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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

Box for sprouting tests, selfwatering, Årslev model

Springs seed meeting started with a lecture in seed saving in private gardens, an introduction for beginners. The friday evening ended with a big seed exchange between participants. OK, not really exchange – more a seed handout for interested members, and there was a huge amount of seed. I couldn’t resist the temptations, and brought plenty of new seeds and cuttings back home. Talking about our seeds like that, I realise how differently we all grow our gardens. Some are very concerned about saving old varieties and their history of origin, one experiments with permaculture based on winter-harvestable vegetables, others grow medicinal herb, others specialise in a few crops, some grow a little of everything, one has been completely selfsupplying with vegetables, seeds (and meat) for twenty years. Together a richness of experience to share.

Seed exchange

Saturday we spend a day learning at Research Centre Aarslev. First Gitte Kjeldsen Bjørn lectured on plant genetic resources and the maintanaince of the danish clone collections of hop, jerusalem artichoke, horseradish, rhubarb and shallot.

Gitte Kjeldsen Bjørn demonstrates the multiplying of the danish hop clones and lectures on their aromatic qualities and the research in beerbrewing with these clones.

Rhubarb clones needs space. At every stick are two copies of each clone.

Gitte Kjeldsen Bjørn served four selected clones of jerusalem artichoke raw. We judged the taste. One in particular was cause of discussion – It was judged either best or worst, no one in between.

Martin Jensen explained vigor and seed dormancy in a way, that both beginners and experienced listened carefully and brought home new knowledge. He taught us, that seeds dried at room temperature can be stored in the freezer, as long as there has been normal heating in the room. At 50-60% relative humidity in the air seed dries perfect in only three weeks. What a concrete and usefull knowledge.

Martin Jensen explains sprouting tests. By now he had been talking like a river for almost three hours, and we are still hungry for his knowledge.

Many trials in Aarslev are performed in greenhouses, where conditions can be controlled in details.

Sunday Flemming Pedersen (right) learned us how to make a willow tower. At left Brian Krause (Gourmethaven.dk) is working on his willow tower.

The beautiful willow knot Flemming introduced to us.

Atriplex hortensis rubra
Red orach Atriplex hortensis rubra june 2003

Now Frøsamlerne seedlist 2008 is published. As usual there is many rare and interesting varieties, of wich the seeds have been saved by members of this danish seedsavers organisation. There are seven different orach to choose from, four of them old danish family heirlooms. Or what to say about a tomato like ”Kaptajnens gule bøf fra Brasilien”, which translates into “Captains yellow beefsteak from Brasil”. Who would ever know vegetables existed like østfrisisk palmekål (palmcabbage from northern Germany), runkelroe (Beta vulgaris var. alba, a mangelwurzel, where it’s the lower stem that is swollen) or eternal leek?
You can’t ask for what you don’t know 🙂

The list is in danish, but you will also find varieties with english names. To request seeds membership is needed. The annual memberfee is DKK 130,- (ca. 17.50 euro).