Orange peel thyme, Jekka's thyme, Tabor thyme
Orange peel thyme (Thymus nitidus) is a low growing edible thyme that smells like a mix of thyme and spices.  Sometimes it smells a lot like orange peel, other times less orangey and more spicey.  The leaves are thinner than regular thyme, but still tiny and green.  Stripping the leaves from the stems is not as easy as regular thyme but not overly difficult.  This is not only edible but people also use it to create a fragrant thyme lawn.  It is a bit of a slow growing thyme until established.
Tabor thyme on left, Jekka's thyme in right
Jekka's thyme (Thymus sp) is a strong growing edible thyme with relatively long leaves that are green.  This has a strong thyme smell and taste.  Jekka's thyme is a vigorous grower that doesn’t take long to grow into a large plant.  I assume that it would not take extreme heat as well as smaller leaf forms.  When the stems are young and green it is difficult to strip leaves from the stems, as they get woodier this is no longer a problem.

Tabor thyme (Thymus sp) is another strong growing, vigorous edible herb.  It has the largest leaves I have seen on a thyme plant and is the fastest growing thyme I have grown.  It has a strong thyme smell and taste.  When young it is difficult to strip large leaves from soft stems, as the plant gets older the stems get stronger and this becomes simpler.  Tabor thyme is not well suited to hot arid climates and suffers a bit due to its larger soft leaves.

Where to buy culinary thyme plants
Most garden shops tend to sell thyme, sometimes they have different varieties.  I really should take some cuttings and sell some of the thyme varieties that I have through my for sale page as some of the thyme varieties I grow were difficult to come by but are really rather good. 

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Days to Maturity Golden Raspberry

One of the raspberries I grew this year was golden raspberry.

Golden raspberries are a yellow fruited variety of red raspberry (Rubus idaeus).  There are currently very few varieties of yellow fruited raspberries in Australia (there may only be this one at the moment) and this one is a summer fruiting (floricane) variety. 

Days to maturity Golden Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)

Seeds planted       N/A grown from divisions
Germinated           N/A
Flowered              10/11/2017        Day 0
Fruit Ripe              15/12/2017       Day 35

For a long list of berry and vegetable days to harvest please click here.

golden raspberry Australia
Golden raspberry
golden raspberries Australia
Golden raspberry

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Perennial leek vs Regular leek

Back in 2013 I wrote a blog post comparing perennial leeks with regular leeks.  I have since done a better comparison and thought I would write another blog post comparing leeks.

I was given seven small regular leeks by a very lovely neighbour when we moved to this house.  I didn't ask what the variety was.  I planted them in a raised garden bed and decided to plant seven perennial leeks in the next row as a comparison.  Both rows contained seven similar sized leeks. 

Both sets of leeks were planted 30/10/2016.  I then left them for a year and did nothing other than water them every so often.  I was careful not to dig up and eat any leeks from either of these rows during this time.

I dug up both sets of leeks on 27/10/2017 and took pictures of both sets.  I figured 12 months of growth (and relative neglect) should give me a decent comparison.
Perennial Leeks for sale Australia
Leek comparison: Regular leeks on left, Perennial leeks on the right

Regular leeks 
The regular leeks didn't do very well for me.  I started with 7 plants each about the size of a pencil, after 12 months I ended up with two edible sized leeks, one small leek, and one small leek bulb growing off the base of one of the large leeks that could be replanted (you can't see the bulb in the photo).
Regular leeks

Perennial Leeks
The perennial leeks did a lot better for me.  Again I started with seven leeks each about the size of a pencil.  Each of the seven leeks grew to a large size.  At this size I usually wouldn't eat these leeks as they are too large.  Larger leeks tend to be tough so we often eat a lot of smaller leeks which are more tender.  As well as being large each of the seven grew 30 to 50 baby leeks of various sizes.

You will notice that each of these leeks has a rounded base.  When we cut these leeks up to eat for dinner we noticed that each of them had many, many leek bulbs in the base.  These leeks would have died down over summer and when the weather cools each of the bulbs would have sprouted into a new plant.
multiplier leeks
Perennial Leeks
Take a closer look at how perennial leeks work.  Each plant grows until it is reasonably large.  They are usually smaller than store bought leeks but that could be the way I grow them.  Then they start to send up baby leeks from their base.  If the weather gets too hot or dry they die down to odd little bulbs.  When the weather cools these bulbs all sprout and you end up with more than you planted.  Another name for perennial leeks is multiplier leeks, it is easy to see why this name is used as they multiply like crazy.

multiplier leek propagation
Perennial leek - note the baby leeks growing from the base

Perennial Leek vs Regular Leek Comparison Results
The first and most obvious thing I noticed from this comparison is that I obviously don't know how to grow leeks!  I wouldn't have planted seven leeks and ended up with three leeks if I knew what I was doing. Considering how many years I have been growing leeks this came as a surprise to me.

The second thing I noticed is (considering that I don't know how to grow leeks) the perennial leeks gave a great yield.  Look at the photo, there are plenty of edible sized leeks in there, and there are plenty of tiny leeks to replace them.

I have been growing perennial leeks for many years and always get large consistent crops.  I never give them much attention and there are always some leeks large enough to eat, and there are always plenty of small leeks to replace any I eat.

I want vegetables that feed my family and don't need much attention from me, so perennial leeks are great.  I want vegetables that reproduce themselves with no effort from me, and perennial leeks are great for this.  I want vegetables that will always be there for me even if I forget about them and don't look after them, and perennial leeks are great for this.  For all of these reasons I am not sure if I will grow regular leeks again.  Perennial leeks are just so easy and productive.  With perennial leeks you plant once and harvest forever, what is not not love!

Perennial leeks for sale in Australia
I sell organically grown perennial leek plants and other perennial vegetables, herbs, heirloom vegetable seeds and a few other things on my for sale page.  I also sell Babington leeks, which are another type of perennial leek, but it grows numerous bulbils on their flower stalk.  Babington leeks take longer to produce a crop than these perennial leeks but once they start producing food they are also very productive.

Friday, 1 December 2017

String of Pearls Plant From Cuttings

Senecio rowleyanus is commonly known as string of pearls plant and looks similar to the Neptune’s necklace seaweed that you sometimes see washed up at the beach.  String of pearls plant is an easy to grow and surprisingly hardy succulent that was popular in the 1970’s in hanging baskets due to its cascading and remarkably beautiful form.  

Each little leaf on this delightful plant is almost spherical, making it look like a little green pea.  As these little pea like leaves grow on long string like stems the common name of "String of Pearls" plant seems rather fitting.  Each little leaf is green and has a small translucent window that lets light in for photosynthesis but restricts water loss.  String of pearls plants also grow a nice little flower that smells lovely, but it is their cascading form and pretty little leaves that it is mostly grown for.  Being a succulent means that they do not require large amounts of water.  Too much water can make them rot and is apparently the biggest cause of them failing to grow for people. 

I have always wanted to grow a string of pearls plant as I think they look amazing, but for some reason they are difficult to find in Australia.  I started to look online and found them in dedicated succulent nurseries but they were rather expensive, even more so when postage is added.  Being dedicated cacti and succulent nurseries I was not interested in anything else they sell so could not spread the postage cost over several items.  
string of pearls succulent cuttings
My String of Pearls plant - one year of growth
A few times I have seen plants in plant shops, but the high price always made me shy away from buying one.  Having never grown one I did not want to spend a fortune and then have the thing die.  The high price made me wonder if they were difficult to grow.  I also wasn’t sure if they would grow well over the warmer months and not survive the harsh winter here.  I considered buying seeds, but the only place I could find string of pearls seed was ebay and there are far too many thieves on ebay who sell seeds that do not exist so I was not willing to take the risk. 

Then, as luck would have it, one day I got two very small cuttings.  One was about 5 cm long, the other only 3 cm long, they were both rather battered by the time I got them, and I was not sure if they were even large enough to be viable.  I looked on the internet and found conflicting advice on how to grow string of pearls plants from cuttings, some places made it sound incredibly difficult, others made it sound overly simple.  

Some places recommended to simply lay the cutting on soil and it would root everywhere that the leaves joined the stem.  Other places recommend removing the lower few leaves and plant the stem.  Other places recommended removing the pearls and planting them partly exposed.  I had two small cuttings so decided to try a little of each.  

String of Pearls plants starting to grow
I got a small pot of soil, lay the larger cutting on the soil and ensured that each of the leaf nodes were in contact with the soil, I removed the lower leaf from the smaller cutting and planted it in the same pot.  Everywhere recommends removing the lower few leaves, but the cutting was so tiny I could only remove one single pearl.  I planted this pearl so that the top was in the light and the bottom was in the soil.  I had a feeling that the smaller cutting would not survive as it was just so tiny, but I had to try.  Some succulents grow well from planting a single leaf, so I had nothing to lose by planting the pearl.  I figured having both cuttings in the same pot would give me a good comparison and make it easier to keep an eye on them. 

Many people grow string of pearls in the house in a hanging basket or somewhere it can drape over the side and look attractive, I grew mine outside in a small pot of soil.  I did not cover the cuttings to increase humidity, I watered reasonably often, and I kept them in dappled light so they would not get too hot or dry out too fast.  This all seemed pretty reasonable to me.  If they all started to die I had a few ideas, but I wanted to go with the low effort approach first as minimal effort is how I like to garden. 

It became pretty obvious early on that planting a leaf (or peal) was not going to result in a plant.  I have tried this several times now and never seen any sign of success.  I think it is possible, but not likely to happen.  Each time I take a cutting and remove lower leaves I plant them, as I am losing nothing by trying, but I don’t expect to ever have one pearl grow a new plant for me unless I really put in some effort. 
String of Pearls
The larger cutting that was just on the surface of the soil was not doing a great deal.  After a while the cutting on top of the soil started to shrivel and wither.  It was not growing any roots and was slowly going to die.  Being a succulent they store moisture and take a long time to die like this.  I am glad I had two cuttings so I could try this method. 

Under the right situation the string of pearls plant can root when simply placed on the soil surface like this, but not when the cuttings are so small.  I know that as the plant grows it sends roots down at leaf nodes from time to time and I can cut that section off to have another plant, but when cuttings are tiny and not overly well looked after this method does not seem like the best way to root cuttings.  As this was going to end poorly I removed the lower two leaves and planted the cutting, it recovered and has since survived and grown rather well. 

The tiny cutting that I originally planted and assumed would die because it was so small was actually growing strong and grew much larger than its counterpart in a relatively short amount of time.  I had only removed the lower leaf and planted the lower section of stem, this appears to be the easiest way to propagate string of pearls plant.  The cutting quickly grew longer and then branched several times and I was able to take a few more tiny cuttings.  I planted each of these cuttings in the same pot to help it look nicer. 

I now had a pot with several healthy string of pearls plants trailing over the sides of it.  These healthy growing plants do put down roots at leaf nodes every now and again, so I can understand why people say that cuttings can be grown in this way, but removing lower leaves and planting the stem seems to be more efficient and just as easy.  I have no idea if bottom heat or misting or rooting hormones make any difference to growth rate as I haven’t needed to try them, I have never had a cutting die.  I remove the lower leaves, stick them in soil, and away they grow.  They are not the fastest growing plant I have ever seen, but they are also not overly slow. 
String of pearls plants, getting bigger

My string of pearls plants were all happily growing over the warmer months getting longer and occasionally branching.  Being a succulent meant that I did not have to water them very often, just a little every now and again was enough to keep them thriving and looking great.  This is exactly what I had hoped would happen, they grew so easily, they required very little from me, and they looked amazing.  I keep looking at my string of pearls plant and think how small they are as I would love plants that are several feet long, then I look back to how tiny they were to begin with and notice that they have actually grown well for me.  

Then winter came, I didn’t know how to grow them so I looked on the internet for their care and everywhere said to bring them in out of the cold and protect them from frost.  Space is an issue in my house, so I placed the plants outside where they would not get much frost and hoped for the best.  I figured they were large enough that if they were damaged I could move them inside then and they should eventually recover.  

This year has been cold, we had snow, hail and many frosts and plants that normally survive winter with minimal damage have died off completely.  The string of pearls plants stopped growing over winter but have shown no frost damage.  Admittedly they are in a position that gets less frosts, but the point is that they survived winter completely un-phased.  I probably wouldn’t grow them in the open in frosty areas (although I may experiment with this next year), but with a little protection they do just fine.  Now that winter is over they have started to grow again.  

There is one thing that I dislike about String of Pearls plants, and that is they are not edible or useful.  I mostly grow things that are edible or useful in some way, and this string of pearls plant is completely useless other than looking fantastic, having nice smelling flowers, and generally making me smile.  All parts of the string of pearls plant are said to be mildly toxic, which means it is not good for pets or kids to eat too much of them.  I have plenty of kids and pets and none of them have ever even considered eating this plant, and from what I have read on the internet the side effects are a generally upset stomach, so I can’t imagine it being too much of an issue unless you have a really greedy and stupid cat or something that eats huge amounts of the plant.  

String of pearls plant used to be very popular in Australia, but for some reason they are difficult to find at the moment.  It is too bad as they look great and are so simple to grow.  As well as the green variety that I have there is also a variegated version of the string of pearls plant.  I have only seen this being sold in one place and one day I should try to get one. 
String of pearls cutting starting to grow

Where to buy Sting of Pearls plants in Australia
I sell unrooted string of pearls plant cuttings through my for sale page.  I take the cutting after you order just prior to posting so they are fresh and healthy and could easily survive several weeks before being planted.  Most have tiny roots starting to form.  When you get the cuttings please remove the lower few pearls, plant the cutting in some soil, give them dappled light, and water them.  It really is that simple.  Plant them as soon as you can after they arrive to help them grow as fast as possible for you, while they will survive a long time without being planted I prefer that you plant them as soon as possible.  I do not guarantee that the cuttings will survive and grow for you as I have no control over the growing conditions at your place, but I am yet to have any planted cuttings fail so think you are pretty safe to go with this option. 

I also sell small string of pearls plants through my for sale page.  The plants cost more as they have taken me more time to produce.  They are not in a pot, they are wrapped in damp newspaper and have minimal soil on the roots.  I take cuttings and then grow them on until I am absolutely certain that they have good roots and are actively getting larger.  Plants usually grow faster than cuttings as they already have roots, cuttings take a little while longer to do anything as they have to grow roots before they can start to get larger. 

String of pearls plants flower and can produce viable seed.  At this stage I don’t sell string of pearls seeds as I don’t know how long they are viable, or the best/easiest way to grow them from seed, and I would hate to sell dead seeds.  I am currently experimenting with the best way to grow string of pearls plant from seeds, and to find out how long they remain viable when stored properly, once I have this all worked out I plan to also sell string of pearls seeds as it is a good way for people to get a lot of plants for less money. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Blue pampas grass seeds

Pampas grass is a bit of a weed in Australia, I would not recommend that anyone buy or grow it.  If you do grow it, first make sure that it is allowed in your state or territory, secondly NEVER buy seeds from ebay.

Below are some pictures of actual ebay listings for pampas grass seeds.  While they look great they DON'T actually exist and you will be funding ebay thieves.

When buying fake seeds from ebay thieves you will be sent some kind of seeds, but they will not grow into anything that looks like these pictures.  You may be send pampas grass seed, or you may be sent any random seeds that the thieves have on hand.  By the time you grow them out and realise that you have been stolen from months or years will have passed and it is too late to do anything.

Blue pampas grass
Blue pampas grass does not exist.  The colours have been digitally altered.  The second picture has been altered, but to make matters worse it is not even a picture of pampas grass!

Blue pampas grass does NOT exist
This was listed on ebay as blue pampas grass seeds.  This isn't even pampas grass!!!
Green and Yellow pampas grass
Q: Why not grow yellow and green pampas grass?  A: because it does not exist.  These bay thieves have used the first blue pampas grass picture above, but instead of clicking blue they made it yellow and green.

Where have I seen this picture before (hint: above in blue)
Bonsai pampas grass
Firstly, look at the size of these plants, they are huge, clearly not bonsai.  Secondly and more importantly most of these colours don't exist.  If anyone lists this please don't buy anything from them.  You won't get what you paid for.
Bonsai pampas grass does NOT exist
Mixed pampas grass
Mixed any seeds are a bad idea if some of the pictures don't exist.  Some of these pictures are the same picture with the colours altered (pink, purple, the bottom left), which means that the seller is happy to deceive you.  Who knows if you will even get pampas grass seeds?  The top right hand picture, the green one, is the same as the first blue one I showed you.  Please don't fund ebay thieves.
Mixed pampas grass, these colours do NOT exist
Purple pampas grass
Purple pampas grass does not exist.  It doesn't matter how much you like the look of it, it doesn't matter how cheap they are, it doesn't matter that it has free postage, or that it is a bargain, or that the seller has 100% positive rating, or anything else, they don't exist so you should not buy seeds of them and you should never buy any other seeds from anyone who sells them.
Purple pampas grass does NOT exist
Red pampas grass
Red pampas grass does not exist.  Don't buy fake ebay seeds.  Don't fund criminals.
Red pampas grass does NOT exist
Multicoloured pampas grass
While this looks great, it doesn't exist.  I think this picture was not made for fake ads, but somewhere a thief saw it and copied it.  Don't buy seeds of these.
Multicoloured pampas grass does NOT exist
Wholesale pampas grass seeds
These don't even look real, but they still trick people.  Most of these colours do NOT exist, most of these are the same pictures with the colours altered.  Anywhere that has the same picture with different colours is an ad made by thieves.  Don't buy anything from them.
Wholesale pampas grass, most of these coulours do NOT exist

I have written a few other posts of ebay seeds that don't exist.  I have labelled them with "things that don't exist" on the right hand side of the page so they will be easy to find.  Please do some research before buying seeds to ensure that they exist.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are sometimes called sunchokes.  They are a perennial vegetable with an odd common name as they are from North America and are not from Jerusalem, they are a type of sunflower and are not an artichoke.  They are a productive perennial vegetable that has a strange history and an interesting reputation.   

Jerusalem artichokes were first grown and eaten by various tribes in North America, apparently there are a number of different varieties up there, one even has red skin and looks amazing.  In Australia we have access to very few varieties, to the best of my knowledge none of them are named.  We do have a few dodgy heirloom vegetable sellers who like to rename things and claim exclusivity, so the few named varieties you see are likely all the same.  

Jerusalem artichokes are one of the foods that helped numerous families to survive the great depression.  They are massively yielding, very undemanding and roughly nutritionally similar to potatoes.  Whenever I have grown them they have easily out produced potatoes and I have cared for them less.  Like pigeons, rabbits, guinea pigs and anything else that helped families to survive the depression we view them scornfully and they are rarely eaten today. 

Jerusalem artichokes do not easily produce viable seeds, and seed grown plants display a great deal of genetic diversity with many producing thin tubers and very few producing thick edible tubers.  I would love to grow them from true seed and breed for larger tubers or other colours, but doubt I will ever have the space or the time to get into this endeavour.  Considering how productive and low maintenance these vegetables already are I am not sure if there is a great need for improved varieties.
Jerusalem Artichoke tuber

Jerusalem artichokes are an extremely productive vegetable that is very simple to grow.  I have heard of people who peel the tubers prior to eating them (much like potatoes or carrots the skin is edible and nutritious so I don’t see why anyone would bother) and placing the peelings in the compost heap only to have Jerusalem artichokes grow from those peelings.  I have heard of people planting them and never being able to get rid of them.  I have never had this issue as they grow reasonably tall so I find them simple to remove, if I don’t want them in a garden bed it is simple enough to pull them up throughout the growing season.  Unlike mint which you can spend years pulling up and never get it all, sooner or later I get them all and there are none left.  I normally don’t bother to plant them as they regrow from tiny tubers I missed when I harvested.  If I do plant them I normally either plant the smallest tubers, or I break large tubers into little pieces and plant them.  Unlike annual vegetables, you are not adding any selective pressure when you plant smaller ones as tuber grown plants are genetically identical to one another.  The fact that they regrow so easily from tubers that have been missed means you never need to spend time deciding which ones to keep and which ones to eat.  It also means that you get to keep all of the crop rather than placing some aside to replant. 

Jerusalem artichokes are said to yield between 2 kg and 6 kg per plant, this seems like a conservative estimate under most situations.  If you were to look after your plants and provide them with excellent soil and mulch I have little doubt that you could easily exceed this amount, if you grow them in poor soil in dry hot conditions the yield can be considerably lower.  If they have reasonable soil moisture during the growing season and you grow them somewhere with cold winters you should expect the crop to be larger.  

I planted three small pieces last year, rarely watered them, did nothing when they were covered in Rutherglen bugs and the tops were getting deformed from constant bug attack, and have already dug up several buckets full of tubers from the edges of the patch.  This summer I will limit my patch to only one plant. 

The leaves are said to be allelopathic, but I am not certain if this is true for all plants or only for specific weeds.  I have heard many people trying to set up a polyculture similar to the three sisters planting method, but have yet to hear of any that actually worked well.  Jerusalem artichokes are said to grow over 12 foot tall, mine have poor soil, I rarely water them, and I often cut off the tops to feed to animals so mine often struggle to reach 5 feet tall.  I tend not to grow many things under them or climbing up them as under crops tend to struggle.  This may be due to allelopathy, or lack of sun light, or simply due to competition from a rapid growing very nutrient hungry crop.
I normally plant Jerusalem artichokes (and everything else I grow) far too close as space and water are limited here.  They tend to crop well enough for me when cramped.  I also tend to grow them in places where other vegetable crops don’t survive rather than using my good soil for them.  For optimum yields give them good soil and as much space as possible, a few feet between plants would do them well.  If conditions are right they spread underground quite far and I have heard of people digging tubers several feet from where they originally planted one.

Jerusalem artichokes do have a few issues though, such as they do not store very well outside of the soil.  This is a big problem if you plan to grow them for market.  For a permaculture garden or home vegetable garden this is not an issue as you just dig them up when you want them.  They are high in inulin, inulin is a prebiotic which humans can’t digest but it feeds beneficial bacteria.  In some people who are not used to eating anything that contains inulin it can give them gas for a while if they eat too much. 

They appear to increase soil biota, I assume this is due to exuding sugars into the soil.  In all of the gardens I have had, plants that are high in inulin always seem to have earth worms near them.

Jerusalem artichokes can be eaten by people raw or cooked in any way that a potato is cooked.  People tell me that Jerusalem artichokes have a subtle and delicate flavour, I struggle to taste them at all.  They can be mixed with potato and mashed, in this way they taste like mash potato but bulk out the meal considerably.

Jerusalem artichokes are great animal feed as they are so productive and many animals like to eat them.  I am told that pigs love to eat Jerusalem artichokes and if planted in a field the pigs will happily plow an entire field and search out every last one.  I feed Jerusalem artichoke leaves and stems to guinea pigs, this doesn’t seem to lower the crop of tubers too much.  After digging the tubers I throw some to the chickens each day, they really love them.  Feeding the tubers to poultry is simple as it requires no preparation plus it lowers the feed bill significantly over winter when there is little growing.  I also give some tubers to guinea pigs, they also love them.  I try not to give the guinea pigs very many as I am worried about them bloating.  Ducks, guinea fowl, quail, rabbits, budgies and many other animals also gladly eat Jerusalem artichoke tubers.  The best part is they don’t need to be grated or cooked, just dig them up, brush off most of the soil, and throw them in - the animals will know what to do. 

Jerusalem artichokes are often difficult to find for sale in Australia, but once you have them you can grow them forever.  Several online places sell them, and I think I have seen them for sale (with inflated prices) in Bunnings.  I sell organically grown Jerusalem artichokes over winter, they are listed with heirloom vegetable seeds, culinary herbs, and other perennial vegetables on my for sale page.

Friday, 13 October 2017

How to Grow Carrots From Tops

I remember when I was a child reading in a book and hearing that you could cut the top off a carrot, put it in some water (they always went into great detail about how to do this specifically saying the depth of water and the exact length of carrot root) and it would regrow a delicious edible carrot root.  As a child I never believed it.

Now that I am older I have head some distinguished permaculture people, as well as some highly regarded garden writers, claim that you can grow permanent beds of carrot roots by replanting the tops.  I still didn't believe it, so I tested it with my kids.  I also grew a few other things too. 

My thoughts were that the leafy tops would grow but the root would not, or if it did grow it would be forked and worthless.  I dislike eating carrot leaves, so for me this would be a pointless endeavor. Transplanting carrots is never encouraged because if you damage the tap root the resultant crop is often misshapen or forked.  Cutting the mature root and ending up with a decent yield sounded like yet another garden myth to me.

Regrowing Carrots from Tops
I have searched the internet and found many references to regrowing carrots from the discarded tops.  Yet I have seen no pictures to back up the claims.  I have seen a few pictures that shows you can grow carrot leaves in this way, some show flowers, but no pictures of the roots.  I have also read some detailed descriptions of people who do this, but they all refer to growing and eating the leaves or allowing it to flower and collecting seed.  I dislike eating carrot leaves, and the tops can easily be used by feeding to animals or composting, so this does not interest me.

When I grew them the leaves regrew nicely and the root grew some thin side roots, this made me optimistic that perhaps I had been wrong all this time and this could work.  Then the carrot started to flower and died.  The root did not elongate at all, and it rotted away.  I have tried on some removing the flower stalk and they grew more leaves, but the roots didn't grow thick and edible.  I have tried a few times now, always with the same result, the tap root did not grow long or thick.  Not once.

While this is far from definitive proof I saw enough to be convinced that it is unlikely to regrow carrots from tops.  I believe that you can grow more leaves, you can get flowers and seeds, but I am still convinced that if any thick roots ever grew they would be forked and misshapen.  Growing carrots from seed seems to be far simpler and more cost effective.

If am am jumping to conclusions here and you have tried this yourself and can prove me wrong then please let me know!
Regrowing Carrot Tops - didn't work
Regrowing Carrot Tops
Regrowing Celery from discarded bottom
Another thing I have heard about was regrowing celery from the discarded base.  To me this made sense, it is just leaves growing so should be achievable.  Again I searched on the internet, then tried it with my kids.

I grew a few discarded celery bases, some were larger than others.  At first they all grew more leaves, as the stems and young leaves are the main crop here this already proved to have worked.  They all grew roots.  I planted some in the garden, others I kept in the water.

Eventually some grew into normal looking reasonably tall plants, others flowered set seed and died.  The ones planted into soil grew far better than the ones that were not planted in soil.  It was not difficult to get a second crop out of each of them, even if it was far smaller than the first.

Regrowing celery from discarded bases


Celery starting to flower
Growing other crops from discarded parts
We also had some other things such as pak choi and bok choi and a few similar leaf crop brassicas.  Much like the celery I figured they should work as the leaves are the main crop.

Again they all grew leaves fast enough, they grew roots and I planted some.  The planted ones did better than the ones left in water.  Much like the celery this gave us more crops from the same plant.  They were smaller than the initial crop, but that is ok as it cost nothing other than a little water and space.

Some of them grew into multiple plants and were able to be divided and replanted.  Others did not.  Eventually they all flowered and died.  It would have been simple to save seed had I wanted to.

Again, for a leaf crop, it was relatively simple to regrow these.  I don't know if I will bother again as growing from seed is so simple and they produce many thousands of seeds.  The bases can be fed to my animals or composted so are not wasted.
Growing vegetables from discarded bases
I tried the same thing with beetroot.  Much like the carrots the leaves grew well, but the root stubbornly refused to grow.  Unlike carrot I like to eat beetroot leaves, they are essentially the same as silverbeet but are smaller and sweeter, so this was not a huge waste.  I really don't think I will bother doing this again unless I am wanting to save seed as the space needed to grow a discarded beetroot top just for leaves is much the same as the space required to grow a beetroot for root and leaves.  Again, I can compost these discarded parts so nothing goes to waste.

John 6:12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Purple stripey Basil

Last summer I grew a heap of different basil (Ocimum basilicum) varieties.  They ranged in leaf shape and size, they ranged in taste, they varied in productivity.  A comparison of those basil varieties can be found here.

By far the prettiest variety of basil that I grew was an unnamed striped purple basil that I have been working on for a few years.
Unnamed purple stripey basil, looks nicer in real life
The stems and backs of the leaves are dark purple (the colour in the pictures does not do them justice) the top of each leaf was green with purple veins giving it a striking appearance.  Again, the pictures don't do it justice, the colours in real life were darker and more vivid.  It had purple/pink flowers and dark stems. 

The taste was not as sweet as I would like, but it held up to cooking far better than genovese basil which makes it rather useful.  The leaves were a bit smaller than I would like, but they look amazing and they grow enough leaves that it makes up for them being a bit small.

I plan to grow this variety again this year, I think it is now a stable strain.  If it is stable it will need a name.
Pink/Purple basil flowers, dark stems
Like all basil they grow well as cuttings
Some higher leaves were less striped when the plants began to flower
Dark stems, purple striped leaves, very ornamental (and edible) basil

One of my plants, tall and narrow
Plants get tall and narrow if not pinched and made to branch

Top of leaf green with dark purple stripes
Dark purple stems and backs of leaves
Same plant, same chopping board, same day, but the lighting was somehow different

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Blue banana seeds

More ebay thieves selling fake seeds, this time they are selling banana seeds.  Below are a bunch of pictures that I found on actual ebay listings, not one of these things exists.  The ebay thieves make thousands of dollars from selling seeds that do not exist, they post seeds to the buyer, and by the time you have worked out that something is wrong it is too late to get your money back.

Blue Bananas
Blue bananas don't exist.  There are heaps of pictures of them on the internet, someone has taken a picture and digitally changes the colour.  There are some varieties where the unripe bananas are green/blue, but no vibrant blue varieties.  Please never buy anything from anyone who sells blue banana seeds as they are thieves and won't give you what you paid for.
Blue banana do NOT exist
Bonsai Bananas
How cute do bonsai banana plants look!  Being tiny means even in a cool climate I could grow them as I could protect them and keep them somewhere warm.  Unfortunately bonsai bananas do NOT exist.  These plants are not real, the picture is of a pretend plant.  It is not alive, it is fake.  Please never fund these ebay thieves, never buy anything that they are selling if they sell bonsai banana seeds.

bonsai banana does NOT exist

Giant bananas
Seriously, people bought fake ebay seeds for these?  I am tempted to say something nasty about the type of person who would be taken in by this kind of lie.  Bananas don't have the genetic potential to ever reach this size, I don't see why anyone would think that they do.  Even with GM technology bananas will NEVER get this big

Giant banana do NOT exist and will NEVER exist

Various coloured bananas
These ebay thieves are not even trying, they got one picture of bananas and have changed its colours digitally.  Other than the unripe green none of these colours exist, please DON'T buy seeds for these!

Multicolour banana - same picture recoloured
Banana melons
At first this add made me wonder if it was an ebay thief, or just a confused seller.  I read through the listing and found they were the former.  This is a picture of a yellow zucchini, nothing terribly rare.  The description talks about sweet melons.  Zucchini are far from sweet, if anything they are very bland.  This seller is selling seeds of several other things that don't exist, which helps show what type of person they are.

People sometimes assume ebay seed thieves are located in China, but there is no reason that they are not from any other country, including ours!  Just because these thieves are located in Australia, and they will send you seeds quickly, it doesn't mean that they are not trying to steal from you.  When you leave your house you lock it to keep the thieves out
Banana melon?  This is actually just a normal zucchini

Pink and Blue Bananas
No surprises here, they have done a dodgy job of changing the colours and are selling seeds of bananas that don't exist.  If anyone is selling any seeds that don't exist please never buy anything from them.
Blue and pink bananas don't exist

Rainbow bananas
It is very rare (but certainly not impossible) for anything to have multiple coloured fruit on the same plant.  Sure some chillies do it, but not bananas.  I have never seen that blue on any fruit or vegetable.  These ebay thieves have changed the colours, these bananas look amazing, but they don't exist.  Please don't buy anything from these ebay thieves.
Rainbow bananas do NOT exist
Ebay thieves everywhere
I have written several other posts on ebay seeds that don't exist.  The more I look on ebay the more seeds I see listed for sale (by premium members with 99% or higher ratings) that don't exist.  Just because seeds are cheap, and they have free postage, and that the seller has a great rating, doesn't mean that they are selling you something that even exists, please do some research before buying any seeds from ebay.

All of my posts on fake ebay seeds have been labelled "Things that don't exist" to make them easier to find.