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Tiny Harvests

The harvests started out tiny. To begin with, it’d be a bit of dill or basil, usually from thinning seedlings too late. Then a bit of spinach to stir through pasta. Tonight was the second time that I managed enough greens to make side dish for dinner – Tuscan kale leaves, spinach (‘Viking’), and sweet basil. I sauteed them with garlic and a bit of butter, and added toasted pine nuts. The little bit of dill I picked went with the potato dish I had.

I keep nibbling the snow peas and as the result I never have enough to cook with. My boyfriend took some pictures as mementos of our harvest. Also, here’s me, with the pea leaves conveniently obstructing my face. The peas should start producing a lot more soon, and then my harvest will be slightly less tiny.

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Musk Strawberries from Seed

In June, I bought a packet of twenty Musk Strawberry (Fragaria Moschata or Hautbois Strawberry) seeds on eBay for 5AUD. I also bought several packets of different Alpine Strawberry (Fragaria Vesca) seeds. I will write about the Fragaria Vesca seeds some other day. However, I had initial success with sprouting Fragaria Moschata seeds. This makes me feel a bit good about myself, since growing strawberries from seed is supposed to be tricky.

Instructions on growing Fragaria Vesca are readily available in English, but I did not find much on growing Musk Strawberries. The propagation instructions on the eBay listing were copy-pasted from a page about Alpine Strawberries. Alpine Strawberry seeds require freezing before planting, but it wasn’t clear if Musk Strawberry seeds do. My concern was that freezing most seeds kills them, and I did not want to kill the somewhat expensive seeds.

In the end, I put the seeds in the freezer for four weeks. I then transferred them to the fridge for two days, and then brought them to room temperature for two more days.

Then, I cut a rectangular piece of paper towel and put it into an unused takeaway box. I put the seeds on the paper towel, misted them with water, put the lid on the box and put the whole shebang on a window sill on the shady side of the house. I opened the lid daily, and sprayed more water as needed. Seven days later… Voila!

strawberrybox

Some of the seeds sprouted! Here is a macro view of one:

strawberrymacro

I then transferred the ten seeds that sprouted into a set of seed plugs filled with a bit of compost on the bottom, and coconut coir seed raising mix on top. Here is an out-of-focus view of a seed (sorry, I didn’t wear my glasses):

strawb

I added some compost on the bottom as I am worried that the tiny seeds don’t have much in the way of energy reserves. I put the seed plugs into a plastic bag and misted the inside a little. I put it in the shake and have been opening it daily to air it out. The seeds seem to be doing well. Here’s hoping!

Radishes for Everyone

We’re told that anyone can grow radishes. They’re a dawdle. They’re some of the first, if not the first vegetables that children grow. It is so hard to mess up radishes that if yours fail, you may as well consider yourself a nuclear thumb for life. Succeeding at radishes doesn’t tell you anything, failing tells you a whole lot.

I first grew radishes as a child on my grandparents’ dacha. I had a little patch in a hidey corner and would dig around clumsily in the dark grey soil. I didn’t know what I was doing, but the radishes grew anyway. As I was fed radishes from an early age I liked them a lot, but I had to peel them and dip them in salt before eating.

Many years later I would try gardening in the back yard of the first house I lived in after I moved out of my parents’ home. The soil was very poor, and being stingy I did not amend it aside from adding a little pelletised slow release fertiliser. I grew (to use the term very loosely) a few things, but the only plants that produced were sweet potatoes (a few tiny tubers and a modest amount of leaves, enough for a single serve of stir-fry), and radishes. The radishes were small and dry. They tasted vaguely of soap.

Radishes are generous. They grow fast and they don’t want much. They sprout fast and are ready to harvest in under a month if everything goes well. However, even these easy, dunce-resistant vegetables require some care and input. I put these into some spare space in the front garden bed, between nasturtium, marigolds and kale. The soil was already amended, and the other plants got regular watering anyway, so I didn’t need to put in any extra effort. Had I put them into the garden bed before I dug it out – into weedy, acidic soil that didn’t hold moisture at all – I would not have any to harvest.

I planted White Icicle radishes out of season, from a packet of nearly-expired seeds I found in the back of a discount variety store, and they still delivered. I have since planted Watermellon Radish, more White Icicle, and some Easter Egg mix. I look forward to juicy, spicy snacks in three to four weeks.

Planting Info for European Radishes:
Full Sun
5mm Deep
Rows 25cm apart
Thin to 5cm apart
Seedlings emerge 3-7 days
Harvest 21-28 days