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Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) seedhead

It was about the time to make a new harvest of “Vild dansk” salsify, originating from Christiansø, a small island in the tiny archipelago Ertholmene in the baltic sea. It grows wild on the island, presumably bewildered from the small gardens around the naval fortress in times long past.

The seedhead looks like the dandelions miniature parachutes, ready to spread by the wind over a great distance. But I find it a bit slow to clean the pappus (parachute) from the seed. This year, inspired by SESAM, the swedish seed savers, I tried to cut off the pappus before the seeds matured. Indeed, it was an easy way to clean the seeds, for a private gardener that is.

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Salsify flowers open between 10 and 12 am.

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In the time between flowering and seed maturation it’s time to cut off the pappus. The pale yellow milk sap runs out and cover the injury. I cut quite low, where the shape goes from broad to narrow.

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The result is immediately clean seeds, to pick when the seed head opens, just in need of proper drying before they can be packed in paperbags.
A simple operation saving a good deal of work under garden conditions. I used a kitchen scissor, but a short beaked scissor would probably do a better job avoiding the neighbor stems when cutting.

This method could probably also be used for other members of the composite flowers, like lettuce and chicory. If it’s usefull with artichokes I don’t know, I ought consider it – they are slow to clean.
One thing to be aware of is the birds reactions. Do they see the cut seedhead as an invitation to eat all the seeds? With salsify the seeds were ready to harvest same day as the seedhead opened, hardly any time for birds to feed on them before I’m home from work to pick them all.

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Salsify between flowering and seedmaturity

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Alice in one of her brassica beds

Alice grow her garden to harvest green leaves during winter. She’s very consistent in this, more so than I’ve seen by other gardeners. This makes her garden a very interesting wonderland. She grows a lot of brassicas, and select hardy varieties. The hardiness is naturally selected, as Alice save a lot of the seeds in her own garden, year after year.

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Savoy Cabbage sown in autumn

Alice shared her knowledge on autumn sowing of cabbage for an early harvest next year. About being dependent on the autumn weather after sowing. If it’s too warm, the cabbage grow to a size where the low winter temperature induce flowering in the spring. If you try avoiding this by sowing later, the seeds might not sprout until spring, and you will not harvest earlier than if springsown. This spring half the savoy cabbage have gone to flowers, but the other half very soon form big heads. Alice tells she avoid saving seeds from these early bloomers. I didn’t ask, but I guess she harvest the savoy heads when mature, and then leave the roots and stalks to form flowers and produce seeds.

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Most plants grow where nature let the seed meet the soil

As Alice produce a lot of her own seed, there is a lot of seed scatter. In spring they germinate, and Alice has to sow very little. Instead the best volunteers are transplanted or eaten at the babyleaf stage, and the rest treated as weed. In the photo is among other vegetables a row of spinach beet she will harvest during the next winter.

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Italian Winter savory (Satureja montana), or would it be a kind of thyme (Thymus sp.)?

The Italian Winter savory was remarquable. First I thought it was an unusual lemon thyme, a bit similar to my own. A green carpet, an aromatic herb with a note of thyme. The Italian Winter Savory she found at a local greengrocer as and ordinary kitchen windowsill herb years ago. She is not really sure, if it is a Winter savory or perhaps a weird kind of thyme. It sets no seed, although there is both ordinay Winter savory and thyme in the garden to interbreed with. It’s an efficiant groundcover – Alice tells a little plant will cover a square meter in a year, it flowers in may and is perfectly hardy in Denmark, even in clay soils. I got a bit of it, and now it has to be kept within its boundaries, either by me or neighboring plants!

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Alice’s frontgarden

The frontgarden is full of romantic flowers, a flowering meadow. It seemed to have flowers for all seasons. This peticular day the columbines, geraniums and veronicas were the super stars. It must have taken a lot of years to find the right balance between the many species, and Alice told, that the Thalictrums tended to take over, so every year she will pick out a lot of them.

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One of the many small nurseries in the garden

Alice is a generous woman, and here and there in the garden you will find a little nursery. She is potting up a lot of plants, giving them tender loving care, until they leave for the right home. No reason to fear the killerslugs, though they live in the neighborhood. She use nematodes, and no plant seems to leave the garden without a douche of nematode water. The garden lies next to a meadow and a lake. Even if she keep the killeslugs at stake so they don’t bother her, they reinvade her garden again and again from the meadow.

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Alice sets out to clean seeds of Musk-mallow (Malva moschata)

Alice is a routined seed saver. It’s a pleasure to see her clean a large batch of Musk-mallow seed in no time. The dried seeds are in the barrel. She rub and turns the seeds vigoriously a few minutes. Then she dives to the bottom retrieving hands full of released seeds. She sift them through old outworn kitchen sieves with different mesh sizes. In this way she first get rid of the rough debris, then the fine debris smaller then the seeds. The final touch is blowing the last debris ower the edge of a flat tray. All done in five minutes!

Thanks for a great garden experience.
Slightly changed on 9th. of july 2009, as Alice gave me feedback.

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Fourth melon in 2008

Today I harvested 4 melons in one day. Two complete ripe, two had slippe from the plant, but still ned a day or two to reach perfect ripeness.

The fourth melon is typical for the larger (still small) outdoor melons, weight 262 gram. Surface nettet, flesh orange, sweet and aromatic. Excellent size for two persons.

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Fifth melon in 2008

The fifth melon is suitable for a single person. Weight 130 gram, nettet surface, flesh orange, sweet and aromatic. Most of the seeds have not developed, but there are a few that looks excellent.

I clean the seeds in a glas of water overnight, a tiny pinch of enzyme washing powder added. Next day the good seeds have sunk to the bottom, and the floating bad seeds and debris can be discarded. After a last washing in a strainer, they dry on a little plate.

Radish Janosnapi

Now the radish seeds has weathered, and dried in the house. It’s time for treshing, and since this is only a small garden, not a big farm, the best available tool is the meat hammer. It works wonders, as long as working on dry material.
Now the seeds are out of the capsules, but still mixed with the crushed capsules. Next step is to seperate them, but that is work for another day.

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